How do you prepare for a field trip? That’s a question I get often. The answer has become a bit more complicated over time. While at first, it was a simple matter of getting in the car and drive, today’s method is a little more involved.
When you “only” have a simple point and shoot camera, not even a camera phone, then getting ready for a trip is done in seconds. When you get more gear, the preparation gets longer.
And often we forget things that are necessary for a successful trip. Today’s trips take a little more preparation. Most of my gear is in one camera bag, like camera (duh!) all lenses, tripod head, the tripod is usually in the car, and some more odds and ends.
‘t was the hour before the Trip
So what is the preparation about if everything can be grabbed in seconds? Well, that is about the destination. While I never know what I will find, I know what I am looking for. Sometimes I get it, sometimes I don’t. So if a trip is in perspective, what is this picture out of my upstairs window doing here? Well, that’s where the whole idea for a trip starts. At home.
Living in Nova Scotia means that there is lots to see, wherever you go. So you have to make a choice about what is on your mind on that moment. This was looking like a drab, grey day ahead. So no use taking sunscreen for example. Warmer clothes and most of all water resistant shoes were needed instead. A pair of hiking boots do a good job of keeping your feet dry when walking through the woods and possibly wetter places. The above pic was taken inside what was marked as “Wetland”. The waterproof shoes were welcome.
Trusty Zoom H2
Going into dripping wet forests means that your gear will get wet. It’s not a matter of “if”. So a rough cotton towel will be perfect. Don’t take the microfiber cloths, they don’t readily absorb moisture, they need to wipe your equipment to get it clean. Cotton will blot your devices without the need of wiping excess water into small nooks and crannies.
Then comes the tripod. For my sound recorder, I often use a cheap mini tripod to keep the recorder off the ground. However, I also have an extra base plate for my big tripod (a Manfrotto for me) that can be used to attach the recorder to the full-height tripod. Handy for if/when I want to record ocean waves from close up. The tripod can handle the water, the mini tripod… not so much.
Mersey River Rapids
Then comes the idea of where you really want to go. Forest? Beach? Canyons? Dry space? Wetlands? The gear you take will mostly be the same unless you need a canoe for those wetlands. Driving around on highways is usually a waste of time. Unless you have a better idea for your destination. Backroads are way more adventurous and will often come with surprises.
Layers over the water
The trip where these pictures were all taken ended up in a dead end. Not so much the end of the road, but more the feeling that my car was sliding more than it was driving. The road had become a mud pit and my car is not equipped for that. I also have no intention of pushing my car through mud. This road will have to wait for a drier period this year. The lead picture of this post was taken on an already saturated road, but around the bend at the far end it was way worse.
Pink Earth Lichen
But when you have to abandon going forward on a road, it’s always good to stop and get out. Unless the car is sinking. These Pink Earth Lichen were so bright, a picture could do no justice to them. These were fluorescent. Only a few millimeters high, this called for a lens change and I used a macro lens instead. Not much of preparation to throw that lens in your bag before you leave. In my case, all lenses are in my bag, I only have three of them anyway.
One of the things that often get overlooked is batteries. My sound recorder uses AA batteries, so does the GPS unit. Other devices use AAA and the camera uses its own flavour. I make sure that I always have fully charged spares for all of them. I still remember a friend of mine showing up at a rare event of a Snowy Owl sitting quietly on a fencepost a few meters away. All of us had great pictures, yet my friend had an empty battery and no spares. Not overly happy, he was… Since he was not using the same batteries as the rest of us, nobody could even help him out.
Inlet to a Hydro station
But all preparation is lost if it is not checked before departure. I still remember one trip, some 250km away from my house. Snow and wind were howling at the destination. When I got out of the car to get my camera, the only camera I could use was my cellphone, the DSLR was still sitting on my desk at home…
Preparation and checking is everything before leaving on a trip. Even if it is only a trip of a few hours. To arrive at your destination only to find out that a critical piece of equipment was left behind is never a fun discovery.
This shows my general train of thought before I leave on a trip. If I go birding, the gimbal tripod head will get added to the gear and the macro lens may stay home. When looking for wild orchids, extra towels, an extra pair of socks and perhaps rubber boots get added to the list.
What I really find during the trip varies. Searching for certain wildlife can be a bust as it may have chosen to move away. Then I still have alternative ideas for the shoot. Just in case. I can always shoot barns and such
Until next time…