Carl Skoog in the Waddington Range, British Columbia

Notes on Photography

Photography adds to my enjoyment of the outdoors, but it is hardly ever the main goal of a trip. Usually, I’ll pick a destination for its own sake and then work photography around it, rather than letting photography set the agenda. This attitude makes it unlikely that I’ll ever be a professional, and it has influenced my choice of tools.

I bought my first camera in 1978, a Rollei 35T, to take pictures on climbing trips. The Rollei is a compact rangefinder with good optics. Several images on this website were taken with this camera, and a few have been published in magazines. When I started to feel limited by the Rollei’s fixed lens and finicky meter, I moved on to other cameras—SLR’s with zoom lenses, sophisticated metering systems, autowinders, and ultrasonic focusing. These tools helped me improve my eye for composition and exposure, and produced many of the images here.

Eventually, I grew dissatisfied with the quality of zoom lenses and weary of the weight and bulk of SLR systems in the backcountry. Around this time, Contax released their G-series rangefinder. The G2 features high quality interchangeable lenses on a body about half the size of a typical SLR and perhaps twice the size of my old Rollei. It’s a compromise system—great for scenics, not so good for following action—but one that suited my tastes for several years.

I resisted moving to digital photography for years, but finally gave in for family trips. I initially chose a Canon digital SLR, which is compact, good for shooting action, and compatible with lenses from my older film cameras. Contrary to my initial expectations, I haven’t shot a single roll of film since buying the digital camera. I eventually bought a smaller digital and have found it so convenient that I stopped using the SLR entirely. For several years I used cameras for copy photography to support my historical work, but that ended when I bought a good multi-purpose scanner.

—Lowell Skoog