EVERYTHING I Carry on a 20-Mile Photography Day Hike

EVERYTHING I Carry on a 20-Mile Photography Day Hike

Hey there, Joe pal here, JC. And today I’m coming at you from about 10 miles into the back country of Kings Canyon national park. I’m on a little day hike out here today for a couple of reasons. One, it’s just one of my favorite places in the whole world. I think it’s one of the most monumentally, beautiful national parks that I’ve ever been to. And I want to see if I could shoot some photos. I mean, this is a photography channel after all, isn’t it? I wanted to challenge myself on a nice long day hike of about 20 or 22 miles with maybe 5,000 feet of climbing and 5,000 feet of descending. And the reason that I want to start bumping my fitness up is because it’s summer, which means it’s backpacking season. And if you guys have been following me for any amount of time, you know, that backpacking is basically my favorite thing to do in the entire world. That, alongside with photography.

And the nice thing is those two things go together hand in hand. In fact, I can’t think of any better place than the wilderness to experience those truly special, unique and personal moments that we’re all trying to find all the time as landscape photographers. So my recommendation for any landscape photographer is get into the wilderness, whether on a long day hike or on a backpacking trip. And I realized that if you’ve never done this before, that it can seem kind of intimidating to try to carry all of your camera equipment, all of your food, all of your clothing, all of your shelter, everything that you need to stay safe and warm and comfortable and happy in the back country on your back in a pack like this. So in this video, I thought I’d share with you guys out there, everything that I bring with me in order to have a great experience on a nice long day hike like this one, just a tad windy out here today, just a tad. And let’s go ahead and roll the intro.

You can break down all this stuff I carry into four basic categories. (1) You’ve got your trekking equipment, (2) you’ve got your camera equipment, (3) you’ve got your clothing and (4) you got your food. So let’s dive into each of those categories

Trekking Equipment

All right. So this guy right here, my pack is the foundation of all my back country experiences. And this, I bring this same pack. It’s by hyperlight mountain gear. And I do this, whether I’m day hiking or overnighting, it’s just an amazing pack. It’s super light, incredibly comfortable. And it has this roll top, which means that I can use this on maybe a seven or eight day trip, or I can just roll it down and smack myself in the face with it like that and use it on a day. Hike like today. It’s just an incredible pack.

If you’re looking for a place to start highly recommended and it’s made out of this fabric called Dyneema, which is super bomb-proof and essentially waterproof. So you don’t need any kind of cover really rugged. And overall, this is by far the best pack that I have ever owned. When I Trek, I also use hiking poles. These are not just for the old Martin up there. You guys, they’re also for the young fart, send the fit fart, send the outer shape parts. It’s pretty much for every fart who likes to hike. Those things are amazing. They’re going to help save your legs, increase your endurance, involve your upper body. It’s just a win, win, win. Did he win to use those? And the other stuff that I got with me here in the back country today for my day hike, pretty simple stuff. I’ve got a paper map. I just don’t trust electronics back here. So even if you have GPS on your phone, if the batteries die or the phone dies, the GPS doesn’t work, you’re sunk. So I always bring a paper map and a compass. This is my back country. First aid kit, just ibuprofen. Then I have very important sunscreen bug repellent, pocket knife. If I need to, um, you know, what are those animals called and star Wars?

And I’ve got a pocket knife here in case I ever need to, you know, cut open a tree and crawl inside to save myself during a blizzard on the ice planet hot. And then of course I always carry with me some TP and a plastic bag just in case duty calls. And the plastic bag is so that you can carry your TP back out with you guys. Don’t bury your TP. Just bring it back out with you. It’s really not that gross. And then some hand Sani as well. In terms of safety. I also highly recommend that you bring some kind of a personal locator beacon, like a spot or a Garmin inReach, especially if you’re hiking solo. I typically always have one of these with me, but today I spaced out and I just forgot to throw it in the bag, but that’s okay because I actually have 12 bars of five G signal here in the back country.

Hey. Yeah. Could I, uh, can I get a pizza delivered if the extra cheese and extra sauce and extra crust, you know what, just make it two pizzas. Oh, the address. Um, I dunno, I think you’re going to have to send it by mule or something hung up. No, I’m just kidding. Don’t rely on your cell phone. You’re not going to have service. Your bone battery could die. All kinds of things could happen with your electronics. So one of those ruggedized PLPs could be a literal lifesaver for you. And here are a couple of little pro tips about extra things to bring chapstick. Don’t forget the chapstick, the air out here can be really, really dry. Your lips are going to thank you for that. Make sure it’s got SPF in it. And here’s my super special secret, extra bonus. Cough drops, especially menthol cough drops.

These things are incredible when you’re climbing up some steep trail and you’re just sucking down dust and your mouth is parched. And you feel like you’ve got a porcupine trying to claw its way out of your throat. Chuck a cough drop in your mouth and it will open up your airways, open up your lungs, help you feel you can breathe again. And it just makes life a whole lot better. So get some of those too. Funnily enough, water is one of those things that it’s really easy to overdo on a big hike. A lot of people think like, Oh, I’m hiking 20 miles today. I’ve got to carry four liters of water. You know, how much four liters of water weigh and weighs about 8.8 pounds, four times 2.2. Yeah. It’s almost nine pounds of water. Just weighing you down. That’s absurd. I typically, especially here in the Sierra where streams are everywhere, I never actually bring more than about a liter and a half.

