Professional Perspectives on Backcountry Photography

Perspectives from Tom Murphy, Rainbow Weinstock, and Rick Dreher on how professional photography fits with lightweight principles.

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by Nicole Chilton | 2008-05-20 21:47:00-06

Introduction

Ever stop to wonder how those glossy, inspiring, beyond-perfect photos of the backcountry are created? The stunning vistas and elegant wildlife, the splash of sun and snow framing a fit, young skier flying down the mountain, or the introspective, solitary, Emersonian view that evokes feelings of contemplation and self-reflection...those images, the ones that seem to capture the essence of existence, are the framework for many of the magazines and catalogs of the outdoor world. They are the ‘pretty pictures’ that people are drawn to and practically demand.

But how are such stunning photos captured, and by whom? Beyond the how and whom, why carry all those delicate pounds of photography equipment, worth thousands of dollars, through deserts, rain forests, oceans, rivers, blizzards, and more? The tremendous amount of work and risk involved for only a handful of photographs can be daunting, but what is even more discouraging is that there may not even be a market for them once developed.

Tom Murphy and Rainbow Weinstock took time to answer a few questions about how and why they have chosen to do backcountry photography and where lightweight backpacking principles fit in. Rick Dreher, BPL’s resident photo guru, also contributed his two cents on the subject of lightweight backpacking and which cameras on the market are the lightest and of the best quality.

Click a thumbnail to view the image gallery.

Lightweight Photography: Interview with lightweight photographers - 1
NOLS Instructor Dave Braun teaching a class in the Wind River Range. (Rainbow Weinstock)

Lightweight Photography: Interview with lightweight photographers - 2
Frost on a pine at sunrise, about 20 degrees below zero in January. (Tom Murphy)

Lightweight Photography: Interview with lightweight photographers - 3
Mountain landscape, Sawtooths, Idaho. (Rainbow Weinstock)

Lightweight Photography: Interview with lightweight photographers - 4
Coyote on a snow drift on the surface of the frozen Yellowstone River. (Tom Murphy)

Lightweight Photography: Interview with lightweight photographers - 5
Elizabeth Ruff climbing at El Potrero Chico, Mexico. (Rainbow Weinstock)

Lightweight Photography: Interview with lightweight photographers - 6
Bull elk feeding in a thermal pool. (Tom Murphy)

Lightweight Photography: Interview with lightweight photographers - 7
NOLS students planning a hiking day, Gannet Cirque, Winds. (Rainbow Weinstock)

Lightweight Photography: Interview with lightweight photographers - 8
Trumpeter swan flaring its wings as part of grooming and preening behavior. (Tom Murphy)

Lightweight Photography: Interview with lightweight photographers - 9
NOLS student Becca Farner fly-fishing at Temple Lake, Winds. (Rainbow Weinstock)

Lightweight Photography: Interview with lightweight photographers - 10
Coyote leaning into the wind of a blizzard. (Tom Murphy)

Lightweight Photography: Interview with lightweight photographers - 11
NOLS instructor Seth cooking a meal in Gannet Cirque, Winds. (Rainbow Weinstock)

Lightweight Photography: Interview with lightweight photographers - 12
Great gray owl tipping his head to the curious sounds made by Tom’s camera. (Tom Murphy)

Lightweight Photography: Interview with lightweight photographers - 13
Sean Williams and Dane Sherstad contemplating the route in the Bugaboos, British Columbia. (Rainbow Weinstock)

Lightweight Photography: Interview with lightweight photographers - 14
Bull moose walking along the shoreline of Yellowstone Lake. (Tom Murphy)

Lightweight Photography: Interview with lightweight photographers - 15
Rachel Landis in Chile. (Rainbow Weinstock)

Lightweight Photography: Interview with lightweight photographers - 16
Colter Peak at sunset in the Absaroka Mountain Range along the thoroughfare of the southeast portion of Yellowstone. (Tom Murphy)

Lightweight Photography: Interview with lightweight photographers - 17
Rachel Landis crossing the Cochamo River, Chile. (Rainbow Weinstock)

Lightweight Photography: Interview with lightweight photographers - 18
Bison at 35 below zero standing in steam from the geothermal-warmed ground. (Tom Murphy)

Lightweight Photography: Interview with lightweight photographers - 19
NOLS instructor Alex Yannakos with Torta, the cat, at Refugio Frey (“refugio” means hut), a popular climbing destination and NOLS classroom, Bariloche, Argentina. (Rainbow Weinstock)

