The Himalayas vs. Your Camera


Fine art photographer, Joel Addams, has shared these photography tips with us to maximize your travel experience as you join him on his Nepal Photo Trek:

The first time I trekked in the Everest Region with digital camera equipment, I was constantly fighting internal battles. Should I bring extra batteries or a fancy solar charger, or both? Will I have enough memory and should I have a backup system? Protecting my gear seemed like a priority as well because I was trekking in the dead of monsoon season. Now, with several photo trekking adventures on the horizon this summer, I feel more obligated to guide my workshop participants in the unknown issues of selecting camera gear for our Italy Dolomites Trek and Nepal Annapurna Base Camp Trek. While it will be summer for both occasions, a few key ideas and pieces of equipment will keep the camera firing and the peace of mind intact.

The camera equipment you already own will likely work, but plan to travel light! You have a Nikon D800, Canon 5D Mark III, or a Panasonic G4? Perfect. One or two lightweight lenses is ideal to cut down on weight and size. I stopped packing long lenses and stuck with my staples: an 85 mm and a 24 mm. One wide angle and one a little longer - landscape and portrait. Maybe you have a 17-40mm and a 200 mm. Sounds great. Many of heros in the photojournalist world opt for this lens with a simple 50 mm f/1.8. Brilliant. Whatever your combination, pack light! You gotta hike this stuff around the Himalayas and over 13,500 ft! If you haven't established a system, may I suggest building a mirrorless system. Say you’re tired of lugging around heavy equipment and just want some quality. Please do yourself a favor and look into a durable system with excellent glass like the Fujifilm X-T1. It’s perfect for getting excellent quality sharpness and great contrast in the lenses. I trekked with the X-Pro 1 and loved it.

Batteries and memory cards are cheap. I find the 16 or 32 gig cards are the most convenient and if I plan for 8 to 16 gigs a day, I never fill up. Batteries are the same. Unless you’re shooting professionally from sun up til sun down and burning through the video, two batteries in a grip lasted me almost a week. The caveat is that I didn’t sit around chimping my imaging all night and wasn’t shooting video. A few extra charged batteries may cost a few bucks, but on a trip like this, it’s worth it.

Cleaning supplies, really? Yes, really. I would feel really dumb if didn’t have the few simple tools to clean the glass or the sensor in a pinch. A small bottle of optics cleanser, and 5-7 of the accompanying professional sensor cleaners as well as a microfiber cloth for the glass should do the trick. You can sell them other participants at a ridiculous price, too, high in the Himalayas.

Backup camera? Yes, I’ve often thought about this with digital cameras. If you have a friend, partner, or spouse along, you back up one another. If not, consider the cheapest version of the same line of cameras for a backup. They may be able to share batteries and lenses. For example, if you have a Canon 5D Mark III, you could pick up a used Mark II body for fairly cheap. Alternatively, you could buy an old 35mm film bombproof camera and ten rolls of films for under $150. Or point-and-shoot. Or just use your iPhone with a case that recharges it. With some minimal post-processing and smoothing out a touch of noise, I have been able to print reasonable 8x8 inch prints from the iPhone in a pinch.

There is a balance between getting the camera equipment you want up the mountains and breaking your back doing so. Find the combos that make you lighter without sacrificing all of your needs for capturing the beautiful light. Join me and Drake Busath on our Sherpa-guided experience in Kathmandu in late August/early September up to Annapurna Base Camp or my hut-to-hut Dolomites photo adventure in late July. I promise you will get some shots you will love for a lifetime, and just as important, we will experience the thrill of the mountains together.


Joel Addams entered outdoor and travel photography in 2004 with a thirst for great light and meaningful travel. Joel continues to focus more on aesthetics than subject, selecting content that matches his vision of the preservation of the landscape, the power of individual in outdoor sports, and the poetry found in minimalist black and white scenics. His overarching concern is that of quality - in the capture, processing, and printing of an image, which becomes evident to both collectors and clients of Joel’s work. In 2011, he designed and taught the Honors course, "Photography as Communication, Art, and Catalyst" at the University of Utah. Joel is represented by Aurora Photos, a specialized photographic agency in Portland, Maine. His credits include National Geographic Online Edition, Merian Magazine (Germany), The Travel Channel, Utah Department of Tourism, MSN, AAA Magazine, AARP, and Discovery Magazine, as well as editorial and advertising campaigns around the world. His fine art prints are found in collections around the country and in Europe.

July 2015

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