And if I can just bring three quarters of a leader, I try to get away with that because there’s so many places to fill up. Now, typically you want to bring some kind of water purification or water a filter. Me personally, I only do that about half the time. It depends on where I’m going. And if I’m going to be in an area with lots of people camping, or if I’m going to be in a true wilderness area where I’m literally just drinking, snowbelt from the streams. I typically don’t bring a water filter, but if you decide not to bring a water filter, don’t blame me. If you get sick, it is on you to make your own responsible decisions. I’m just telling you what I do in my experiences, but for you, if you’re just starting out, I highly recommend bringing a water filter until you feel more comfortable about assessing the quality and cleanliness of the water that you’re drinking.

Clothing

Now let’s talk about clothing because that is one of the most important items that can make or break your back country. Experience. Everything I wear is some kind of synthetic fabric. I never bring cotton into the back country because when it gets wet, it doesn’t insulate. And it chafes like crazy. So everything from the briefs that I wear to my outer garments are all synthetic breathable, wicking fabrics. So I generally like to hike in one of these, it’s called a sun hoodie. Most people wear them for fly fishing, but they’re awesome for hiking because they have fantastic set production. They’ve got a full hood. They dry really fast. They’re lightweight and they’re wicking. So even in hot weather, they’re very comfortable to wear down here in my bottoms. I’m also wearing all synthetic everything. I’ve got a pair of lightweight running shorts under those. I’ve got some tights because it’s actually pretty cold today.

And then I have some wool socks here and because it was so cold this morning and so windy, I opted for the knee high wool socks. And I highly recommend you guys Merino wool or synthetic socks, never, ever cotton socks in the back country. These little fancy things are called dirty girl Gators, and they just help prevent this kind of stuff. The rocks and detritus from getting in your shoes. The shoes that I’m wearing are called ultras. They’re ultra lone peaks. And these are a great shoe. If you have a really wide foot, like I do very comfortable, lots of cushion and very lightweight. They’re not waterproof though. So your feet will get wet. If you go through any river crossings and nose. Now, like I said, it was actually really, really cold and windy today. A lot of the lakes above 11,000 feet still had ice on them.

So I also have a fleece hoodie with me. I’ve also got a Merino wool beanie windproof waterproof shell to go over the top of everything. And even though it’s really lovely and more of a blue skies right now today, it was hot and freezing cold earlier. The sunny skies, Julia, there is a soul stealing Arctic Gale blowing, and I had every single layer on including this, which is a net Gator or a buff, which you can pop on and you can use it as sun protection, wind protection, just a little bit of extra insulation, whatever you want. And I’ve also got some lightweight gloves as well. So that’s everything that I’ve got with me in terms of the clothing. And this is a really good setup. It’s going to keep me comfortable from hot temperatures, say 80 degrees or above all the way down to below freezing temperatures. I can just add or remove these layers as I need to.

Food

 Let’s talk about the food that I bring for a hike like this. I actually don’t bring a ton of food, even though I’m doing a fair amount of mileage today and probably burning a lot of calories. Our bodies have reserves of calories built in that they can use for hiking all these long days. So what I like to bring is basically some snacks and one big meal. So I’ve got some bars, I’ve got a banana, well, an extra banana anyway, a couple mandarins. And this is, uh, my lunch, a big fat burrito. I probably won’t eat the whole thing at once. I’ll have half now and half a little bit later. And I’m a big fan of having sugary sweets in the back country, especially Toklas. These are Werther’s. These are great too, any kind of sweets, they really just give you that quick sugar boost and you don’t have to feel guilty about eating them cause you’re burning thousands of pounds.

Camera Equipment

And finally, let’s talk about, about photography because I have a full kit with me. I have everything that I need to be satisfied and happy taking pictures and pretty much any kinds of conditions. Now I’m recording this blog with my Nikon Z seven. That’s what I’m also using for any kind of stills. So when I’m hiking, I only bring one body, which means I don’t have the capability to shoot stills and video simultaneously. I have to switch back and forth, but that’s a trade off that I’m willing to make. And on today’s trip, I brought two lenses, the 24 70 that I’m filming with as well as an ultra wide of 14 to 30. And then typically on a backpacking trip, I’d also bring a 70 to 200, but I just didn’t feel like lugging the extra weight today. I also bring some cleaning stuff like a rocket blower and microfiber wipes.

And then this little baggy just has extra stuff in it, like memory cards and batteries. And I also bring an entire full filter kit. I got a six stop filter on the lens right now that really helps for filming to keep a nice shallow depth of field and a good shutter speed that produces good quality video. And I’m also got a polarizer as well as a 10 stop filter because we’ve had such nice clouds and wind today. I really wanted to bring the whole filter kit. And of course I also have a tripod as well. This is an Enduro legs with a Colorado tripod company, mini ball head. Those things are freaking sweet. You guys, they’re tiny, they’re incredibly strong and they cost like $20. So I highly recommend everybody pick up one of those. And when I’m hiking, the way that I carry my camera is with this peak design capture pro.

And I’ve got my tripod, as you can see back here and I use this extra little strap to just kind of hold that shoulder up off of my shoulder because the camera wants to yank it down like that. So that helps keep it off my trapezius muscle. It makes it a lot easier to keep hiking long distances through day. And that’s it. That’s absolutely everything that I’ve got in my pack with me today. I’d say in total, it probably weighs somewhere between 12 and 15 pounds. So it’s not a ton of weight to carry over a long distance. It’s actually okay. Now, before I wrap up the video, I’m sure people are wondering, did I actually manage to take any photos on this 20 mile day hike? And I got a few that I like well enough to at least show here in the video. So let me close out with those.

That’s going to do it for me for now as a summer goes on, I’m going to be putting together some more blogs about my backpacking adventures places I go, the photos I take as well as some of the extra gear that I need to carry for those overnight trips. So I hope that you guys found this interesting, helpful, and maybe a starting point. If you’re thinking about getting into the back country, just drop your questions down in the comments below. And I will try to answer as many as I possibly can. That’s going to put a pin in this video. So until next time everybody have fun and happy shooting.

