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When embarking on a backpacking trip to capture epic selfies in stunning wilderness settings, having the right gear can make all the difference between getting snap-happy or snap-unhappy. While you'll want to pack light for mobility on the trail, carrying a few essential photography items will ensure you don't miss those perfect photo ops.
First and foremost, you'll want to have a reliable smartphone or camera to document your adventures. For smartphone selfies, invest in a lightweight selfie stick tripod to capture you and your crew against breathtaking backdrops without blurry handheld shots. Look for one that extends, swivels, and has a Bluetooth remote so you can easily snap high-quality pics from a distance.
For more serious photography, pack a quality mirrorless or DSLR camera and a few small, fast lenses"like a 24-70mm and a 70-200mm telephoto zoom. This combo allows you to shoot wide landscape vistas and crisp close-ups. Don't forget extra batteries and memory cards with ample storage space for all the photos you'll take.
To protect your gear from the elements, bring a few large Ziplock bags and a microfiber cloth to wipe mist and dirt off your lens. A mini tripod helps keep your camera steady and level for long exposure shots of dreamy waterfalls or starry night skies.
When shooting selfies on the go, make sure to have phone chargers and portable backup batteries fully juiced. There's nothing worse than having your phone die miles from civilization with no way to snap and share more pics. Consider bringing a solar charger for off-grid power.
Having adequate light is also key for getting great shots on the trail. Pack a small, lightweight reflector to bounce and diffuse sunlight onto you and your companions for well-lit selfies during the day. A headlamp or clip-on selfie light comes in handy when shadows get long or for pre-dawn shots of alpenglow on mountain peaks.
No backcountry photography adventure is complete without fun props and accessories. Bring novelty hats, sunglasses, and other accessories to personalize your selfies with your unique flair and style. Print out inspirational quotes or subtitles on small cards to hold up in your pics. Get creative capturing your crew"a selfie stick makes it easy to get the whole gang in the shot.
Whether you're trying to capture an epic sunset, towering waterfall, or postcard-perfect alpine lake, posing properly will take your wilderness selfies to the next level. When incorporated thoughtfully, your subject's posture and placement in relation to natural features can add drama, scale, and visual interest. Follow these tips to intentionally use breathtaking backdrops to amp up your photos' wow factor.
First, consider how you will frame yourself or your companions in the context of the landscape. For example, position subjects off center with the expansive view prominently featured behind. This draws the eye towards the scenery while keeping the focus on people. Shoot from below to emphasize the grandeur of mountains but avoid awkward low angles. Have the tallest person stand in the back for pleasing composition.
Next, intentionally pose to complement what the camera sees. Face towards or away from the view, looking out with a sense of awe and wonder. Use props that add context - hold hiking poles while on a ridge or pause mid-step over a boulder field. Kneel down when shooting lakeshores or meadows to connect your stance with the ground. Drape a jacket casually off your shoulders or over your arm rather than bunching it on your back.
Also consider directing subjects to act out a narrative that interacts with the environment. For instance, set up a playful piggyback ride shot traversing a fallen tree or pretend to get blown sideways by mountain winds. Jump in the air like you're hang gliding over a canyon. Splash friends with icy water from a cascading waterfall. Get creative imagining how you could naturally engage with majestic Mother Nature.
When shooting self-portraits, look into the camera with confidence and avoid common rookie mistakes. Keep your chin up, eyes forward, and smile genuinely. Unless intentionally styled, avoid covering your face with phones, hats, or hair. Watch your stance so legs and arms appear relaxed rather than stiff or awkward. Have a sense of airiness about you - lounge on rocks, lean on trees, or sit in alpine meadows.
Most importantly, think intentionally about what story you want to tell or what feeling you aim to capture. Are you portraying tranquility by a hidden pond or goofing around on an epic summit? How does your expression or body language convey the essence of place and moment? Purposeful posing takes your selfies from quicksnapshots to frame-worthy keepsakes.
Getting epic scenery and your hiking crew both in focus is one of the trickiest and most rewarding skills in wilderness photography. When done right, you end up with professional-looking images that tell the story of your shared adventure. The key is intentionally composing shots that showcase stunning backdrops without sacrificing personalized details of the people you're with.
Start by scouting spots along the trail that lend themselves to group photos. Look for viewpoints overlooking lakes, canyons, or mountain peaks where you can assemble everyone for a hero shot. Frame the landscape broadly so the setting is recognizable then position your crew in a way that doesn't detract. Have people stand to one side, their bodies angled towards the scenery. Vary heights and stance so heads don't overlap in a straight line.
When shooting just two people, go for a cozy composition that connects them to the environment. Sit together on an erratic boulder or fallen tree with an alpine meadow and distant ridges behind. Lean affectionately with your heads together and eyes on the view - not the camera. Hold a walking stick or prop with nature vibes. For big groups, stack people in rows, a pyramid shape, or fanned out across rocks. Mix up poses while keeping everyone's eyes on you.
Zoom in for detail shots that add a sense of place: boots traversing a boulder field, trekking poles pointing towards craggy peaks, a hand dipped in a crystalline tarn. Photograph gear setups at campsites with tents nestled between soaring pines and mighty granite formations. Capture people crossing log bridges, cooking dinner under the stars, or silhouetted around a crackling fire.
