Nikon EM. I remember its all I could afford at the time. This was a very basic camera but, it had a manual mode and I learned to use it well. No meter when in manual so, understanding light etc... was crucial. This great little camera would last me 22 years while seeing all 50 states and Canada, Tahiti, Jamaca. has been my camera of choice since 1980 when I got my first slr. A
Then I moved up to simple yet again but, with autofocus. That took some getting use to. It was an N65. After that an N75. My next move and the first to DSLR was the D70. What a great little camera this was! It captured my Fire and Ice image back in Feb. 2005. I picked up a new D70s for a second body. The poor cameras took a beating in the harsh enviroments I subjected them to. Considering they did well.
By 2007 the volcano had done them both in and I needed a camera right away. So, I picked up the D200. Unfortunately I missed the new D300 by a month but, stayed with the D200. This was my main camera body until late April 2012.
Now I have the new Nikon D800. 36mp monster. Do you have a wall large enough for the images this thing can produce?
Nikon 10.5mm 2.8 Fisheye DX - What a fun lens to shoot with! Never would have captured image #280 without it. The double rainbows over a small lava stream.
Nikon 16mm 2.8
Nikon 24mm 2.8. Excellent lens for the D800.
Nikon 50mm 1.4 & 1.8
Nikon 180mm 2.8 - Captured #1 Fire and Ice. Its the reason a 6mp camera (D70) produced such a sharp image.
Sigma 120-300mm 2.8 (I no longer use it for my long hikes) So many great images captured with this lens. #21 and many others. #21 shot with the D200 at 1000 iso!
I haven't owned many tripods over the years. They last a long time.
Manfrotto 3021BN Tripod 488RC2 Ball head (retired)
Manfrotto 190CL Carbonfiber Tripod 386 Ball Head (current)
I still have all of this gear. The cameras are stashed away hoping for a historic display someday. Its pretty obvious that I prefer primes. You just can't beat the sharpness. They all captured the March 6, 2011 Kamoamoa fissure eruption beautifully.
Packs and Bags
Bags and especially backpacks are very important for me. My hikes are long and even if not, my pack can be on my back for several hours at a time. Many times theres no place to set it as I'm on hot lava. I've melted a few things over the years.
My first real backpack at the lava flows was the Gregory Banshee. This pack was lean and I could move fast with it. The clamshell opening worked great. I would also carry my Lowepro zoom AW Hipster on the waistbelt. The Banshee is long gone as several years of sharp and hot lava wore it out. Its usually the zippers that give into the sulfuric acids. The Lowepro is still in use.
My next pack is still one of my all time favorites. The Mountainsmith Paragon. This pack could have been a bit larger but, it fit me extremely well. I could wear it for 12 straight hours easily. It was a tight fit getting that big Sigma lens in there. I had lots of stuff hanging from that pack on my long outings. That was my best Pu'u O'o vent pack. That pack is no longer with me. I just plain wore it out. 1000 miles of hiking will do that.
There's a huge Cabelas 5500 cu pack in my collection. This is for Mauna Loa and sometimes cold weather lava hikes. All of my cold weather gear fits. Also my Gregory Baltoro 65 its has the most comfortable waistbelt and harness system.
The camera backpack I use the most is my F-Stop Tilopa. I've had it since early 2010 and I love it! They've changed a few things with the new model from my older one. The Tilopa is so easy to load my gear into. Which is very important when I have to pack up and move quickly. When I was enquiring about this pack in 2010, they told me it wasn't designed for the kind of weight I said I would be carrying. Many times over 70lbs for long outings of 20 miles and 24 hours. But, I have to say it handles it all well. I usually carry 6-8 liters of fluids along with the other gear mentioned above. Lots of other stuff like food, clothing etc... Even 15 liters on some very long hikes. Yes, that's 15 liters. I have a low profile chest pack for gear needed without removing my pack. The extra 7 liters on the one hike were hanging from anywhere I could attach them. One hike was for my 50th birthday. 25 miles to the upper lava flow action. 8 miles up hill that took 8 hrs due to the conditions. 7 hours coming back. New hike story maybe. I don't travel very often anymore but, when I have the Tilopa fit nicely in the overhead bin. My next F-Stop might be the Satori.
This is the other question I'm often asked. "Do you go through a lot of boots". The answer is yes of course but, it can be for deferring reasons. The obvious is them melting. I usually know when this is going to happen and I try my best to prevent it. There have been times when a brand new $350 pair of boots gets ruined on their first hike. Sometimes I need to cross very wide hot lava flows. Its an art that's learned over many years. Don't try this!!!
Another reason is plain and simply wearing them too long. Its the most common. The lava wears out most boots in about 5-6 hikes. Remember, my hikes are extreme and as mentioned on another page, I don't use that word loosely.
I have photos here showing some of my melted and horribly worn boots.
One thing that makes it difficult for me to wear many boots or even have them right away is my needing a lift on the right one. I have one leg shorter then the other by more then an inch. For most of my life I've had a Cobbler do the lifts so they weren't noticed and they held up. The problem with this is it took up to 5 weeks to get my new boots and many times it left me hiking in boots that were falling apart. Check the photos above for a laugh at what I've worn in the past while waiting for my new boots.
These days I make my own lifts and even alterations to accommodate my two different sized feet. Oh yeah, one severely flat too. It works well and allows me to set up my new boots right away. I cut off soles from cheaper shoes and use sheet rock screws and Shoe Goo to attach them. This method works very well. I could care less what they look like. They won't be around for very long.
In late June of 2012 I decided to try running and hiking without a lift on my right shoe. The terrain is anything but even so, I'm not so sure a lift really helps. I can say that after 32 years of having a heavy right shoe/boot, its great not having the lift. So far so good.
I've had everything from HI-Tech's, Cabelas, Earth Shoes, Wolverines, Danner and Merrell. My current pair are Merrell hiking shoes. Not boots. Stopped using Gore-Tex too. Their great until they fill with water. Heavy duty hiking boots are well, heavy. Add in thick mud and water and its a workout I don't need. So, my current shoes aren't water proof. No need as I hike wearing shorts anyway. My Merrell Geomorph Maze Stretch hiking shoes are the best I've ever hiked in. I mean ever. They are so comfortable to me and they handle every type of terrain I throw at them. Merrell better not stop making them. I have the mesh ones so rain water drains out keeping my feet from getting soaked.
While I do use numerous small gadgets along with my main gear, too many to list, my Goal Zero Nomad 7 portable solar charging panel stands out. Its an easy way for me to recharge camera batteries out in the field. I also use the Guide 10 power pack. The Goal Zero Rock Out Speakers entertain me on my long hikes.
Most times I'm hiking all night and I need powerful and reliable light. The brighter the better is my way of thinking. For years now I have been using two Life Gear LED 360 Lumen flashlights. They put out a nice white light that shines far out into the night and they stay bright for several hours. These lights have been through everything you can imagine and they are still going strong.
*Need some gear tested? My hiking adventures are brutal and will push most any type of gear to it's limits.
Contact me if you're a manufacturer and would like something tested.
If it's something I'm interested in I'll take your product on a few photographic adventures.
Better yet. Let me help you design better gear. If it were possible I would have my own line of hiking gear designed for the brutality of my adventures. Not sure I could improve on the Merrell Geomorph's.
F-Stop Tilopa and Merrell Shoes Copyright Bryan Lowry/lavapix.com
Current hikers and trainers