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Get a Perfect Shutter Speed with 10 Stop ND Filters for Long Exposure Landscape Photography (QOTW)

Get a Perfect Shutter Speed with 10 Stop ND Filters for Long Exposure Landscape Photography (QOTW)

Hey, what’s up everybody. It’s Josh Cripps here and I got a couple of quick announcements for you. The first one is in solidarity with all of the people who haven’t been able to get haircuts over the past couple of months, I decided to grow out my beard a little bit. Now, I don’t know how long I’m going to be able to make it usually around the time that it starts to fill up with all this stuff that I’m eating is when I get sick of it. So if you see my beard fluctuate like a beardy rollercoaster, now, you know, what’s going on. And the second announcement is that I have decided to bring back an old segment that I used to have here on the channel called the landscape photography question of the week. So if you have a question about landscape photography, just pop it down in the comments of this video, and I’m going to take the best ones and I’ll answer them in this weekly segment. And we’ll have some kind of cool title sequence that comes over the top. That’s like Christian,

But it’ll be way better than that. Anyway, I wanted to kick things off this week with an oldie, but a goodie, an anonymous user asked me, how do you actually make sure that you have a good exposure when you’re shooting long exposures? When you’re using something like a 10 stop filter or a six stop filter. Let me show you guys a couple of photos. Here’s a shot that I took out at Mona Lake the other day. And here is the immediate next photograph. You can see that it’s a long exposure and you can see that the exposure itself is almost identical to the short exposure. I didn’t have to sit there and twiddle with all my exposure dials until I slowly fine tuned my way into a perfect exposure. No, I knew exactly what the exposure needed to be.

Every single 10 stock filter comes with one of those little laminated cards that gives you the initial shutter speed and then the long exposure, shutter speed. But honestly, I don’t think those things are very useful because they just have set points. And if you’re not at one of those set points that they give you, how do you know what the exposure is supposed to be? So in this video, I want to talk about all kinds of different methods that you can use to get that perfect exposure. Now, the first way is sort of for those weird super human people who just have a really great photography, intuition, a friend of mine, Sarah Lindsay, she’s a fantastic example of this. She shoots so many long exposures. She just has a good gut feel about what the right exposure time should be. So she looks at the conditions.

She looks at her rough settings on the camera and goes, no, I think this is going to be about a 42 second exposure. And then she does some tweaking and post if she needs to. But for the rest of us, for us mortals, who don’t have that incredible intuition about long exposures, there are three really good ways that you can figure out what your exposure time should be. Now, let me just jump in and interject to say that all of these methods are predicated on the idea that you have a good exposure already before you even put the filter on your camera. So you need to figure out what your good baseline exposure is. 

The first one is what I call counting clicks. Most cameras are set up so that every clicks of the aperture or the shutter speed dial is equal to exactly one stop. And so if you put a 10 stop filter over your camera, well, then you just got to click your camera enough times that it counts off 10 stops. And if every three clicks of one of these dials is a stop, that means you just have to go 30 clicks, which means if you’re starting at a shutter speed of something like a 40th of a second, and you just go click, click, click, click, click, click. Good, good, good, good, good, good, good, good, good.

All the way up to 30. You’re going to see that the camera takes you to a 25th of a second, which is exactly 10 stops brighter than you were. And it allows you to get that perfect exposure with the filter on your camera. Similarly, if you’re using a six stop filter, then all you have to do is count off those six stops in those three click increment, similar to counting clicks. You can actually use the preview histogram on your camera. So if you know what the histogram looked like before you put the filter on the lens, then you just increase your shutter speed. Until that preview histogram looks the same with the filter on. Now, this is not quite as accurate a way to do this because a lot of times these 10 stock filters can fool your camera’s light meter, or they can fool the sensor. So even though you can use this method, you might still have to fine tune and twiddle your results. So it’s not really one of my favorites. Now, the problem with both the counting clicks method and the live histogram method is that they only work up to the point that your camera hits a 32nd shutter speed any longer than that. And the camera doesn’t have the necessary display to actually show you what’s going on. So then you have to figure out what the exposure is on your own.

Now, by far the easiest way to do this as simply by using an app, it allows you to plug in your initial exposure settings, the strength of the filter, and it’ll spit out the final shutter speed I use PhotoPills, but there’s lots of them out there. Finally, if you’re not really an app person or you just like the satisfaction of doing math in your head, then this last method is for you. So 10 stops. If you look into the math of what that actually means, it basically means that you’re doubling your shutter speed 10 successive times. And if you do all that math, it works out to be a factor of 1024. So all you have to do is take your initial shutter speed and multiply it by 1,024. That’s super easy, right? Piece of cake, not a problem. I’m just kidding. That kind of map is not that straight forward, but you can do an approximation, right?

Because 1,024 is really close to a thousand. So as long as you can multiply your shutter speed, your initial shutter speed by a thousand, you can get the final shutter speed that you need. So say your initial shutter speed is one, 500th of a second. Well, you multiply that by a thousand and you get two seconds. If it’s a 50th of a second and you get 20 seconds, if your initial shutter speed is a second, then your long shutter speed with their 10 filter comes out to beat a thousand seconds with a six stop. It’s a similar idea. If you take two times, two times, two times, two times, two times two that works out to be 64 and 64 for our purposes is close enough to 60, and it might seem complicated to take a shutter speed and multiply it by 60 until you realize that minutes and seconds all work in sixties.

