Mark's Logs

Reading, thinking, and seeing.

Remote Exposure

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1. Choosing the Right Equipment


  • Film SLR is still a popular camera choice for a remote expedition.

    • old manual SLRs, as well as most rangefinders, possess a mechanical shutter system that can operate without any power source;
    • downsides: no instantly review; more experience needed; physical medium of film;
    • fSLR can be a great backup.
  • DSLRs

    • pros: larger sensors, modular and interchangeable lenses, live view, longer battery life, faster, auto-bracketing;
    • cons: heavier and bulkier;
    • HDR capability.
  • Compact Cameras

    • disadvantages: heavy noise, low battery life, slow autofocus, shutter lag, non-interchangeable lenses; even no viewfinder; lack of ‘RAW’;
    • considerable only when:
      1. the climb is very difficult: light weight is more important than bringing back good images;
      2. snapshots to complement your personal memories;
      3. a high-end compact could serve as a useful backup.
  • EVILs (Electonic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens Cameras)

    • designed for street photography; close to APS-C DSLRs (with consumer lenses);
    • cons: absence of an optical viewfinder;
    • trade-off between weight and some special features and more choices in lenses (against DSLR).
  • The Big Stuff

    • a bad idea.
  • Summary

    • DSLR or EVIL; compact as a backup.
    • it depends.


  • balance versatility and features with weight and portability;
  • no need to focus on large apertures;
  • sometimes it is inconvenient to change lenses;
  • a wide lens is generally the most useful; default choice;
  • oftentimes, telephoto lenses are a necessity; 200mm should be enough; secondary choice;
  • ultra wide lenses are tricky to use;
  • prime lenses: for experienced;
  • gather some statistics in photo archives.

Carrying Systems

  • have your camera accessible at all times;
  • backpack with survival items;
  • without fuss;
  • size should be adapted;
  • all the equipment you might use should be accessible;
  • reasonably weather resistant;
  • simple design: internal separators and a small pocket for memory cards and batteries;
  • lightweight;
  • camera backpacks are worst, chest bag and shoulder bag are not that good;
  • a belt system is the best solution: a padded belt and a few detachable pouches.

Battery and Memory Strategies

  • at least enough cards to get you through one day of shooting;
  • cold is the deadliest threat to batteries;
  • careful and constant monitoring power sources;

Odds and Ends

  • lens caps, UV filters;
  • lens hoods;
  • microfiber cloth;
  • need permission from every recognizable person in images;

Dead Weight

  • tripod: isn’t very useful in the mountains -> find a platform stable enough;
  • artifical lighting: flash is more trouble than help;
  • filters: UV or clear filters only;
  • laptop: no;

Bring with

  • For Hiking and Less Demanding Climbs, e.g.:

    • Nikon D90 w/ 2+ batteries, 12GB SD cards;
    • Nikkor 16-35mm f/4 VR, 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR (equipped w/ UV);
    • Think Tank Skin belt system;
  • For Difficult Climbs, e.g.:

    • EP-1 Pen m43, w/ 12GB SD cards;
    • Zuiko 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6;

2. Shooting

When to Shoot

  • be psychologically prepared to stop in very inconvenient places; no fuss;
  • checklist:
    • how safe is it to stop now?
    • how are your partners going to react?
    • how long is the photo opportunity likely to last?
    • how good is the image going to be?

Caring for Your Gear

  • weather protection, cold;
  • water (humidity, rain), condensation;
  • dust -> be extra careful;
  • how NOT to drop stuff:
    • connect the camera strap to harness or bag;
    • climbing sling;
  • Safety:
    • always pack anything fragile or expensive as carry-on luggage;
    • never leave bags out of your sight;
    • keep ‘em attached;

A Complete Workflow

  • keep an eye out and an open mind for any potential photo;
  • assess enviornment;
  • communicate with partners;
  • anchor yourself somewhere when needed;
  • check the histogram;
  • blahblahblah…


  • snow: compensation to eliminate underexposing;
  • ETTR (Expose To The Right): only against RAW, w/ post-processing;
  • high contrast: use HDR, check histogram;

3. Creating Powerful Images

Be Inspired

  • have something to say, and express it through photography;

Quantity vs. Quality

  • give you mileage;
  • occasionally stumble upon hidden gems;
  • you are not obligated to produce a masterpiece each time;
  • photo opportunities are both unique and short-lived;
  • images are great memories;
  • heavy editing;
  • shooting a lot replaces critical thinking and is only masking the photographer’s laziness of finding the optimal viewpoint for a scene.


Do NOT overestimate the checklist:

  • rule of thirds;
  • direct attention to a subject by color and light;
  • strong shapes and lines;
  • edges of an image are a sensitive area;
  • out-of-focus background are important;
  • leave plenty of space in image when subject is moving or looking in a direction;
  • simpler composition -> stronger image.

Through experience, by shooting thousands of images and seeing thousands more, both good and bad.

The Story

  • put the image into words -> simply describe it;
  • not to explain the story with extra info that does not show in the image.

More Practicaly

  • learn to see light and treat it as a subject in its own right;
  • search for the optimal point of view;
  • observer the weather, and make it another one of your subject;
  • mountains are vertical environments;
  • natural scenes look the same at any scale;
  • get the timing just right when action shooting;
  • pay attention to the backgrounds;
  • place people in their enviroment unless for portraits;
  • diversity of genres;
  • break the rules, and experiment.

4. Discipline Specific

Four categories: camping, hiking, technical climbing, and mountaineering.


  • best light: sun is low;
  • keep things simple, though getting good images of a campsite can be surprisingly difficult;
  • opportunities: night, sunset;


hiking is the easiest of the three different outdoor disciplines

  • hiking scenes can lack visual drama;
  • figure out the path;
  • build your image backwards -> from backgrounds to foregrounds;
  • place other hikers out of focus;
  • faces creat very powerful photographs;
  • alone? stable platform + self-timer;

Technical Climbing

  • perspective is the most important element of composition;
  • show the face (of the leader);
  • pay attention to backgrounds;
  • the last important element is action;
  • offer to send unknown climbers your pictures.


  • the composition advice from the previous sections all apply;
  • make the effort to look for good photo opportunities;

5. Advanced Techniques

Low Light and Night Photography

  • full aperture -> but reduce depth of field;
  • close the aperture until the depth of field is large enough to includes your subject;
  • (unless shooting film) incress ISO;
  • tripod -> tough: mirror lock-up, remote trigger, self-timer,etc;
  • long exposure times will only work with relatively static subjects;
  • metering and focus;
    • full manual mode;
    • test until acceptable exposure has been obtained;
  • sometimes, use a flash/strobe;

Panoramic Images

  • a tripod and a panorama head;
  • is panorama essential?
  • select a focal length;
  • post-process.
  • manual exposure w/ tests, to avoid zebra looking in stitched final image;
  • take all the pictures in as short a time as possible;
  • repeat the entire process if necessary;


  • check histogram: whether it is cut off at both ends;
  • otherwise, adjust the exposure compensation;
  • auto-bracketing;


  • careful planning;
  • a closeup of a face;
  • a mid-range shot;
  • a closeup of hands;
  • a point-of-view shot;
  • get creative;
  • composition rules from previous chapters;
  • sound should never be underestimated;
  • take it easy on the effects.

6. Closing Thoughts

Ethics and Photo Manipulations

The only question is who should do the manipulation, the user or the camera.

  • minor modifications and scene-changing modifications;
  • be honest about your choices;
  • photo manipulations are subjective;

Safety and the Environment