Gear and Tips for Filming & Photographing in the Wild

28 Jan

Over the past two years, we’ve been asked a lot for wilderness shooting advice, so here is some advice from Jason for capturing your next adventure, be it in Yosemite or any remote area.



First and foremost bring a tripod. Hand held shots are great, and create a nice effect of being on the trail, but if that’s all you have the audience will get motion sickness. I know it sucks to have to carry one, but a lot of the carbon fiber ones have gotten lighter. I brought a Manfrotto 055cx3 with a Bogen 701 fluid head. Really a good thing to have forpans and tilts. It weighed in at 5.5 pounds which is a lot for weight weenies for sure, but it really did a great job of supporting our cameras and our dolly slider. There are lighter and smaller alternatives that might not work as well, but it really is essential if you want your film to look polished.

If your lower back or weight conscience won’t allow you cary the weight, there are a couple of alternatives. The Leki mono-pod trekking pole was a great alternative to the tripod for when you want a steadier shot without pulling off your pack to get the tripod. (Ric was able to use it to great success.) However emphasis on the word “steadier” in that sentence. This one takes practice.

Gorillapod. Do it. It was so helpful. There were plenty of times that we all may have passed a great shot because we just couldn’t take the time to unload our pack. Having the gorillapod attached to his pack helped Ric get a locked down shot without pulling down the tripod that I was carrying. The final support item is less necessary, but a nice find. It’s not a sturdy as the Kessler Pocket Dolly we brought, but a heck of a lot lighter and fine for a DSLR with a smaller lens.

Keep in mind too, that we had a good sized team. If it’s just you it would be hard to bring all of these, but at the very least I reiterate BRING A TRIPOD!


What camera should you bring? Well that’s up to you. The Nikon D800 and Canon 5d MIII are kind of the current leaders for DSLR video shooting, but there are a lot of great cheaper and lighter alternatives. Besides the Nikon D7000 and the Canon 7D, I’ve seen some really nice stuff shot with this Panasonic:

There’s plenty of blogs out there detailing what camera you should buy for what price, and what you should do is figure out your budget and go from there. At the end of the day, cameras are really good now! Stick with one that has a good amount of people using it for video and maybe a good user group online for advice and you should be ok. For all of the sound and thunder surrounding which is the best camera at the end of the day we believe that it’s what’s in front of the camera and the imagination used to capture it that’s most important.

The new kid on the block is Blackmagic. I’ve just got their Cinema Camera and I really love it. It’s not the lightest camera, but as far as price versus image you can’t really do better right now. The fact that it shoots both Raw and Prores makes it a great option. You can shoot Raw for your contrasty and glamour shots, and Prores for interviews or more evenly exposed shots. Raw is a memory pig, so I would suggest using it sparingly. And even more exciting for backcountry use is this new Pocket camera:

It will be a while before it can be matched for size and weight to quality of image. Also, keep in mind the BMC aren’t still cameras as well as video cameras like the DSLRs.

I would also recommend having a second smaller camera on you. We brought a GoPro and at the end we wondered why we didn’t use it more. The newest one has a really nice image, and they are so small and compact that they make it super easy to shoot with. If you have an Iphone or high end android your phone will also have a good camera in it. Always good to have one handy for quick and easy shots. You certainly sacrifice quality, but it is nice to have more shots at the end of a trip.

Jen opted for her go-to NikonDS-3. It’s heavy, but tough, and allowed her to handle low-light situations, even though eyes boggled at the size of the camera she toted.



Just as important as the camera itself and maybe even more is your lens selection. Frankly, I’d take a slightly lesser camera with a better lens over a great camera with a slow cheap lens. If you’re only bringing one zoom for a full framed camera, we would recommend one of the really good 24-70 fixed 2.8 zooms out there. Canon and Nikon both have one, and there’s several others made by Sigma and other aftermarket lens makers. If you like wider or tighter shots there are of course other options. We just found that most our shots fell within those focal lengths. If you go with a camera with a smaller sensor, then figure out what your crop factor is and make sure that you can get a lens that will get you somewhere close to the equivalent of around a 20mm on a full framed camera. Prime lenses are generally faster and sharper, and if you can bring along a good range of them it will make your images that much prettier. If you want to shoot some night time-lapses you will definitely want to bring at least one fast prime.

You will definitely need to bring Polarizer and ND filters for your lenses. Because shooting video on a DSLR works best when you keep your shutter at 1/50, the only other way to cut down light in camera is by stopping down your aperture. Using a Polarizer and ND filter on our lenses allowed me to shoot between a 5.6 – 1.8 when I wanted a shot with a shallow depth of field during the middle of the day. These really are a must, and make sure you have them for all of your lenses.



There’s a couple of options for power. We brought a Goal Zero solar panel set to charge the batteries for Ric and Jen’s cameras. It worked great and mostly kept all our phones charged, but you have to be diligent about setting it up first thing in the morning, anytime you stop for an extensive break, and when you get to camp before dark. We were pretty lucky to have clear skies most of the time, and I took that for granted. When the cloudy days showed up, I realized how hard it was to keep charge. I went with the bulk method. I brought 8 5d batteries with me. There are a few places you can recharge along the trip (Reds Meadow, Vermillion, Muir Trail Ranch,) and that was plenty for me. If you can I would plan to stay at Muir Trail Ranch. It’s nice to have a  meal and a shower!

Obviously, with all of the hiking you have to do, you won’t be shooting 8 hours a day so each battery lasts a few days. And yes we know it’s hard, but resist the urge to review footage and keep your LCD off as much as you can. That’s what really eats up battery power. As for cards I would do the bulk thing as well. Better to have them and not need them, than need them and not have them. They make them  up to 64 GB now, but I’m always afraid to use those on a backcountry trip. If it was lost or broken you could lose a weeks worth of material versus a day or two if you use an 8 gig card. We had friends meet us along the way which made this easier. You could always stash cards with your food drops so you’re not carrying them the whole way. The extra weight sucks I know, but without power and media you’re camera is just dead weight.



As for a case I would recommend a toploader rather than a harness. They are easy to strap to your belt or chest strap and they offer protection from all of the elements. This is the one I use: and Jen had a ThinkTank that extended to accommodate longer lenses.

Passions run high amongst the camera blogesphere, and for sure there are a lot of contrary opinions to much of this. However, this is what worked for us. The bottom line is to go out there and enjoy your trip. If you can take some time along the way to set up your shots, and carefully choose the gear options that work best for you then you will certainly be happier with the results at the end of your journey. If you have more questions please shoot them our way, and we’ll do our best to help out. Also, please share what you get out there!


Our Gear List:

  • Nikon D3S (for stills and timeplase)
  • Nikon D7000
  • Nikon Lenses shared between D3S and D7000
  • Nikkor 24-70mm/f2.8
  • Nikkor 105mm/f2.8
  • Tokina 17mm
  • Canon 5D MarkII equipped with 24-105 f4.5-5.6
  • Canon Vixia HF10
  • Kessler Pocket Dolly 27″
  • GoPro HD
  • Sound Devices 302 mixer
  • Sound Devices 744 recorder
  • Stereo pair of Sennheiser 8040′s
  • 2 Sennheiser 416′s
  • Aquarian Audio hydrophone
  • Goal Zero Elite Solar Panel and Battery

** Please note: there have been many new products introduced for stabilizing and holding your gear since we took ours out, so do a quick search before you buy.