03 August 2010

big cameras & long hikes part1

My love-hate relationship with SLRs came to a head during big hiking trips. Seeing a few shots of the Sierra triggered my flashback to what I've experienced on long backpacks, so here goes with a few long-ago memories. Apologies for the bad scans from my slide-shooting days!

1979 - My first Big Trip, into Wyoming's Wind River Range. I believe I had my Praktica SuperTL, a 50mm f/1.8 lens, and perhaps a 2x or 3x teleconverter. I know I had nothing wider, or I'd have done a far better job with the images. I took some great shots, but I also had my first (and sadly, not last) SLR failure. While taking a photo of granite rock from point-blank range the camera strap failed, and the camera hit very hard. I was in shock, as was the camera: it failed to take images, early on day two of a 5-day hike and just as I approached the most scenic part of the trip! I rewound the film, investigated everything I could reach, but the shutter would not trip. After several minutes I decided to crank the shutter to B and see if something changed: amazingly, a loud clunk shivered the camera when it went to B, and everything returned to normal. Stunned by my good fortune, and fearful it would swiftly end, I shot the Cirque of the Towers like mad, using an entire 36-exposure roll within about 50 feet of walking. (I knew at the time that a wide-angle lens needed to be in my bag, and that I'd have to return here to use it.) The remainder of the trip was saved as the camera never failed again - but boy was I spooked by it!

1989 - Ten years later it was the Sierra Nevada, and a Pentax SLR. Wish I could recall which lens went along, but no one has a shot of me with it. A gorgeous trip, and as best I can remember the camera performed flawlessly.

1993 - The next trip failed on several counts. I brought an SLR and a video cam, wishing to try my hand at 'action' wilderness shots, but the main failure was one of acclimation. My system breakdown at 10000' near Pine Creek Pass, Sierra Nevada was not SLR but altitude sickess; as I was hiking solo I was forced to retreat without meeting my hiking partner on day three. Bad memories, and few images!

Other trips were planned but postponed - then the camera errors began to haunt me..

1996 - A return to Pine Creek brought smaller headaches to me, but massive ones to my camera. Despite carrying a spare battery for my camera, I did not see its warnings and so shot a ton of underexposed shots, mostly in the morning when the battery was weakest. Afternoon shots tended to turn out, but it was a real pain to see these after the fact. Irreplacable sunrise shots and other great memories.. but some good ones too! It took a lot of time in a rental darkroom to retrieve some details, but many were lost and only remain in my fragile memory-book..