Going on a Camping Field Trip - Bring SLR, Buy P&S, or None?

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by astrostu, Jul 6, 2010.

  1. astrostu

    astrostu I shoot for the stars

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    My thesis work is mapping and determining properties of craters on Mars. I applied to a Meteor Crater Field Camp for mid-October and was just notified today that I was selected. Now, I've been there before, and last time I walked around the entire rim and took lots of panoramae. And it may be one of the stops I take my parents on just 3 weeks earlier when I'm there for a conference and they're flying in afterwards to go sight-seeing in the Flagstaff area.

    This being a field camp for a week means I'll be camping there (for a week) and will need to bring all my camping gear on the airplane along with clothes, a pillow, boots, etc. All of my camera gear together goes in a fairly large backpack, plus tripod. So I'm trying to figure this out:

    a) I've been there before, so I have photos of the crater. Camera stuff would weigh a lot and take up a lot of room and I'm already out of shape to the point that I don't want to be hiking all that stuff plus water everywhere. So do I not bring any camera?

    b) Been there, done that, but this field camp will likely offer me opportunities to go in/around the crater that people normally don't get to do, such as possibly hike into the crater (very difficult these days to get permission to do that these days). Investing in a small P&S for events like that would be good and light-weight, even though it wouldn't afford me the opportunities of a SLR.

    c) Suck it up and go all out and bring all the gear for those times during the camp when I'd be hitting myself for not bringing it.

    I dunno 'bout this one ... what do y'all think?
     
  2. TJ K

    TJ K No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I would say C. I think this is a better safe than sorry situation. I mean even though you've been there before there is bound to be something that you haven't shot before or a new perspective on something. Getting to do some long night exposures could look pretty sweet too. I say take it and don't look back. GL
    TJ
     
  3. Morpheuss

    Morpheuss TPF Noob!

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    I'm with TJ. I would bring the stuff and bring something to keep it protected if you run into rain or other conditions that would destroy your camera. It will also be a good way to get some exercise that you could use from how you talk bringing your camera equipment along with everything else you need
     
  4. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    If you go to a photography site, people will immediately recommend bringing all the gear.

    If you go to a hiking/camping site, people will immediately recommend going lightweight. In terms of value versus weight.

    ... Fact is.... I've seen a few threads and it is obvious how some people here don't realize that carrying too much weight can turn a trip into a complete unpleasant experience. Leaving expensive gear behind isn't an option once you start on your journey. If the terrain is bad, then you could risk injury.

    * Does the trip involve a short hike, setting up base camp, with a series of smaller hikes without all the gear?

    * How long is the hike? Type of terrain.

    * Do you know what % of your body weight you are capable?

    * How experienced are you as a hiker?

    * Also remember, you are carrying an electronic device... how about power (batteries).

    These are just a few examples of questions you should be asking yourself. I knew a group of very experienced hikers/photographers a while back and they would setup trips specifically with photography in mind. To cut down on weight, they teamed up and shared equipment.. .each carrying a portion of the load.


    If you can't answer a bunch of those questions reliably, I suggest erring on the side of caution and pack light. I'd get a high end P&S of some sort. Looking at my cabinet of stuff, I'd probably carry a my m4/3rd camera + panasonic LX3 as a backup. leaving the Canon DSLR and lenses behind.. (Its been years since I've been hiking and I know I'm out of shape) I'd also carry my gitzo carbon monopod (w/ small ball head) and a few large rubber bands (to turn it into a tripod using 2 other sticks).
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2010
  5. astrostu

    astrostu I shoot for the stars

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    Interesting analysis, usayit. I've been getting very mixed replies in general about this on a few forums.

    c. People who say bring the SLR are generally suggesting just the Rebel and a small lens (like my cheapo kit 18-55 mm), and they are citing the idea that I may be in some circumstances where I will regret not having the SLR and its capabilities.

    b. Folks who say to get a P&S highlight the practicality of it in its weight and volume as well as the general quality of today's P&S cameras, some linking to shots taken with things like iPhones (no, I just have a 1st gen nano and 1st gen Touch). There's also the practicality of packing a tent, sleeping bag, pad, pillow, clothes, etc. AND then the camera stuff and getting that all on a plane and then in a tent.

    When I mentioned this to my advisor - who hikes and mountain and volcano climbs like crazy - he said P&S if anythings because that I would actually bring with me. After Day 1 and carrying a camera bag with me all day, I would leave it in the tent for the rest of the week.

    In attempting to answer your example questions, "I don't know" came up a lot. All I know is that we're camping at the Meteor Crater RV park (free wireless!), the field camp is Sunday to Sunday ... and that's all I know. I don't even know the project(s) we'll be doing. I'm running on the assumption that it's going to be effectively a 9-5 type thing "in the field" but "in the field" could mean on the rim, all the way into the crater, just inside the crater, and/or around the ejecta blanket (continuous ejecta blankets generally travel ~1 crater diameter, so the perimeter of that sucker would be very roughly 15 km. And I am not in any way an experienced hiker, though last time I was there I did hike around the rim and I was generally at the front of the group.

    I think I am leaning more towards a P&S, if folks couldn't tell from what I said above. The arguments I've read for bringing the SLR (any or all) are mainly that I'll miss stuff, I'll want the versatility, and I could do long exposures at night. No mention of practicality / weight issues. Contrast that with a P&S ... I was glancing through B&H and the Canon A3100, SD9400, SD1300, SD1400 all weigh around 4-6 ounces. And I do know what P&Ss are capable of, since my first camera was a Canon S30 and they've advanced a bit since then.

    In their advice, some people seemed to ignore or not see that I have been there before, three times, and I'll likely be going a fourth time just before the field camp. I've also done plenty of astrophotography, and I'll be in Flagstaff for a full week just 3 weeks prior to this field camp and will have a much more favorable moon then for astrophotography. In fact, during the field camp, it's a waxing gibbous moon and hence horrible for star trails.

    I think at this point, unless anyone can offer a better reason for the SLR other than I may want the versatility while telling me how I can easily manage weight issues in the desert sun for a full day for a full week (and I'm not being sarcastic -- if you can tell me, please let me know!), then I'm going to look into getting a P&S.
     
  6. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Sounds like your advisor knows from experience.

    You should also consider the Canon S90 as well. Very capable camera for its size (high end P&S with RAW capability). I have bad ankles so I use walking sticks often during even short hikes. If you are the same, there are some walking sticks that have integrated tripod screws that double as a monopod. Take 1 monopod, rubber bands, 2 other sticks, you have a tripod.

    Weakest point for even the best P&S cameras is high ISO. Use your timer and tripod. If you can fit it in a hip bag comfortably, you are good to go. Since you say you'll be returning, you can organize a few photographers to make the trip later sharing the equipment and load.
     

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