The Canadian backcountry is a special love of mine. As a native of the U.K., I am particularly drawn to Canada’s mountains and vast areas of wilderness. Combining my love of the backcountry and photography can provide certain challenges and being well prepared is key to capturing those mountain and wilderness images.
Gear preparation is extremely important as there is nowhere to re-stock or buy forgotten items once you are in the mountains. Personal safety and wellbeing are always my first priority. Remembering that temperatures are generally lower in the mountains and conditions can change in an instant, good technical clothing and waterproof footwear is a must. I always carry an emergency blanket, matches, bear spray, bug spray, sun screen, lots of water, spare water purification tablets and plenty of snacks and food.
Above: The majesty of Canada's glorious backcountry in places like B.C. is what excites photographers.
Planning your gear
There is generally nowhere to re-charge camera batteries, so I take plenty of spares and try to keep them warm, particularly in cold, winter conditions. I make sure that memory cards are formatted and stored in a waterproof case and that camera filters are well protected, particularly if you are accessing backcountry locations by another means of transport such as helicopter or horseback. Weight is often a factor when in the backcountry, so I am loving the new Nikon Z series mirrorless cameras and I generally take my wide-angle lens and choose one other lens if I’m hiking so that I’m not having to carry too much. I personally like to use something with a little longer focal length, for example a 70-200mm 2.8, but on my last trip, because weight was a major factor with quite a lot of elevation to cover, I took a 85mm 1.8 lens instead.
With all that gear, a good backpack or camera pack is essential and so is a waterproof cover to keep things dry. I normally carry a few plastic bags in my pack, too — they take up very little space/weight but can be used to sit on, cover the camera if I’m by a waterfall or shooting in the rain or snow, etc. I like to use a lightweight tripod when hiking and hiking poles can really help with stability when navigating rough ground with a pack on my back.
Above: Dramatic skies and meadows filled with spring flowers make fabulous foregrounds for backcountry pictures.
Planning your shots
I heavily research an area before I go. Assuming there is no cell coverage, I download or buy maps, screenshot weather forecasts, check for the possibility of northern light activity, make sure I know sunrise and sunset times and very often, look online for images of the area to give me some idea of what there might be to photograph once I get there.
When I head off into the mountains, I often have some idea of the kinds of images I’m hoping to capture but I like to remain completely open to what nature throws at me. Weather can play a huge part in the kinds of images and light you are able to capture. Poor weather is often not what we think we want but there are numerous times that I have encountered wonderful light and moody skies just before or after rainstorms. Freezing temperatures can produce interesting ice formations and blooming wildflowers can create beautiful foregrounds. I love to shoot in the golden light of sunrise and sunset and I very much enjoy the blue hour (the hour before sunrise or after sunset) to photograph, too. Arrive early and stay late so there is time to find compositions without rushing if and when beautiful light explodes.
Most importantly, it is in these moments of waiting that I find absolute peace and contentment, it is my opportunity to feel fully present and immersed in the wilderness experiences.
Happy shooting and stay safe out there.
ABOUT VIKTORIA AND NIKON
Viktoria Haack is a Nikon Canada Ambassador originally from the U.K., who now resides in B.C. Viktoria is heavily influenced by the beautiful environment that surrounds her. She has a background in fine art and anthropology. Viktoria’s work covers the fields of landscape, portrait, wedding, event, promotion, editorial, stock and photography education; allowing her to stay creative and excited about the projects she undertakes.
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