What do nature photographers carry?

This is a followup post that I’ve been meaning to do for a while, since the first part appeared here. I was finally inspired to finish it off after reading an article about what flight attendants carried for their job. Of course, that article title and mine are both misleading; flight attendants and nature photographers, hard as it may be to believe, are still just individuals and there’s virtually nothing that can be said to be universally carried, save for perhaps a camera (for photographers, anyway.) When that article said that flight attendants carried Airborne, the completely inert and useless snake-oil, to ward off the germs from all those sick passengers… well, I doubt most flight attendants are that stupid. And in like vein, I doubt most nature photographers carry everything that I carry, so we’re going with just the personal aspect here. If your idle curiosity is in desperate need of finding out the items that every nature photographer carries, you’re probably going to have to fund the survey yourself.

All that said, let’s dig into the bags and see what we have here:

Spare batteries and memory cards – This should really go without saying, but I’ll reiterate that you should have this with you always, regardless of what you’re shooting or how often. I’ve seen way too many memory cards fail, and of course batteries should be routinely charged, like on a schedule, but especially before any significant outing.

Remote release – Mostly for high-magnification tripod work (like telephoto shots,) but also handy for time exposures. I recently received a wireless version but inertia has kept me from trying it out yet, which is disturbing really, so the one in the bag is still a wired version, an intervalometer with a microcomputer that’s programmable for interval shots, specific long exposures (since the camera can handle 30 seconds at the most,) and so on.

Off-camera flash cord – direct flash is boring and does poor shaping, so having a flash at an oblique angle is much better. I’ve gone back and forth with my flash rigs and am presently using a macro rig with its own sync cord, but I still use a handheld flash occasionally, or get out the more elaborate flash bracket.

Brilliant green laser pointer – I use this for students, because it allows me to point out exactly where something is, even in bright sunlight, when describing it proves to be very difficult (“Go up to the seventeenth branch on the left side of the trunk, follow it to the third time it forks and take the upper fork…”)

Collection cans – Mostly film cans, but small containers for whatever I come across that I want to examine/shoot in greater detail. Watertight so I can collect aquatic subjects as well.

Individually wrapped hand wipes – A little amusing here, because I’m often not cautious at all about what I pick up, and am reasonably good at remembering not to go putting my hands in my mouth later on, but they’re there when needed. Not to be used as toilet paper though. Trust me on this.

Disposable rain poncho – Mentioned in an earlier post, but these are exceptionally handy, and not just for photographers. And along those lines…

Condom – Because if there’s one thing that porn has taught me, it’s that you never know…

Short coil of monofilament – Otherwise known as fishing line, and I bet you’re thinking this is a survival thing, where I can catch fish to eat if and when I get stranded in the wilds somewhere. But no – fishing bores me to death, so this approach would be self-defeating. Instead, this is used for tying plants and branches back out of the way, or emergency repairs, or occasionally to make a giant fake spiderweb to keep others out of my prime shooting locations.

Bottle of ‘flavor enhancer’ for ‘water’ – The manufacturers don’t like to advertise them this way, but when your legs are trapped beneath a boulder, these really make drinking your own urine much better. It cycles through, too, so one bottle lasts a long time.

Half-eaten Butterfinger from, uh, 1996 – I don’t really like Butterfingers, but I don’t like wasting food either. It’s now an experiment to see which emotion is strongest.

Spare keys – Let’s see, this one’s to the car I sold in 2001, this is to the place I used to live, been torn down now, and this is to that really cool padlock that I haven’t been able to find since I moved from New York. You never know, though.

Ticket to a Men Without Hats concert – I never attended, because I couldn’t remember the safe place that I stashed the ticket so I wouldn’t lose it. Damn, that’s where it was.

Button that reads, “Don’t vex me, Frank!” – I got this in high school because it seemed like something that the cool kids would wear. It did get me a thumbs-up from Sean Gaffney but that probably doesn’t count. I still have no fucking idea what it means.

A booger shaped like Trump’s hair – I couldn’t flick that one away.

A minibike from a 1/24 scale Honda City Turbo – In Japan, Honda produced a model called the City, a squat little urban runabout car, and it came complete with a folding minibike to use in areas where car access was difficult. The model kit that I got many years back also had the minibike, and I kept that as a curio, because it’s cool.

A loaded dodecahedron – Not failing any more saving rolls.

A pocket slide-rule – Everybody past a certain age remembers being told that they had to learn how to do long division and percentages by hand since “you won’t have a calculator with you everywhere you go,” and I immediately started carrying this. Shows what you knew, Mr. Farnelli!

Great A’Tuin hood ornament – I keep trying to figure out how to attach this to my camera.

A compass I stole from some college students while hiking in Maryland – This was from, oh, 1994 I think. They were noisy little shits doing some school project, and scared off the rabbits that I was attempting to photograph.

An almost-intact deer skull that I found in a river – This is really taking up a lot of space…

Two cans of white gravy – When traveling in undeveloped areas, the recommendation was always to have some colorful beads and trinkets to trade with the natives when necessary, but I’m in the South, so…

An audio recording of Bj√∂rk’s Human Behavior Certifiably the best bear repellent known to man.

42 towels – If you’re gonna do it, do it right.

So there you have it: the additional equipment that makes this nature photographer, at least, as successful as he is. Always happy to share.