When you see my License plate, you might ask yourself what’s the meaning behind “HIKENHI?” It took me about 25 years before I knew what it meant after creating a lifestyle of integrating these back country travels into my yearly routine. When I was young, my parents would take me into the mountains every year to go camping as a family. We didn’t go to pay facilities that have running water and a paved road where you can drive your car right up to your camp site. I’m talking about camping sites that take 2½-3 hours of travel time and are located as far into the mountains as you can get without running out of road. Everywhere my family and I went camping (and still do) is pretty much like this. When I got a little older, my father, brothers, and I would ride our trail bikes on Jeep trails into and around wilderness areas to get a little deeper into the forests. This was my family’s yearly ritualistic lifestyle in which I participated until I was an adult.
At that point, I opened a big new chapter in my life—hiking and landscape photography. I started getting involved in wilderness photography when I was inspired by the scenery while on a day hike in the Dinkey Lakes Wilderness. I had nothing more than a cheap pair of hiking shoes on my feet, an old pair of denim jeans around my waist, a white cotton t-shirt on my back, and of course, a disposable camera to capture the memories. It is now 15 years later, after 67 hiking and mountaineering trips into the High Sierras, I'm an experienced and seasoned veteran. I have practically the best hiking gear and very high quality photography equipment. My veteran experience and having the best gear helps me to capture the full details of these wonderful places in a way that gives me a great sense of accomplishment and self-worth that's hard to explain.
I couldn’t begin to explain the deep sense of peace within that these places bring to me. Most people who’ve never experienced the beauty and quiet stillness of these wilderness places simply wouldn’t understand. They probably think my HIKENHI license plate refers to altitude! The mountains where I hike aren’t the only things that are high. These trips generate a sense of accomplishment for me that I don’t usually get from any other activity. The planning, execution, and reflection on these trips bring me a wonderful emotional high – the source of inspiration for my HIKENHI license plate, website, and email address.
We are very lucky here in Fresno, with three National Parks – all within 75 miles of Fresno requiring only an hour or two at most to reach them by car. Of course you can't see these places if you don't invest the money in hiking gear and set aside the time to carefully plan your trip, making it as safe and pleasurable as possible. I don’t get paid to do what I love, but I plan and execute my hiking trips like a professional.
If you’re wondering what kind of Camera I used to shoot all of these pictures it takes a quite a bit of explaining. I started off with a Kodak disposable 35mm in 1997 to photograph the Dinkey Lakes, then started learning about basic photography and using my Dad’s Canon AE-1 35mm SLR mostly with a 28mm wide-angle lens from 1999-2000. From 2001-2004, I used a Pentax ZX-7 35mm SLR with 19-35mm, 28-80mm, and 70-300mm lenses. In 2006 I wanted to go digital but couldn’t afford a DSLR yet so my then fiancé and I purchased a 6MP Sony Cybershot. It did much better in the image quality than my film SLRs, but lacked the advanced features of a typical SLR, including the wide angle and close-up capabilities with lens interchangeability.
In 2007 I made that huge leap to Digital SLR with, my Pentax K10-D—a 10.2MP weather resistant DSLR. I used that camera from March of 2007 until June of 2010 using the same 70-300mm lens that I used with my Pentax film SLR, but mostly a very nice Pentax ultra-wide angle DA 12-24mm lens. In June 2010, I upgraded to the Pentax K-7, which is another weather resistant DSLR, but in a much sharper 14.6MP format, that can also shoot very near 1080i HD video, and most importantly to me, shoot in sub-zero conditions. In 2010, I also made two additional upgrades. First, I upgraded my cheesy non-weather resistant Pentax 18-55mm DA starter lens that came with my K10-D to the top-of-the-line Pentax weather resistant DA* 16-50mm f2.8 lens, which I use for about 50% of what I shoot now. This lens often comes in very handy in the wilderness, where the weather can be harsh at times. Secondly, I upgraded my Promaster 70-300mm f4-5.6 film telephoto lens to the Tamron 70-200mm f2.8 digital telephoto lens for my close-up low light scenarios that I often come across. In 2012, I acquired one more lens for my shooting needs. I purchased an extremely nice and lightly used copy of a Pentax DA* 50-135mm f2.8 lens to perfectly match my standard-range Pentax DA* 16-50mm f2.8 lens. It has to be the nicest lens that I own, matching all of the professional characteristics and features of my DA* 16-50 f2.8 lens. It’s awesome optical quality and weather resistant attributes, really has me grabbing it more often for my telephoto needs when I shoot in the wilderness.
It is worth noting that before I upgraded to the Pentax K-7 and purchased these 3 additional lenses, I considered switching to Nikon, but I decided not to for two financial reasons and one practical reason. One, I already owned the ultra-wide angle Pentax DA 12-24mm zoom lens and the Pentax AF540FGZ flagship flash—two items that would have cost me an additional $1,500 to replace in the Nikon Format. Secondly, the high-end Nikor lenses are fairly more expensive than Pentax DA* lenses and surprisingly the 17-55mm f2.8 Nikor Lens has no VR, unlike all of my lenses that can capitalize on my DSLR’s IS in the body. However, the main reason that I chose to stay with Pentax was that I liked the excellent weatherproofing and the industry leading compactness of their semi-professional DSLR's. There's no point of packing a very heavy and bulky $5,000 full frame Professional DSLR on long hikes and peak-bagging—it’s impractical.
