One-Lens Hiking Adventure with Sigma

Man climbing up mountain with snow

Story Contributed by Sigma

Story written by Liam Doran

One Lens Hiking Adventure

I received a call a few weeks back from my ski partner Gary who was looking to do an overnight backpacking trip before winter inevitably sets in.  But this was not going to be a standard backpacking trip. Gary was looking to summit his last two 13,000-foot peaks in Eagle County, Colorado. A trip like this means heavy packs and lots of off-trail travel, which is something I like to call… fun!

Packing for a trip like this can be challenging. You want to keep your pack light but also have everything you need. For me, the biggest factor would be my photo kit. Typically on photo-driven backcountry missions, I bring all the photo gear I need to make the best images possible. But this trip was going to be all about moving fast through the wilderness. So I made the decision to bring just a single lens, the SIGMA 24-70mm F2.8 DG DN Art. Why? Because this fast aperturelightweight lens delivers everything I could possibly need. It’s wide enough at 24mm to frame the whole story, yet the 70mm zoom gives me the telephoto reach I need.

Man in blue and black hoodie, khaki pants, and a blue backpack hiking up a mountain
Adventure trips to the alpine should be done light and fast.
SIGMA 24-70mm F2.8 DG DN | Art – 24mm, 1/4000s, F7.1, ISO 800

To keep things even lighter, I opted to leave my tripod at home, so I would be handholding all my low-light shots. Also, the DG DN (full-frame, made for mirrorless) lenses pair perfectly with my Sony A7 III camera, so there was no need to bring a converter which kept my pack that much lighter.  Of course, if I were shooting with a DSLR, the SIGMA 24-70mm F2.8 DG HSM Art would be an equally good choice, but for this trip, I went with the smaller mirrorless camera to save space.

Yellow leaves on birch trees in forest with man hiking away from camera
Keeping your pack light makes for more productive shooting.
SIGMA 24-70mm F2.8 DG DN | Art – 41mm, 1/320s, F8, ISO 640
Yellow leaves in foreground in close focus with man hiking in blue shirt seen through the gaps within the leaves
At 24mm, the lens is well-suited to wide-angle shots like this bug’s eye view of the hike.
SIGMA 24-70mm F2.8 DG DN | Art – 24mm, 1/200s, F4.5, ISO 400

We got to the trailhead sometime around noon. Packs loaded, we hit the trail with the goal of finding camp seven or eight miles upriver. Immediately, the beauty of the trail hit us squarely in the senses. The entire forest was glowing in different hues of yellow and orange, while lime greens and bright reds rounded out the color palette. The canopy was peaking, the ground cover was peaking, everything was peaking… and we had not even summited yet!

Birch trees with yellow foliage and leaves on ground
Autumn light was stunning in the aspen forest.
SIGMA 24-70mm F2.8 DG DN | Art – 39mm, 1/100s, F5.6, ISO 1250
Detailed focus of red-orange leafy plant, next to large log and other small plants
The nice close focusing distance of the 24-70mm F2.8 DG DN Art made for beautiful detail shots along the trail.
SIGMA 24-70mm F2.8 DG DN | Art – 25mm, 1/400s, F4.5, ISO 640

Another reason I chose to bring the SIGMA 24-70mm F2.8 DG DN Art is for its image quality. The color rendition is exactly what I look for in a professional lens… true to life. Also, the contrast of the lens gives images an almost three dimensional quality and it almost seems like you could walk into the picture. Additionally, the weather sealing of the lens gives me confidence in the field. I am not worried about a little dust or a bit of moisture wrecking my shoot.

River with log and stones and tall grasses in foreground
A gorgeous scene along the river.
SIGMA 24-70mm F2.8 DG DN | Art – 28mm, 1/160s, F7.1, ISO 1000

How did I carry everything? Simple. On my back was my trusty Osprey Atmos AG 65 Litre pack into which all my food and camping gear would go. For my camera, I used the Think Tank pack that attaches right to my chest, which made it easy to get shots as we travelled down the trail.