And so all you have to do is take your initial shutter speed in seconds, cut off the word seconds and replace it with the word minutes. So say your shutter speed initially is a 10th of a second. Well, you put the six stop filter on, and now it’s a 10th of a minute and what’s a 10th of a minute. Well it’s six seconds, right? Or say your shutter speed is half a second. Initially, while you put the sixth stop on and it becomes half a minute or 30 seconds. And so you can do this as long as you need to. If your initial shutter speed is two seconds with a six stop filter, it becomes two minutes. And the reason that I like using this mental map method, we’ll try to say that five times fast is because it gives you a really quick approximation of what your final shutter speed is going to be.

And so, you know, if you’re shooting say around sunset and you already have an initial shutter speed of two seconds, and you want to drag the clouds out, well, you can just do this in your head really quickly and say, okay, with a two second initial shutter speed, if I throw a 10 stop filter on there, that means my final shutter speed is going to be 2000 seconds. That’s like 33 minutes or something. Somebody checked my math on that place. Whereas you can say, okay, a six stop filter. I just take two seconds. I turn that into two minutes. That’s actually a reasonable shutter speed. So now I know which filter I want to use in this situation. So it gives you a good shortcut. In my opinion, it’s faster than counting clicks. It’s faster than using an app to know kind of what filter that you want to use in every situation you find yourself in.

And there you have it. There’s a bunch of different ways that you can calculate your long exposure, shutter speed times in order to get a perfect exposure. I hope you guys enjoyed this video. If you did, please give it a thumbs up, share it with your friends. Like it really helps me grow the channel and keep making more videos. And like I said, at the beginning, if you have a question about landscape photography that you think a lot of people want to know the answer to just pop it down in the comments, the best questions I will pull out and I’ll throw up in the landscape photography question of the week segment. All right, you guys, until next time have fun and happy shooting. 

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Who makes the best Neutral Density Filters?

Small, Cheap, Light, Awesome Wildlife Camera?

What is a small, cheaper, lighter, and yet still great setup for shooting wildlife photos if you can’t afford or don’t want to lug around a gigantic 600mm lens? Find out in this week’s question.

Got another question? Check out our Landscape Photography FAQ here:
https://www.joshuacripps.com/landscape-photography-faq/

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Do I Need A Full Frame Camera – Photo Question Of The Week

How much can be achieved with non-pro equipment and is it necessary to get a full frame body for killer results? Find out in this week’s question.

Got another question? Check out our Landscape Photography FAQ here:
https://www.joshuacripps.com/landscape-photography-faq/

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Vallerret Photography Glove Review

Review: Vallerret Photography Gloves

Bottom Line: Highly Recommended

In short, these are the best photography-specific gloves I’ve used and so handy they’ve become my go-to glove for any non-technical cold weather activity. Check them out at https://photographygloves.com/

Full Review*

What makes a good glove? In my opinion the most important things are warmth, dexterity, weatherproofing, and construction/durability. And when it comes to photography I’d add two more things: ease of operating a camera, and ease of operating a smart phone. Most gloves I’ve owned are great in one or two areas but lack in the rest. For example, I have a pair of leather and goose down mittens that are beautifully constructed, completely waterproof, and my hands have never once felt cold while wearing them (even while out in temps as low as -5°F for hours at a time). However, they are so big and bulky that trying to photograph while wearing them is like picking up marbles with milk jugs taped to your hands. Or conversely, for ages my photography glove of choice was a fingerless glove with a convertible mitten top. They were very maneuverable gloves, but flipping the mitten part back exposed all of my fingers down to their bases. Which meant actually using them to photograph quickly led to cold hands.

Vallerret has tackled these issues by creating a line of gloves that target good performance in each of those six categories. At present they have three styles: the simple Merino Liner, the Trigger Mitt, and the Markhof Pro Model (as seen in the photo above). Ignoring the liner for the time being the main design feature of the gloves is the FlipTech Finger Caps, which allow you to flip back the glove on your index finger and thumb, but only at the tips. This helps to keep the rest of your hands covered and warm. The Finger Caps are held in place with magnets, giving you unencumbered access to your camera and/or phone. That alone is an amazing feature if you are used to using any other kind of glove for photography. So these earn very high marks for dexterity and ease of using your devices. One exception to that is the merino wool liner. Although it does work with smart phones it’s not optimized for their use. Meaning that sometimes tapping on the phone’s screen was inaccurate or the phone didn’t respond.

In terms of construction the gloves are made from excellent quality materials including leather and twill outers, with merino wool inners. The merino allows for warmth without bulk, which means the gloves have a more comfortable and svelte fit, leading to good dexterity even with the Finger Caps in place. All the materials are either waterproof or water resistant as well, making these a great all weather glove. The weatherproofing works well though I did notice that after prolonged contact with snow (like if I was shoveling snow for a few hours, or if I spent the day snowboarding in wet snow) both kinds of gloves would eventually soak through. Granted, both of those uses are outside the scope of the design. These are photography gloves, not heavy-duty winter or snowboard gloves. However, it should be noted that because the Finger Caps are designed to allow your finger and thumb to be quickly exposed to operate your camera, that opening allows for snow to get into the glove. Because of that I’d say that these gloves are best suited to cold, but dry-ish conditions, including about 95% of all conditions you’re likely to encounter with photography. If you are going to be doing anything technical or doing something where your hands will be exposed to water for a few hours at a time you might need a more weatherproof glove.

