Beyond The Obvious

When packing your camera bag, here are some not-so-obvious items to include

Over the years I’ve met a lot of photographers. I continue to work with, meet, and travel with some who are super serious in addition to those who are more casual shooters. Regardless of their level of involvement, some are equipment junkies while others remain minimalists. Both have their place and whatever works that allows them to get better pictures, so be it. Relatively speaking, I tend to travel with just the basics but there are a number of not so obvious items I feel are noteworthy, hence this week’s tip.

The obvious: A back up camera body / an assortment of lenses / flash / extra batteries / a polarizer / graduated ND filter. These items are considered “givens” and every camera bag should have a reserved place for each. Below are a few ideas of what else to bring along with thoughts as to why they are important. If they strike a chord, find a niche in your backpack for them.

Mini Mag Light or a Headlamp: I do a lot of work where I need to be in the field before sunrise and after sunset. If the terrain is rocky, loose or tough to navigate, I want to see where I’m headed to prevent twisted ankles or something worse. I tend to use the headlamp more as it provides hands free light.

Leatherman Type Tool: To have a pliers, screw driver, knife, etc. and be contained in a fold up sheath that takes up very little room comes is very handy. It’s allowed me to make repairs on either mine or other photographer’s gear. If you’re traveling by plane, be sure to transfer it into your checked luggage as it may get confiscated. When you arrive at your destination, place it in your bag.

String: When I photograph flowers or other small objects and I can control the environment, a simple piece of string can be invaluable to tie back a distracting branch or other item that may otherwise ruin the background.

Business cards and model releases: There have been many circumstances where I’m photographing a fantastic scene and through it rides a bicyclist. I snap away and strike up a conversation when they reach where I stand. I tell them what I’m doing and ask them to sign a release. Providing them with a business card adds credibility and a comfort level to get them to sign it. A release allows you to submit the image to a stock agency or major photo competition.

Plastic Bag: I carry a large trash bag that takes up little room but keeps either me or my gear dry. If I get caught in the rain, it can be made into a make shift poncho. If there’s a light drizzle, I can place it over my camera and tripod and still be able to make photos. If the ground is wet and the best angle to make the photo is from down low, I lay it out and stay dry. This will keep me out in the field longer as I’ll be a lot more comfortable.

Your Camera Manual: Many photographers never read their manual. I’m from the opposite school. I have it highlighted and marked with sticky notes as I want to know all my camera can do. More importantly, if something quirky happens, I want to know why it may have occurred. If the manual is back home in the closet, it doesn’t do any good. If something does happen to your camera and the explanation is clearly written in black and white, you’ll thank your lucky stars you’ve been toting it around.

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