Thursday, September 2, 2010

Being Ready For A Vacation or Photo Trips

Vacations can be very exciting times, especially if you are a budding photographer. If you are going on a trip there are some important things to remember before you head off on your trip, in terms of your camera equipment that is. The following list might contain many items that seem like common sense, but others could be things that you haven't considered before.

1. Batteries/Chargers 
The most important thing to remember before heading out the door is to make sure your camera batteries are fully charged. If you are going for an extended trip, where you can plug in, make sure to take your charger along as well. In addition, if you are traveling outside of your native country make sure you have the right kind of plug-in adapters so you use the battery charger. If you shop around you'll likely be able to find world wide plug adapter kits. In terms of batteries themselves, have at least one extra battery or two if you can. The amount of spare batteries you'll want to carry will depend on how long you'll be away from wall plugs. I find that two  batteries last me for the better part of a week unless I am shooting a lot, or working in cold conditions for an extended period of time.

If you are in a situation where you are not going to be able to charge your batteries for an extended period (5+ days) then make sure you keep your camera powered down as much as possible to limit energy use. Another way to maintain the life of your batteries is to keep them warm. When the ambient temperature is under 20ºC/68ºF, batteries will not hold a charge as well, so keep them in a warm, dry location. For example, keep the spare batteries a jacket (inside pocket) when hiking, or wrapped in a blanket with you in your sleeping bag if you are tenting. 

Having a number of extra rechargeable AA batteries is never bad to have on a trip, because there are so many devices that use them. If you have a battery grip for your camera, you will likely be able to use AA batteries as a backup just in case your normally batteries go down for some reason. If you do have this option remember to bring the adapter to use AA batteries in the grip! Also remember to bring enough extra batteries for your external flash (if you have one), because batteries in external flashes can run into the same problems as the battery packs for your camera.

2. Memory Cards
First thing to do before you go is make sure you have backups of the images that are currently on your memory cards. Once the backup is finished format the cards in your camera, not your computer.  This might not sound important, but it would be a pain if you go out to shoot and have to switch cards and only realize you cannot shoot right away because you have to clear old images off first. If you are shooting landscapes that might not be as a big deal, but if you are shooting wildlife or some other action that could mean missing the shot.

The second thing to do is make sure you have enough memory cards. Think about the type of photos you are going to want to take, and leave yourself room to try different things. It is better to have too many memory cards than run out half way through the trip! Considering how inexpensive memory cards are these days there really aren't many reasons not to have 4-5 cards (or more!).

3. Camera(s) and Lenses
With your camera itself, make sure you set your camera to default settings. When I say default settings I mean, to settings that you use most often, or ones that are the most flexible. If you are just starting to learn more about photography recently, experimenting with new settings while on a once and a life time trip may not be the best idea. On the other hand if you are getting used to the semi auto modes or manual mode don't hesitate to use them.

Make sure that you clean your camera before you go, the last thing you want is to get dust falling into your lens mount when you switch lenses (DSLR users). You can clean the body using a blower or a very slightly damp cloth to clean off dust or streaks on the body and LCD screen(s). The same goes for your lenses as well, you can use that slightly damp cloth and blower to get dust off the lens body. Then use the blower, and a microfiber cloth to remove dust from the front and rear elements of your lenses. If the electronic contacts on the lens look dirty, use some rubbing alcohol on a cloth to clean them; you can also use this same technique to clean the electronic contacts in the lens mount as well. 

4. Camera Bag(s)/Belts/etc.
Before you leave on your trip think about what you need to take with you. If you have two bags think about how you can use them. Maybe you could use a big camera bag to carry everything you are going to take, and then have a smaller bag for just your camera and a zoom lens, that way you wont have to hall all of your stuff around if you go on a hike. It is also a good idea to make some choices about what you will and wont take with you before you even leave home. If you have more than one or two cameras think about leaving one at home, beacuse the chances of needing more than one backup is slim.

If you are a DSLR or EVIL (Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens) user than you have even more choices to make. What lenses, flashes and other accessories are you going to need? Focus on the types of photos you want to take while on your trip. Will you be taking family photos, and landscapes/cityscape or will you be looking to photograph wildlife for the most part? Answering those questions will help you choose which lenses to take. If you have fly to your destination this becomes even more important because you'll have weight limits for how much you can bring.

Last, but not least, make sure you pack your extra batteries, memory cards and accessories in the bag before you leave! It would be horrible to go and forget all your extra memory cards or batteries and end up not being able to take photos for part of your trip!