As far as warmth goes I personally have a problem with cold fingers if I’m not moving. Therefore I found the gloves to be colder than their specified ratings, especially if I was simply standing around shooting. If I was active (hiking, skiing, shoveling, etc.) then the gloves kept my hands warm. I found the merino liner to be a bit colder than expected, and I think partly that’s because it’s incredibly lightweight (although well-constructed and comfy). Because of that, along with the touchscreen inaccuracies mentioned above, I swapped out Vallerret’s merino liner with a thicker, windproof, touchscreen-compatible polartec liner from Black Diamond. I found the combination of the Black Diamond liner with the Vallerret Trigger Mitt to be an outstanding combo that was warm in conditions down to around 5°F (if I was staying at least somewhat active), and maybe 15°F if I was standing still.

The gloves have a low-bulk fit, which is nice for feel as well as dexterity and comfort. The wrist cuff is snug and low-profile, and I found it to fit smoothly inside of my waterproof jacket’s sleeve, unlike many other gloves I’ve used where a bulky cuff makes it difficult to fit inside the jacket sleeve. A quick note on sizing: although my hand measurements put me squarely in the middle of the Medium category I found the gloves to be a tiny bit too large, with the fingers in particular being a little too long. That extra space is actually good with the thicker liner, but note that if you wear the Vallerret gloves on their own and you’re on the fence between sizes, I would go with the smaller one.

With that quick overview of the gloves, let’s take a look at what Vallerret says about each:

Trigger Mitt

100 % Merino Wool inner: Nature’s best weapon against the cold ensures a warm glove for photography.

100 % Merino Wool Insulation: Using our  proven natural fabric we’ve added a wadding layer for extra warmth.

FlipTech finger caps: You’re ready to shoot in seconds. Just flip the finger cap and enjoy full access to your dials.

Magnets: Keep the FlipTech open and out of the way, increasing your access to your camera.

Ergonomic fit: Our mitt has a fitted design to ensure a great camera feel

Goats Leather and Twill: Premium Goat leather and waterproof twill for optimum protection against winter. Water resistant suede and YKK zips included.

Non-slip grip: Our sticky grip keeps your camera safe.

Photography specs: SD-Card Pocket

Jersey Cuff: keeping your wrist toasty warm, slip on and slip off with ease.

TEMPERATURE RATING: -15 degrees Celsius / 5 degrees Fahrenheit

Markhof Pro Model

100 % Merino Wool inner

FlipTech finger caps

Magnets

Ergonomic fit

Softshell & Suede

Non-slip grip: Featuring Mt Cook of New Zealand

SD-Card or hand warmer Pocket

Jersey Cuff

TEMPERATURE RATING: between -5 and -10 degrees Celsius / 14 degrees Fahrenheit

Merino Liner

100 % Merino Wool Liner

Ergonomic fit: Fitted glove to ensure a great camera feel

TEMPERATURE RATING: 2 degrees Celsius / 35 degrees Fahrenheit

Feature Comparison

FeatureMerino LinerTrigger MittMarkhof Pro Model
Inner Material100% Merino Wool100% Merino Wool100% Merino Wool
Outer MaterialPremium Goat leather, waterproof twill and water resistant suede.Windproof softshell and water resistant suede
Insulation100% Merino Wool
FlipTech Finger Caps with Magnets?YesYes
Non Slip Palm?YesYes
SD Card / Hand Warmer Pocket?YesYes
Temperature Rating2 C / 35 F-15 C / 5 F-5 C / 14 F

My Performance Ratings

CategoryMerino LinerTrigger MittMarkhof Pro Model
Warmth (with / without liner)*59 / 58 / 5
Dexterity (with / without finger caps removed)99 / 79 / 8
Weatherproofing2 (will stay warm when wet but has no actual weatherproofing)87
Construction / Durability71010
Ease of Photography989
Ease of Phone Use599
Overall Features and Design699

*Warmth – I found each glove hit its targeted temperature rating if I was active and wearing a liner with the glove.

Final Thoughts

As mentioned in the beginning of this review these are the best all-around photography gloves I’ve used. I like them so much that they’ve become the glove I reach for for everything except technical winter activities or prolonged exposure to wet conditions. I wouldn’t mind if they were a little warmer or a little more weatherproof, but those are easy compromises to live with for such a feature-packed, well-designed, comfortable, and dexterous glove. And with a thicker liner underneath there’s very little to quibble about at all.

I’d recommend getting either the Trigger Mitt or the Markhof Pro along with a warmer, touchscreen liner from a 3rd party like Black Diamond. In choosing between the Trigger Mitt and the Markhof Pro, the compromise is a little extra warmth traded for slightly less dexterity in the Trigger Mitt. More dexterity but less warmth and weather proofing in the Markhof Pro.

If you’re looking for a new glove for your photography these Vallerret gloves are highly recommended and you can check them out on Vallerret’s Website, www.photographygloves.com.

Disclaimer

Vallerret sent me these gloves for free to try. However there was no financial compensation for this review. I do NOT earn any commissions from Vallerret on sales. Furthermore, honesty and credibility are fundamental to any gear review so I have endeavored to make this review as objective as possible.

How To Rock a Grad Filter – Bloopers

When things go wrong it is always fun to watch so here are the bloopers from the “How to Rock a Grad Filter series”:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

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How to Rock a Grad Filter – Part 3

Howdy filterphiles and welcome to PPT. My name is Josh Cripps and you can find me online at the Nature Photography Academy. In the first part of this video we learned all about the different characteristics of grad ND filters and which particular filters I find most useful. In the second part of the vid I showed you how to actually put one to use. And in this segment I’m going to show you some best practices to get the most out of your grad filters.

