Yesterday was an amazing, beautiful, springlike day in the land of East Tennessee and since Tabitha was holding down the fort at f/32, I (April) decided to head for the hills, literally.  I was going hiking.  I spend so much time beholding the beauty of creation from behind a computer screen that I figured it was time to get out and enjoy it in person.  So, I packed my backpack and headed for Abrams Falls.

Here’s my quandry when going on excursions such as these…what equipment should I take, and more importantly, what am I likely to actually be able to carry and make it to the end of the trail and back.  Like most of you reading this, I lug around 5-8 pounds around my neck or shoulder on a regular basis, however, I’m usually not miles from my car or civilization.  On the other hand, I have a difficult time expending all that energy on the journey and trying to capture the fruits of the labor with my cell phone camera (I could write another blog on this subject alone).  I know there is a beautiful waterfall at the end of this trail, so I know I’m going to need a tripod.  My usual tripod is a Manfrotto Neotec.  I LOVE it, but not to hike with.  It’s aluminum and it’s HEAVY.  The last time I attempted hiking a trail with all my gear on my back I made it about halfway to my destination and my blood sugar bottomed out, so I had to turn around and go back.  I didn’t want a repeat of that excursion.

So, I packed my Canon G11, my cable release, and Wilson’s Gitzo traveler tripod (weighs about 2 lbs).  My self imposed challenge was to come back with an image I could make at least a 20×30 print of and no one would know that it did not come from my DSLR.  I’m still working on that part of the process, so you’ll have to stay tuned or come into the lab to see how that one pans out:)

Of course, in addition to camera gear, I had to bring snacks, a water bottle, my cell phone/ipod, a jacket, and a hat.  I don’t travel lightly no matter where I go apparently.  I’m not a regular hiker, so unlike Lisa, I didn’t have a snakebite kit with me:), but I was as prepared as I was going to get.  I had not hiked this trail in 17 years and my memories of it were not fond, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was not nearly as difficult as I remembered it to be.  I still don’t get this because I’m in worse shape and carrying a few more lbs that I was back then.

I love to photograph water.  Other than babies and children, it’s probably my favorite subject.  And yes, I like to turn it to silk in most cases.  You are hard pressed to do this without a tripod.  Oddly enough, I saw all kinds of people hauling DSLRS, even one lady with a Canon 5dMII with a battery grip and a 24-70L lens (yes, I’m a geek and can spot that stuff a mile away:)), but no one else with a tripod.  Maybe I’m just lazy.  But I love the fact that my little Canon G11 has a Neutral Density filter built right in.  Fantastic for stopping down exposure to slow the water down.  So, here are a few of my favorite shots from the day…

All in all, it was a wonderful day, even if my legs are screaming at me today.  Everybody needs time off to play.

If you are reading this and wondering how you set your camera to turn the water to silk, here’s the secret.  Set your ISO on 100 or your camera’s lowest setting.  Shoot in Aperture Priority (or Manual) and set your Aperture to your len’s lowest setting (highest number, ex. 22).  If there is too much light on your subject, try using a Neutral Density filter or a Polarizer if you have one.  For best results, you need consistent light on the water, not intermittent beams of sunlight creating high contrast.  Since you could have a shutter speed as slow as 2-3 seconds, it is best to use a cable release if you have one or the self timer on your camera if you don’t.  This will reduce the possibility of camera shake.  All of that said, you must use a tripod for this to work properly.

If you are interested, we have a few travel tripods in stock for rent.  We also have a new shipment for sale on the way.

So, stoke the fires and get out and shoot something just for the fun of it (with a camera that is)!

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