Shooting in the Extremities: Adventure Photography
Quite often, photography enthusiasts will engage in hobbies and activities that give them the upper hand in creating exciting and visually unique images, which not everybody would necessarily have the chance to explore. This in itself will mean a slightly different approach to your average 'point and shoot' hobbyist. Extreme circumstances sometimes mean drastic changes in technique and even equipment. Let's have a little look at some examples.
A Quick Look at Sensors
Used for some years in video and stills cameras, CCD's long offered superior image quality to CMOS sensors, with better dynamic detail and control over noise. To this day they are used in the lower end, cheaper digital cameras, but their higher power consumption and more basic construction have meant that CMOS alternatives have almost entirely replaced them.
CMOS sensors have since progressed to match, or in some cases even exceed, CCD standards. With more functionality built on-chip than CCDs, CMOS sensors can work more efficiently and use up far less energy, meaning a longer battery life for most cameras.
Panasonic is one company among many who are taking full advantage of these sensors in their Lumix range. In both of the circumstances detailed in this article a 20MP CMOS Sensor is a critical component in shooting bursts quickly, efficiently and to super high quality when you need to act fast in extreme conditions.
Most cameras are tested extensively in a wide range of conditions particularly at the higher end where protecting quality and efficiency becomes a priority. Often they'll be taken down to below freezing temperatures, some withstanding up to -10 Degrees Celsius. They’re tested at these conditions because they're likely to be used by professional photographers working on location – the easiest example being National Geographic.
Generally, the bigger, chunkier or more expensive your camera, the higher the ability to cope under extreme cold or extreme heat. In most cases, you'll find that it's your fingers that give out before the shutter does. However, no matter what your kit, there will always be times where these conditions cause things to seize up, malfunction or stop communicating properly. If this happens, it's probably best to give it a time out, turn it off and pop it somewhere safe for a short period.
Avoid breathing on the lens, in fact, avoid condensation where possible. As soon as you move from cold to warmer conditions, condensation can happen, so be sure to wipe everything down completely, before placing the camera back into your bag.
If you're in sub-zero temperatures for a long time then perhaps adjust your shooting style slightly in order to preserve battery power. The chemical processes in the battery are slowed considerably when subjected to the cold.
If you’re climbing, rambling, scrambling or generally heading upwards, the last thing you're going to want is the weight of a large DSLR around your neck. This is where the Panasonic’s Lumix range comes in incredibly handy. Again we'll throw reference to that 20MP Sensor and its ability to work quickly and to staggering degrees of quality, without the sheer bulk of a top end DSLR. Mirrorless is certainly the way to go in these situations, as being lighter makes it easier to transport and far more efficient in burst mode. If you're a mountain climber, you're going to want durability with your high spec kit and this is where those top end mirrorless models are tested before release. Perfect!
Weather conditions can change on a knifes-edge out in the wild and up high. From complete cloud cover and mist, to sudden downpours or gale-force winds, you need to be prepared. It's here that it's worth looking at certain accessories that protect your kit that little bit extra from the elements - body covers and cases are the first. Rubber or silicone coverings can work miracles at keeping dirt, water and moisture out of areas where lenses link to bodies or bodies fit to tripods. Not only this but it's a valuable extra surface to absorb shock should you knock or drop your equipment.
It's also worth looking at different types of slings and locks that differ from your bog-standard neck strap. This can be quite the nuisance if you're scaling a cliff face or trying to shoot something on incredible unsteady ground. There are straps that lock to the wrist and sit that little bit more comfortably at your side and in balance with your body.
If you're heading into water you need housing. Full stop. You can find water-tight housing for almost any camera model. Not only will it protect your kit, but the moment you delve into the deep with this quality camera equipment, you stand the chance of getting shots that go far beyond those on dry land.
The first thing you need to be aware of when shooting underwater is the pressure itself. Luckily, all that's taken care of. Your housing doesn't just protect your kit from water but it's totally air tight, so can withstand huge pressure imbalances. For some serious depth you will need 100kgf pressure resistant camera which are available in the right markets. General recreational diving and scuba diving stands at around the 30/40 meter mark. On the market currently there are waterproof cameras that are not specialist, going down to depths of around 30 meters! It is these types of action cameras that the adventurous photographer is going to love.
The further down you venture, the less the light can reach you. Eventually it disperses completely and you're cast into total darkness. It stands to reason then that you could really do with a camera capable of vast ISO capabilities and even a lens with a huge aperture. The Panasonic Lumix GH5, for example, has the capability to reach a massive 25,600 ISO in its high sensitivity mode. Paired with the compatible 42.5mm F/1.2 lens and there'll be few light conditions you can't handle. The 20.3MP sensor isn't such a bad thing either!
EVF stands for Electronic View Finder. On your standard DSLR camera, the image in the lens comes through the camera and is bounced up into the viewfinder by a mirror and a prism. In this respect, what you see in the viewfinder is an actual, optical view of what the lens is capturing.
An EVF, however, is used on a mirrorless camera. With EVF, the light from the lens hits the imaging sensor straight away, where it records the data and displays it directly onto an LDC screen. When underwater and in very compromising conditions, the EVF has a number of critical advantages.
One problem with cameras is that they don't have the dynamic range to show all of the brightest parts in the photo and the darkest shadow detail. Since you can see right in the EVF how the brights and darks are captured, you can plan your camera settings accordingly.
The Image is Much Brighter in Low Light
With the benefit of the ISO, you can see detail in much dimmer environments where a DSLR would struggle to capture anything. Up the ISO as you would in your darker contexts and in deeper water and instead of estimating as we usually would, you can physically see how the heightened sensitivity of the sensor affects the image.
Instant Results through the EVF
After you take a photo, you see the preview right in the viewfinder without needing to take your face off the viewfinder and look at the LCD, and then go back to the viewfinder for another shot.
If you're thinking of getting out there and getting stuck into the elements with your camera, then hopefully this has shed some light on how to cover your back. Adventure photography can take you all over the world, and it’s best to try to get a camera that can shoot the skies from the mountains whilst also the darks of the depths. Take a look at our new camera the LUMIX DC-FT7 for the ultimate tough camera designed specifically for the adventurous traveller.