Lightweight Photography: Interview with lightweight photographers - 20
Aspens on Black Tail Plateau in Yellowstone during a snowstorm. (Tom Murphy)

Lightweight Photography: Interview with lightweight photographers - 21
Tree and stones abstract, Chile. (Rainbow Weinstock)

Lightweight Photography: Interview with lightweight photographers - 22
Hoodoos at the head of the Lamar River. (Tom Murphy)

Lightweight Photography: Interview with lightweight photographers - 23
Torres del Paine, Chile. (Rainbow Weinstock)

Lightweight Photography: Interview with lightweight photographers - 24
Summer wildflowers in the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone. (Tom Murphy)

Lightweight Photography: Interview with lightweight photographers - 25
Glacier abstract, Los Glacieres National Park, Argentina. (Rainbow Weinstock)

Lightweight Photography: Interview with lightweight photographers - 26
Gwinna Falls at Ferris Fork of the Bechler River. (Tom Murphy)

Lightweight Photography: Interview with lightweight photographers - 27
Cerro Fitzroy, Cerro Poincenot and other peaks, Glacieres National Park, Argentina. (Rainbow Weinstock)

Lightweight Photography: Interview with lightweight photographers - 28
Coulter Peak at sunset above Beaverdam Creek. (Tom Murphy)

Lightweight Photography: Interview with lightweight photographers - 29
Fitzroy, Glacieres National Park, Argentina. (Rainbow Weinstock)

Lightweight Photography: Interview with lightweight photographers - 30
Two bull moose at sunset in Beaverdam Creek. (Tom Murphy)

Lightweight Photography: Interview with lightweight photographers - 31
Rainbow Weinstock, backpacking in front of Fitzroy, Argentina. (Rainbow Weinstock)

Tom Murphy

Ask Tom Murphy what his pack weight is for a typical eight day trek, and he will say with a chuckle, “Oh, about seventy-five pounds… it used to be ninety-five until I lightened it up a bit.” Another traditional backpacker unnaturally proud of their heavy pack? Not at all. Tom is by no means a kitchen sink hiker: he chooses to sleep on a tarp instead of using a tent, carries minimal clothing, and keeps it simple when it comes to camping gear. In the summer, he does not even carry a stove. Tom means it when he says that he's done what he can to make his backpack lighter, cutting a strap here, taking out an unnecessarily heavy cook pot there.

“A lot of the time, people carry too much stuff, and I think they wear themselves out by it,” says Tom. "They’re more likely to get in trouble that way. If you’re really good and confident about being outside, then you just don’t need that much stuff.” Still, seventy-five pounds is practically unheard of these days.

For thirty-five years, Tom has been heading off into the wilderness to capture images of the backcountry and the animals found therein. He is a photographer with a keen eye for wildlife and natural scenes, and to get the shots for which he's famous, he has to carry a lot of gear. Think tripods, multiple lenses, backup cameras, and pounds upon pounds of batteries. For Tom, wildlife and backcountry photography is not a lightweight game. It takes perseverance and dedication, regardless of his pack weight.

Having grown up on a remote cattle ranch in South Dakota, Tom was privy to the life cycle of the animals he lived and worked with. The way the seasons, time of day, and weather affected their behavior was laid out in front of him on a daily basis. His youth became a tapestry of wildlife and windswept hills, leading him to gain a deep understanding of animal behavior. It is this understanding, ingrained in Tom since childhood, that lends him at least part of his success as a photographer. “My perception is different because I have a different scale of experience,” says Tom. “You can’t photograph wildlife unless you know wildlife.”

While going light is important to Tom, it is clear that photographers have a different definition of what “light” means. When it comes to taking the cameras, he must be careful about what else he packs. Over the years, Tom has thrown out anything that is not necessary in his pack, keeping only what he absolutely needs. His opinion about his packing choices is pretty obvious: “I carry all that stuff because I want to make good photos when I get there.”

As a self-taught photographer, Tom states very simply that he became a photographer because he is backpacker. “The motivation was to record what I saw…I always see something when I go out. I don’t write, and I can’t draw, so I picked up photography.”

These days Tom gives guided photography tours of Yellowstone. His work was recently featured in the PBS show Christmas in Yellowstone that aired in December 2007.

Rainbow Weinstock

Rainbow Weinstock's love affair with the outdoors began, as it does for many people, during childhood. In his case it was on the Mauna Loa volcano where he and his family lived in Hawaii. “The first time I went backpacking was as a family to the top of the volcano,” says Rainbow. “It left a strong impression on me to have that immersion in our natural surroundings.”