Hiker with camera bag and backpack posing in front of mountains
Me on top of Mt. Jackson showing how I carry my camera in the front pack. Photo: Gary Fondl

Just as our backs and feet began to protest, we found a spot to camp. I peeled off my boots, unfurled my sleep kit and made some grub. Camp chores done, we nipped a bit of whisky and explored the creek nearby. Stars popped out one by one until dark clouds slowly enveloped them. As I dozed off to sleep, it sounded like the stars themselves were dropping from the sky as tiny raindrops pitter-pattered down my tent fly.

Hiker sitting down with another hiker standing on the right, with a packet of a pasta dinner MRE
 Yum yum, dinner is served.
SIGMA 24-70mm F2.8 DG DN | Art – 25mm, 1/160s, F4.5, ISO 1000
Man wearing green puffer jacket and khaki pants standing on rock in the middle of a lake, giving a great reflection including the pine trees and mountain in distance
Evening in camp.
SIGMA 24-70mm F2.8 DG DN | Art – 24mm, 1/100s, F8, ISO 1000

The plan was to head northwest up a drainage, catch a ridgeline and then ascend Mt. Jackson (13,675 ft.) and unnamed peak (13,433 ft.) just to the south of Jackson. As we scrambled around way up through the steeps, we began to realize we were off route. Not to worry. All we needed to do was catch the ridgeline and then we could make our way north to Mt. Jackson. We ascended Mt. Jackson in a brisk wind and opted not to linger on the summit. We descended to a col (the one we should have come up) and then looked up at point 13,433. This is Gary’s last 13-er in Eagle County, so up he goes. I, on the other hand, basked in the sun and lunched on salami, cheese and crisp, sweet-tart apples.

Man wearing light blue and black sweatshirt and hat climbing up mountain covered in snow with another mountain in the distance
Hiking up 13,675 ft. Mt Jackson. No photos were set up on this trip, it was all shot from the hip.
SIGMA 24-70mm F2.8 DG DN | Art – 64mm, 1/2500s, F7.1, ISO 800

Since we would be climbing down a different route than we ascended, there would be plenty of route-finding for us, meaning one thing… it would be a long afternoon. The terrain was steep and strewn with cliffs. We went slow and safe. At one point Gary stopped and pointed. A massive bull elks strutted across a small opening just in front of us. Before I had time to get my camera out, he’d vanished into the forest like an apparition.

White aspen tree with missing bark - due to moose chewing on the trees - with a small pine tree next to it
Moose will eat soft aspen bark in winter. At 70mm, the lens was able to nicely compress this tree with the others in the background making for a quick visual story.
SIGMA 24-70mm F2.8 DG DN | Art – 70mm, 1/160s, F8, ISO 640

After a tough descent, we were back in camp. We packed up all our gear and began the second part of the day, the long hike back to our truck. My legs were weary, but the scenery propelled the spirit as the sounds and smells of a Colorado fall day permeated to my core. The sun set and we fished out headlamps to make our way through the dark. Eventually, we found the truck, marking an end to a memorable twelve-hour day of moving through mountains.

Man wearing blue shirt and khaki pants with headlight seen walking along hiking path in a dense forest
Just a few miles of hiking in the dark. Shooting handheld, the fast F2.8 aperture was critical for this shot. SIGMA 24-70mm F2.8 DG DN | Art – 24mm, 1/4s, F2.8, ISO 6400

The SIGMA 24-70mm F2.8 DG DN Art lens was a fantastic choice for this adventure. Light and fast was the name of the game for both hiking and photography, and that’s exactly what I got with this lens. Then next time you head out for an adventure, big or small, I would encourage you to bring this lens with you. You’ll appreciate the simplicity of a single lens and love the image quality it delivers. See you on the trail!

Man holding bright yellow leaf
One lens to rule them all!
SIGMA 24-70mm F2.8 DG DN | Art – 42mm, 1/60s, F18, ISO 4000

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