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Author Topic: Phantom Ranch Trip  (Read 2450 times)

unfocused

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Phantom Ranch Trip
« on: September 06, 2012, 11:37:57 PM »
So, here is the deal. We've scored some of the most difficult reservations in the world: a night in the Phantom Ranch cabins at the bottom of the Grand Canyon for next September.

We will be traveling very light. Pair of underwear, toothbrush, exercise shorts and shirt to sleep in, snacks and lots and lots of water. Right now I'm planning on my 7D (unless the 7DII comes out before then), with the 15-85mm lens. No grip. Just extra batteries for this trip.

Dilemma number one: hiking day pack or camera backpack? Since comfort and every ounce counts, I'm inclined to take a day pack designed for hiking; most likely something with a built-in water bladder or a bladder insert. Carrying the camera inside a backpack is kind of pointless, so the camera will be out most of the hike.

Dilemma number two: extra lens? I'm not about to lug my 70-300 or 100-400 up the canyon, but I am giving some thought to buying a 70-200 f4. On the one hand, I'd hate to miss a chance at some critter because I don't have anything longer than the 15-85mm. On the other hand, if the 70-200 is in my backpack, what good is it going to do me?

Dilemma number three: camera strap. I've got the Black Rapid Sport, but I can't say I'm overwhelmed by it. Lately, when hiking, I've just been using a regular strap (Kata) and looping it through a handle on my Kata camera backpack (takes the weight off the neck and essentially forces the backpack to carry the camera). Again, stressing lightness, anyone with hiking and packing experience have a favorite strap configuration.

Dilemma number four: dump the 7D and go with a 1DX or similar small, all-in-one body and lens kit. I know that every extra ounce on the 7D is going to feel like a pound coming back up.

I'm inclined to go minimalist here. This is about the experience, not the photos. Yet, I doubt I'll ever be down there again, so don't really want to miss an opportunity.

Opinions?
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Phantom Ranch Trip
« on: September 06, 2012, 11:37:57 PM »

Kahuna

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Re: Phantom Ranch Trip
« Reply #1 on: September 07, 2012, 12:02:55 AM »
Congrats on the reservations.  Been there and did that hike.  Its a bear and HOT.  I'd get a nice hiking soft pack as I feel they are more comfortable.  The camera and lenses (lbs) would depend on how well you are in shape.  Not trying to be mean but you are correct - ounces feel like pounds -  the hike from the bottom is pretty intense.

unfocused

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Re: Phantom Ranch Trip
« Reply #2 on: September 07, 2012, 01:03:36 PM »
Thanks.

We did a portion of the trail two years ago, so I have a decent idea of what to expect. Planning on lots of conditioning over the next year. It's not really a question of whether or not we can do it. I know we can. It's more a question of how miserable do we want to be while doing it.
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gtog

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Re: Phantom Ranch Trip
« Reply #3 on: September 07, 2012, 04:02:17 PM »
Also congrats on the reservations. The first time I went down there I was camping with tent, sleeping bag, cooking gear, etc. Hiking out was tough. The next time I stayed at Phantom Ranch -- much more enjoyable trip with the lighter pack. September should be comfortably cooler than mid-summer as well (depending on when in September there may be some fall colors in the aspen on the North Rim).

Similar to your strap dilemma (3), when back-packing, I have attached the camera strap to a handle on top of the pack with a carabiner -- keeps the camera handy in front and the weight on the pack, plus it is easy to unclip when removing the pack to pursue a shot.

Weight wise, both the T4i or 60D would be lighter without really losing any resolution. (Or the EOS-M?)

For lenses 15-85 is good. If you need wider, stitch. Not to imply that you will be looking at your feet a lot on the way up ;) but consider macro as well. I haven't tried extension tubes or close up lenses on the 15-85 since I have a macro lens, but even the EF-S 60 is compact and could go in a lens case attached to your pack strap. If I went with the 70-200 instead of the 70-300, I'd strongly consider a 1.4x TC; and given how dusty the trail can get, I'd probably opt for the 70-300.

