Have you gone on a photo trip and discovered you forgot an important accessory for your camera? Ever forgot to pack the battery charger? Ever bring the wrong lens to the location you are shooting? We have all been there and we know it affects the photographs we want to take.
Whenever I prepare to go on a photo trip, I always go through a basic checklist to ensure that I have everything I need for my trip. I tend to be a minimalist when it comes to gadgets and equipment. I only bring those things I really need.
Here is my checklist:
- Camera body: I usually bring one extra body with me when I go out on a photo trip. The reason is simple, cameras break or malfunction. If it happens while you’re on the trip, it’s a little late to find a camera to use. You don’t want to miss the opportunity to take your photographs.
- Battery charger: This is extremely important to remember to bring your battery charger. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started to pack on a trip and forgot to pack it. Fortunately, because of the checklist, I get it and pack it.
- Extra Battery: Sometimes you are in shooting situations where you are out for a long time and you exhaust the battery in your camera. Having an extra battery can save the day. In some shooting situations, your battery may drain faster than you expect it to. This is especially true in cold weather where batteries tend to lose their power quickly.
- Lenses: When I am going on a photo trip I usually bring a zoom lens that goes from medium wide-angle to about 300 mm. I also bring a wide-angle Zoom that allows me to get much more wide-angle shots. I find that these lenses tend to give me just about everything I need for almost any shooting situation.
- Memory Cards: Bringing additional memory card is important because it is possible for a card to go bad even as you are shooting. It is always better to pack a few extra just in case. I also believe in distributing the shots on multiple cards. If a card fails, I don’t have all my eggs in one basket.
Accessories for the Camera
- Cokin P Filter Holder: I find that using the Cokin filter holder is the best way to use filters in the field. The two filters that I use are the polarizing filter and the graduated neutral density filter.
- Polarizing filter: A polarizing filter comes in handy when you want to darken the sky to accentuate the clouds. It is also useful to get rid of glare off of metallic surfaces or glass.
- Graduated Neutral Density Filter: A graduated neutral density filter is really a key filter when you are shooting landscapes. It helps you achieve the best possible exposure in many shooting situations. For instance, if you shoot a landscape where the sky is bright and the land is dark, the neutral density filter allows you to reduce the exposure of the sky to bring it more in line with the darker land. You end up with a properly exposed photograph.
- Exposure Meter: Even though you have a built-in exposure meter in your camera, sometimes it is a good idea to use an exposure meter to double check the exposure. This is really important when you are doing close-up photography.
- 18% Grey Card: An 18% gray card is an important addition to your accessories because you can use it to evaluate the light that is falling upon your subject and give you the proper exposure. I use this especially when I am shooting in a snow situation. If you rely on your in-camera meter, you will end up getting muddy looking snow. This is because your camera exposure meter looks at the snow and considers it 18% Grey. If you set your exposure using an 18% gray filter, you will get the proper exposure and your snow will be white.
- Tripod: A tripod is essential for landscape photography. There’s no question that a photograph taken with a camera mounted on a tripod will be sharper than a photograph with a hand-held camera. It can be a pain to haul a tripod around, but for my money, it’s worth it to get the best possible photographs.
- Lens Cleaning Kit: Lenses get dirty when you’re out shooting in nature. Dust, pollen and other forms of dirt can get on your lens. It’s important to have a lens cleaning kit with you so that you can always have a clean lens.
- Rain Protection: Rain protection is critical because water can ruin your camera and lenses. If you know you’re going to be shooting in an area where rain is likely, it is important to bring rain protection for your camera so that you can protect it. The rain protection doesn’t have to be very expensive. I use the OP/TECH USA 18″ Rainsleeve. It is a plastic sleeve that goes over my arm and covers the entire camera and most of the lens. You can get it for under $10 at B&H Photo.
- Soft Cloth: Maintaining your camera while you are in the field is very important. That’s why it’s a good idea to bring a soft cloth so that you can wipe off your camera body. There are lots of situations where it is dusty or wet. A soft cloth lets you clean the dust or dampness so you can keep your camera clean.
- Digital Voice Recorder: I use a digital voice recorder to take field notes as I take each shot. It helps you remember the time and places your images were made. If you trust your memory to remember where a specific image was taken, you are going to be in for a rude awakening when you begin to edit your photographs. Using a digital voice recorder to record detail about each shot is the easiest way to take field notes.
- GPS: A GPS is helpful to find the location where you want to take photographs.
- Maps of the Area: Having up-to-date maps of the area that you are going to visit is very helpful because it helps you to find the specific spot where you want to be.
- Research the Area: Researching the area you intend to visit will give you information on the best shooting locations. With proper research, you can save time by going directly to the places that you know you want to photograph. Research also gives you good information on places to stay and places to eat while you’re on your photo trip.