Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Sierra Light With A Compact
James Kay had to ditch his DSLR in favor of a basic point-and-shoot for a recent ultralight hiking trip. The small camera gave him a sense of creative freedom, and knowing how to work within the camera’s limitations, he brought back a stunning portfolio.
Perhaps you were channel-surfing with me a couple years ago when I stumbled across a fascinating special about a team of underwater photographers working to document the prolific underwater habitat surrounding Cocos Island off the coast of Central America. The first 15 minutes of the program dealt with all the camera and diving gear the team would need on location. The camera slowly panned across an enormous pile of equipment assembled on the floor of the chief photographer's studio. It was enough to fill a shipping container.
That image leapt to mind in the summer of 2012 as I debated how much gear to bring on an expedition to the Sierra Nevada Mountains. My climbing buddy, Ken Bilak, and I were looking to tackle a rugged 30-mile section of the Sierra High Route between Bishop Creek and Taboose Pass. As opposed to the John Muir Trail that, for most of its length in the Sierras, travels along low-altitude valley bottoms, this high-altitude, off-trail route parallels the jagged crest of the Sierras over high, boulder-strewn, windswept passes in the shadow of the range's most spectacular 14,000-foot peaks, a few of which we'd climb along the way.
After more whittling and refining, I finally reduced my camping gear to an acceptable minimum, but that camera pack was still the same size. It only weighed in at a little more than six pounds, but every pound counted, and the thought began to creep into my mind that perhaps I should just leave it behind entirely and take a vacation from photography. I'd be camera-free and could simply concentrate on the experience instead of always being preoccupied with looking around for that next shot. But, of course, as a photographer, that would be tantamount to heresy, wouldn't it? How could I possibly consider spending a week in "The Range of Light" without my camera?
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