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Morning at Og Lake Campsite | by Marc Shandro
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Morning at Og Lake Campsite

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Mount Assiniboine Park is generally quite a busy destination for backcountry enthusiasts, but in the shoulder season you can luck out and have this kind of a camp spot almost to yourself. See our tent? September is a great time of year to hike into the backcountry of the Canadian Rockies -- the air is fresh and clear and the fall colors can be spectacular.


Six of our seven days had mornings like this which are wonderful, but reduce the chance for resplendent morning sunrise colors and alpenglow. There's at least a small streak of an interesting cloud gracing the top of Mount Magog. The bushes around the tent are Bog Birch which are on their way to turning a deep red.


Tech Details:

Nikon D300

18-200mm lens @ 44mm (VR turned off)

Circular polarizing filter

Singh Ray 3-stop hard GND

1/2 sec @ f8

ISO 250

Velbon Sherpa Pro CF 640 tripod

Really Right Stuff ball head BH-55

RAW file processed with Adobe Lightroom


The tripod/head combo (without the center pole) weighs 2.71 kgs (5 lbs 12 oz) which is a bit heavy to lug around on a 7-day trip. I recently decided to get the GND filter and am happy with the results. HDR is time consuming and takes time to do well, and if you have a breeze in the foreground moving vegetation around, you're pretty much out of luck for a sharp image. When you're on the move and need to cover a lot of ground in a day, some techniques like HDR and even getting out the tripod takes too much time to set up for every shot, so I've borrowed/developed some shortcuts while on the move. I generally don't use the filter holder for the GND, but instead just hold the filter in front of the camera with my left hand (I saw Art Wolfe do this briefly on one of his shows). Fingerprints on the lower part of the 4x6 filter never get in front of the lens anyway. I've also developed a couple of methods of stability when I feel I don't have time to dawdle with my tripod (but I will get out the tripod for exceptional discoveries). First is to set a higher ISO which depends on the situation, but is generally 400-500 ISO. For low shots I'll sit cross legged on the ground with both elbows resting on my knees and calm my breathing. The good noise capability of the D300 combined with a VR lens generally yields good results. For a higher vantage point, I've been able to use both of my hiking poles still attached to my wrists and firmly pushing into the ground. This controls vertical and sideways shake and my body becomes the third leg of the "tripod". By keeping the straps around my wrists, I'm still able to hold the GND in front of the lens with my left hand. It takes a bit of practice, but is still much faster than taking the tripod off the pack. I've been pleasantly surprised by the results using this method in pretty low light. I keep the camera and filter in a simple compressible waist-pack that I turn around and have in the front. It has a big enough compartment to hold the camera with attached lens (and extended lens hood), so I can get access to the camera very easily and quickly without taking off a heavy pack. It's all a balance of having and feeling the adventure or hike or backpack and making time for the photography.


The larger view is always better... B l a c k M a g i c or as a Slideshow

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Taken on September 16, 2009