Mixing Hiking and Photography
When it is time to clear one’s head or just find a little peace and quiet, the woods are the best place to be. Around here, that woods is the New Jersey Pine Barrens. After spending weeks preparing for my first solo exhibition of photographs from the Franklin Parker Preserve in the Pine Barrens, I felt a strong urge to be back out in those Pines. So, I packed my camera and hiking gear and headed for a hike along the Wading River.
I love making photographs, but making them while hiking is something special. It gives me time to connect with the environment I want to create in. It was a cold and dreary day with flat, un-photogenic light. There was also a light mist that only served to make the background look dull. Still, I believe that good photography can happen just about anywhere if your heart is in it. These photographs are special, to me anyway, because they represent a peaceful 8-mile solo hike along the Wading River which I hadn’t visited in awhile. Plus, I made it back off the trail just as it started raining. Timing in hiking, just like photography, is everything.
An Atlantic White Cedar Tree
Atlantic White Cedar Trees grow in thick groves along the Pine Barren’s waterways. It’s rare to find one by itself and this large and full.
Here is one of those thick Atlantic White Cedar groves growing along a bend in the Wading River. It’s usually hard to get a photograph of these groves from the water side of the river because the banks are completely overgrown. To get an unobstructed view, I had to place the camera and myself in an unusual position to peer through a thicket of blueberry and sticker bushes.
An Old Bog
Further down the river in the Franklin Parker Preserve are some abandoned cranberry bogs, some of which are used for research by various colleges and universities. I don’t know if these scenes are the result of a research project or nature simply reclaiming this old bog. Either way, they provide a nice view of various trees that grow in the Pine Barrens mixed with some great winter textures.
It’s worth it to go hiking with the extra weight of a camera. The natural world is a great canvas. For me, the resulting photographs record the beauty of nature in a way that can be easily shared with others.
Technical Note: When preparing for a hike it is important that you take the right gear for yourself and your camera. Keeping the weight down is an issue, so I hike with one camera and at most two lenses. Knowing where you are going and what you are going to see along the trail will influence what you take. Here is a list of what I brought on this hike:
- Canon 5D Mark III camera
- 24-105mm f/4 lens – My go to lens for hiking. It covers a wide range and is fairly light.
- 70-200mm f/4 lens – Usually in the Pine Barrens a telephoto lens like this is useful. I use the f/4 version because it is much lighter (and less expensive) than the f/2.8 lens.
- Light weight tripod – At 2 pounds it isn’t super stable, but it’s more sturdy than you would imagine and better than no tripod.
- Camera rain cover and micro fiber towel – I always bring these rain or shine.
- Rain gear for me too – just in case.
- Polarizer filter, extra cards and batteries.
- Emergency gear for me – Survival kit, cell phone, knife, multi-tool, food, water. Should something go wrong, it’s good to be prepared.
- Dressing in fast drying layers of wicking materials to keep warm and comfortable in the cold, damp weather.