My girlfriend, four of our friends, and I recently planned a backpacking trip to the scenic Lake Aloha in California’s Desolation Wilderness, not far from Lake Tahoe. I knew I wanted to capture the three-day, two-night trip on film, but had a difficult time deciding between my 13oz (0.36kg) point-and-shoot camera, or my 3lb (1.36kg) Hasselblad XPan. I asked my Twitter friends which one I should bring, and the poll resulted in a 50-50 tie. So, it was up to me.
The day before the trip, we packed our backpacking packs. We’re not exactly ultralight backpackers, so all in all our packs weighed around 40lbs (18kg) each — heavy enough to have some shoulder pain! Despite the heavy pack, I decided to say “screw it” and bring the heavy XPan anyway.
My thinking was this: I’m sure plenty of people have brought a lightweight film camera to capture this lake you can only get to by hiking 6.5 miles (10km) to, but how many have lugged along a massive XPan and captured this place? Probably not many. I’m so glad I ended up deciding to bring it, because what I got back from my lab was one of my favorite rolls I’ve ever taken with my XPan, which I’ve owned since 2014.
Frame 1: I got to know our world-traveling friend Mario a bit better on this trip, and he’s one of the most laid-back guys I’ve ever met, so I wanted to capture an image that showed off who he is.
Frame 2: When you’ve just hiked a number of miles up steep inclines with heavy packs on, you don’t really care that you’re eating freeze-dried backpacking food. Everyone was stoked to be at our destination, so I put my food down for a minute and tried to document that moment.
Frame 3: Maybe it was the elevation, or maybe it was something else that we brought with us, but this trip was full of laughter, goofiness, and absurd “would you rather” questions. Focusing the XPan can take a second or two due to its small rangefinder patch, so I had to be quick to capture these laughing scenes with a lot of movement.
Frame 4: After being confined to our tents and hammocks during a passing afternoon thunderstorm, the weather cleared up in the evening, and we got to enjoy the views again, including the tail end of this rainbow that formed.
Frame 5: Our friends (in frame 3) said their brother and company were also hiking up to Lake Aloha the day after us, but since we had no cell service to communicate, they kept shouting his name all trip to see if he could hear us. Sure enough, they did, and we met up just before sunset. They were sweaty from hiking, so they decided to take a plunge into a swimming hole we had found. This was that moment.
It was hard to narrow these down to 5, but I feel like these 5 frames best encapsulated our trip. Lots of relaxation, laughter, and enjoying California’s incredible nature. I brought my digital camera along too, and probably took 500 frames or so. Sure, there are some good frames in there, but capturing this trip on film with the Xpan made it special. I don’t even want to look at the other photographs now. They’re still sitting on my SD card in my camera bag, and I think they’ll end up staying there for a little while.
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This series is produced in conjunction with Hamish Gill's excellent 35mmc.com. Head on over to read the other half of these stories there.
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