Field handling

First off, it’s vital that you have a safe and secure spot to keep your filters when you’re not using them. Filter pouches and sleeves like this are cumbersome and clunky and you have to stuff them somewhere insecure like a jacket pocket or lay them down somewhere potentially unsafe, wet, or dirty. Instead, I highly recommend you invest in a filter wallet. This can velcro to a strap or waist belt on your camera pack or clip around your tripod. That gives you hands free access to your filters and keeps them up out of the water, dirt, sand, or snow.

Cleaning / Rain / Scratches

Now this probably goes without saying but it’s incredibly important that you keep your filters clean and scratch free, otherwise you can end up with photos that look like crap. Storing your filters in a wallet will go a long way towards keeping them clean, but inevitably you’ll run into a situation in the field where things get messy, like when you’re shooting at the beach near crashing waves, in blowing dust, or when it’s raining. For these kinds of situations I recommend you add a few things to your kit. First off, a big rocket blower will remove any loose debris or particles from your filters. For fingerprints or salt spray, I avoid microfiber wipes, as I’ve found they tend to cause smears and streaks. Instead I love these big paper wipes called KimWipes. Even when they’re dry they do a great job of cleaning, especially when it comes to salt spray at the ocean. And if you run into anything really stubborn you can use a few drops of Residual Oil Residual or Eclipse cleaning fluid to help.

For rain, there’s a simple solution: umbrella

And for scratches, using a filter wallet will help immensely, as will using a filter holder to keep your filter from grinding against the lens. If you get into a situation with blowing sand or dust, clean your filters before putting them away and make sure your filter wallet is closed up tight to prevent grit from getting inside.

Dealing with grad lines

One of the biggest problems with grad filters is that they can leave noticeable lines across your photo where they transition from dark to light. The best way to deal with this issue is to be very careful about where you place the filter transition within your image. If you place it across the middle of a mountain of course it’s going to be obvious. But if you move the transition lower down then the whole mountain will be uniform in brightness and the transition less obvious.

The other main technique to deal with obvious grad lines is to use a softer filter. Human eyes have a hard time recognizing gradual change, so the more gradual your transition is the less obvious it will be.

You can also use post processing. A local adjustment brush tuned to darken just the highlights or brighten just the shadows can do wonders to smooth out your grad lines.

This should take care of about 95% of your grad line issues. And if you get into a situation where you just can’t get rid of that grad line, then you should probably learn how to blend exposures instead because it often leads to a cleaner result.

Dealing with color casts

A number of grad filters also have color casts, even though they are supposed to be neutral. The easiest way to see if your filters have color casts is to take two shots of the exact same scene, one with and one without the filter, using a specific white balance color temperature, like 5000K. Don’t use auto white balance because your camera will try to compensate for any color shifts it sees. And since exposure affects color saturation you’ll also need to make sure that the exposure in the filtered part of your photo is the same as it is in the unfiltered shot. This will prevent you from seeing a false positive color change between the photos due to a change in brightness.

If you do see a noticeable color shift from the filter, you have three options for dealing with it. The first is simply to not care and live with it. But to actually fix it you can try to “reverse engineer” the color shift using your white balance. For example, if your filter has a warmish tint you can dial in a cooler white balance to compensate. Of course, changing white balance will affect the whole photo, not just the filtered part. So the cleanest solution is to use post processing. Create a graduated filter adjustment or an adjustment layer to counteract the color shift, and apply it only to the filtered area of the image.

Vignetting and wide angles

If you are using a wide or ultra wide lens it’s possible that your filters, filter holder, or adapter ring will cause vignetting in your photos, meaning the corners get darker. With some extreme wide lenses you might actually see the physical adapter ring or holder in your shot!

The first line of defense against this is to make sure you are buying the correct size adapter ring for your lens, and make sure to buy a “wide angle” version of that adapter ring if the company you’re buying from makes one. These sit farther back from the front of your lens, making them less likely to appear in a photo. Also, you want to make sure that your adapter ring is the first thing screwed onto your lens. Don’t screw it on over any UV filters or polarizers, because that puts the adapter ring too far forward in front of the lens.

If your filter holder has an adjustable number of slots for filters then I recommend reducing that as well. For example, this filter holder came with slots for three filters, but that puts the front of the clip so far out that it easily shows up in shots. But by reducing it to only two slots the problem goes away. If you’re still getting some filter doodads in your shot, you may simply have to zoom in a little bit or clone out those problem areas in post.

And to solve the vignetting issue with the darkened corners, try stopping down a little bit as this is a well known cure for vignetting.

Working with other filters

Now let’s say you want to use your grad filters with another filter, like a 10-stop filter or a polarizer. For the 10-stop or 6-stop NDs you first need to put your Grad ND in the outer slot of your filter holder and line it up to get a good exposure and aesthetic. Then slide the solid ND in behind the grad, in the position closest to the lens. This allows you to minimize light leaks while still making sure your grad is in the right spot.

Using a polarizer is a little trickier, but there are a couple of solutions. First, of course you can screw your adapter ring onto the CPL, and then screw the CPL onto your lens. But like I mentioned a minute ago that makes it much more likely you’re going to get vignetting or black corners in your shot, depending on your focal length. Plus it’s kinda clunky to use that way. So to defeat the issue you can either buy a polarizer that screws onto the front of your filter holder, but those are enormous, expensive, and require another adapter ring. Or you can buy a filter holder like this one from NiSi that has a polarizer integrated already. Either way it’s more equipment and more bucks.

Which filters should I get?

Ok, finally we get to the million dollar question, which filters and filter systems should you buy? First, a caveat. This is not an exhaustive or comprehensive list. It’s based entirely on my personal experience with the half dozen filter companies I’ve used over the years and should not be taken as gospel. That being said, the graduated neutral density filters I’ve found to be the highest quality, clearest, most consistent, and most color neutral are Lee, NiSi, and ProGrey. For filter holders I’ve long used Lee and find them to be probably the simplest and most straightforward. Holders like the NiSi have a few more bells and whistles, like the integrated polarizer, but are a little more complicated to use initially. But in the end the holders are less important than the filters themselves.

