The overlooked essential of the photographers kit.

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You have done all the research, talked to your photographer friends and specialists. You spend sleepless nights on your computer flicking from page to page comparing megapixels, ISO, zoom and sensor sizes. A decision is made after months of research and you walk away with your camera purchase happy as larry…you then chuck your precious cargo into your unsupported rucksack along with your lunch and keys.

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Unfortunately, this is all too common for the keen photographer and I am guilty of this sin. You may think a bag is just a bag to hold everything in one place, but it is so much more than that. Tripods fall under the same prejudice. A tripod is used for steadying the camera and what really is the difference between a metal stick with three legs? Surely they all do the same thing?! Yes, you are correct. They ARE designed to do the same thing, but there is a massive difference between a £30 tripod and a £200 one.

Let me take you on a journey through the jungle that is our bag and tripod area and explain why doing your groundwork for these items are just as important as your camera research.

I recently went on a trip to the Farne Islands. A bird photographers paradise. Terns, cormorants, puffins and guillemots to name a few, reside on this small island and I could spend all day there. You take a 1-hour boat trip to Farne and if its windy expect to be soaked in salt water! You are walking around the island and need quick access to your range of lenses for flying shots, portrait and wide-angle photos. A secure sturdy and comfortable camera bag is ESSENTIAL. A rucksack would not cut it.

Here are some Artic terns and puffins for anyone who likes birds.

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My bag of choice is the Lowepro flipside 400AW. (We do not stock this bag anymore, but click here to see a similar design) It is designed to hold heavy equipment with full support around the waist for long walks. I felt comfortable all day, even with a Canon 80D, Canon 15-85mm f3.5-5.6 IS USM, Canon 70-200mm f2.8 L mkii, Tokina 11-16 f2.8, Canon 100mm f2.8 L Macro, a water bottle and lunch! It has a hidden compartment for a waterproof case (brilliant for the salt water spray) and big enough to comfortably fit all my equipment. My lunch was kept in a separate area so as not to dirty my rental lenses! I never felt weighed down by the bag on my back, leaving me to concentrate on what was important (taking photos)

 

Starting out, I used my standard rucksack. This was never good enough. All my equipment collected at the bottom, putting strain on my back and shoulders. There were no compartments for other accessories meaning that my poor cameras LCD screen took the brunt of my bundle of keys. Most importantly, a standard rucksack does not have the padding designed for expensive electronic equipment. When you are constantly changing lenses and exploring, your bag will take the strain of the elements. Wind, rain, snow, rocks, accidental falls, the end of the world – your bag will go through a-lot. A good quality bag will be hard-wearing and strong, lasting through all your adventures. Doing your research will save headaches in the future.

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If we had to buy our skulls to protect our brains (the organ that holds all our precious memories) would we compensate on price? If your photography is important to you, why compensate?

Just because I work at Castle Cameras does not mean I have all the handy equipment. I will be honest. I don’t own a tripod. I find it easier to handhold for fast quick shots and find tripods a bit cumbersome to carry and set-up. I may need to change my attitude to this. My friend came with me to the Farne Islands and bought with her a Manfrotto 190X. At the time I scoffed at the idea of carrying the heavy aluminium tripod when most birds were diving and flying suitable only (I thought) for handheld photography. However, my friend found an area to set up, saw the birds coming in to land and used her tripod to pan the camera and get some excellent sharp flying birds with her Canon 300mm f4 L. This action saved her arms from the heavy weight of the 300mm and eliminated any extra shake from the hand. Although I am pleased with the images I got, I feel that a tripod would have given me that extra edge. Because she set up her equipment and quietly stayed in one place most of the time, she had the opportunity to capture a herring gull attacking a small tern chick and one competition worthy photo of its head in the gulls mouth! As I was moving around, I lost these opportunities.
Patience is a virtue and having a tripod would have compelled me to wait and capture a potentially amazing scene.

A sturdy tripod with the facility to extend the legs horizontally (for any macro work) is a great piece of kit. A cheaper tripod would be made of plastic rather than aluminium or carbon fibre. (Therefore not as stable) The three legs would be connected, moving in unison and limiting the capabilities when out in the field. There are a variety of tripod heads for different uses – ball head, tilt head, 3 way head, fluid head, among others. At the budget end you wont get a choice of head as they are usually attached to the legs. As you go up the scale the heads become an option and are usually much more fluid in movement. So for any video or panning work you get a very steady shot

Choice is something we are privileged to have, but it can create mayhem in our minds! When you round the corner at Castle Cameras you will be blown away by what we have in store. However if you are trying to choose the best bag or tripod for you we are always here to help and advise.

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If you have already spent a small fortune on your new camera, then check out our clearance offers this week. Good quality items at reduced rates – to help the purse strings but still making sure your camera and photography get the best help out in the big wide world.

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