Ten pieces of Photography equipment I never leave home without

Smugglers Notch, Vermont on a warm March day.

I am a huge fan of being a minimalist when it comes to the equipment that I carry on a hike. Weight and my fatigue as I carry everything in my backpack are always a concern so I try to pack light and only carry the things I need. We as Photographers have a huge bounty of available equipment to us( some of which is very expensive) and I must say that not all of it is useful. I always want to keep in mind variables like weather, where I am going, what I plan to shoot, how long I am planning to be out,  and what would be the minimum amount of equipment I would need to accomplish my goals for the day. This list covers only ten items and some of them may seem simplistic but each are important to me in their own way. What are your top 10 pieces of equipment that you carry all the time?
1. Dust blower -This is probably one of the more important items that I carry with me and I would never be caught without one. Often when there is wind present there will be small particles of dust in the air which can get on your gear. I have taken a perfectly clean and dust free camera out of my backpack and within a few minutes there is dust present on the lens. Use the dust blower first for getting rid of those larger, pesky dust particles, It really will be an image saver when your out in the middle of nowhere. Dust is our enemy out in the field and this is out first weapon to fight it. There are several companies that make these in various forms, I personally use the Giotto’s Red Rocket which cost me about 11 bucks. Simple, cheap and effective.
2. Microfiber cleaning cloth – Step two in our cleaning efforts in the field. After the dust blower use your microfiber cloth to gently clean your optics to remove fingerprints, waterspray and other small dust particles. Right now I have two Giotto’s cleaning cloths which I rotate every couple of weeks. These are very cheap running under 10 bucks but it’s always something I have on me. I clean mine with a tiny amount of liquid soap and some warm water every so often to keep them in tip-top shape. Always use the microfiber cleaning cloth…Never those silly packets of lens cleaning tissue. The wood fibers in the tissues are just too rough for delicate (and very expensive) camera optics and gear. You can see like I did that they can leave tiny scratches in your glass, I’m just not willing to chance ruining an $800 dollar lens.
3. Tripod – Ah, Our old friend the trusty tripod. This is the most important tool that we can carry around and I am comforted to know that it is there and will perform faithfully for me. Getting my images straight and sharp are important qualities in a landscape shot. This is an instance where buying cheap will do you no good. Cheap tripods are just that…Cheap. You will never be happy and spending the money to get even a modest one that you will have for quite a long time is always better. Excellent tripods can be found in the $150 to $300 dollar range and will serve most Photographers needs. I use an Induro 8m alloy tripod with a bhd-1  ballhead and together they cost me $300 dollars but worth every penny. It is well constructed, very stable and it is a panoramic ballhead so I can do more types of work than a cheaper set up. Here you must research tripods depending on your needs and what you want to do with it.
4. Headlamp – I generally shoot on the fringes of the day at sunrise and sunset and find myself needing a little light once in a while. Headlamps are very useful and can be found at any outdoor gear store or online. I use one made by Petzl and is very effective for night shots to illuminate parts of the scene or to otherwise add a little light on the subject at sunrise/sunset. You can find decent ones for $30 dollars and if you shoot when its dark out you are going to need one of these.
5. Circular Polarizer – One of the three must have filters for landscape and nature Photography. They reduce glare, Let you see through water and saturate colors. What more can you ask for? They can help transform an otherwise dull shot into a great one and I always carry a screw-in type and one for my Cokin filter system. These can be expensive with a screw-in type at 77mm costing over $100 dollars but again well worth the expense. You will get immediate payback in much better quality of images.
6. Graduated neutral density filter – Another must have filter for the nature Photographer which come in different strengths, Some block more light and some block less. These filters are neutral grey on one half and clear on the other half allowing you to even out the exposure and block light in areas of the composition such as sky with the landscape in the foreground. These will save your bacon when out shooting during the day. I would start with a 2 stop graduated as a 1 stop doesn’t seem strong enough to me. Currently I am using the Singh-Ray Galen Rowell 2 stop graduated and it performs well with a cost of $100 dollars. The basic Cokin stackable ones are about $25 dollars each and all are worth the money.
7. Neutral density filter-The last of the must have filters for nature work. The neutral density filter works the same way as the graduated only the entire filter is neutral grey not one half which will block light throughout the image. These come in various strengths as well and help in achieving long exposure times. Currently I have Cokin’s 2 and 3 stop neutral density filters and they are great for getting waterfalls and the swirling leaf shots in the fall. One note of caution: These regular Neutral density filters cannot be stacked. It seems when you stack two of these together it creates a weird red cast to the image, However you can stack two of the graduated filters and this will work fine. I have not experimented yet with removing this color cast in lightroom but I believe it is possible from what I have read online.
8. Extra battery-It seems simplistic but I always carry an extra battery with me. Video and live view mode generally will suck up a lot of juice, I prefer to shoot stills but I like to have enough power with me to do both. The batteries for the Canon 7d are $70 bucks but well worth it in terms of how long they last. Without power we can’t create our work so this is a must have in the backpack.
9. Remote shutter release-While not necessary on the 7d as it has a two and ten second timer settings, I do carry Canons rc-1 remote with me at all times. When the camera is in the bulb setting you can’t use the timer settings so a remote shutter release is a must. This one is small, simple, easy to use and cheap.
10. Memory cards-Nothing sucks up a memory card like video shooting and again another simplistic item but very important to have several of these on hand. I carry 4 SanDisk 4gb cards with me which is enough for the work I do. On the 7d a 4gb card will hold about 300 camera raw files and about 12 minutes of video time. Plenty enough for me.


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