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One of the most commonly asked questions we get is, “what camera(s) and gear are you using?” or, “what’s your favorite lens?”. In this post, we’ll break down our current adventure photography gear and equipment setup.
Choosing the Right Gear for Adventure Photography
While many will argue that “it’s not the gear, it’s how you use it” that counts, we’d add that choosing the right equipment for adventure photography will make your life so much easier. Whether you’re hiking all day, or constantly on the go traveling, we’ve found having a lightweight, setup is ideal.
Besides photographing and sharing our own adventures, we’re also elopement photographers, so picking equipment that works well for adventure weddings has always been a priority.
Not every item on this list is brought on each trip, so this is just an overview.
Landscape Photography and Adventure Photography Camera Bodies
Christine has been shooting with Sony ever since getting into photography 8(ish) years ago, starting out with the NEX-5T, and then the A7RII. Christine initially went with the Sony mirrorless system because not only were the camera's lightweight, but at their price, they offered far more than the Nikon and Canon equivalents. Having lightweight camera bodies has always been important to us, since we spend so much time hauling our camera gear on the trail.
In 2021, we upgraded to shooting with two Sony A7IIIs, due to the faster autofocus and better capabilities for shooting video. Compared to the A7RIII, I (Christine) much prefer the A7III. The A7III has more accurate autofocus, faster continuous shooting, and I’ve found the colors easier to process in Lightroom.
GoPro Hero9 Black
At the end of 2020, we added the GoPro Hero9 Black to our collection with the hopes of using it for shooting more video. We often find ourselves in locations where there’s a lot of water or climbing up terrain that requires both hands. In these instances, rather than fiddling with our camera, we’d prefer to have a hands-free option that’s easy to use and small.
With that being said, we’ve barely used the GoPro. We haven’t taken a lot of time to find the best ways to mount the camera while scrambling or climbing via ferratas, so instead, we’ve wound up with a lot of unusable footage. We also don’t use the camera function on the GoPro This year, we’re hoping to spend more time learning to use it (and properly grade the footage), so we aren’t missing out on capturing interesting video.
Lenses for Adventure Photography
More important than the camera bodies, below you’ll find our lenses for adventure photography. All of these lenses are for the Sony E-mount. Lenses are one of your key investments, since focal length, and depth of field plays such a huge role in the overall look and feel of an image.
Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8
This past summer, we purchased the Tamron 17-28 mm. We got this lens, so we could have a solid, but budget-friendly, astrophotography lens. We also find ourselves in a lot of places where the mountains are so tall, our other lenses just weren’t wide enough to show off the scene. While we avoid using this lens for close-up portraits, we’ve loved implementing it into more landscape-oriented work.
Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8
The Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 is one of our most-used and versatile lenses. If we could only have one lens on us, this would be it. What we love is the wide range of focal lengths, making it work nicely for images where we want to really highlight the landscape, or zoom in closer and create flattering portraits. At f/2.8, the lens performs fairly well in low-light situations as well. This is a great lens all around, and one we find ourselves reaching for regularly, both for photo and video.
Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 GM
The Sony 35mm f/1.4 is our second most-used lens, tying closely with the 28-75.
If we’re shooting portraits with dramatic scenery, this is what we use 75% of the time. Shot wide open or stopped down to f/1.8-f/2.2, the depth of field balances the subject and landscape perfectly. This lens is fast, sharp, and definitely one of our favorite purchases.
Sony FE 50mm f/1.8
Our least used lens, the Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 doesn’t make its way into our bag very often. We primarily use it for portraits during couples sessions. It was one of the first lenses we bought, back when we had the Sony A7RII. The lens was inexpensive at only $200. We’ve found there’s a lot of autofocus “hunting” when we use this lens, and it’s not always the sharpest. Additionally, it’s not wide enough or long enough for most locations we shoot at, which is why we don’t normally use it for adventure photography.
Sony FE 85mm f/1.8
The longest lens in our setup, the Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 is another one that we primarily use for portraits. It is *so creamy* and the difference between shooting with this lens at 85 mm vs. our zoom at 75mm always surprises me. The 85mm wins out every time!
While I love this lens, I’d personally suggest purchasing the Tamron 70-180mm (budget-friendly, lightweight option); or the Sony 70-200mm if you’re looking for a longer lens. We plan on making that our next purchase since it will work well for both portraits and wildlife. Often, we find ourselves wishing the 85mm could reach just a little bit further.
Adventure Photography Accessories
Beyond camera bodies and lenses, here are some other adventure photography accessories you’ll find in our kit.
Atlas Packs Athlete Backpack (20-40L)
If you’re looking for a solid photography backpack, Atlas Packs may be your perfect match! Christine owns the Athlete Pack model, and it has just about any feature you can imagine. I (Christine) love that there’s a designated compartment for storing cameras and lenses, with its own zipper to access. It’s located closest to my back, which helps distribute the weight, and also keeps everything protected. I love having plenty of compartments to store both my camera and hiking gear in, so my gear stays organized. The only drawback to this pack is that it’s heavy. While it’s designed to be a hiking pack, I personally avoid using this for outings I’m not carrying any camera equipment.
Peak Design Capture Clip
Peak Design’s capture clip is a must for any adventure photographer. The clip is built, so you can attach your camera to your backpack strap. The clip has a quick-release function, allowing you to pull your camera off easily, capturing any moment quickly. Before using the Peak Design clip, we were hiking around with our cameras swinging precariously on our camera straps, or needing to dig them out of packs every time we wanted to shoot. The Peak Design clip eliminates that.
