"Those who have experienced Paris have advantage over those who have not. We are the ones who have glimpsed a little bit of heaven, down here on earth." - Deirdre Kelly

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Photographer's Kit, Part 4: Accessories

"I'm thinking balls are to men what purses are to women.
It's just a little bag, but we feel naked in public without it."
- Carrie, Sex in the City

My first offical purse was actually a backpack. I was at university in Chicago and had to travel 60+ miles roundtrip, daily. We'd leave home at 7 a.m. (always caught a ride with my parents) and would return home around 6 or 7 p.m. My second was a carry-on (considerably more miles to travel to and fro). My third, a diaper bag - that had to sustain not only myself but one, then two, then three babies. Although these purses served three very different lifestyles, their purpose was the same - to hold any and everything I'd need to make it while away from home. I'm now on my 4th purse incarnation - my photography kit - but it serves the same purpose, to be home to my necessary things...

Accessories - Must Haves

Perhaps the most common complaint among photographers is our intense dislike of a camera's flash. We love natural light and camera flashes, by nature and design, are harsh and annoying. I literally hold my flash down and only use it in the darkest settings. I've recently discovered the Gary Fong Puffer Pop-Up Flash Diffuser.

According to the reviews, it quickly and easily attaches to and detaches from you camera; has 8 different heights, to accommodate any camera; removes the harsh effects of the flash, softly diffusing the light to attain a more naturally lit shot. I just ordered mine and as soon as I can work it out in the field I'll let you know how well it works. But if it works half as well as I expect, it will occupy a permanent place in my kit.

The Gary Fong Puffer Pop-Up Flash Diffuser
$20 @ Amazon

Believe it or not, I always carry a point-and-shoot. They're affordable, tiny, take great 'dark setting' shots, you can slip the memory card into your main camera for 'developing,' and you won't freak out if you give it to someone (to take a photo w/ you in it).

My Canon PowerShot SD11011S (2008) $165 @ Amazon

It's best to doubly ensure that your lenses are protected. I LOVE these camera lens bags ($16) from Tracy Joy. They're handmade, in a variety of beautiful prints, plushly padded, and affordable. Best yet, Bonnie makes/offers matching neck strap covers ($16); and she sometimes offers a 3-piece set: bag, cover, and key fob ($32). *The bags are also perfect to hold make up, credit cards, money, etc. 

My most essential lens protector(s)?:
1. The ProMaster Soft Cleansing Cloths

$10/2 pack @ Amazon

2. CleanWell All-Natural Hand Sanitizer pocket size spray bottles. This spray will keep your hands squeaky clean - you'll be surprised at how grungy your hands get while you're shooting in the field.

$15/ 1oz. pocketsize/6 pack @ Amazon

*Make sure that you have at least one extra memory card and battery in your kit*

As I was planning my 2010 trip to Paris, I decided to make one of my Bucket List items a reality - write and photograph an article on Paris and have it published in a national American magazine. It's Paris, so it didn't take me long to find inspiration: Pain et Chocolat (published in the March 2011 issue of Romantic Homes) and La Factory (soon to be published in Belle Inspiration  Magazine). To my unending surprise and gratitude, both owners readily agreed to my interviewing them and photographing their businesses - on the same day! As I floated home, on cloud 9, to begin prepping I realized that I was not completely prepared. Luckily there's a tiny stationary shop, next door to La Factory.

rue Cler Office Supply (where the postcard stand is...)

There I found what has become a mainstay in my kit - a Moleskine Reporter's notebook. Yeah, I totally admit that I was channeling Lois Lane ;-) These little notebooks are perfect: they're high quality, have a thick gusseted pocket, and an elastic band to hold it all together. Whether you're interviewing someone, or taking notes in the field, you'll be surprised at how often you whip this baby out. Just make sure that you also keep a few pens in your kit too. 

Moleskine Reporter's Notebooks - 3.5x5.5 ($12)


Dynex (TRP60) Tripod

Dynex TRP60 ($10-$15 @ Amazon)

Admitedly, you won't use a tripod a lot (usually if you want to be in the photo and/or for night photography). But you should always have one (in your car or suitcase - you never know). I like this one for it's unique color (most of tripods are black or sliver), easily fits in a suitcase, it's telescopic [extends to 60" (5 ft.)], comes with a handy dandy carrying bag w/ strap, and is inexpensive.

Just make sure that you remember to get a mounting plate ($6-$10). But go into a store to make sure that it fits your camera and your tripod. Just screw it onto the bottom of your camera and forget about it. Until you need it, you won't even know it's there...

Camera mounting plate

One of my favorite camera gadgets is my wireless remote controller. Just attach your camera to your tripod, push the timer/remote button and you're good to go. Admitedly I rarely use it, but it's nice to be in the photo every once and awhile - and it's so cool!

Nikon ML-L3 Wirless Remote Controller - $15 @ Amazon

A family that's Nappy together is happy together!
One of my 1st photos with my Nikon remote (July 2008)

One of the tricks for getting great photographs is to not be afraid to squat, twist and contort; shoot on your knees, belly, or as high up as you can get. It makes for wonderful depth and range in your photographs. Yeah we suffer for our craft - but it's so worth it! Seriously consider getting a folding step-stool (just keep it in your car or suitcase). After nearly falling on my face, standing on a tiny rickety water cooler, to get the perfect shot of Rory running for the endzone, I was finally convinced to get my very own collapsable step stool. I ordered mine when I ordered the Gary Fong, and as soon as I can work it out in the field I'll let you know how well it works. But if it works half as well as I expect, it will occupy a permenant place in my car-kit. The things I do for my art (sigh).

The EZ Foldz Stool ($15 @ Amazon), 9" tall, weighs 2.5 lbs
I can't wait to try this baby out!

Again, the purpose of this series is to inspire you to create your own photographer's kit. I invite you to share the contents, etc. of your own kit (if you've already got one). I'll devote a special post to it. Come on, don't be shy!

Vivre! Rire! Aimer!


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