Guest post: 111.5 miles through Glacier National Park with a 200-400mm Nikon lens and a Leica M9

I’m Chris Peterson, editor and publisher of Glacier Park Magazine, an ad-free quarterly magazine of Glacier National Park, a million-acre wildlife preserve in Northwest Montana. The Park celebrated its 100th birthday in 2010 and in commemoration of that birthday I did a 100-mile hike in the Park, from the southern end to the north end (111.5 miles to be exact).

 

On the journey I lugged two cameras and several lenses. For wildlife and birds I carried a Nikon D300 and 200-400 AFS lens at all times on a monopod (it was like a 10-pound cherry on top of a bulging 45-pound pack).

I also carried my coveted Leica M9 with a 50 mm summicron and 21 mm elmarit aspherical. The 21 is a fantastically sharp lens and perfect for the Park’s tight glacier-carved valleys. The 50 mm is a wonderful all-around lens, but alas, I set it down on the very first day and forgot to pick it up. It sat there for 14 days before I swung around later and found it sitting along the trail right where I left it. Despite being rained on several times, the lens was no worse for the wear (try that with an autofocus slr lens).

My journey took me up and over numerous mountain passes, through gigantic thunderstorms and torrential rains and there were hordes of mosquitoes and flies.

I ran into moose, mountain goats, several black bears, a grizzly bear and 41 bighorn sheep.

The Nikon did the heavy lifting for the wildlife photos, while the Leica was perfect for landscape shots. I use the M9 for several reasons. For one, it is lightweight (compared to a pro slr) and yet rugged. Its brass top and bottom plates hold up well to miles of abuse. The files are stunningly sharp and 30-inch prints from project have virtually no grain. The camera also renders the subtle colors of Glacier’s skies perfectly. I shot both jpeg and raw files together. I use the jpg files as a reference shot and the raw files to make final adjustments, if necessary.

 

 

The rangefinder design also makes it easy to hand-hold at shutter speeds down to a quarter of a second. I carried just a small lightweight “Gorilla Pod” to take some night shots and to take self-timed photos of myself. The M9 is also compact — the 21 mm fits in the palm of your hand as does the 50 mm. By contrast, Nikon’s 14-24 mm alone is a beast.

The only downside is the Leica batteries don’t last long. I took three with me and fortunately, they don’t weigh much.

You can view the journey (and several others) at www.glacierparkmagazine.com. Photo diary of the 100 days project can be seen here.

Thanks to Chris for sharing his journey with us. If you want to be a guest blogger on LeicaRumors, please contact me with your post suggestion.

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