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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Essential Accessories

Augment your DSLR and high-quality lenses with some key equipment that will help you take your photos to the next level

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An intervalometer automatically fires the camera at preset intervals, handy for time-lapse sequences. You choose the desired interval and the starting and ending time, and the intervalometer does the rest. Some cameras have intervalometers built in; for others, you can use an external intervalometer. The Hähnel Giga T Pro 2 (www.rtsphoto.com) combines an intervalometer with remote-release capability, allowing you to control multiple cameras. Especially with wildlife, being able to fire the camera(s) wirelessly from a hidden spot can give you an edge. The intervalometer automates sequences of flowers blooming or the travel of light and shadow across a scene during the day; the remote lets you fire the camera at the decisive moment from a distance.

Beanbag Support
A tripod can hold your camera steadily, but it's hard to cart around and can't always position your camera just where you want it. A simple beanbag can be used to support the camera in the neck of a tree or just about anywhere, and is much easier to tote, especially if you just take the bag and fill it on location. THE pod supports (thepod.ca) are simple, high-quality beanbags that have a standard ¼-inch mounting bolt built in. They come in five different models to suit just about any type of camera, and are great for ground-level shooting as well as supporting the camera where a tripod can't go. Higher-end pods come with straps to hold the camera or pod in place.

Handheld GPS
The ability of smartphones to act as navigators can lead one into a false sense of security on a remote trail. You might have an app that calls itself a GPS, but your smartphone operates in a fundamentally different way than a true GPS. When you get out of range of cell towers, the smartphone actually has no connection to civilization while a handheld GPS unit communicates with an elaborate satellite system. The GPS maintains line-of-sight connections with a number of satellites at any given moment, and as long as you're not in a cave, you can probably maintain a signal. Also, compared to a smartphone, the GPS is very efficient with its battery. When your smartphone loses a signal, it actually begins to drain the battery rapidly as the phone constantly reaches out to try to reacquire it. And if you're relying on your phone to navigate in the wild, you can find that it's not only lost, but its charge is fading fast. GPS units have become much more user-friendly over the past few years. Taking some cues from the smartphone arena, the Garmin Oregon 650t (www.garmin.com) incorporates a full-color touch screen, and it's preloaded with TOPO U.S. 100K maps. The Oregon 650t also takes a rechargeable NiMH battery pack or AA batteries.

Extension Tubes
A simple extension tube enables your normal lens to focus at macro distances. Attach the tube to the camera and the lens to the tube, and you're ready to go. Most tubes maintain the camera's TTL metering and autofocusing capabilities, although many close-up photographers prefer to use manual-focusing mode and focus by moving the camera closer to or farther from the subject. You can combine tubes to get more extension and greater magnification. Keep in mind that the lens won't focus out to infinity when you're using an extension tube, and the extension reduces the amount of light transmitted to the sensor (TTL metering automatically compensates for this). Note that while teleconverters contain optical elements and slightly degrade image quality, extension tubes contain no elements—they're just tubes—and thus don't degrade image quality. The Kenko DG Auto Extension Tube Set (www.kenkotokinausa.com) provides three tubes—12mm, 20mm and 36mm in length—and retains TTL metering and AF (when light is bright enough).

Window Bracket
In some cases, your car can serve as an effective "blind," allowing you to photograph wildlife that would flee (or attack) if you were out in the open. Working from your vehicle also provides you with comfort in adverse weather, and you don't have to leave gear behind because it's too much to carry in a bag or backpack. A window bracket provides a sturdy mount for your camera during such shooting. Most are made of metal, but the Berlebach Wooden Car Window Camera/Scope Mounts (www.hpmarketingcorp.com) are made of wood like the company's tripods. Wood is easier to deal with in very hot or very cold weather, and absorbs vibrations well. Both the standard and large mounts can support up to 22 pounds. You can mount the camera directly to the mount via the ¼-inch screw, or mount a tripod head and then attach the camera to that.


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