Be sure to regularly tighten the clip on your camera strap. We have had one fall-off while hiking. Thankfully, our camera hadn’t been attached at the time.
MeFoto Backpacker Classic Tripod
Many of the photos you see of Scott and I together were done by mounting our camera to the MeFoto Backpacker Classic Tripod. Unfortunately, this tripod is now discontinued. What we love about this tripod is that while it is small, it is also really sturdy. Christine has previously had a different tripod fall and break a lens (that was a longgg) time ago, and she’s had trust issues ever since. With the MeFoto Backpacker classic, we trust our gear is being held securely, even if there is a bit of a breeze blowing. One thing we wish is that the tripod could extend just a little bit taller. That’s something we’ll prioritize for our next tripod purchase.
Neewer Intervalometer/Remote Shutter Release
The other “must-have” camera accessory we have for taking self-portraits is the Neewer Intervalometer. Although Sony offers an app to trigger your camera remotely, we found it to be a hassle to use due to slow functioning or freezing. With the Neewer Intervalometer, the camera can continually focus as we move throughout the frame, allowing us to move freely as the camera shutter goes off.
One other challenge we found with using the apps on Sony was setting up time lapses. While there is a time-lapse app, we found an intervalometer much quicker to set up and use.
Rose Anvil Bandit Camera Harness
On wedding days, Christine normally shoots with two cameras. To make switching between cameras seamless, the Rose Anvil Bandit Camera harness has been a lifesaver! This harness is comfortable, distributes weight evenly, and doesn’t snag in Christine’s hair (even when worn down). There’s not a single complaint about this harness- it’s amazing!
Polar Pro ND + Polarizing Filters
Polar Pro’s filters are a splurge, but by far, one of the best purchases we’ve made (especially for videography). We own the ND 16 (4 stop), ND 64 (6 stop), and ND1000 (10 stop) filters. Previous filters we’ve tried left strong color casts, impacted lens sharpness, and were easy to scratch. Not these! The filters are easy to take on and off, feel sturdy, and enhance colors instead of adding any ugly cast. Christine also enjoys using these filters for photographing time lapses.
GoPro 3-way Tripod
Another adventure accessory we keep on hand is the GoPro 3-way tripod/mount. We bought this for the sake of convenience since it has a camera grip, tripod, and extension arm all combined into one. Another perk of the 3-way is that the arms fold in a way that allows you to shoot footage without showing the extension arm. We haven’t used it much, so one concern we do have is how sturdy it is for long-term use, as it seems a little bit on the flimsy side. GoPro has released a 2.0 version that looks a little bit better, so we’d be curious to try that in the future.
GoPro Helmet Front + Side Mount
One big reason for investing in a GoPro was to be able to capture hands-free footage during scrambles and via ferratas. The helmet mount is perfect for this. We’re still struggling to get the GoPro angled correctly once mounted, though, so that’s been a series of trial and error.
Extra Camera Batteries
We never leave home without extra batteries for our cameras. Since we spend a lot of time out in the cold or go a few days without power, it’s easier to carry extra batteries than worry about needing to find a place to charge them. While we do have some native Sony batteries, we’ve also had positive experiences with the Baxxtar Pro (2X) Sony NP-FZ100 batteries as well.
Camera Sensor Cleaner + Cleaning Supplies
Cleaning our camera sensors and lenses is a regular part of our gear maintenance. We always have on-hand camera sensor cleaner, sensor cleaning swabs, lens cloths, a blower, etc. Most camera stores and Amazon sell kits that include everything you need.
Editing and Presets for Outdoor Adventure Photography:
I, Christine, am in charge of all the photo editing. I’ve been asked countless times about how our photos are edited and if I use presets. I edit in Adobe Lightroom. Likewise, I’ve used a handful of presets (which I tweak), and I’ve also built some of my own. While everyone has a different opinion about presets, I have found photography presets to be really helpful in understanding what I liked, didn’t like, and developing my own style. I struggled with Lightroom for a long time and presets helped jump-start my learning on certain things I wasn’t grasping from Youtube tutorials.
Presets or not, I strive to edit fairly true to life. Here are some of the presets I’ve used:
Mastin Labs Presets
Mastin Labs Presets are based on emulating film. I’ve owned their Portra, Portra Pushed, and Kodak Everyday Packs. Mastin Labs is a preset pack I recommend to just about everyone looking for a solid base of clean, natural tones. If you want to see what your images would look like edited with Mastin Labs, you can join the “Mastin Labs- Community” Facebook page and share your RAW images for someone to test edit. If you want $10 off your purchase, you can purchase through this link. *I also receive $10 off my next Mastin Labs purchase when you order through this link.
The Foxes Photography Presets
Since I photograph adventure elopements, I bought the Foxes Photography Presets created by Bradon and Gabi Fox. They are also elopement photographers, and since I shoot in very similar environments to them, I figured it was worth a shot. The Foxes Presets are vibrant and really bring to life sunsets in the mountains. I used these presets on my own personal adventures + couples sessions for about a year. I don’t use them currently.
Youtube Channels to Level-Up Your Adventure Photo Editing
If you’re looking for some free resources to learn more about editing, two Youtube channels I recommend are:
Want More Photography Tips and Adventure Inspiration?
If you’re looking for more photography and hiking tips, follow along on Instagram @madudesinthemountains.