While backpacking and camping have been part of his repertoire since those early days on the volcano, it was not until Rainbow traveled to Alaska during the summer of 1999 that he took up photography. While Rainbow was in Alaska, he took a month-long NOLS course, explored the backcountry, and enrolled in a photography class at the University of Fairbanks. “Alaska was a significant experience on many levels,” says Rainbow. “I had a fantastic time and found that I really enjoyed being behind a camera.”

In 2001, Rainbow was working for an environmental consulting firm in Boston, but was searching for something different. When the opportunity to take a NOLS instructor course presented itself, he quickly packed his bags and headed to the American southwest. “I decided that I wanted to have a career that helped preserve our natural world,” he says. “I chose education over activism. I was motivated by NOLS experiential education capabilities and the wonders of its classrooms.” In the NOLS classroom, Rainbow found multiple opportunities to develop his photography skills. In the 2008 NOLS catalog, his work is the most prevalent in the notoriously picture-laden publication.

As an instructor for NOLS, Rainbow teaches courses in caving, climbing, mountaineering, and backpacking, which affords him great opportunities to capture the outdoor shots that feature both the natural world and how his students interact with it. “I’m blessed to be able to do incredible things in incredible places - photography is a way to interpret and record these experiences,” says Rainbow.

Having been backpacking for roughly twenty years, Rainbow has continually been changing and lightening his pack throughout that time. After taking a lightweight backpacking course from Ryan Jordan last year, the pounds and ounces on his pack have dramatically decreased. Now, on a thirty day NOLS course, his pack weight, including nine days worth of food, is thirty pounds. On personal trips, such as the one he just completed in Patagonia, his base weight is only ten pounds.

These pack weights include his photography equipment, which can at times be burdensome, but to Rainbow, the weight of the equipment does not deter him. When asked why he continues to do it, Rainbow says, “Well, I could be cocky and say 'Check out the images accompanying this article,' but it's really passion for quality. I’m generally not satisfied with the caliber of images that I get back with point and shoots. Having the higher-level digital sensors, quality and interchangeability of lenses, and increased artistic capabilities are indispensable.”

Q&A with Backpacking Light’s Rick Dreher

Rick has been a backpacker and photographer since childhood. His work has been featured in Backpacking Light and other commercial pieces. These days he is the resident photography expert at BPL.

Q: What type of cameras and equipment do you use?

A: For digital work, and I’m only partway through year two using digital, I have an Olympus E-510 dSLR with six lenses, and a Kodak P880 “prosumer” fixed lens camera. I use a Manfrotto carbon monopod or a Gitzo subcompact carbon tripod when I carry support, and I also tote the typical smattering of filters, batteries, lens tissue, and the like.

From there, it gets complicated. I have an absurd array of analog (film) equipment, some of which I still use. I’ve collected most of what I consider the crown jewels of compact 35mm point-and-shoot cameras, the best being a Contax T3 and a Ricoh GR1. I still occasionally use my Contax G system rangefinders and Contax N and RTS SLR systems. Film and processing are becoming significant headaches, adding to the time-lag, hassles, and expense of shooting the stuff. Anybody who still owns a turntable and vinyl will understand the predicament, although with film there’s an eventual dead end (for example, there’s precisely one Kodachrome processing lab on the planet).

Q: In your opinion, what is the best, lightest camera on the market right now?

A: It’s dangerous to recommend a camera barely beginning shipment and yet to be thoroughly tested and reviewed, but the Sigma DP1 represents a compact camera paradigm shift, stuffing a dSLR-size imaging chip in a compact body, while depriving lazy people of a zoom lens. In this first quarter of 2008, it’s the only digital show in town for anybody desiring pro-quality landscapes while only toting half a pound. (For a quarter of the cost and about the same weight you can find a GR1 and a few rolls of film on eBay. The GR1 is the DP1’s analog-analog.)

Other notable compact digicams are the Canon G9 and the Ricoh cousins GRD II and GX100. All four digital examples supply RAW file format for maximum image quality and lossless post-processing. All have good lenses: the G9 has a reasonable telephoto reach and built-in optical viewfinder, while the GX100 has a superwide angle zoom and the GRD II is the DP1’s cousin with the same effective focal length lens and very high-quality construction, along with including some compelling accessories.

