“Essentials” for your camera bag

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If you are keen on photography as a hobby, then as well as a decent camera (generally a DSLR with a range of lenses) you will have a decent camera bag! That bag should be large enough to carry the aforesaid camera, lenses, and a few other items, some of which are important, and some just part of a wish list!

The first item is probably one of the most important, and smallest items and is a spare memory card. There is nothing worse than standing beside a photo opportunity frantically stabbing at the delete button to try and get some space in the memory.

The next item is a small pocket torch. Any photographer who takes his camera out at night will need one. Even if just to see what way up the batteries go in the flash, which always runs out of volts just when you don’t need it. Setting shutter speeds in the dark can also be difficult. Or even seeing what aperture you are selecting on the lens barrel. And in addition to the humble small torch are the even humbler batteries for it. You can guess the scenario.

Another small, but definitely handy item is a remote release for the shutter. Any time you are trying to do a time exposure, it become very difficult holding the button down and not making the camera tremble – especially with long exposures. Cheap, does not take up much space, and very useful.

While talking about time exposures, another useful “camera bag” item is a miniature tripod. With something like this you can mount the tripod on the roof of the car and take five minute moonlight shots if you need it. Often called table-top tripods. There are some with “springy” legs and my late photographic friend Ernie Kuehnelt was kind enough to bring me one from Germany. Well built and sturdy and deserving of a place in the bag.

Now the next one is not so easy to get here, but you can always get someone to bring you one in from overseas. In bright sunlight, the magic brain inside your camera that sets the exposure settings can get confused. Make that ‘very confused’. The answer for consistently correct exposures is an 18 percent grey card. This you place beside the subject and take a meter reading from it. You then set the camera to that f stop and shutter speed and you have the correct exposure for the main shot. If you are serious about getting the correct exposure, and particularly if you shoot slides, one of these is invaluable. Another trick is to select an 18 percent grey camera bag, and you just take your reading directly from there!

The next item that is worth considering, if you are a serious photographer, is a battery charger. You will go through heaps of batteries is you are shooting regularly. This gets expensive. Buy two sets of the rechargeable batteries and a charger and your photography expenses will be a lot less. This is particularly so with the new digitals. They eat batteries, so keep a freshly charged spare in the camera bag at all times. Other batteries you should have include those for any flash guns. There’s nothing worse than whistling while waiting for the flash to recharge!

Another item is again not a true photographic item, but is invaluable. It is a waterproof marker pen. How many times have you written details, names, etc., on the back of a print, to find that it has rubbed off on the face of the next print and so forth? Totally annoying and often requires another set of prints to be made.

Another ‘silly’ item is a box of matches – even if you don’t smoke. The rattle of a box of matches will catch the attention of dogs and children. You set up the shot, exposure selected and then rattle the matchbox. You have about two seconds to catch the ears-up inquisitive K9 look, and about the same for children, whose attention span can be measured in nano-seconds.

Finally, don’t forget the polarizing filter. Use it in the Thailand sunshine and see how much richer your color shots will be.