As you've noted conditioning is vital. A little time to adjust to the altitude doesn't hurt either. From my own experience, stopping to take photos is beneficial -- even if (revealing age here) you have run out of film  ;D

Enjoy your trip!
G

myocyte

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Re: Phantom Ranch Trip
« Reply #4 on: September 07, 2012, 04:54:36 PM »
I didn't quite read through all of the posts, but I've gone through a couple of scenarios for the ideal hiking photography experience, so I thought I'd share. A quick run down:

a) Clik Elite Escape backpack alone - Good for backpacking because it is a comfortable backpack for outdoors and lets you carry some camera equipment and keeps the camera relatively accessible

b) Clik Elite backpack + some type of chest carrier - Can carry a bunch of equipment but your chest can start sweating from carrying a camera in front. The great part is the camera is always accessible and the chest carrier protects it from the elements and sweat that you would get on your camera from carrying it openly. The cool thing is the Clik Elite chest carrier attaches directly to the straps of the backpack, so you don't have to have straps all over you back (which I've had before using the ThinkTank chest carrier)

c) Clik Elite backpack + Peak Design Camera Clip - I haven't tried this one yet but I want to pick up this Camera Clip. It would keep the camera easily accessible and you could hang it from the front strap of your backpack. I'm just worried about all the dust and sweat you could possibly get on your camera

I've used Kata rucksacks (R-101) and slings, but I liked the Clik Elite for outdoors stuff just because it's functional enough to carry everything else you need (food, water bladder, clothes, etc). Although it probably sounds like an advertisement for Clik Elite, I don't work for them. I just endorse their equipment for any type of hiking or outdoors stuff.
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t.linn

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Re: Phantom Ranch Trip
« Reply #5 on: September 07, 2012, 05:25:40 PM »
Congratulations on your reservation.  Many years ago my father and I hiked down the Bright Angel Trail to the silver suspension bridge just short of Phantom Ranch, then back up again with a side trip out to Plateau Point from Indian Springs—all in a day.  The hike down was very enjoyable as it was all downhill during the coolest, most beautiful part of the day.  (I wish we would have taken the side trip to Plateau Point on the way down since the light was better at that point and we were not yet tired at all.)

We left before the sun had even started to come up so that we were able to enjoy the entire experience from first light through sunrise as we made our way down.   It was beautiful.  I would recommend this approach at least on the way down.  On your way up, the inner canyon will be in shadow so you have to weigh the benefit of walking out in the coolness of morning vs. waiting for different light in the inner canyon.  Once the sun was higher in the sky, there wasn't much I wanted to photograph along the way.  The light was harsh and hazy.  We saw no memorable wildlife other than the burros, which can add a nice element to images of the trail itself.  Most of my shots were wide angle. 

As I think back on the experience, my first thought is that I am amazed we were actually able to do it.  I had a hard time walking the next day.  It was a challenge and an achievement far more than a great photo op.  Because of this, and because of the difficulty climbing back out of the canyon, I would advocate going with a single lens, maybe a 24-105, or a G1X (if that camera appeals to you) with a couple batteries, CF cards, and filters (if you use them).  No second lens.  No extended grip.  Better to equip yourself to get some great shots vs. crippling yourself with fatigue by gearing up for every possible scenario.

As far as packs go, I would recommend looking at fstopgear [dot] com.  They make great packs in customizable configurations.  The packs are excellent quality and account for features you want in any pack (like hydration support) plus gear support.  The only issue is that their packs are so popular some of them are rarely in stock.  Order what you want well ahead of time.  I'm on a 5 month waiting list for a Loka.  I used a Guru this summer on a trip and loved its light weight and the fact that I could access the gear without taking off the pack or laying it on the ground.  (You take off both shoulder straps, loosen the waist belt, and swivel the bag around to the front.)  There are less expensive alternatives, though I've never read feedback from anyone who tried them and didn't prefer the f-stop packs.

