Picture if you will…

A good snapshot stops a moment from running away.”  ~Eudora Welty

This post is for the geeks, specifically the photography geeks.  So if you want to hear about the great outdoors, the adventure ahead, or the time I hung out with Big Foot and shared beef jerky, you can skip this one.  This one is where I gush about my hobby addiction that is photography.  And it’s long.  Real long.  I’m sorry.

A while back, I realized that part of the advantage of driving, instead of flying, out west would be that I could carry as much gear as I could jam in to the Jeep.  That meant I could take as much photographic equipment as I wanted.  At the same time, whatever I did decide to take would also have to be carried in a backpack or a bag and I’d have to be extra careful to pack it and handle it as it spent all day on the trail bouncing around inside.  Not good.  There had to be a better way.  Enter the Tamrac bag.

After some rigorous review reading, I decided that the Tamarac Expedition 6x was the bag I wanted.  With the ability to connect a water bottle, and weatherproof compartments, THIS was the bag for me.  As you can see in the top image, lenses camera bodies, hoods, chargers, and just about everything else all fit securely inside.  It even has a hidden padded sleeve for a laptop, into which my MacBook Air slides nicely.

This is also a true backpack in the sense that it has great ventilation, padded shoulder straps, and a hip belt to offset the weight.  The bag also has extra accessories (like the water bottle holder) that are designed to strap to the outsides of it.  These bags, when brand new are rather pricy, but knowing I had time, I scoured eBay and found one second hand from a photographer that had received it as a gift and already had 2 of them.  With the factory tags still on and never used, I picked this up at a steal just under $50.  (They normally go for ~$200.)

While this bag holds everything I plan on taking with me, I really don’t intend to carry this bag every day.  For day hikes I have a much smaller pack and most of the time I’m hiking my Nikon D90 is hanging around my neck anyway.  My thoughts for this bag are more for when I’m roaming around in the desert in the Jeep.  There are several places where I’ll have to stop, get out and hike a bit to get the shots I’m after.  That’s where I’m picturing hopping out, grabbing this bag and setting off.

My default lens (and favorite) for scenic shots has become the Sigma 10-20mm wide angle.  I’ve used it to take some all-encompassing shots like the lighthouse below.  It’s an outstanding lens and I’d recommend it to any photographer.  They are a very sought after lens as well, as you see them used on eBay for prices close to new.  I picked mine up used (eBay) after finding an auction that ended at 3am.  I stayed up that night and ended up “sniping” the last bid as the auction came to a close.  I had lost several prior auctions for one and I was determined to win that one.  🙂  Having used it for a while now, I would have paid double for it.  It’s just that good of a lens.

My Nikon D90 shoots HD video so in a pinch I can quickly swap over but going on this trip and knowing that the fixed focus of the SLR camera probably wouldn’t do the sights justice, I set out for a lightweight, inexpensive HD video camera. I wanted something with a little image stabilization because when it comes to standing on a cliff top, shooting video, let’s face it, I need a compact device that will take a great picture and fit in the palm of my hand.  Enter the Sanyo Xacti.  After reading reviews on this I was hesitant.  Complaints about battery life seemed to be the only major pitfall.  Reviewers also added that an aftermarket company sold extended life batteries at dirt cheap prices and if you had 3 or 4 you could quickly swap them out.  They are the size and weight of a quarter.  I found this on sale through Amazon for under $100.  I can’t beat a 1080 HD camera that uses SD media, with image stabilization and was compact enough to fit in my pocket for under $100.  My testing has proven the reviews to be true.  It’s a great camera but I only get about 30 minutes of battery time.  That’s why I have 4 extras, and my Jeep has an AC power outlet.  🙂

Last but not least, I researched photos themselves.  There are millions of photos from the western US, some better than others, most just spectacular.  It seems kind of hard to take a “bad” picture out there.  I review these pictures for inspiration.  I look at the angles, the time of day, where the sun is.  I see if I can tell what filter(s) they are using or how much post-processing was done in Photoshop.  There are several “iconic” photos that I definitely want to try and replicate.  Awe-inducing, natural beauty is what I’m after.  I’ll end this post with some of the inspirational photos I’ve found that made me want to take this trip in the first place.  Enjoy!

Zion National Park, The Narrows Virgin River hike:

Moab, Utah:

The Grand Canyon:

Rocky Mountain National Park:

Monument Valley:

The Grand Canyon again:

A back country trail:

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