2.2. Take Along the Basic Accessories
If your DSLR is just too clumsy to keep around your neck all the time, get your hands on a
pocket camera that has a 7 MP sensor, a 3:1 optical zoom, has full manual controls, and shoots RAW files. As soon as I see one that also has image stabilization and is
, I'm going to buy it.
The other accessories are listed here in order of importance, although
it's a good idea to have all of them along all the time:
Memory cards and batteries
Memory cards and batteries are two things you should collect more of any time there's a bit of spare cash in your account. Having plenty of both is simply insurance that you won't have to stop shooting just when you happen on the most exciting shot of the day. Extra memory cards are also the best insurance against card failure.
You can get a 10 percent digital gray card for $10 that's washable and is just small enough to fit inside your camera bag (see Figure 2-8). I bought two of them and cut one up into 3x4 inch pieces that fit neatly in a shirt pocket. Then, even if I don't have my camera bag along, I can just set it near my subject and snap a shot that will then allow either Photoshop or my RAW processor to automatically set a technically perfect white balance for all the other pictures I've taken in the same lighting conditions.
Figure 2-8. A photo of the Digital Gray Card
Flash is your best assurance that you'll be able to get some
of picture, no matter how bad the light is. You probably have one along with you even if you haven't given it a thought: they're built into virtually every digital camera that sells for between $300 and $5,000 dollars. However, an external flash produces at least three times as much light and can be positioned so that its lighting is much more flattering than anything that can be produced by an on-camera flash.
Anything white or silver that produces a good reflection from the main light source can be used to control the brightness of shadows. This can make all the difference between an image that looks professional and one that looks like a snapshot. The sort of silver and white folding reflector that is often used as a sun-shield for a car's windscreen
, is easy to carry, costs next to nothing (less than $5), and weighs
to nothing. They're also large enough to provide fill lighting for a small
of subjects. Foam-core white and silver
also serve well as reflectors. Black foam
works well for
light on the shadow side of the subject and
the depth of shadows.
Blurring as a result of camera movement is the most common reason for throwing out pictures. It's important that you practice, practice, practice holding the camera as steady as possible. I actually know photographers who are so good at this that they can keep a camera steady as a rock for a full second. However, it's just plain stupid to take
when you needn't. If you have a tripod and you suddenly see that award-winning shot just as the sun is setting, no problemo. If you realize you need to stop down to f-22 to keep the grass in the foreground of your scenic sharp, no problemo. Granted, there's not always room on your bike for a tripod, but at least you can carry along a monopod or a clamp with a pan head attached. If you can't do that, at least look for a fence post, banister, car hood, or any other steady object. By the way, tripods with flip-
leg extensions are faster to set up than those that have a screw-threaded clamp. Ball heads are easier to move quickly and work well for fashion and portraiture. The traditional pan head is better when you have to make sure the camera is consistently level, such as when you're shooting interiors or panoramas.
Portable hard drive
If you are short on memory cards or are going away on a long trip, it's a very good idea to take along a battery-
hard drive. That way, you can download all your memory cards as you shoot them so they can be reformatted and reused. Portable hard
come in an ever-widening range of prices and capabilities, and the companies come and go. A good source of up-to-the-minute reviews and prices can be found at www.dpreview.com.