Make mini photoshoots engaging by getting your crew involved. Hand the camera around for new perspectives. Use playback to check angles and lighting then adjust and re-shoot if needed. Keep things upbeat with jokes and encouragement. Have people ham it up with silly faces and poses or act out adventure narratives like fording a raging river. The bonus is you often end up with hilarious outtakes.
When embarking on a backpacking trip, personalizing your pack with fun decor and photo props will make for endless opportunities to amp up your wilderness selfies. While ultralight adherents aim to pare down gear, customizing your kit with personality and flair allows you to put your own stamp on your pictures. A personalized pack transforms you from just another hiker into the star of your photo shoot.
Start personalizing by picking a pack color that pops against outdoor backdrops. Vibrant hues like crimson, teal, or purple will make your gear stand out when positioned next toyou in photos. Add iron-on patches, pins, and decals that reflect your style and interests. Display your favorite bands, superheroes, sports teams, or inspirational quotes. Show your pride with rainbows, activism symbols, or club affiliations.
Attach bright danglers and accessories to the sternum strap, hip belt, and haul loop. Let your bling shine by hanging medals, crystals, bells, and charms that capture attention. Weave colorful cord or fabric through exterior straps for an artisanal vibe. Make it easy to spot you from afar with an iconic flag or unique stuffy poking from your pack.
Stash props and accessories in outside pockets and side mesh that you can whip out for photos anytime. Funny hats, masks, and glasses will transform you in an instant. Use chalk, mini whiteboards, or printed cards to hold up creative captions and subtitles. Fan the pages of a wilderness-themed book like you're reading trailside. Hold up a ukelele, guitar, or other mini musical instrument as if caught candidly breaking into song on the trail.
Finally, keep your pack looking fresh for photos during your entire trip. Pack a small travel pillow to provide lumbar support when you need to put your pack down for a shoot. A foldable camping seat gives you a clean surface to set your gritty gear on rather than dirtying it on the ground. Use the hip belt and sternum strap to keep your pack upright and stable while posing behind you. Cinch down and tighten all straps so your pack looks orderly rather than disheveled.
After putting in the effort to capture stunning selfies and crew shots on the trail, editing your images is the magic sauce that takes them from flat to fab. With just a few easy tweaks on user-friendly apps, you can transform your wilderness photos from bleh to brilliant. Making memories pop with editing elevates your pics from hurried snapshots to frame-worthy professional images you"ll treasure for a lifetime.
For correcting basics, the iPhone"s native Photos app or Android"s Google Photos offer quick filters and auto-fix functions. In a few taps, you can instantly adjust brightness, contrast, saturation and warmth to make blah background scenery pop. Cropping images draws eyes to you and your companions while downplaying distracting elements. Play with black and white, vintage, dramatic, or other filters to creatively alter the mood and tone. Even applying a subtle filter unifies images from the same trip that were shot under different lighting.
More robust mobile apps like Snapseed, Lightroom, or Adobe Photoshop Mix provide sophisticated editing tools in an intuitive interface. Precisely adjust highlights and shadows to balance uneven lighting on faces. Dehaze eliminates mountain fog and waterfall spray that obscures the view. Sharpen details on distant peaks, facial features, and clothing textures so images look crisp rather than blurry. Correct wonky distortion from shooting wide angles or uneven horizons that look off kilter.
Specialized touch-up tools allow you to edit people in your images with precision. Smooth skin, erase blemishes, whiten teeth, brighten eyes, and refine stray hairs and flyaways for flawless looking selfies. Remove distractions like litter, downed branches, or photobombers in the background. Even splice group shots together to get every pose perfect or composite multiple exposures for balanced lighting. The possibilities are endless for fine tuning images.
Those new to photo editing need not fear mucking up images. Most apps allow you to revert changes or reset to the original with one click. Watch online tutorials to master mobile editing techniques. Start with the auto-enhance button to let the app analyze and recommend fixes. Then take it step-by-step, adjusting a little at a time. Before long, you"ll be editing like a pro.
Elevating your backcountry photography takes practice and perseverance, but pros share tips to capture professional-quality images on the go. While stunning wilderness vistas sell themselves, composing technically sound shots in dynamic light with limited gear is an art. Applying pro pointers will immediately level up amateur snapshots.
Master exposure for perfectly lit shots every time. To avoid underexposed dark images, increase ISO, open aperture, lower shutter speed, or use exposure compensation. Overexposed washed-out shots are fixed by adjusting those settings in reverse. Use histogram or blinking highlight alerts to nail optimal exposure. Shoot RAW not JPEG for more latitude editing overly bright or dark images.
Focus precisely so faces and features are tack sharp. On cameras use single point autofocus, manual focus, or set the focal point yourself. For smartphone selfies, tap the screen on faces to lock focus before shooting. Clean your lens regularly as smudges cause soft focus. Close apps before shooting to maximize phone camera performance.
Compose intentionally according to photographic principles not just pointing and shooting. Frame yourself to one side using the rule of thirds. Include leading lines to draw the eye. Shoot from angles that emphasize depth and scale. Change elevation shooting both upwards and downwards.
