Timing is everything

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In my previous column, I wrote about a photography trip I will be taking in a couple of months in the Rocky Mountains. In it, I explained how I am planning for where and what to shoot. This column will follow up on further planning.

I will be shooting several national parks, with the key emphasis on Rocky Mountain National Park, not far from Denver. I picked three locations I wish to shoot in the park and should be able to get several unique views of each location.

But there is much more I have to plan on, rather than just where and what to shoot. For instance, how will I get there? This particular trip and park will be based from Bear Lake Trailhead. Being based from this location, I will park here.

From the trailhead, I will have to hike to the three locations I wish to photograph. Two can be hiked to and from in a day with no problem. However, I am not looking to shoot at the brightest point of the day. Just as sunset and sunrise are prime times for animal movement when hunting, sunset and sunrise are ideal ‘golden hours’ for photography. In particular, landscape photography.

So, what does this mean? It means either I will hike in the dark or will have to camp overnight.

This is where the real preparation comes in.

My first hike will be to and from with an overnight stay. I hope to catch the sunset on day one of the hike and the sunrise the next morning. This will allow me to hike back to the truck for more provisions.

This is important in order to lighten my hiking gear. You see, my body, which is accustomed to North Carolina, has not seen 10,000-foot altitudes. It will likely be hard enough just to hike without any additional weight for prolonged periods there.

Since I am photographing though, not only do I have to account for the weight of a sleeping bag, tent, water and food, but I have my camera, tripod, lens and accessories that will be tagging along. To give you an idea of what I am dealing with, my camera gear and camera bag that I use for sports photography weighs right at 40 pounds.

This is again why extensive planning must take place.

Knowing what I am looking for and the compositions I wish to capture helps reduce the haphazard need to bring everything. One lens, a couple of filters, a camera body and a couple of batteries along with a lightweight tripod is the extent of camera equipment I will carry. The rest of my pack will consist of a sleeping bag, one-man tent, some emergency gear, food and water. I will have enough food and water for two days for a one day hike, three days for a two day hike, both of which can be stretched for an extra day if rationed in a real emergency.

A compass and a topographical map, along with a GPS monitor will conclude necessary items.

On day two after restocking my provisions, I head back out to reach the second location before sunset. This is where the aforementioned two-day hike comes into play. Because of where the trail leads, it is shorter for me to leave location two and head to location three, rather than head back to the main trailhead.

After a sunrise shot at location two, location three by sunset becomes the goal.

This will also be the toughest portion of the hike due to the changes in altitude and difficulty of the trail. Of course, I could always do these locations in reverse. However, saving this most difficult portion for the second day of a two-day hike means I will have used some of my provisions, making my pack just a little lighter.

Whether hunting, fishing, hiking or paddling, it is important not only to plan where you want to target, but also what it will take for you to make it to the targeted area.

Bill Howard is an avid bowhunter and outdoorsman. He teaches hunter education (IHEA) and bowhunter education (IBEP) in North Carolina. He is a member of North Carolina Bowhunters Association and Pope & Young, and is an official measurer for both.