Today’s lightest dSLRs are the Olympus E-410 and forthcoming 420. Olympus recently announced a super-compact 25mm “pancake” lens (95 g) that will combine with one of these bodies to represent the smallest, lightest dSLR-lens combination ever, at something like 18 oz (for the E-410+25 mm).

You’ll probably notice I don’t cite any waterproof cameras, because it’s not a camera’s responsibility to be waterproof, and all the waterproof digicams are quite flawed in some way. However, since there are folks who hike where it rains 200 inches a year, or they go packrafting, a waterproof model might be the only reasonable option. It’s infinitely better to take snapshots with a less-than-perfect camera than not to take any photos at all.

For folks who don’t mind size and heft, at least three dSLRs (by Pentax, Nikon and Olympus) are weather-sealed, and while they shouldn’t be dunked, can fend off driving rain. Olympus weather-seals all their mid- and high-grade lenses.

Q: Do you have any tips that people can use to lighten up their camera and equipment?

A: For snapshooters, not really. Any four to five ounce digicam will do a fine job of capturing your travels, so long as you’re happy with posting on the Web, emailing, and printing no larger than 4x6 inches. These tiny pocket-sized cameras mostly do just fine, so find one with controls you can easily use (without thinking about them too much) and go hiking.

If your ambitions stretch further, you’ve got to first decide whether you want to commit to a dSLR system or use a high-end compact digicam (I’m ignoring mid-format and rangefinder systems). Before picking any gear, decide whether you want to shoot scenery, people, wildlife, mushrooms, whatever, then match tool to task. Note: two quality compact digicams weigh less than a dSLR with one lens.

It’s easy to become trapped stressing over what a particular camera can’t do and never learn to capitalize on what it can do. Sure, equipment matters, but the person handling the equipment matters vastly more.

Let photography become a natural part of your hiking day. Keep the camera handy and become comfortable shooting on the go. Shoot from unusual perspectives and shoot tiny details along with the dramatic vistas. Take time from setting up camp and making dinner to shoot during the “magic” hour immediately before and after sundown. If you can pry yourself out of bed, shoot before dawn. Bring a camera support and shoot star trails and yourself. Shoot your muddy socks, your hiking partner, your breakfast. Come home with your storage cards completely stuffed.

When you do get home, upload your photos and assess your work with a certain brutality. What worked and didn’t work technically, and why? Relentlessly weed out uninteresting photos and after a period (a week, a month) go back through your keepers to find which ones rise above the others. Learn from your successes. Developing your vision is a longer journey than even Andy Skurka can draw up, because it’s a trail with no end. And that’s why you want to carry a camera.


Citation

"Professional Perspectives on Backcountry Photography," by Nicole Chilton. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/interview_with_lightweight_photographers.html, 2008-05-20 21:47:00-06.

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Professional Perspectives on Backcountry Photography
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Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Professional Perspectives on Backcountry Photography on 05/20/2008 21:48:49 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Professional Perspectives on Backcountry Photography

Kyle Hetzer
(Ghost93) - F

Locale: Western MD
Backcountry Photogrpahy on 05/20/2008 22:09:48 MDT Print View

"As a self-taught photographer, Tom states very simply that he became a photographer because he is backpacker. “The motivation was to record what I saw…I always see something when I go out. I don’t write, and I can’t draw, so I picked up photography.”"

HA, this sounds a lot like me. I picked up a DSLR about two years ago and taught myself. Good to see that others did too and made some remarkable shots in the process. Gives hope to guys like me. Photogrpahy was a mojior reason I went light. It's one of the things I have a hard time giving up. Thanks for the article.

Edited by Ghost93 on 05/20/2008 22:13:07 MDT.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Professional Perspectives on Backcountry Photography on 05/21/2008 07:13:00 MDT Print View

Inspiring article. I try the brute force method. Take as many pictures as you can with hope that you''ll luck out and get a good one or two. The hour before sunrise and hour after sunset are magical. Love the picture of the elk drinking from the thermal pool. Made it my computer background.

Good photography helps preserve the wilderness by documenting the beauty for those who don't go out there. Knowing of the beauty then influences their decisions related to protecting the wilderness and preserving it for future generations.

Rick Dickinson
(coyotebum) - F - M

Locale: Southwest Virginia
Where do you carry your camera? on 05/22/2008 05:10:26 MDT Print View

"Keep the camera handy and become comfortable shooting on the go."

