It begins at home.
Every trekker knows the importance of limiting the weight of a backpack. For a winter trek, when you have to make a choice between carrying clothes that’ll keep you warm and 3kgs of photography accessories (tripod, flash, etc), the choice is easy – pick clothes, carry a poncho. However, photographers are thick headed – this choice is usually not an easy one. On my recent 2nd himalayan trek to the Brahmatal Lake, our trek lead was emphasizing the importance of carrying a poncho. “Dude, you carrying a poncho?”. “No, but I’m carrying a shoot through umbrella”, I said smiling at my ingenuity. “A what?”.
Carrying a flash and a shoot through umbrella is no biggie. They pack easy and hardly add any weight. However, things start going crazy from there. Now you start to think how am I going to attach a flash behind the umbrella, where am i going to place them and how are they going to stay there, how am I going to trigger the flash? Soon enough you have a light stand, an umbrella swivel, and wireless triggers stuffed in your backpack – thats 2kgs easy. But then reality comes around to bite you in the ass – light stands are useless on slopes and boom arms won’t even fit in a backpack. Brain switches off…
But then, creativity often results in a flash of genius!
In the above setup, I have used a camera bracket that comes with the manfrotto magic arm. It also has a separate slot for an umbrella. However, if you don’t have one, here’s another option you can try. This option is heavier though.
Once I had fashioned a DIY boom arm from a trekking pole, I could swear by the power of grey skull! It does take a long time to setup, but once I had finished that ritual, high altitude portraits suddenly became exciting. Meet Gabbar. Some of you may recognise him from my 1st himalayan trek photos. He cart wheels on icy slopes where we’d tread with reverence. He’s superman.
Here’s a behind the scenes of our “high-tech” boom arm in use. Its pretty light weight and won’t cost a chiropractor’s bill. The integrity of the whole setup depends on 2 things: how you’ve connected the flash and umbrella, and the durability of the trekking pole. I don’t extend the trekking pole arm to its max. Infact, I leave it a few inches less than max. For your gear, you just need to ensure that there’s something blocking it from sliding and falling out. I’d recommend a bungee cord to secure the umbrella to the trekking pole.
You can’t compromise on water. Carrying 2 litres of water is bare minimum. You don’t know when you’ll cross the next stream. Replacing a litre of water with a tripod is stupidity. However, when you’ve already compromised on warm clothes, you are susceptible to more compromises. Besides, having a tripod can open up multiple photography avenues. Case in point…
And then there’s always the tripod and flash combo that lets you experiment crazy stuff. Lets just say that we took turns to light each other in this photo. A true team work.
Lets just move away from the craziness that was being exemplified on this trek for a bit, and focus on some photography. Plan on how you’re going to carry your gear each day. While you’re making that climb and your body refuses to cooperate, mainly because you’ve spent years training it with beer, its easy to miss your surroundings.
I can’t stress enough on taking a moment to admire the marvel around you. While its nice to keep an eye on the target before you, its also amazing to look back on what you’ve accomplished.
If you’re planning to offload your backpack, don’t leave an important piece of gear, like spare batteries, in the backpack. If you’ve got the slightest of feeling that you’ll need your tripod before you reach the next campsite, carry it with you. Once you reach your camp site after a gruelling climb, give it a little more effort and scout for a location for capturing a sunset, and more so, a sunrise.
Check with your local guide if there are any excursions around your campsite. These excursions are often left out by tired trekkers at the end of their day’s trek.
Back to the acute case of crazies. During winter treks, check with your local guide before you go wandering about on snow. Snow is like a blanket that covers everything with a poetic beauty. Everything looks beautiful, but you don’t know what’s under it. You could be stepping over a meadow, a rock, a freakin’ lake, or a 3,000ft drop. But then again, what’s life without risk and a high altitude selfie?
…or this, whatever this is.
Disclaimer: All stunts performed by noobs under supervision. Do not attempt at home. After all, how’re you going to get all that snow in your home?
I wish to give a shout to Indiahikes team for helping me get back to the grand mountains. Thank you! It wouldn’t have been possible without you guys. Because of you, this craziness never ends.