5 Things Every Photographer Needs to Bring to the Boundary Waters
By Bryan Hansel
If you love photography, love canoeing and love the Boundary Waters, then don’t be afraid to bring your expensive photography gear into the BWCA. But what kind of camera equipment should you bring to the wilderness? There’s a lot of accessories and gadgets to sort through, but these are the five things every photographer needs to bring to the Boundary Waters.
1. Watershed Ocoee Dry Bag
The Watershed Ocoee Dry Bag or its bigger sibling the Chattooga are completely dry duffel bags with liners and photography specific divider pads. Both use a unique closure that works like a zip-close bag. After you zip it closed, it won’t come apart unless you cup around the zip and form an s-shape. Once put into that shape the zip opens easily. These bags are so dry that the Navy Seals use them, and the Navy has tested the bags to 100 meters without any leaks. The Ocoee is just big enough to fit two mirrorless camera bodies, one with a 16-35 f/4 and the other with a 70-200 f/4. Kept at your feet, Watershed’s bags allow quick access to your gear and aren’t bulky and unwieldy on a portage like Pelican cases are.
2. Wide and Fast Lens
If you’re going to shoot your canoe at sunrise, you’re going to need a wide lens. On a full-frame camera, you’ll want a lens that is at least 20mm wide. This allows you to get the entire canoe, bow to stern, in the shot while also getting the horizon and sunrise. If you bring along a fast, wide lens, then it will also work for night shots of the Milky Way or the northern lights. Depending on which system I’m carrying into the BWCA, I like to bring a Zeiss 18mm f/2.8 Batis or Nikon’s 20mm f/1.8. Both are tack sharp and work well for landscape or night shots.
3. Singh-Ray 3-stop Reverse ND Grad
When shooting sunrise and sunset, the difference between the darkness of the foreground and the brightness of the colorful sky differs so much that it is beyond that ability of cameras to capture. Bringing along a 3-stop Reverse ND grad helps even that exposure out. Singh-Ray’s 2-stop reverse ND grad is like other ND grads; it’s split in the center with a dark part on the top and a clear part on the bottom. The reverse transition is what makes Singh-Ray’s filter unique. It is darkest in the center and gets lighter the further away from center it gets. This keeps the sky looking natural. To use this filter, you mount it on your lens using a special holder and then move the center to the horizon. Then wah lah, you get detail in the sky and can see your foreground.
Weight is at a premium on most BWCA trips, so you wan to minimize the weight you bring in camera gear. You can use a lighter tripod and lighter ball head if you use an L-bracket. An L-bracket mounts on your camera and allows you to orientate your camera in a horizontal or vertical position without having to flip the ball head sideways. This also centers the weight of your camera directly over your tripod. You can get away with a skimpy ball head and tripod when doing this.
5. Extra Batteries
Electronics uses lots of juice and that can get worrying. There are many ways to provide that juice including my carrying along a solar panel, but for most trips its easier to just bring extra batteries instead of figuring out how to charge your gear while in the wilderness. Figure out how many pictures you usually take during a day and bring along enough batteries to accommodate that. On week-long trips, I usually bring along 4 or 5 batteries for my Nikon DSLRs. On longer trips, bring along a power pack, such as Anker PowerCore 26800 Portable Charger. This provides approximately 10 recharges on your batteries.
Bryan Hansel is a professional landscape photographer living the dream in Grand Marais, Minnesota. In addition to selling fine-art prints and stock photography, he makes his living teaching photography workshops across the country. Among his sponsors, he counts Northstar Canoe. You can learn more about his work and his workshops at www.bryanhansel.com. He also blogs about canoeing and kayaking at www.paddlinglight.com.