photography, travel


There is no disputing that some of the best, most unique images are created while backpacking. Why is that?

Well, for starters, not nearly as many photographers venture out far enough on foot to capture these rarely seen, pristine wilderness areas. It’s not as simple as pulling up to the next overlook in your comfy vehicle. You have to work for it. You have to carry everything on your back and walk miles upon miles to reach your shot.

So, aside from the obvious hurdle of energy exertion and being in good enough shape, what are the main obstacles to backpacking for photography? Well, simply put… weight. It’s the reason many pro outdoor photographers have made the switch to mirrorless cameras. Saving even ounces can really add up.

I have not yet mades the switch to the lighter, more compact mirrorless cameras. So I’ll be approaching this problem from the old-school perspective. But I believe I have some insight to give that will benefit both the DSLR photographers, and those who have gone mirrorless. The concepts for both are really one in the same. It’s all about saving weight anywhere you can.

First, you must try to accurately assess the location, and its specific gear needs/ requirements. I am including ALL gear here, not just photo related. If you can save ounces/ pounds with your general camping/ backpacking gear, that may mean the difference between taking a particular lens or not. For example, if you are backpacking the Pacific Northwest, you surely need to carry rain gear [waterproof jacket, pants, pack cover, tent fly, and camera cover(s)]. If you happen to be in the desert, leave most of that and simply bring the rain fly for your tent. If, in the off chance, it does rain, you can stash everything in the tent. There are certainly inherent risks in packing this way, but the reward may be that you save your back, and get the amazing shot you wanted. If you are new to backpacking all together, or just need some tips to pair things down, check out the godfather of backpacking, Andrew Skurka’s post on gear. It will prove insightful for both the novice and experienced alike. But keep in mind, he approaches this from a purely backpacking perspective, not photography.

Next, think through the possible shots you’d like to capture. This will take some research/ scouting. See my post on scouting for help if you are new to this concept. Once you have a detailed shot list created, this will help determine which (and how many) camera bodies, lenses, flash, tripod, intervalometer, filters, etc. you will likely need. Only bring what you really need to get the shots.

I have made the mistake so many times on excursions into the backcountry to take extra equipment that I thought I might need. This proved to be a waste of weight and energy exertion. I won’t downplay the difficulty in accurately assessing your pack list, but I also won’t downplay the importance to be as conservative as possible. If in doubt, just don’t bring it. Do more with less.

Make sure you have everything you need to survive, but be willing to sacrifice some comforts to get to a doable weight.

KNOW YOUR LIMITATIONS. I recommend doing some test miles with your pack fully loaded to see if it’s something you can even handle. Hike at least two miles to get a feel for it. The rule is, your pack, fully loaded, should not weight more than 20% of your body weight.

This is much easier said than done. My pack, when on a photo trek is frequently closer to 30% my body weight. I DO NOT recommend this. Stick to as close to (or below) 20% as you possibly can. Your body (specifically knees and back) will thank you as you get older.

It can be intimidating to head out into the wild with everything on your back, especially for the first time. But don’t let that stop you. The rewards far outweigh the struggle. A paraphrased quote from Teddy Roosevelt sums it up best… “Nothing worth doing is easy.”

In a world of the similar photographs from the same places, that everyone posts to social media, we must work a little harder to be distinctive. The unique experiences and photos you can create are everywhere. They are simply waiting for you to find your way to them.


If you are new to backpacking, and would like a helpful first experience, I am excited to offer a fully-immersive, guided backpacking and photography adventure in my favorite mountain range on earth, the Wind River Range in Wyoming. I have not officially announced it yet, but if you are interested, let me know, and I will put you on the “first notified” list. You will learn first-hand from me, as I lead you into the most beautiful wilderness area in the lower 48.

N O M A D  Magazine // Issue 1
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All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2020
instructional, photography

The Budgeting Photographer’s Best Friend

I don’t care if you’re an amateur or professional… photography is expensive.

That’s why I rarely buy brand new.

Canon has a refurbished section now that is full of basically brand new equipment, with the one-year warranty, leaving the budgeting photographer like me to save hundreds, or even thousands.

But over the years, another shop that has earned my trust is  No, they’re not paying me to do this.  I just recently had such an amazing experience, I wanted to finally give them some formal love.

I’ve been in the market for a 5D MK III for a LONG time.  Plus, an ever-growing long list of lenses of course.  So this month, the time came to pull the trigger on a new 70-200/ 2.8 and a MK III.

I researched the best deals for weeks.  This is my full time job, and I have to support my family, so the best deal (without going grey market) is what I need.

I was moments away from just purchasing both refurbished from Canon.  My budget was $4000, give or take a few.  The Mark III was running just over $2700, and the lens was about $1300.  Well, fortunately for me, Canon didn’t have either available at the time.  So I had to go looking elsewhere.

And I remembered my old friends at KEH.

They’ve been around a long time.  In fact, they perfected the industry standard for accurately rating used equipment.  I’ve bought lenses in the past from them and been very happy with what I got… but a camera body?

I don’t buy used cameras.  Factory refurbished maybe, but not used!

So KEH had an EX+ (the highest rated, just below NEW) Canon 5D MK III for $2802.  But here’s where it gets good.

Two days prior, I received an email from KEH saying they miss me, and want to extend a 10% coupon!  So let me make this long story a little shorter…

I ended up getting a nearly brand new (only 2500 shutter accusations) Canon 5D Mark III and a beautiful 70-200 F/2.8L IS together for only $3400.

And here’s the kicker.  They pay top dollar for used equipment, and I ended up selling my oldest MK II (well used) and a questionable 70-200/2.8 (that they’ll of course fix up to be gorgeous), for $1300.  So in effect, I came in at almost $2000 under budget!

That made for a VERY happy day.

And then I got the equipment in the mail the next day, and it may have been even happier.

The lens was better than described and the camera just as they said… basically brand new.

Looking forward to making some beautiful images with my equipment for years to come, and sharing them all with you…


— andrew

Come learn light with me… check out my new workshop dates:
Grand Teton Photographic Tour/ Workshops 2014
More Destination Photo Tours/ Workshops 2014
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
Tandem Stills + Motion // andrew r. slaton
If you are interested in purchasing prints from this post, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
andrew r. slaton // photographer // prints
For assignment work requests, please email me:
Thanks for visiting!
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2014