Got another question? Check out our Landscape Photography FAQ here:
https://www.joshuacripps.com/landscape-photography-faq/

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How to Rock a Grad Filter – Part 2

Greetings, homenuggets and welcome to Pro Photo Tips. Josh Cripps here and you can find me online at the Nature Photography Academy. In the first part of this video we learned that grad filters come in as many shapes and styles as there are lobsters in the ocean. I also told you that my filter of choice is the 100mm-wide, 3-stop soft grad. But we didn’t learn how to actually put this thing to use! Well stick around cuz that’s what we’re going do right now.

The key to using a grad filter effectively is timing. This filter is designed to tame a bright sky and bring it in line with a darker foreground. And this specific situation is most likely to happen at sunrise and sunset. If you look at your histogram during those times you’re likely to see a U-shaped histogram. This means you have a lot of highlights and a lot of shadows in your image and they are separated by a vast tonal gulf. And a grad filter is exactly what lets you bridge that gap.

Could you use a grad filter during the middle of the day? Sure, but it’s probably unnecessary since the sun is likely illuminating the ground and the sky fairly evenly.

So once you’re in the position of needing to use a grad next you need to know how strong of a grad to use. Generally speaking the sky during magic hour is anywhere between 3 and 5 stops brighter than the ground. Which makes a 3-stop filter an ideal candidate to start with. If the sky is supernova bright you might want to layer on a 2-stop filter as well.

You also want to think about whether to use a soft, hard, or reverse grad. Hard grads are good for when you have very well defined horizons or are using mid range or telephoto lenses. Reverse grads help when the horizon is the brightest part of the scene, like shooting toward the sun at sunrise/sunset. And soft grads are the big catch all for pretty much every other situation, like when you have an uneven horizon, or the transition between bright and dark isn’t well defined in your scene. If you’re not sure about which filter to use, start with a soft one.

As far as attaching the filters to your lens you can hand hold them, in which case I recommend you pinch them in the corner and splat them flat up against your lens so that you don’t get any reflections or light leaking in.

And hand holding is a perfectly cromulent method which I personally used for years, but for consistency, as well as to minimize the scratches you put on your filters, you should use a filter holder. These typically attach to your lens via an adapter ring which screws onto the front of the lens. The filter holder then clips into that and allows you to easily stack multiple filters, be totally consistent from shot to shot, and it gives you a free hand during shooting.

As I mentioned in the previous part of this video, these big square grads can be slid up and down in the holder, so the best way to know they’re in the right spot is to either take a test shot, or go into Live View on your camera. This will give you a preview of the photo you’re about to shoot so you can tell if your grad is in the right location. Canon users, take note that you might need to hit your DOF preview button in order to get an accurate display of your image.

Another cool thing about grad filters is that they can be rotated to suit your scene. If one corner of your sky is brighter than the other, angle the grad down in that spot to help tame those highlights.

Now that your grads are in place be sure to double check your exposure. Because you’ve darkened the sky relative to an already dark foreground, don’t be surprised if your whole image looks, well, dark (especially if you’re shooting in manual mode)! So really pay attention to your histogram to make sure you’re getting a good exposure.

At this point your photo should be looking pretty great, but I recommend sliding your filters around slightly to see if you get a different look you like better.

So to recap, here’s our checklist for using a grad filter effectively. First, shoot around sunrise and sunset. Next, start with a 3-stop grad and decide if you need a hard, soft, or reverse grad. Put your filter in the holder then either use live view or a test shot to see if you grad is positioned well. Also see if the image fits your aesthetic preferences: for example, if the sky still too bright compared to the f/g add another filter. And of course, constantly check you histogram, highlights, and exposure.

This should give you a great starting point for working with grads, but of course this list is not meant to be prescriptive because in art you should always salt to your own personal tastes. The best thing to do once you have the basics down is simply to shoot A TON till you figure out what you like and don’t like and develop your own instincts about which filters to use and when.

In the next part of this video you’re going to learn a few best practices for getting the most out of your grad filters.

Got another question? Check out our Landscape Photography FAQ here:
https://www.joshuacripps.com/landscape-photography-faq/

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How to Rock a Grad Filter – Part 1

One of the fundamental problems in photography is that the sky is often way way way wayyyyy brighter than the ground. Enter the Graduated Neutral Density filter. Graduated means it transitions from dark to clear. Neutral means it doesn’t affect the colors of your photo. And density, well we’ll get into that. Really what it all means is you now have a way to darken the sky relative to the foreground, so that you can take a decent photo.

Now, many people will say that GND filters are no longer necessary both because of the increased dynamic range of modern cameras, as well as the ability to blend multiple exposures in Photoshop. And while that is true to a large extent, grad NDs are great for folks who want to capture the whole dynamic range in a single exposure, people who don’t have PS or don’t know how to blend exposures, or anytime you’re shooting something moving, like crashing waves or fast moving clouds, where taking multiple frames would lead to really tricky blending.

The concept behind GNDs is very simple, but knowing which filter to use and how best to apply it isn’t, because it turns out these filters vary in size, density, and something called hardness. So let’s take a look at what each of those characteristics means.

