Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Gear Up For The National Parks
Accessories to help you make the most out of any national parks shooting excursion
AF 35mm SLRs and all digital cameras depend on battery power. You can’t recharge batteries easily in the field, so it’s wise to take plenty of spare batteries for your camera and other electronic gear. When the battery-low indicator comes on, switch to a new battery so you won’t miss a shot because the battery died. You can always reinsert a low battery if necessary.
You can recharge batteries in your hotel room at the end of each shooting, of course, or use a car cigarette-lighter adapter if you’re camping. If you’re camping for several days far from your car, you can get a portable solar panel to power your battery charger.
For DSLRs, the camera manufacturers’ proprietary rechargeable batteries provide good performance; those on a budget can find lower-priced batteries from accessory manufacturers. For gear that uses AA batteries, rechargeable units are cost-effective and easier on the environment, while lithium AAs provide better performance than regular AAs, among the nonrechargeables. Ansmann’s Digispeed 4 Ultra kit includes four high-capacity NiMH AA batteries and a charger than can recharge them in as little as 10 minutes should the need arise. Other good AA battery makers include Duracell, Eveready and Maha.
A good tripod can hold a camera steadier than any photographer can, producing sharper images, especially when you’re using the slower shutter speeds needed to permit shooting at lower ISOs for best image quality while stopping the lens down for great depth of field. The tripod also locks in your composition so you can study it and won’t accidentally change it when you press the shutter button.
Landscape photographers will want a lightweight, but sturdy tripod. Wooden tripods are sturdy and minimize vibrations, but are relatively heavy, so are best when you don’t have to carry them far. Tripods made of carbon fiber and other exotic materials are strong and light, but costly; they’re the backcountry photographer’s staple. Aluminum tripods are a good choice for those on a tight budget, as they’re sturdy and relatively inexpensive. If you work in very cold or very hot conditions, you’ll find a wooden or carbon-fiber tripod more comfortable to handle than an aluminum one. Three-section legs are steadier than four-section legs, but the latter close down to a smaller length, handy when traveling.
If you don’t want to lug a tripod around (or really rugged terrain precludes it), you can take a monopod, a “one-legged tripod” that provides more steadiness than handholding, but is easy to carry—you can even use it as a walking stick. Good outdoor monopods include the Benro MC-91M8, Cullmann 580C, Davis & Sanford BHQ11 Trail Trekker, Flashpoint UC 204 Monopod, Gitzo G1564, Induro CM34, Manfrotto 676B Digi, Monostat RS16SK ART, Novoflex BasicBall with telescope rod, Slik Pro Pod and Sunpak PRO 724M. There are also specialty tripods like the Joby Gorillapod, a very flexible minipod, and the Sunpak Flexpod.
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