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CREDIT: Jo Court

Keeping equipment light and easy for mountain hiking

by Jo Court

Keeping equipment light and easy for mountain hiking by Jo Court

In 2018 we discovered a beautiful area in Northern Spain, a mini Swiss Alps, and this summer saw us return for the third time.  On our first trip I took photos with my point and shoot automatic camera. On route back to England I decided to hand in my notice at work and re embark on my creative journey. I had painted watercolours and taken photos from the age of ten and graduated with a BA in Fine Art in 1992. I enrolled immediately on all the adult education digital photography classes (having previously only worked with film) and in November of that year bought my first DSLR; A Nikon 750 with a sigma arts f2.8 24-70mm lens and a Nikon 70-300mm. I added to this collection of lenses over the following couple of years and was in love with my kit.

Click on image titles for full screen view..

Before the storm, Spainish Pyrenees © Jo Court

Cloud inversion spills over at dusk © Jo Court

Dawn above the clouds © Jo Court

Our second trip was in 2020. I booked us into a remote mountain refuge before leaving the UK. We had attempted the walk the previous time without success due to the snow, the evening drawing in and the lack of experience and walking poles. This time I was determined to witness the magic from the peaks at both ends of a day. We began the ascent sooner in the day and on reaching the particular dodgy snow path saw others crossing and decided it was okay. We reached the refuge and it was one of my most magical moments.

Cloud and mountain peak layers at dusk © Jo Court

Evening arrives in the mountain peaks © Jo Court

Despite buying super down feather sleeping bags the bitter wind froze us all night. I tucked my camera within my sleeping bag to keep it from the cold and at first light jumped up and out of the tent the (refuge was closed due to COVID). Such was my excitement I almost forgot to put on my boots. I climbed up and watched the dawn break above the clouds…with my camera of course. We walked all day, every couple of days and I managed

the camera on a strap diagonally across my body with a spare lens and travel tripod in my bag. My husband helpfully carried my water.

Good morning from San Glorio © Jo Court

Last flight of the day © Jo Court

But….in June of this year, whilst finishing a hike in Wales, my knee went. I could hardly walk and was most concerned in regard to the holiday we had booked for Spain in August. So I purchased a Nikon Z5 with a travel 24-200mm lens. I accepted what was likely to be a drop in quality from the two lenses I usually carried and also a drop in focal length. I like to use a telephoto lens in landscape work and my Nikon 70-300mm was sharp throughout. This lens seemed to lose it after 150mm and wasn’t good in low light with an aperture of f4/6.3. But I wanted to be able to walk in the mountains. With a new knee strap, lots of ibuprofen, walking poles and this much lighter kit we went out hiking every other day. I quickly adjusted to my new camera and found its performance to out-do my expectations. I tried not to shoot past 150mm and carried a tripod as usual.

I try to edit images from the dusk and dawn times asap when the light and colours are fresh in my mind.


All images © Jo Court