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You Carry that in Your Camera Bag!?!
by Vivid Light Staff

If you spend a lot of time shooting you tend to start accumulating little things in your camera bag for dealing with emergencies.  Usually something gets added because you needed it and didn't have it.  The list changes depending on what and where you're shooting and whether or not you'll be carrying the gear long distances or staying relatively close to the car.  Here are some of the things that have found their way into our bags.

Swiss Army knife
Carry one of the little ones.  It's only about an inch and a half long but it packs a lot of utility into that inch and a half including a knife, a flat bladed screw driver that's also small enough to turn a #2 Phillips screw, scissors, tweezers (great for splinters), and a tooth pick.  We've seen them for anywhere from $12 to $24.  At that price you might even consider two since  one of the little suckers always seems to be MIA.

Mini Mag Light
Some products are simply made better than their competitors.  This is true of Mag Light flashlights.  There are two sizes of mini mags, The larger one takes a couple of double AA batteries.  Jim has one that looks as though it's been to hell and back.  It throws an impressive amount of light for it's small size.  There is also a pen light size that is perfect for reading unlighted camera displays.

The larger one will work for guiding you over easy terrain but a larger light is in order for challenging trails after dark.

Rubber bands
We usually have three or four rattling around our bags somewhere.  They're great for getting a grip on sticking filters and for just plain wrapping things up.

Filter holders
Those nice new filter packs from Tamrac, Lowepro, and Tiffen are great for holding your filters so that you can see them at a glance.  Thats fine when carrying a full size camera bag and a lot of gear.  But if you're traveling light that big filter pack gets in the way.  One of our editors has a unique solution.  Go to the liquor store and buy a few of those little gift bottles of Crown Royal.  The soft cloth sleeves are sized perfectly for holding a couple of filters that are screwed together and the drawstring top keeps the filters safe and sound.  You can get two 77mm filters per bag or around five 52mm filters.  We'll admit it's low tech, but if you're only carrying a body and one or two lenses in a small bag they takes up virtually no room.  They're free if you like Crown Royal and only a couple of dollars if you don't.

Step Rings and rubber hoods
We've got a ton of filters from using so many different size lenses over time.  But when heading out it's best to pack only the largest size filter size you'll need and a couple of step rings to help them work with smaller lenses.  This saves a ton of space and can prevent vignetting with some wide angle lenses. 

Those fixed hoods can also take up a lot of room in your bag.  Collapsible rubber hoods in a couple of different sizes will take care of most of your needs and tuck away into nooks and crannies.  The exception to this are long zooms that store their hoods in the reversed position and provide a lot more protection than their rubber counterparts.

A sharpie for marking on rolls of film and a pen for keeping notes.  I recently started keeping index cards in my bag instead of a notebook.  10 or so index cards take up less room.

Extra tripod quick release mounts
Depending on your tripod head they're usually not that expensive.  Have one for each camera body and one for each big zoom that you're carrying.  If you're thinking that the cost will add up figure out the cost of a new camera body that you dropped because you were trying to change a quick release mount in the field.

A little gaffer tape and some band aids
Gaffer tape comes in big rolls and won't fit easily into a camera bag.  Mine is wound onto a short piece of 3/4 inch dowel.  Just a couple of feet - or just enough to hold something in an emergency.  Gaffer tape is like duct tape except that it's stronger than duct tape and the glue doesn't come off on the taped item the way duct tape glue will.  

The band aids are for sticking together human parts.  Two or three each of regular band aids and finger band aids will do the trick.  For major body work on your own body it's amazing what you can do with a couple of band aids and some gaffer tape.  Hey what do you want from an old hockey player?

Spare batteries
For every piece of equipment including your camera(s), flash, even your flashlight.

Plastic bags
If you're shooting outdoors in the wet a plastic bag wrapped around the camera and secured with one of those rubber bands can keep your camera dry and keep you shooting.

Lens cloth
No surprise there right?  The reason I mention it is that I keep separate microfiber cloths in each camera bag.  That way when equipment gets transferred from bag to bag I always have a lens cloth.

No not those kinds of drugs!  Things like Motrin and aspirin are great for muscle aches and headaches.  Stuff a couple of each in an old film canister with the ban aids.  The band aids keep the pills from rattling around and turning into dust.  Sounds simple but those pills can be the difference between wanting to keep going or calling it a day.

Water bottle and a power bar
If I'm going to be walking all day I carry water or Gatorade - no matter what the weather.  If you're hiking for a lot of hours a power bar can give you a little boost so you can keep on truckin'. 

Just remember that these are things that we carry depending on the assignment - not a list of what we take out every time we shoot.  It's way too easy to overload yourself so that by mid-day you feel more like a pack mule than a photographer; and that's no fun at all.

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