Rick, where do you carry your camera? Pre-UL, I've been carrying my Canon Xti w/EFS 17-85 IS in a Tamrac Compact Zoom Pak (Model 515 - 11 oz.) hung on my chest strap. I love it because it's always handy, but I'm wondering about both the weight/bulk of that bag in trying to lighten up. Are there other strategies for keeping your camera handy?

Also, in light of keeping my hands free for shooting, I don't like to carry trekking poles, but the broad consensus among ULers seems to be that poles are a requirement. Do you carry poles? And if so, how often do you walk off and leave them leaning against a tree after a shot? ;-) Really, what the heck do you do with them while shooting?

Greyson Howard
(Greyhound)

Locale: Sierra Nevada
Re: Where do you carry your camera? on 05/23/2008 21:49:45 MDT Print View

This is also a question I have after my recent SLR purchase. I have been thinking about a lowepro on a chest harness, but I'd like to here what others do.

As for the trekking pole issue, I ran into this last summer shooting photos and video on the Tahoe Rim Trail, and never really did any better than holding the two poles in one hand, and shooting with the other - not the best for stability.

Brian Barnes
(brianjbarnes) - M

Locale: Midwest
RE: "Professional Perspectives on Backcountry Photography" on 05/23/2008 22:01:35 MDT Print View

I picked up the Think Tank Photo Digital Holster 20 + Rain Cover for my Canon 10D (old school camera I know).

http://www.thinktankphoto.com/ttp_product_DgtlHlstr.php

The pack plus rain cover weighs 13.7 ounces and can be attached to your shoulder straps. It's perfectly padded (not over kill but just right for minor bumps). The bottom of the holder expand to accommodate longer lenses.

Kerry Rodgers
(klrodgers) - MLife

Locale: North Texas
Re: Re: Professional Perspectives on Backcountry Photography on 05/24/2008 14:24:12 MDT Print View

"Good photography helps preserve the wilderness by documenting the beauty for those who don't go out there. Knowing of the beauty then influences their decisions related to protecting the wilderness and preserving it for future generations."

I agree with that George. I think the pictures most effective at this are ones that show people interacting with the scenery. Otherwise, many people will think (as some politicians have even said), "What good is preserving nature if people cannot get there." Showing people out there shows that it can be done. Showing their responses makes the most powerful connection.

Rick says, "shoot star trails and yourself. Shoot your muddy socks, your hiking partner, your breakfast." Great advice!, but I don't see alot of this in print. Even in the photos selected for this article, how many faces can you see to read an emotion?

As an beginner, I'm working hard to get emotion-packed pictures of my kids interacting with the outdoors, but I mostly fail miserably. I wish I could find more pro-quality examples of such work.

Jon Solomon
(areality) - F - MLife

Locale: Lyon/Taipei
RFs and backpacking on 05/25/2008 04:19:55 MDT Print View

I've just started being able to backpack again after a two year pause from injury...and on my last trip I took an inexpensive modern film rangefinder (a Bessa T) and two lenses (a Zeiss ZM C-Biogon 21/4.5 and a Zeiss ZM Planar 50/2). I shot most of the trip with just the C-Biogon (didn't have a finder for the 50) and black & white fuji (a mixture of acros, presto and super presto) along with some fuji reala. The Bessa T and the C-Biogon weigh about 650 grams (23 ounces). Heavier than a P&S, it is lighter than a lot of other options and I was really pleased with the results.
Follow the link to see photos of Xiangyang (3602m) and Jiaming Lake (3400m). I'd appreciate any feedback and critique. (I'm an amateur, this was my first time shooting a film rangefinder (without tripod) in the mountains...)

I have a quiver of Zeiss lenses and different rangefinder bodies that I might experiment with over the summer. The Zeiss ZM Distagon 18/4 lens takes breathtaking images but is relatively large for a rangefinder lens (still small by SLR standards). But for a one lens one body combo the T and C-Biogon make a fantastic pair. Budget users could look for a Cosina Voigtlander 25/4, 21/4, or 15/4.5 lens instead and come up with a package around US$500.
I think a film rangefinder makes an excellent compromise between weight, final image quality, and portability. I wonder if other people have had similar experience?

Edited by areality on 05/25/2008 04:33:16 MDT.

Jan Stiff
(jsstiff@mchsi.com) - F
Professional Perspectives on Backcountry Photography on 05/27/2008 15:33:19 MDT Print View

As a professional photographer I would add a caveat to the advice given in this article. If you are interested in producing gallery quality scenic images in larger (ie; salable) sizes. Consider the quality of the product as your top priority. Then consider weight. I do my utmost to keep the weight of my equipment down when entering the backcountry, but in order to capture an image at the resolutions and qualities necessary to produce 40" or 50" prints, I sometimes find it more cost effective to hire assistants to carry the extra equipment. I understand that this is not the objective of most backpacking photographers but to me it becomes just another 'cost of doing business'. And since it is my 'bread and butter', it becomes a necessity. I just thought I would add this as "food for thought". It all depends on your objectives.

