by Harry Flashman
“Essentials” for your camera bag
you are keen on photography as a hobby, then as well as a decent camera
(generally a DSLR with a range of lenses) you will have a decent camera bag!
That bag should be large enough to carry the aforesaid camera, lenses, and a
few other items, some of which are important, and some just part of a wish
The first item is probably one of the most important, and smallest items and
is a spare memory card. There is nothing worse than standing beside a photo
opportunity frantically stabbing at the delete button to try and get some
space in the memory.
The next item is a small pocket torch. Any photographer who takes his camera
out at night will need one. Even if just to see what way up the batteries go
in the flash, which always runs out of volts just when you don’t need it.
Setting shutter speeds in the dark can also be difficult. Or even seeing
what aperture you are selecting on the lens barrel. And in addition to the
humble small torch are the even humbler batteries for it. You can guess the
Another small, but definitely handy item is a remote release for the
shutter. Any time you are trying to do a time exposure, it become very
difficult holding the button down and not making the camera tremble -
especially with long exposures. Cheap, does not take up much space, and very
While talking about time exposures, another useful “camera bag” item is a
miniature tripod. With something like this you can mount the tripod on the
roof of the car and take five minute moonlight shots if you need it. Often
called table-top tripods. There are some with “springy” legs and my late
photographic friend Ernie Kuehnelt was kind enough to bring me one from
Germany. Well built and sturdy and deserving of a place in the bag.
Now the next one is not so easy to get here, but you can always get someone
to bring you one in from overseas. In bright sunlight, the magic brain
inside your camera that sets the exposure settings can get confused. Make
that ‘very confused’. The answer for consistently correct exposures is an 18
percent grey card. This you place beside the subject and take a meter
reading from it. You then set the camera to that f stop and shutter speed
and you have the correct exposure for the main shot. If you are serious
about getting the correct exposure, and particularly if you shoot slides,
one of these is invaluable. Another trick is to select an 18 percent grey
camera bag, and you just take your reading directly from there!
The next item that is worth considering, if you are a serious photographer,
is a battery charger. You will go through heaps of batteries is you are
shooting regularly. This gets expensive. Buy two sets of the rechargeable
batteries and a charger and your photography expenses will be a lot less.
This is particularly so with the new digitals. They eat batteries, so keep a
freshly charged spare in the camera bag at all times. Other batteries you
should have include those for any flash guns. There’s nothing worse than
whistling while waiting for the flash to recharge!
Another item is again not a true photographic item, but is invaluable. It is
a waterproof marker pen. How many times have you written details, names,
etc., on the back of a print, to find that it has rubbed off on the face of
the next print and so forth? Totally annoying and often requires another set
of prints to be made.
Another ‘silly’ item is a box of matches - even if you don’t smoke. The
rattle of a box of matches will catch the attention of dogs and children.
You set up the shot, exposure selected and then rattle the matchbox. You
have about two seconds to catch the ears-up inquisitive K9 look, and about
the same for children, whose attention span can be measured in nano-seconds.
Finally, don’t forget the polarizing filter. Use it in the Thailand sunshine
and see how much richer your color shots will be.
175 Years of Photography
Very soon we will be coming up to 200
years of photography. Everything about photography has changed remarkably in
the past 175 years since Louis Daguerre went on to develop the daguerreotype
process, the first publicly announced photographic process, which required
only minutes of exposure in the camera and produced clear, finely detailed
results. It was commercially introduced in 1839, a date generally accepted
as the birth year of practical photography. In the mid-1820s, Nicéphore
Niépce had managed to produce an image, but several days of exposure in the
camera were required and the earliest results were very crude.
Though photography has been around for 175 years, it has only been in the
last century that it became readily available for the amateur photographers.
One reason for this was the birth of the Brownie box camera. This relatively
large camera took about a dozen shots per roll. Processing took about a week
or even longer, but it had now become possible for Dad to take photographs
of Mum and the kids. Popular photography was born!
Of course, these were Black and White pictures, and if you wanted color, for
special occasions, it was necessary to have them hand colored. This led to a
very specialized branch of photographic technicians and the skills of some
of these people are still being looked at in family albums today.
But we do live in a colorful world and the next giant leap for photography
was the advent of color film. Not only color - but color available at a
price that the world’s amateur photographers could afford. Overnight, the
“dip and dunk” B&W labs went out of business!
However, it still took a good week to get your prints back. We all went to
the local chemist and waited with bated breath to see the results, but like
most things in life, realization was often not as good as expectation.
One reason for this was the equipment, and sometimes our misunderstanding of
it. The best cameras were items like the Leica or Voigtlander. Great optics
but hardly “user friendly” in today speak. Popular cameras of the day were
little gems like the Minolta Hi-matic 7S. Remember them? Little light meter
reading on the side of the viewfinder and we were getting closer to getting
better exposures each time.