Enjoy your trip!
« Last Edit: September 07, 2012, 05:28:59 PM by t.linn »

preppyak

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Re: Phantom Ranch Trip
« Reply #6 on: September 07, 2012, 05:29:41 PM »
On the other hand, if the 70-200 is in my backpack, what good is it going to do me?
There are two approaches for this

1. Leave the 70-200 on the camera, and only change it when you need the wider perspective of the 15-85. Your landscape shots aren't gonna disappear in a second like a critter at 200mm will. It was my strategy for Glacier (always leave the 100-400 on, have the 11-16 on my belt) and allowed me to get bear shots, etc.

2. Not sure of the hike and how much scrambling, but if you can clip it onto you at the belt or your pack allows you to have both lenses accessible at any point. I had a Capture clip on my pack, so that my camera was always accessible, and then I had a carrier on my backpack belt for the other lens. But, that was for more traditional hiking and it wouldn't work if you are scrambling up canyons

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Re: Phantom Ranch Trip
« Reply #6 on: September 07, 2012, 05:29:41 PM »

preppyak

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Re: Phantom Ranch Trip
« Reply #7 on: September 07, 2012, 05:31:04 PM »
I would advocate going with a single lens, maybe a 24-105
Yeah, if its a rough hike, I'd do the same. Its not worth the extra weight if you can crop in some and get the same effect.

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Re: Phantom Ranch Trip
« Reply #8 on: September 07, 2012, 05:36:59 PM »
And again congrats on your reservations, these truly are once in a lifetime trips.

The only thing I wanted to comment on was the camera body and lenses.  Your 7D would work well for this compared to the extra weight of the 1DX and its extra batteries.  I would however consider a EF-S 10-22 lens to catch the massive size of the canyon looking towards the sky. 

As you will see when you get to the bottom of the canyon, the night time sky is like you've NEVER seen it before. The stars are so incredibly bright! 

The 10-22 is extremely light weight and could complement your 15-85 or if you have one a 70-200 f4 which is also a very portable lens.  Take filters too!

I've hiked and camped in the canyon many years ago, but we did it in JULY when the temps were 100+ every day.  As you've noted, most of portable gear was water.

HAVE FUN!  Please post your images after you return.
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t.linn

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Re: Phantom Ranch Trip
« Reply #9 on: September 07, 2012, 06:06:26 PM »
... if you can clip it onto you at the belt or your pack allows you to have both lenses accessible at any point.

That's a good point, preppyak.  Certain packs, f-stop gear, Lowe Pro, ThinkTank, and others, allow for lens cases to be attached to the belt of a pack.  If you wanted really fast, convenient access to a second lens, hanging it off the belt or in a case that is attached to the belt would work beautifully.  I know that f-stop belts accommodate its own brand plus LP and TT.  Of course, this assumes you've made the decision to carry the weight of an extra lens.

t.linn

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Re: Phantom Ranch Trip
« Reply #10 on: September 07, 2012, 06:11:18 PM »
I wanted to comment on ... the camera body and lenses.  Your 7D would work well for this compared to the extra weight of the 1DX and its extra batteries.

I know the OP wrote 1DX but my assumption is that he meant G1X given that he follows the reference by saying, "or similar small, all-in-one body..."  I would certainly concur that substituting a massive 1DX for the 7D is a bad trade off in this particular situation.

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Re: Phantom Ranch Trip
« Reply #11 on: September 07, 2012, 08:07:51 PM »
Great trip.  I've done this lot's of times including many down and outs in a single day.  MOST important thing is tons of snacks and water.  If you go down South Kaibab to Phantom Ranch it is spectacular scenery.  Come back up to the South Rim by way of Bright Angel Trail and there will be water available en route.

Now, I own LOT's of bags and goodies.  For the Canyon, I use a small daypack (I don't need the size of the f-stop Loka or the LowePro) for layers, snacks, etc.  I hang my ThinkTank Holster from the shoulder straps so it is on my chest.  My 50d with 15-85 is always right in front but not hanging around my neck.  I'll carry a 70-200 in a case on the outside of the pack to one side so I can get to it quickly.  Extra media, batteries, etc are all in the holster.
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Re: Phantom Ranch Trip
« Reply #11 on: September 07, 2012, 08:07:51 PM »