P.S.: As I get older, I do find myself swearing that in my next career, I'm taking up the piccolo. I can carry it in a vest pocket. ;-)

Steven Nelson
(slnsf) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Trekking poles and photography on 05/27/2008 21:13:54 MDT Print View

I keep my GossamerGear trekking poles on my wrists with small string loops - the poles are light enough that I can leave them dangling while I grab the camera and shoot.

The heavier the poles, the more awkward this may become, but it's a good solution when shooting on the fly.

Some of my photos here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nazdarovye/page3/

- Steve

Dylan Skola
(phageghost) - F

Locale: Southern California
Re: Professional Perspectives on Backcountry Photography on 05/27/2008 23:21:44 MDT Print View

Jan, as a pro I assume you are talking about a 4x5 setup? Or even (egads!) 8x10?

Anyone take a 4x5 backpacking? Care to post a gearlist?

I'm actually quite surprised that we didn't get a gearlist with any the profiled photographers. Come on! If there's any group of hobbyists that likes to talk gear more than lightweight backpackers, it's photographers. OK, well, throw cyclists in there too . . .

BTW if anyone hasn't seen a 40 - 50" print from a large-format camera under gallery lighting, it will change your world. For me it was a complete qualitative leap from what I had previously understood "photography" to be . . . No knock against the wildlife folks with their long-lensed SLRs but for me there's something damned near divine about those glowing-from-within incredibly-detailed landscapes that captures the essence of why I go to the wilderness.

I've decided to take the plunge soon into large format to try to play in one small corner of that sandbox, but for pure backpacking trips I'm leaning towards something along the lines of the Ricoh GX100 . . . I just won't be printing them big . . .

Jan Stiff
(jsstiff@mchsi.com) - F
Professional Perspectives on Backcountry Photography on 05/28/2008 06:04:59 MDT Print View

For the "backpacking" part of my gear I use a pretty ordinary lightweight setup (7 days = approx 15 lbs with food & water). For the photography, the gear I add is determined by the images I plan on shooting. I have used both 4x5 and digital with success.

The 4x5 I use is a Wisner Technical field with various accessories (extension bellows, additional lenses, film carriers, changing bags, etc.). My preference in films runs towards Fuji Velvia. This is because it is what I have used the most and I understand its color balance and other characteristics better than other films. If I need a more neutral color balance, I tend towards the Fuji portrait films. The biggest problem I have with the film rig is weight. The films begins to add up as do the carriers (unless I am using quick loads). Another problem is the limited selection of lenses available. When I was younger, I could compensate by walking. But now that I am getting a little older (and have developed a bum leg and must use a cane even in the flatlands), it is nice to be able to avoid the extra walking by simply changing lenses. To that end, I have begun using digital equipment. (Sort of like Adams when he got older and changed from using large format cameras to shooting with a 2-1/4 square format.) The digital setup that I use is either a 30 Megapixel digital back on a Mamiya 645 or a 20 Megapixel digital SLR manufactured by Canon. Both are excellent cameras, but there is a larger selection of lenses available for the Canon.

If you are buying lenses for a digital SLR, for heaven's sake test them!!! I have bought many a 'top grade' lens only to scrap it because it just wasn't sharp enough for my needs. I currently use a 17-40mm zoom, a 24-70mm zoom, and a 70-200mm zoom for most general purpose work in the backcountry. While not as sharp as using primes, this set gives me a good selection of focal lengths at a minimum of weight. For shooting wildlife, I use either a 100-400mm zoom or my 1000mm telephoto. The 1000mm is for subjects that might pose a threat. (It sometimes pays to be a bit of a coward. Like when shooting brown bear in Alaska.)

No matter which rig I am using, I always carry an assortment of filters to fit each lens (UV, Polarizer, Neutral Density grads, etc.), and my trusty Sekonic meter (NEVER leave home without a good, calibrated, light meter!!!)

The best way to develop a gear list is to examine the types of images you wish to create and determine what equipment is necessary to produce them. Then begin putting together a kit which will enable you to accomplish the objective.

Not sure this addressed you reply, but hope it helped.