Hiking and Backpacking


Your Hiking Camera May Become Your Best Friend

You'd like to have a camera to tuck into your backpack as you prepare for your hiking season. Here are a few suggestions before you go out to purchase a camera.

There are hundreds of cameras on the market so making the proper choices now will help you with your photographing experience on the trail later. Space is a primary issue for hikers so you might look for a small size camera. Here are some details that may appear to be minor, but are worthwhile to consider before you make your purchase.

Viewfinders
Many of the very small digital cameras do not have an attached viewfinder so you will have to use the LCD screen on the back of the camera to compose your picture. Since what you frame in is the essence of photography, you will want to compose the visual elements within the picture plane in the most effective way. Composing on the LCD screen is often more awkward and inconvenient because you have to be concerned not only with the elements that you see before you, but also the angle that you are holding the camera.

Your forehead is an automatic bridge upon which you can rest your camera. It is a flat, even plane. So, resting the camera on your forehead sets the camera at the right angle. What you see through the viewfinder rests in a stabilized position by holding the camera there. This not only helps to stop your own movement, becoming a kind of tripod so to speak, but also allows you to be mindful of the most important thing, which is, the placement of the elements within the composition.

Camera Size
Before you purchase, hold the camera in your hands. When shooting, the camera should always be held with two hands to reduce the possibility of movement. When I say this, I mean two hands gripping the camera. Merely holding the camera in your fingertips doesn't quite cut it. If the camera is so small that only your fingers can grip it, you may want to look again at some other models. Shots taken with one hand gripping the camera, or even with the fingers of two hands, often create a blurry snapshot, not a well-integrated photograph.

Megapixels
A megapixel refers to one million pixels and is an indication of the resolution capability for digital cameras. A pixel is a tiny square on a computerized display screen that appears as a dot. The more dots that make up the screen display, the clearer the resolution.

In 1996, the highest megapixel camera on the market was 3.2. Today you can select a camera with a megapixel rating of 12! Of course, unless you expect to enlarge a shot to a huge dimension, you may not need 12 megapixels. You will get excellent quality with even a 6 megapixel camera, which, in fact, is what I have used to photograph the images on my website at Focusing On Nature Photography (http://www.focusingonnaturephotography.com).

Visit my site to see the high resolution of a 6 megapixel camera! In a word, the 12 megapixel camera will cost more and will require more memory, thus eating up space on your camera's memory card with each shot. It will also be necessary to scale down the size of each image later when downloading your photos to your computer in order to send your best shots to your friends via the internet. The 12 megapixel camera may not be a practical piece of equipment for the person who wants to capture a family gathering or a hiking expedition or the kids playing in the pool and then email those images to family and friends.

Mass Storage Devices
There are several types of storage devices called flash memory cards that are used with digital cameras. Only one type will work with the camera you choose. You will want to look for the best type while you are making your purchase because you can't decide later to change the type of card your camera uses. This storage card fits into a slot within the camera and holds the memory of the photos you have taken.

There are many kinds of cards available with today's cameras and some are better than others. Because you may be in rough conditions when out hiking, you will want to check out the durability of these cards as well. Of the cards that were introduced in the mid 1990s, Compact Flash has one of the largest memory card formats of them all and they are rugged and durable in the field.

Check to see how many photos will fit on the type of card that comes with the camera you are considering. Be sure that the camera will be able to hold a memory card for as many photos as you may want to take on your hiking trip. A 2mg card can hold about 300 photos depending upon the shooting mode of the selected camera. It makes sense to take a second card along with you, in case you need it.

The cost for cards is relatively small, since you can download your pictures when you arrive home and erase the pictures from the memory card and use the same card repeatedly. I have used one card every day for 6 months when traveling around the rim of the United States, taking 20,000 photos during that time. Each evening, I would simply download my photos of the day to my laptop and clear the card for the next day's photo shoot. Since then, I have continued to use that same card taking at least 10,000 additional photos on that card and my Compact Flash still lives on!

Battery Type
A rechargeable lithium ion battery appears to be the best deal available in terms of battery use rather than using alkaline batteries. If you will not have access to AC current to recharge your battery, bringing a second fully charged battery pack along will not take up much room and then you'll have a backup available if the first one peters out.

Shooting Modes
It is advisable to purchase a camera that has several shooting modes. On the camera you will see a dial with several images printed on it. Look for an "Auto" setting. I suggest you use the camera in that "Auto" mode until you are comfortable with handling the camera, focusing in on your subject, adjusting the wide-angle and telephoto settings, etc. At a later stage you will want to work with some of the other modes that are designed for your camera. You might see a mountain icon, a group icon, a close-up icon or others. These icons designate a number of available variables like shutter speeds and apertures for your camera.

I would like to suggest some ways of making use of these shooting modes in future articles. For now I am merely making these suggestions from one who truly believes that no matter what camera you use, the important thing is how you compose your subject within the viewfinder. There are some practices that I would like to include in future articles that will make your compositions dynamic and successful.

Choose the right camera and you will have chosen a lifetime companion!

Patricia Manning, csj

More camera advice:
Knowing your camera before going out on the trail








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