July 04, 2023

Tramping + Film Photography thoughts by Abigail Legg

Tramping + Film Photography thoughts by Abigail Legg

Abigail from our Te Whanganui-a-Tara store shares some thoughts which we felt may help those who like film photography and tramping or just interested in either.

Powell Hut in the morning. Picture taken by Abigail Legg using Kodak Portra 800

I can’t say that I am the most qualified to talk about tramping but I can talk about film photography. As someone who has completed a handful of roadies here and there, traveled with camera kits overseas and loves to camp where there is no reception, you’d expect there to have been at least one tramping trip to be wedged in there. I will be vulnerable and say that there is not.  If you’re more or less in the same boat I hope this can help in some way as I had a lot of questions that needed to be answered prior to the tramp. Questions were being thrown around to fellow Splendid team members and even to a couple of our customers which one of them suggested that I should write a blog post after my tramp, so here we are. 

I completed my first overnight tramp (2 nights and three days to be exact). Five of my lovely friends and I went to Mt Holdsworth and took the jumbo circuit. It was a beautiful yet exhausting time and I was excited to take a coupley snaps! Before stepping foot into the Tararua Ranges, my first question to myself was: 

How do you decide on what camera you want to take on a tramp? Well if you only have one camera, that's the one you take! However if you’re like me and have a few, it can be a tough decision to make. The smartest option is to take something compact and easier to access compared to your phone. A point and shoot is perfect, especially if it is weather resistant. A Reto Wide & Slim camera is also a good option as there is no electronics in it. This is the answer that makes the most sense. 

I decided to take my 120 camera. A brick of a Bronica ETRSi… with a 50mm lens and an extension tube in case I wanted to get the macro money shot. I don’t think this was necessary HOWEVER my justification was that I'm enjoy shooting with this camera more than any of the others at the moment - therefore more photos will be taken. 

On the ridgeline of Mt Holdsworth. Picture taken by Abigail Legg on Kodak Portra 800

How much camera gear do you take?
Depending on what you have of course, I suggest taking 1 lens. The bare essentials are welcomed and it can keep it simple as well as interesting. However if you want to take another lens and you’re willing to stop often to get it out of your pack, I am not stopping you. You will be taking smoko/snack breaks anyway right? I was going to bring an extra lens but I am glad that I didn’t. I forced myself to use the extension tube because I didn’t want to have dead weight. It came with me for a reason. In my camera case I also had a glad bag for my films to make sure they didn’t get wet and extra batteries. I also luckily had a spare hair tie to make sure the 120 spool was wrapped up nicely.

Here is a breakdown of what I took -

  • 1x Bronica ETRSi Body
  • 1x 50mm MC Lens
  • 5x Rolls of film (Kodak Portra 400, Kodak Portra 800, 2x Kodak Tri-x 400 & Rollei RPX 400)
  • 1x Extension tube
  • Glad Bag
  • Hair tie
  • 2x Spare batteries

The pros of taking a kit like this;

  • You will get back a negative that is huge and you can enlarge the photo quite large if you're wanting to print.
  • If you like shooting both colour and B&W, you get to chop and change often, especially if you have two backs.
  • More detail on the negatives.
  • I find it fun and keeps it interesting for me! Due to the manual nature of the camera, it enables me to completely slow down when I take a photo.

The cons of taking a kit like this;

  • The weight!!
  • Less shots = more film = more costly.
  • Takes up more room than what is necessary.
  • Slows you down (not a point and shoot process.)

Film Cameras + an unpredictable weather forecast - 
There was a mixture of weather conditions and it being the end of autumn, you really have to be prepared for the worst and hope for the best. It was really cold at times, which made me worry about the batteries I was taking and if they would lose voltage. The spares lived in a zipped pocket in my jacket to ensure that the cold wouldn’t affect them too much. I also was worried about it being super wet causing my camera gear to get soaked. My solution to this was having a pack liner to protect my camera from the rain and for extra protection, a zip lock bag for my films.

The age old question… This question is subjective. If you shoot a shit load of film, bring a shit load of film.
I brought 5 rolls with me. Keep in mind, I am shooting medium/120 format. 1 roll in my Bronica is 15 photos. 5 rolls x 15 photos = 75 photos.
This was my thought process -
I know that I can shoot at least 15 photos in a day. We were out for 3 days. So I needed at least 3 rolls. I landed on 2 rolls of colour and 3 rolls of B&W. I personally like to mix it up because it keeps it interesting. We are in winter, I have no flash and the majority of the time was in the bush, so I took higher ISO rated (400 and 800ISO) rolls. Take this information as you will. If you believe you can shoot a roll a day, do it and stick to it.

That brings me to my next point. 

Don’t think, just take the bloody picture. There is something magical about combining two hobbies.
This is my suggestion because there is nothing worse than overpacking and not actually using the things you pack. The more photos you take, the more likely you’ll get one back you like. Take a photo each time you stop. Slow down if you can, use the camera as a way to observe and gather perspective or just appreciate what’s in front of you. Tell the people you’re with before you go on the tramp that you’ll be stopping often for photo taking and I’m sure they’ll appreciate the photo pitstop :-)

Is there anything that I will do differently next time?

The amount of film was perfect for me, it was satisfying finishing the tramp and also finishing the last roll once we got to the carpark.
Would I take my Bronica on another tramp? Is it worthy of being in the pack?
I say yes, maybe it would be more suitable when it comes to a track that doesn't require a lot of uphill and downhill action. Perhaps if I become a 'serious' tramper who continues to shoot medium format, it would be an opportunity to look into a rangefinder.
In saying that, I am happy carrying a bulky camera or carrying a point and shoot. It honestly depends on my photographic process at the time. Trust the process ay.
If there was anything to adjust/change, I would like to test wearing my camera differently. On the ridgeline, we came across a group of people who were wearing their cameras in their cases around their necks. This seems obvious but I kept my camera in my pack after my strap broke, which is not an optimal way of taking photos. If you have your camera readily available, you will shoot more. So my ideal would be a ‘front pack’ for the camera which is waterproof. If I had my SLR camera or digital camera, I would get a camera clip for my bag strap. 

Morning sunrise at Powell Hutt. Picture taken by Abigail Legg with Kodak Portra 800

Once again I’d like to not claim that these are the be all and end all of tips and tricks, I’d love to have a chat if you have any hacks or anything to add when it comes to taking photos in the bush. There is an art to packing for a tramp and making sure you're comfortable is essential. If you need to talk more about tramping, I would suggest talking to our friends down the road at Coffee Outdoors. They will have all the hacks and maybe a secret or two.

Three days of walking. What a treat! Aotearoa is such a gift to us and it was very special taking photos and spending time with friends. I appreciated the process of packing kai/food and sorting out the essentials. There was a beautiful moment after the tramp when we got back into Wellington; I had a hot shower, got into comfortable clothes and stood in my back yard with a cup of tea at golden hour. Reflecting on how I got to see a Kārearea (we named them Cory), I loved observing the mushrooms and how much bush/landscape changes when you're at different stages of the track. We crossed bridges, ate so much scroggin, we laughed a lot, played simple games, helped each other along and I learnt that bringing salmon to eat for dinner is worth it and that I like Kodak Tri-X 400 pushed to 800ISO... 

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