I recently have been asked a few times on my wild camping experiences and well simply - why do I do it? Which brings me to the notion - why we do escape to isolated areas and pitch our tents in sometimes unfavourable/ unplanned conditions. I guess it's one of those things, if you know why you do it... you know.
My willingness to photograph isolated and wilderness areas is what originally brought me into wild camping. Waking up on isolated ranges in Mount Aspiring National Park or atop the high fiords of Fiordland, it's these places that been very rewarding to me both as a photographer and for my own pleasure enjoying these heightened experiences (excuse the pun).
Here's a few reasons why you might want to take your camera along on your next hike.
Experiencing Magic Hour
From a photography perspective, it's the sunrises and sunsets that you live for, those magic moments that really can bring a landscape to life. Being there waiting and ready is key, and is definitely the reason why I try to hike up the day/ evening before to reach the spot I'm wanting to photograph the following morning, at least then, it doesn't involve a too early start, as the hard work is already done.
Reaching a location for sunrise or sunset is no problem if it’s easily accessible. Unfortunately (or fortunately!) many fantastic locations are several hours hike from the nearest road. In the summer season in particular, when nights are short, a hike after sunset and again before sunrise leaves little time to sleep. Of course, with the exposure of social media, many places get crowds flocking to them which no doubt I have done also. I soon found out for myself that the appeal was lost at photographing these locations, I actually stood back and thought " I wonder how many photographs have been taken in this exact spot I'm standing in.."; that's when wild camping came in. It opens doors, giving you access to really remote locations and even better, you get to see them at all times of the day!
The Good and the Bad
For sure, wild camping brings with it a lot of risk also, for you are looking to camp in exposed locations most of the time and the conditions can change very quickly. Speaking from experience, with some incredible moments and experiences wild camping, but also some very unfavourable ones. One time I was camping at the foot of Mt Chaos in MT Aspiring National Park, NZ, looking out over Lake Unknown in amazing conditions, a memory I'll cherish for a long time and reflect on. Yet, I also remember camping on the tops of the Black Mountains in the Brecon Beacons, when overnight, gale force winds made their way in, breaking my tent poles and ripping out pegs; it was a long night to say the least. Being able to reflect on these experiences through images is a privilege, whether it be good or bad, you learn from it and photos can help remind you of those incredible moments in the outdoors.
Hiking with Friends
I have been fortunate enough to experience wild camping and multi-day hikes both by myself and also with friends. Having done many by myself, I guess with photography and what you are looking to achieve can really narrow down who else would want to participate in such a quest. These trips do provide solitary and peace, yet having friends and companions with you gives you an experience to share and reflect on later down the line. You will experience hardships and challenges along the way which you work out and solve together, both at your best and at your worst, you get through it. These fantastic memories and moments you get to share with them and it could be months, or even years down the line, when you can sit down and reflect on those moments with them, as let's face it, you only truly understand how good it was if you were actually there to experience it.