I’ve had a goal for a while to hike from Berthoud Pass to St. Mary’s/ Alice, Colorado where I live in one day. So a buddy of mine and I decided to attempt it. Of course, I had to bring a camera. The Continental Divide Trail runs along the backbone of the country. We would hike a small part in Colorado. We would start from Berthoud Pass and follow it along five summits (Mt. Flora, Mt. Eva, Parry Peak, Mt. Bancroft and James Peak) before descending through St. Mary’s Glacier and back home.
I know it sounds crazy, but I just love photographing adventures like this! There is something about the majestic mountain tops that summon me to visit. I am drawn to them like a magnet. Amazing blue skies against the foliage or snow as the sun dances between the clouds and paints the landscape. The crisp air, challenging conditions and grand landscapes keep me returning for more!
With more than ten miles to cover through wintery conditions and limited winter light, I chose to leave the tripod at home. Having time to set up and carefully compose seemed unlikely as we would be on the move. I would go handheld using the Vibration Compensation (VC) in the new Tamron SP 24-70 f/2.8 VC USD. This stabilization technology really locks on and holds still while shooting handheld.
For some, going light means a point & shoot camera. For me going light means only taking a Tamron SP 24-70 f/2.8 VC with a polarizer and a Nikon D800 body. After all, I could bring several more lenses right? I took into account that high wind was probable if not guaranteed. Ice crystals, snow and dust would most certainly get into the body if I changed lenses, so I decided to go light and shoot the entire day with this combination.
When shooting handheld, I constantly pay attention to the metering. I like to shoot aperture preferred mode, A on some mode dials AV on others. I desire higher f/stops for more depth of field, so I shoot between f/8 and f/16 for most situations like this and then monitor the shutter speed making sure it doesn't go below 1/60th of a second. With VC engaged, I get the results I’m after. Also, depending on the amount of snow, I use the +/- exposure compensation mode to over expose making the snow brighter, but being careful not to blow out the highlight detail.
A long story shortened, it was a long grueling hike! We made it back home just before 10pm. The Vibration Compensation worked amazingly in harsh conditions all day long! The only downside was walking the last three miles through the glacier with a headlamp in the dark. Even with that, it was a great adventure! The following images were processed from RAW. Hope to see you out there. Enjoy!