In 2011, I purchased the Pentax K-5 because of the twofold improvement to high ISO performance over the K-7 and its very high and well-know image quality. Not to mention it’s 16.3MP and after some hands-on use I realize that it’s just flat-out a light-year leap over the K-7 and/or K-10D in terms of Image Quality. DXO Labs gave the K-5 an Overall Score of 82, putting only 3 cameras in the entire World ahead of that laboratory score for Image Quality at the time I acquired it. Dpreview.com also thinks very highly of the K-5, giving it an 83% and a “Gold Award,” in its comprehensive review of the camera. With all this said, I was truly reassured that I’d made the right choice by staying with Pentax for my needs.
There are some other things that I have adapted to using in addition to high quality digital photography equipment. I always try to use a circular polarizer in all of my outdoor photography when conditions permit. This is part of the reason that I'm able to produce really rich color schemes in my landscape photography aside from the fact all of my Pentax DSLRs seem to produce very rich colors, even w/o the overwhelming effects of a really good circular polarizer in well-trained hands. I used to shot with a tripod religiously in fewer and distinct locations on my hiking trips. However, now that my shooting and hiking strategies have changed, I try to do more of a variety of shots along the way, reserving only my tripod for pictures that involve me on a solo trip and/or a group picture, or dim lighting conditions where my hands aren’t steady-enough for the shot. For many years I lugged around a bulky and heavy 7+lb, “3-section,” Aluminum Bogen Tripod with a 3-way head. That was a big mistake, but I couldn’t afford much more than about $200 for a nice tripod back then. From 2008 on I’ve used a top-of-the-line $600+/1.9lb, ultra-compact “4-section,” Gitzo Mountaineer-Series, Carbon Fiber Tripod with a much smaller and lighter Gitzo Magnesium Ball Head—a 2 ½ lb blessing to my body on these sometimes long adventures that go over rough terrain.
One of my two most recent additions of additional equipment, that were long over-due, was my external Rode Stereo Video Microphone. I use this to improve the audio quality when I shoot HD video clips with my K-5 and/or K-7 DSLRs. This piece of equipment is very handy, especially in windy conditions which I often come across where the wind just garbles the audio with the built-in microphone in my camera bodies. My most recent piece of equipment is my Pentax GPS Unit O-GPS1 unit. This is an extremely useful piece of equipment that saves countless hours of having to map my pictures manually when I submit them for Google Earth. This is the one piece of equipment that I wish I had from day-one above all others when it comes to my photography.
Looking back, I only wish that I had the nice camera equipment when I was younger and now I find myself older and wanting to reshoot some of the nicer trips that I did in my 35mm era. There’s only one problem, I don’t have the time and my body is getting old—especially my knees which I'm suffering from Osteoarthritis. Another big thing that has really slowed me down is that I’ve become a Father as of June 2011. A recent strategy that I've been adapting and has seemed to work quite well is lighter loads that allow me to cover greater distances in shorter periods of time without putting a strain on my knees and/or my relationship with my wife and our daughter. Most recently over the last year, I’ve really changed up my diet and been exercising very consistently and intensely. I’ve shed about 8lbs and really added some serious gains in my physical strength and stamina. I’m now doing trips that would otherwise take 3-4 days in 2 or less.
Times have changed now, especially since 2010. I’m married, I’m a father, and I’m the soul breadwinner for my family. My life leading up to becoming a father has been much different than that of most men. I couldn’t have foreseen having to wait 33 years to become a father. However, I wouldn’t change the past even if I could. I’ve seen stuff at a level that less than 1 in a 1,000 people get a chance to see and live at the level that I have been able to attain. Intense challenges such as the ones that I’ve faced over the years on many of these trips have prepared me to be a father in many ways that I also couldn’t have imagined. Endurance, Persistence, and to be fully involved in something to be really good at it, are just a few to say the least. I’m so grateful for the opportunities that God has blessed me with over the years. I pray the same for others who don’t have the same appreciation for what life offers us if we’re willing to open up our eyes and take what God gives us and not what we want.
I don’t forget my old-school beginnings, and still have a dream of someday taking what I do in my leisurely time to that of something bigger like a documentary that’s well known and well paid for all of my hard work over the years. I want to do this for two reasons. First, I want to reveal to many that the High Sierras is one of the most beautiful and unique mountain ranges in the world. Many natives of California, especially those that live in Fresno, don't even have a clue what's in their local backyard. As a plus to those who care to listen, I would like to share how I did hiking in the past and how I would do it differently if I could change this or that. I really want to do this so that eager individuals like I once was and still am, can get the most out of their potential hiking experiences without wasting their time, money, or worse—damaging their bodies like I did when I was in my 20’s and all too macho with my typical 50+lbs of gear/trip. I hope you enjoy my website and feel free to ask me if you have questions about any of these trips. David Husted; email@example.com