  • The density, or strength, of a filter refers to how many stops of light a filter blocks at its darkest part. There’s a 3-stop, so it blocks three stops of light before it fades out, which makes it perfect for knocking down the brightness of a vivid sky.
  • There are also 2-stop filters, which you can use by themselves for when the sky isn’t quite as bright, or you can stack it with the 3-stop for when the sky is really nuclear. In fact, you can get these filters in densities from 1 stop all the way up to 4 or 5 stops, but personally, I find the 3 and 2 stops to be the most useful.

Another thing to note is that filter companies use a weird nomenclature and instead of “3 stop” you’ll often see something like this:  0.9 GND Filter. In this geek speak, every 0.3 represents one stop, so a 0.6 is a 2 stop filter, and a 1.2 GND would be a four stop filter. Super goofy, right??? But that’s how filter strengths are labeled so it helps to be aware of that.

Hardness

Grad filters are generally referred to as Hard or Soft, which has nothing to do with the physical material of the filter, but rather the abruptness of the transition from dark to clear. Hard filters transition very quickly, whereas soft filters transition much more gradually.

Which means you want to use a Hard filter wherever you have a very clear, well-defined horizon, or where a bright sky transitions very abruptly into a dark foreground. A soft filter by contrast, is a much better choice for scenes with uneven horizons, or when the transition from light to dark occurs more gradually, like when shooting an ocean or a lake where the water reflects the brightness of the sky. Generally speaking, I find the soft filters to be more forgiving and versatile.

It’s also important to note that the more you zoom in with your lens, or the smaller your actual lens is, the harder the filter you need to use. As your field of view gets narrower and narrower, that harder edged filter is going to do a much better job of delineating the break between light and dark. So in general, soft edge filters are good for wide angle shots and hard filters are good for mid-range and telephoto shots.

The other kind of filter you might come across is a Reverse grad. This means that instead of the darkest part of the filter being at the top and fading downward, the darkest part of the filter is in the middle, and it fades upward. This is useful for golden hour photography when the brightest part of the sky is right on the horizon.

Size and Shape

The final characteristic is the actual size and shape of the filter. They do make circular screw-on grad filters but I wouldn’t touch those with a 10 foot pole, simply because you can’t adjust the up and down position of where the graduation is.

A much better style is the rectangular drop-in filter. These let you quickly add or remove filters, rotate the position of the filter, and slide the transition point of your filters up and down to better match your composition. You can even push these filters down low like this to have them serve as solid ND filters so you can increase your shutter speed.

As for the size, I recommend buying a single set of filters that fits the largest lens you have, because you can always use them on a smaller lens, but you can’t use a small filter on a bigger lens. For most people that means getting filters that are 100mm, or 4″ wide, though some of you with super wide angle lenses might need the 150mm ones.

Color

Ughh, I didn’t want to talk about this, but I know the question will come up at some point. Some companies manufacture colored grad filters so that you can juice up your sky a little bit. My response is: you don’t need that crap! Coral and tobacco filters, pfffft. Just chase the light and you’ll ultimately see colors way more beautiful than those put in by cheesy effects.

Ok, so now you have the lowdown on all the different kinds of grads. Which ones should you get? Personally I think the 100mm wide 3-stop soft GND is the most useful from the get go, so if you can only afford one, get one of those.

But how do you actually use one of these filters? Check out How to Rock a Grad Filter – Part 2.

Got another question? Check out our Landscape Photography FAQ here:
https://www.joshuacripps.com/landscape-photography-faq/

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Manfrotto Digital Director In Depth Review

Review of the Manfrotto Digital Director from the standpoint of a nature photographer and short video maker.

Got another question? Check out our Landscape Photography FAQ here:
https://www.joshuacripps.com/landscape-photography-faq/

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How to Use a Circular Polarizing Filter (CPL) Like a Champ

You’ll often hear that a circular polarizing filter, or CPL, is a must have addition to your gear bag, but once you’ve got it how do you use it for the best possible results?

First let’s start with what a polarizer does. A CPL blocks scattered light from entering your camera, reducing haze in your photos, increasing color saturation, and giving the sky a royal blue hue. Polarizers also cut reflection off of wet and metallic surfaces, giving plants and rocks far better clarity and color saturation, and allowing you to see under the surface of lakes and streams. It’s almost magical!

But as cool as CPL’s can be, don’t think that you need to use one all the time, because they also have their quirks.

First of all, it’s critical to understand that a polarizer works best when you’re pointed 90 deg away from the direction of the sun, and it doesn’t work at all when you’re pointed directly at or away from the sun. This is important for a couple of reasons.

One, it means that your CPL might not be doing anything at all for you, for example if you are shooting directly into the sun at sunset, so you might as well take it off.

It also means that if you are shooting with a wide angle lens you might have part of the frame where the polarization effect is strong, and another part of the frame where you’re not getting any polarization at all. Which is why in some photos you can see uneven color tone in the sky like this.

However, one of the nice things about a CPL is that it’s not an all or nothing filter. Rather you can dial it to tune exactly how strong you want the effect to be. Want the sky super dark? dial it to max polarization. Too much?  Just twist it back a little bit.

You can also fix that uneven polarization problem by not using as wide of a lens, like in that previous example. Or by making sure your sky is full of clouds, so as to break up the polarization effect.  Another key thing to realize about polarizers is that they eat light. When turned to their max effect, most polarizers suck up about 2 stops of light, so you’ll need to compensate for that when choosing your camera settings.

The final consideration you should bear in mind when using a polarizer is if it fits your artistic intention. Reduced haze and boosted color saturation are almost universally a good thing, but you might be willing to let those go if it means keeping that amazing reflection you’e got on the surface of a lake .

In the end, a CPL is a fantastic filter to have in you kit, and now that you know more about them you can put yours to good use.

Got another question? Check out our Landscape Photography FAQ here:
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