One of things that I enjoy most about photography in rural New England is the ability to head off in the car and just get lost. I love to find back roads that I have never explored. It is a treasure hunt that almost always leads to fresh opportunities and after several years of unsystematic wandering I am still amazed at the surprises that pop up.
But I don't just head out with my camera and a tank of gas. Over the years I have put together my road gear that allows me to reap the most enjoyment and productivity from these explorations. My wife likes to joke about the fact that I often come in and out of the house several times before I have managed to remember all my equipment. I keep intending to make a list. This morning I was careful to get everything organized. I was proudly ready to go, but then I had to sheepishly return to house having realized that I had forgotten my keys. So here is what will be on that list, if I ever write it.
First I must start with my car. I use a rather beat-up old four wheel drive Subaru Forester. The four wheel drive is a necessity on our roads, but the "beat-up" part is especially important since I take this poor thing to places no self-respecting car would ever venture. Anyone who knows about my other job will understand the thinly veiled and intentionally mis-spelled reference on my license plate.
Although I enjoy the adventure of getting lost I still want to get home eventually and I would like to be able to find my way back to any gems I may stumble across along the way. To help, I bring three forms of navigational aid. First, no one should venture out without a GPS. I have a Garmin (A), but they all work about the same and reference the same database. These things are not perfect and, particularly in rural areas, are prone to sending you down roads that actually turn out to be impassable cow path. But when you become hopelessly be fuddled it is always nice to be able to press that "Home" button and let that smug electronic voice guide you back. I also use a GPS tracking device (B) (Gisteq) that allows me to tag each of my photographs with my location. It is a bit of a hassle but about every other picture I take is a red barn and it is nice to be able to sort them all out. The tracker records my coordinates every few seconds. When I get home I download the file and then use GeoSetter, a wonder freeware program, to quickly insert the locations into the meta data. Because I always convert my images to Adobe's DNG format the information is embedded in the image and I don't have to worry about keeping track of hundreds of little side-car files. It is wonderful to be able to click on an image and have its precise location pop up on Google Maps. The program also saves track data that I can use at the end of the year to document my mileage for tax purposes. All this technology is great, but there are times when a good detailed map provides a more comprehensive overview of the region than can be packed into any tiny LCD screen. I always carry a copy of the Atlas for each state I am visiting, as well as larger state road maps to give a broader sense of surrounding opportunities.
The photo-shoot sound track is very important. I discovered early on that I could not concentrate on the passing beauty when I was listening to words. Whether it is books on tape , podcasts or even just music lyrics, I find my vision turns inward with only enough awareness of my environment to keep me from hurtling off the road. I have my IPod (C) pack with a broad range of instrumental music from classical to jazz. Again the overriding criteria is that the music can not be too involving. I find that music with a rustic quality works best as I explore the country side. Among my favorites are Aron Copland's Appalachian Spring and a collection of traditional Blue Ridge Mountain instrumental folk music. So far I have not found gangster rap to be especially helpful, but your tastes may diverge from mine.
My cell phone (D) is a necessity. Certainly disasters can occur requiring a call for help, but on most of my productive shoots I inevitably reach a point when a call to Susan is required to apologize for being late for something. Of course, if I forget to call I can always blame the spotty reception in our hills.
Oh Yeah the Camera
One of the advantages of a driving photo-shoot is that there are no real limits on the equipment that you haul around, but in addition to my big bag I usually include a lighter shoulder bag. When I get the urge to wander into a field or down a forest trail it is nice to be able to place the essentials into the small bag and avoid lugging the full kit. Depending on the shoot I will occasionally add other equipment such as microphones and a field recorder for video, my converted Canon 20D for infrared or my 5d which I use primarily for time-lapse.
The one thing that I can never forget is Nellie. She knowns the signs and hangs around the door as soon as she sees me gathering equipment. For some reason she loves driving and is remarkably patient when skittish animals or dangerous traffic force me to keep her in the car. Nell does give me her "what about my needs" look on a regular basis, but it is always a gentle and irresistibly cute admonition that never fails to bring me back to earth.
|Community Church Wreath, Harrisville New Hampshire|
Well that is my road kit. I hope it is of some interest. I am sure you all have your own photo-shoot essentials and I would love to hear your suggestions. As I finish this, I am waiting for my kids to awaken for the Christmas morning blitz. The greatest gift is having everyone home. I wish you all a warm and happy holiday with friends and family and most of all I wish you some &?@¥#!! SNOW already!
|Central Square Keene New Hampshire, Back when there was something called snow!|