Sticks and Stones May Break my Bones: Ouch
Outdoor photographers tend to focus on the photography part, and don't always give due consideration to the outdoor part. Remember, you can get hurt out there if you aren't careful.
It's easy to believe that getting hurt in the outdoors is an uncommon occurrence. Certainly, we've all seen news footage of someone being airlift out of a remote area after they fell down a ravine. Thankfully, few of us will experience something like this first hand. While such things do happen, there are countless less dramatic injuries that, while they don't get you on the nightly news, can still put a serious dent in your weekend plans.
Perhaps the easiest injury for me personally to fall victim to is sun burn. Some people can go out for hours and not have to worry about it, but not me. If not careful, I can get burned enough to make the next few days more than a little uncomfortable. My most vulnerable time of day seems to be early. If I get up before sunrise, I'm not likely to think about sun screen, but by the time the sun is up, my attention is elsewhere. I can easily become so involved in photographing the rapidly changing lighting condition that I can find myself sun burned only too late. These days, I know to apply sunscreen even if the sun isn't up yet. Hopefully, you know if are fare skinned enough to share my problem. But even those less susceptible would be well advised to apply sunscreen, early and often. It's a simple form of insurance that can help you to enjoy your time outdoors.
Blisters can be another common problem if you don't hike very often. Spending money on a pair of well-fitting boots can be a better investment than any lens. Socks intended for hiking can help wick moisture away and keep the chance of abrasion to a minimum.
Mosquito and other insect bites can be a bummer, and while nothing seems to keep them away completely, a repellent with a high percentage of DEET works fairly well for me. The problem remains, I can't cover every square inch, and mosquitoes have an uncanny ability to teach me what spots I missed. Electronic bug repellents and similar devices simply don't work. If weather permits, wear long sleeves. Some parts of the country also present hikers and outdoor photographers with the danger of ticks, some of which can carry Lime Disease. Learn what lives where you hike, and protect yourself.
Depending on the part of the country you like in, you may be at increased risk of encountering poison ivy or poison oak. Learn to recognize them, and stay away.
You probably already know if you are prone to sore knees. Joint problems in general can be a problem as we get older. Hiking uphill can be hard work, but hiking back down can put an undue amount of stress on your knees. Without you fully realizing it, you can develop a pain in one knee that will hurt with every step you take. Be careful hiking downhill. Don't rush. If you know you are susceptible to knee pain, hike with trekking poles to better distribute your weight. Twisted ankles can cause a lot of pain too. If you're going to be hiking on uneven terrain, wear sturdy footwear, and watch your step. Trekking poles can help here too.
Pulled muscle can be a pain, figuratively, and literally. Thankfully, they are also generally preventable by doing a bit of stretching before you head out on the trail. Remember, even if you consider yourself to be in generally good condition, your body may react differently once you sling a heavy camera bag over your shoulder and head out on the trail. Muscle aches can result from all sorts of causes. I often refer to outdoor photography as a contact sport. Crawling around on rocky terrain can leave a body sore, either immediately thereafter, or the next morning. If you really plan to do some crawling in search of macro or other subjects at ground level, invest in a good pair of knee pads. Remember to stay hydrated, too, in order to avoid cramped muscles. Dehydration can happen even when you don't feel thirsty.
Cuts and scrapes can happen almost anywhere. Thorny bushes, sharp rock edges and all sorts of other dangers exist in the real world to catch you off guard. I was once walking along a wooded lake shoreline with a tripod, looking for a good vantage point. A branch got caught on my tripod, whipping free as I took my next step, and hitting me squarely across my face. Ouch. I instinctively closed my eyes, but was left with a nice cut across my cheek. It was more embarrassing than anything else, but it could have been far worse.
And yes, it is possible to fall down a ravine and break a bone or experience another, serious injury. That guy who ended up on the evening news being airlifted out of the wilderness didn't think he would fall and hurt himself either. Although hopefully unlikely, the next unlucky victim could be you. If your plans will take you far off the beaten path, make sure someone knows where you're headed.
Regardless of your plans, remember that the outdoor essentials of first aid kit, flash light, sun screen and so on aren't just for hikers. We photographers have been known to wander down a trail now and then, so we are hikers whether you tend to think of yourself that way or not. It can be a remarkably beautiful world out there, but it's not without its dangers. Take care to minimizes the chances of getting hurt.