So what else is in my bag? Speaking of camera bags, what should one consider when buying a bag? The kind of bag you get will depend on what you shoot and how much gear you have. In may case, I have to walk to the landscape locations, so I opt for a backpack. I use six criteria when looking to buy a camera backpack:
- Comfort when fully loaded. Some packs just do not have the support needed to haul a heavy load. The shoulder straps need to be well padded and the same goes for the waist belt. I don't even look at backpacks that do not have a waist belt. A good waist belt will take much of the weight off of my shoulders and better distribute the weight. Part of that comfort equation is a ventilated back. Air needs to be able to flow between your back and the backpack or you will get warm and sweat. When you put the backpack down it is not fun to have a wet back on a breezy afternoon.
- Water resistant/proof. Landscape photographers do much of their photography in inclimate weather and often encounter rain. I can't risk my equipment getting wet. Not only should be bag be able to withstand some rain but so do the zippers. They need to be able to seal.
- Durability. I belief in buying once if possible. My bag needs to last. It is going to endure weather. It is going to be placed on snow and mud and rocks. I can't have a bag break on a trip.
- Back opening. The part of the backpack that touches my back is the part that needs to open. My current bag opens from the side that is away from my back. But that means that when I lay the bag down in snow or mud that part that is getting wet and dirty is going to go against my back when I leave. That is a big no-no. My next bag will open on the other side. Now having said that, the reason why I have not replaced my bag yet is because, well I bought it to last and it is still lasting. Another reason is that I really want a bag that can open from the front and back, and I just can't find one. Too often I lean over and ask my wife or a fellow photographer to open my bag and get something, saving me from having to offload the pack, get what I need and put it back on. I want a bag that still affords me this possibility AND open on the other side when I do put the bag down.
- Size. The backpack needs to be large enough to fit my gear, and perhaps an item I still need to get. This is typically not a problem because most manufacturers have different sized bags. Just make sure that your gear will fit in.
- Weight. My gear is heavy enough to carry, I don't still want to add a heavy bag to the mix. However, durability and light weight have never been married. For a bag to do its job of keeping your gear safe and protected it has to have padding. Its outer walls have to be strong enough to last AND offer said protection. But that comes at the cost of extra weight. So find a bag that offers a balance between protection and weight.
Here is what else I carry in my bag:
- Allen wrenches. I cannot tell you how often I have helped people with tripod or L-bracket issues.
- Lens cleaning cloths, a number of them. When shooting in the rain, you have to keep the front of your lens element dry or your images are ruined. Filters fall, waves splash, and a number of things happen which necessitates having a microfiber cleaning cloth.
- Cleaning brush to brush away dust from my lenses or filters.
- Hand warmers. I hate being cold which makes me want to stop doing my photography.
- A whistle and pepper/bear spray. A whistle is handy if you ever get lost. Pepper spray is handy for when criminals find you with your expensive gear. Bear spray because my gear prevents me from running fast enough.
- Toilet paper and a few emergency supplies because falls happen. I also carry mole-skin for blisters. They have saved me and a few whom I were able to help. Being far from your car with major blisters is no joke.
- Head flashlight. We oftentimes walk in the dark to go shoot a sunrise or to come back after a sunset.
- A Rocket blower. To clean my camera sensor.
- Two remote triggers to fire my camera. I don't want to touch my camera when I shoot to prevent camera shake. I carry two with me because I have had them break on me. My current two have actually lasted a long time. One is wired (more reliable) and one is wireless. Both are genuine Sony triggers.
- Lightning trigger. Please see one of my previous blogs on shooting lightning where I provide details on the model I use. My friends Don Smith and Gary Hart have been teaching lightning workshops for many years and have seen just about every lightning trigger on the market. All of the photographers shoot under the exact same conditions with different triggers. Yet my friends have found, comparing the results from all the photographers that some of them are just better than others. The model I use is what they recommend and I have been very happy with it.
- A waterproof and floatable memory card holder. You cannot be risking all your precious images.
- Extra memory cards and camera batteries.
- Water bottle.
When I am going on a long hike I may leave some of my gear behind in my car to save on weight. That is what is in my bag.