How does Frank Lahman prepare for his trips?

So, what considerations do I have about photo ops on these trips?  

Let me digress for a moment and state that this summer involved many outings with our grandkids. I relied almost exclusively on a compact camera, the Canon G-15, for these experiences. Young and active grandkids combined with an aging grandpa=light gear! This little camera has been great. It shoots Raw, has an optical viewfinder, is ruggedly constructed with an f/1.8 lens and many controls externally operable as on an SLR. Attached to my belt, It got used a lot more than if I had my gear described below. I’ll also be using the G-15 on the kayak.

I can take as much gear as I want for my driving trips but have to scale down size and weight for airplane travel and moving every several days to new locations. To help maximize my “luck” at being at the right place at the right time, I’ve obtained several photo-oriented guide books for Arkansas and Missouri and have done online research. As much as is possible when travelling with 1-3 additional people—who aren’t as serious as I am about photography—I’ll be getting up early and staying up late to capture the good light. But,  I find they generally expect me to have dinner with them and keep up with them on walks! As with most travel, some photos have to be taken when I happen to be there as part of an overall itinerary.

My camera and tripod bags are always ready to go, with a charged  battery in the camera and empty memory card, camera settings pre-set for the expected use, and the essential lense(s), filters(circular polarizer & neutral density graduated filter), shower cap (great temporary rain cover for the camera), tripod, lens cleaning spray, microfiber cloth, dust blower, Lens Pen, bubble level, intervalometer, two extra batteries + charger (some of these items go in my tripod bag), speedlight, set of Allen wrenches, headlamp, small pinch-light with a red lens, regular flashlight, extra memory cards (8-16GB each), compass, and a 3”x5” spiral notebook with tips for different photo settings. I have a Jobu wrist strap always on the camera and it’s on my wrist when taking the camera from the bag to the tripod. I don’t use a traditional neck strap. The latter takes up a lot of room in the bag, is uncomfortable on long hikes, and often gets in the way. If hiking, I’ll use a shoulder strap that attaches to the base of my camera body and lets the camera hang at my hip—easily accessible for a “grab and shoot” opportunity and no strain on my neck.

I like to refresh my memory on settings for anticipated opportunities, so that I avoid getting to a spot and not remembering, for example, how to program the intervalometer (Yep, it was frustrating to be standing on a bridge over a cold river at midnight and having the camera take only 1 instead of 11 sequenced images and not remembering why that was happening. When I only have time to take two long-exposure images per night, it really hurts my pride to blow 1/2 my night because of something like this.

I have a collection of “How To” articles for various scenes, be it flying birds, lightning, rainbows, etc., that I’ll review. If planning a night shoot, I make a great effort to arrive in plenty of time—maybe even a day early–to determine exactly where I’ll stand. I take some test shots for composition and then switch off all auto settings and go manual. It’s critical to know, for example, where to set the focus ring when taking star trails….and it’s not all the way out! After all the settings are (hopefully) in place, I try them out while there’s still enough time and ambient light to easily make changes.

Written by: Frank Lahman