Determining what you really need

There was a time when I went fishing, in part, to get away from having to take pictures with my full-sized, motorized, heavy-duty camera.

There was a time when I went fishing, in part, to get away from having to take pictures with my full-sized, motorized, heavy-duty professional camera with its massive telephoto lens. However, nowadays I find that I  quite enjoy taking my new little Nikon Coolpix P7200 digital camera along with me pretty well everywhere I go. Today’s small point-and-shoot cameras, with their image-stabilized lenses, are amazing.

Having said that, there is still nothing like a good steady tripod to aid in getting crisp, sharp images. This is something I’ve learned the hard way – on more than one occasion – when I was too lazy to pack along my relatively large, heavy metal Manfrotto tripod. That was also in the days before I had acquired my four-section, carbon-fibre tripod that weighs next to nothing (by comparison) and breaks down to a more packable size.

When it comes to tripods (and/or monopods for that matter), lighter and smaller does not necessarily mean better. A flimsy tripod does little to prevent camera shake. The more stable the tripod, the more stable the image. It’s that simple. I can spot an image that was taken using a tripod a mile away. Especially photos that were taken under lower light conditions.

You can determine for yourself what will work best as far as weight, size and stability. The trick is to have a tripod that is portable enough, yet sturdy enough to keep your camera steady.

Another piece of photo gear that comes in handy when heading out into the great outdoors is a well-made, comfortable and easy to carry backpack. Whether going on a short hike or far afield, a well-designed photo backpack allows you to carry your gear more comfortably for greater distances. Always remember though, that whatever distance you walk one way, you have to walk back when everything in your pack seems all that much heavier and more cumbersome.

There are a number of good quality packs out there that will help you organize, protect and carry your gear.

I have two different photo backpacks, both made by Lowe. One I use constantly. The other is more of a put- everything-into-it-until-I-get-there type of pack I use more as a travel case for all my gear. It is not the kind of pack I would want to carry around on my back for any amount of time or distance, but it is well-made and has lots of protection for cameras and lenses. It also has built-in wheels that makes it great for packing and transporting a lot of gear.

The little slingshot backpack that I have with me constantly is indispensable. I can carry my point-and-shoot digital camera, an external flash, all sorts of extra batteries and cards, a small pair of binoculars and some folded- up aluminum foil that I use for bounce lighting, as well as, my lunch and whatever murder mystery pocketbook I happen to be reading. I can strap my carbon-fibre tripod to the bottom of the pack and I’m good for the day.

While I never used to think there was a place for artificial light in nature photography, I have come to change my mind to some degree, in spite of the fact that it is one more thing to carry.

Flash allows you to fill in shadows and even out the lighting ratio between the shadow and brightly illuminated highlights. I also carry a couple of feet of aluminum foil in my pack, which I can unfold and use to bounce sunlight back onto my subject when doing close-up nature photography.

The whole thing about deciding what to take (and what not to take) on any photographic field trip is determining what you absolutely need – because you will definitely use it – and not what you’ll just end up carting along for nothing.