The next step in the 175 years of photography was two pronged. We improved
cameras, with the Japanese camera industry becoming dominant, and secondly,
we developed a quicker way of D&P (developing and processing). In one fell
swoop we had affordable cameras and quicker returns, by then down to two
days, or in some centers a breathtaking 24 hours.
Names like Nikon, Canon, Minolta, Olympus, Pentax became well known. They
brought in innovations like the Olympus Trip, a half frame camera that could
give you 72 shots per roll. And all the time, the optics were getting
better, rivalling the German produced cameras in every way. Leica people
were buying cameras from Japan with a yellow strap and Nikon became a
favorite, especially with photojournalists.
Then came self-contained, automated one hour photo processing and printing.
Small shops began springing up everywhere advertising the 1-hour service. It
was more expensive than the trip to the chemist, but it was almost instant
gratification. You could view your skills (or lack thereof) in 60 minutes.
Almost overnight the chemist’s slice of D&P disappeared.
But all the time, the camera manufacturers were producing even better and
“smarter” cameras. Electronics, micro-processors and silicon chips were
stuffed into camera cases and it became even easier to get a good
photograph. And cameras became cheaper again. Popular photography, with
instant results, was almost within everyone’s reach.
The development did not stop there, however. The electronic marvels began to
take over even more and the first “digital” imaging cameras were born.
Suddenly film was no longer needed to get an image. Color labs were the next
Digital cameras became point and shoot for the amateur or very sophisticated
SLRs with interchangeable lenses for professional results.
But it didn’t stop there, enter the camera-phone, which became so clever in
its dual functions that was called the ‘smartphone’.
Is this the end for photography? History tells us otherwise!
Where is the instruction manual?
all else fails - read the instruction manual” is always some very good
advice, and the answer to many photographic problems can be found in it.
However, this does pre-suppose you have read it, or even know where to find
it. And even more importantly, know where to find the salient items from all
the functions of today’s digital cameras.
When you speak the word “digital” it means you have entered the world of the
drop-down menu. How I curse it! They have taken simple rotary dial
adjustments and made them difficult because you have to scroll down menus
and then scroll across and so forth, looking at the LCD screen on the back
of the camera.
Of course, it can get even more difficult, as when the instruction manual
that comes with your new camera is on a CD. The CD covers over 100 pages,
and of course, is quite useless when you are in the field without a PC or
any electronic device that can read CD’s (so far this ability is not
available on the ubiquitous smart-phone).
Now the camera manufacturers don’t think they are making it difficult for
you. In fact, they think they have made it easier for you! Instead of
working out the correct exposure for any shot, they have done the sums for
you and all you have to do is select the mode you want, be that fireworks,
rainy overcast day, or snowflakes. But you may have to go through the
drop-down menu to select the mode of course.
But, a printed manual generally comes with the new camera. Do not lose it.
It is akin to your bible. But you must read it first before traipsing
outside with the menu for sunset beach selected. Look at that again - read
A few years ago, one of the readers, Don Griffith, wrote to me with some
very good advice, for a confused amateur who had written, “I have trawled
through the instruction book and menus for both turning it on and also
extending the viewing time of the menus but I’m damned if I can find
anything about either items.” He had also written, “A question though, I
know most of the time it is power economical to leave the LCD off but
occasionally it is needed for viewing. Any suggestions?”
I reprint Don’s advice here. And as it was extremely sage advice, so I
suggest you read it. “I have a D40 and probably the instruction manual for
it is exactly the same as a previous writer. Very badly laid out and
confusing - vague language and far too many cross references for someone
making the transition up to a DSLR to make total sense of.
“To this end it is very worthwhile investing in a third party book on the
camera if one wants to get the best out of it.
“I got one from my local ‘Amazon’ - the beauty of using Amazon being I was
able to read parts of it before I bought it to make sure I was not buying
yet another confusing instruction book. I bought the cheapest available out
of a surprisingly large collection that was on offer - and it has been a
complete revelation and consider it has totally paid for itself in the first
three or four chapters.
“For example, I have had the camera for 12 months and in the first chapter
or so I learnt basic things that I was previously unaware of - like how to
use the exposure compensation/aperture button.
“No doubt there are owners of other makes of DSLR cameras with much the same
problem - if so it is also worth them looking for a book for their camera as
By the way, when children play with the camera, you can end up with the
situation, for example, where nothing on the LCD makes any sense, no matter
what you do. The answer for that problem is to return to the shop and look
hopeless, and the bright young thing behind the counter will fix it in less
than one minute. Unfortunately, you and I are no longer “bright young