Improve natural lighting by diffusing harsh sun with reflectors or waiting for soft warm light at sunrise/sunset. Use a flash or reflector to eliminate shadows. When shooting sunrises/sunsets, face away from the sun so light hits faces. Filters enhance sky and foliage colors. Reflectors fill in facial details lost in contrasty light.
Steady your camera for crisper shots. Use a tripod, tree, rock, or your pack as a makeshift stabilizer. Hold elbows tucked against your core not outstretched. Gently press the shutter instead of jabbing. Use burst mode then pick the least blurry. Set a self timer so you have time to steady yourself before it shoots.
Vary perspectives by shooting both landscape and portrait orientations. Take both close ups and wide shots to showcase environments. Get shots from high angles like hilltops or low like ground level. Move around subjects 360 degrees for varied backgrounds and angles. Shoot details like shoes, props, hands interacting.
Director your crew so everyone looks natural, engaged, and neat. Have people tilt their heads in alternating directions. Remind them to widen their stances so they don"t look rigid. Check clothing and gear is orderly. Offer positive encouragement so they relax and enjoy the shoot.
The allure of capturing the perfect photo can lead even experienced photographers to compromise safety in pursuit of incredible shots. However, no image is worth taking risky chances that could lead to injury, accidents, or even death. When your creativity goes wild picturing the money shot, remember to pause and put safety first.
Many photographers get so absorbed in framing shots that they ignore hazards or take foolish risks. Social media fuels the drive for extreme photos, with influencers dangling off cliffs or squatting in the middle of busy highways. But what may seem like a harmless moment for likes can turn tragic in an instant. Distracted photographers worldwide have been washed away in rogue waves, fallen off bridges and waterfalls, and been struck by cars.
To avoid photo follies, the foremost rule is staying behind any guardrails, fencing, or barricades. No matter how tempting, never clamber over or under them. Only shoot from designated safe overlooks and pullouts. Scope out locations in advance for lurking dangers like crumbling cliffs, steep drop offs, and incoming tides. Never venture out on slippery, unstable terrain.
When shooting waterfront, know your limits. Don't wade in if you can't swim or underestimate powerful currents and waves. Avoid turning your back to the water which can unexpectedly surge and sweep you away. Have a spotter watch for rogue waves. Wear a lifejacket when shooting near water.
On trails, watch your step and don't move backwards while using your phone or looking through the camera. Scan for trip hazards like roots, rocks, and branches before pausing to shoot. Be aware of your surroundings and make way for other hikers, bikers, and horses. Move off the trail to take photos, not causing bottlenecks.
When venturing off trail, take a buddy, share your plans, and establish meetup times. Carry a map, compass, GPS and other emergency gear. Watch for loose rock, steep terrain, and disorienting weather. Don't tromp through sensitive vegetation or approach wildlife. Turn back if conditions become iffy.
On highways, never stop or pause in roadways, medians, or shoulders. Avoid standing on guardrails, bridges, or tunnels. Be hyperaware crossing streets, using a spotter if needed. Step back from shoulders as vehicles whoosh by. Wear bright colors at dusk or dawn.
In cities, remain aware of surroundings, especially at night. Don't stare into your screen or through a viewfinder oblivious to what's around you. Avoid crouching in streets and roadways. Have companions watch your back in crowds and secluded spots. Stay sober and keep valuables concealed.
Sharing your incredible travel selfies on social media and with your community not only showcases your memorable adventures, but it can motivate and inspire fellow outdoor enthusiasts to plan their own bucket-list trips. While some shy away from posting out of humility, your images and stories have the power to spark wonder and excitement in others dreaming of hitting the trails.
When Matt B. returned from backpacking the John Muir Trail, he was blown away by the stunning vistas of alpine lakes, waterfalls, and Yosemite"s iconic Half Dome. After editing his selfies overlooking glacier-carved valleys and crossing mountain passes, he just had to share the beauty. Posting his dramatic images on Instagram and Facebook opened a floodgate of "wow!" responses from family, friends, and even long-lost classmates.
His photos made many nostalgic for vacations in Yosemite from their childhood. For his current coworkers stuck in the office, living vicariously through Matt"s pics provided a brief respite dreaming of fresh air and mountain grandeur. Commenters asked for gear recommendations, where he camped, and tips for tackling the trail. By posting tantalizing images from his trip, Matt inspired half a dozen colleagues to start planning JMT excursions of their own next summer.
For Miriam E., sharing selfies from two weeks thru-hiking the John Muir Trail with her daughters gave loved ones at home a window into their incredible shared accomplishment. She knew her girls were proud of covering so many miles together and wanted to showcase their achievement. Posting fun jump shots at mountain passes and silly selfies with marmots let friends and family be part of their journey.
The images of her daughters looking strong and confident on the trail was empowering to other women and teenage girls following her posts. Many left heartfelt comments saying they felt motivated to challenge themselves after seeing what Miriam"s girls could accomplish before hitting 20. For other parents, her pictures gave them inspiration and practical tips for planning their own outdoor bonding trips with teens.