Utah — What Worked, What Didn't
Whenever I come back from a trip, I find it useful to review and learn from my successes and mistakes. Here's a recap from my recent 10 day photographic trip in the canyon lands southern Utah.
- Battery operated remote shutter releases are terrific — right up until the batteries die. Easy to fix, unless you leave the extra batteries in your camera bag back in the motel room. Even that is easy to fix unless you leave the backup, wired cable release in the motel room, too. We live, we learn.
- Today's camera batteries have incredibly long life leaving little room for complaint. It is important, however, to remember to recharge them when you get back to the motel at the end of the day.
- The Lumix 45-200mm telephoto lens has developed a reputation for being a bit soft. Hogwash. Properly stabilized on a tripod, I used it for about 70% of my exposures on this trip and every one of them is as sharp as I could ever need — as can be seen in this 100% screen capture of a tripod stabilized image at 200mm (400mm eq) from the lower left of the full image.
- I've never been comfortable photographing with a backpack on my back. Instead, I've recently taking to using belt pouches — a Lowepro top loader for my second camera, a Lowepro lens case, and a padded zipper pouch for miscellaneous accessories. It works, but it's cumbersome. If not a backpack, nor a loaded belt, nor a photographer's vest, I'm at a loss as to how to carry my extra gear in comfort and functional handiness. The search continues.
- Nothing beats an old-fashioned lipstick case brush for removing pesky dust from the surface of a lens.
- Speaking of dust, once again I found myself very pleased with a two-camera strategy that eliminated countless lens changes in that dusty environment.
- More speaking of dust, it turns out this is one of the disadvantages of a ball head. Grit got into the works and required several cleanings with running water. I'm not sure I can see any solution for this problem other than diligence.
- When I go out photographing with a friend, we almost immediately go our separate ways once the car is parked and we're in photographic mode. Simple Motorola walkie-talkies have become an indispensable tool — which I was glad I remembered to pack at the last minute.
- Deep in the canyons, calculating the time of day that would be most appropriate for the light required was incredibly easy with Sundroid, a sun and moon tracking program on my Nexus 7 tablet.
- A dumb little trick that I shared with my photo buddy is to wrap expended batteries with a heavy-duty rubber band. That way, back in the motel, it's easy to determine which ones need to be recharged.
- There are all kinds of protection devices to keep your camera from getting soaked in a downpour. I'm yet to find one that's more practical than a simple motel shower cap. The elastic band is perfect, and so is the price.
- I remember the fun and joy from my film days of having exactly the right colored filter when I needed it. I no longer carry colored filters, but I did use the Cokin graduated neutral density filters on numerous occasions. It helps to preserve detail in the bright clouds in the sky by evening out the exposure between sky and ground. This simply cannot be done in post-processing — once the highlights are lost to overexposure they're lost forever.
- For the first time in a long time, I traveled without my laptop. I thought I would miss the nightly Lightroom reviews, and was surprised that I didn't. I did chimp using the camera's LCD screen and found that to be sufficient during this trip. The jury is still out about future trips, however.
- At the conclusion of a trip, I always assess what equipment I used versus what equipment I thought I was going to use. I anticipated on this trip that I would rely heavily on wide-angle lenses. In fact, it turned out to be just the opposite. I used the 7-14 mm for 92 compositions; 14-45 mm for 136 compositions; and the 45-200 mm for 777 compositions. Fully two thirds of the images were shot of a focal length between 80 and 300 mm (in 35mm eq).
- Perhaps the greatest lesson learned in this first trip to Utah was that it is a critical mistake to underestimate the drive time it takes to get anywhere. This is big country — great for photography, but manage your gas tank with care. We practically coasted in on fumes when we arrived at Torrey. It was a lesson we took to heart and kept the top half of the gas tank filled during the rest of the trip.