"Unsweetened Iced Tea and Ketchup" Hole in the Wall Cafe, Orleans, MA by Ernie Larsen©
“Unsweetened Iced Tea and Ketchup” Hole in the Wall Cafe, Orleans, MA by Ernie Larsen©

by Ernie “Poppa” Larsen

Well, here it is February (almost March). If you received a holiday gift of a new camera, by now you should have at least a working knowledge of its capabilities and all the inherent idiosyncrasies sorted.

No? Well don’t be ashamed or feel inadequate – every time I pick up my “new” Canon G12 I find something in one of the programs I swear I’d never seen before. It is mind-boggling how much “stuff” is included in the computers/microchips of these compact light keepers and the great results that are possible!

When I began thinking about a subject to follow up my initial blog, my plan was to concentrate on accessories – although with all the aforementioned features of today’s point & shoot (P&S) digitals the accessory market is somewhat weak. During my photojournalist film shooting days I remember having and using a bunch of various filters; auxiliary flash units; lenses – for a variety of situations and reasons, which now I can reproduce in camera with less hassle and almost perfect results. And speaking of electronic flash – most times, shooting in a well-lit room/area the flash doesn’t enter the equation and if it does, you can manipulate it like never before.

One thing I strongly suggest, when using your camera especially for people pictures outdoors make sure the flash is “forced” ON. Yes, that’s correct, FLASH ON – the flash will fill in shadows and give a more lifelike appearance and enhance almost any shot with people. This goes for indoors too when shooting people whose features may be in shadow. It sounds silly, and many do not use the flash OUTDOORS – give it a try leave it on and see how much your snapshots improve.

Oh yes, I do have a recommendation of an accessory after all. A mini tripod. The JOBY brand of the Gorilla Pod offers a few different sizes and is almost a necessity. I have a couple in my bag. These compact units are available everywhere, retail and mail order. Our affliliate ADORAMA carries the complete line; for a compact P/S the original model will do the job. They also make a fine model for SLRs.

The unit can be used as a traditional tripod or by wrapping its flexible legs around a tree limb or other rigid object offering good stability for a night shoot or to get yourself into the family portrait. Check out a JOBY Gorilla Pod – they are versatile and the basic unit costs less than a quick lunch for two (approx $14 at Adorama). They also manufacture some nifty units for SLRs with ballhead and bubble level for precise shooting (this one will cost a couple of lunches).

In reality, I know most of you when taking a camera with you just ‘take a camera’ and if you followed the guidelines in my first column; have a freshly charged battery + a media card with enough space ready to record those precious memories you’re good to go. And if you are going away for a few days don’t forget your battery charger and extra battery.

That’s it – but wait…

…after I thought I finished my piece, rereading it gave me the feeling it was a bit short and since I always have lots to say regarding cameras, I thought I’d share how I store my stuff.

Boring – not really – if you have just one camera it may not be a big deal, I have 4 digitals and all the cords and accessories needed to use them. Plus chargers and cords for a Kindle, I-Touch, phone. At times finding the right cord was difficult if it was not returned where it belonged.

Nowadays, when you purchase a basic P&S digital camera or other device with a camera – it usually comes with a charger, USB transfer cord for the computer, camera to TV/Video cord and instruction booklet/pamphlet. This is all compactly packed in a usually not too functional fitted box.

Ernie’s system for staying organized. Photo by Ernie Larsen

So what to do for storage? I have 4 digital cameras, plus the others listed – each with their own kit. After misplacing a few transfer cords along the way I had to come up with a better means of storage for these most necessary items.

A few years ago, I started storing excess stuff (office supplies, printer ink, pens, pencils almost anything to do with my home office and photo accessories) in individual plastic shoe boxes. I got the idea at a fishing/hunting show and noticed one of the pro fly tiers using this system to store his materials. Now, I have a box for my digital camera cords and all that goes with them.

A separate Ziploc for each camera model keeps accessories organized. Photo by Ernie Larsen

And to make it more convenient each camera’s accessories are stored in an individual, quart size freezer Ziploc bag that goes inside the shoe box. These sturdy plastic bags with a press-seal closure (pretty much airtight) offer a good storage alternative; the quart size are very roomy. For what they offer in convenience their modest price makes them something you should have and be using. I’ll bet some of you may even have some in your kitchen already. To me, this system has been a lifesaver; I can’t imagine how long if would take me to find and buy a transfer cord if one ever really was lost.

The most important thing to remember is to put everything back in is respective bag after downloading your pictures or charging your camera. And when you hit the road just take the plastic bag that goes with your gear and you are all set for stress free shooting. I know you can download from a memory card – but if you do not have the right piece of equipment to download to – up the creek, as it were.

Labeled cords. Photo by Ernie Larsen

Another layer of ID and really a must if you have lots of cords; labeling each individual cord with the name of the camera and the cord function with which it is associated. I use a DYMO label maker. If you have several devices and a bunch of cords, a labeled cord makes it super easy to get the right cord the first time. Even though the cords are separated in bags by brand, when a few of them are in use labels do offer quick ID and keep the process really simple.

My travels of late:  lots of folks know I travel and always are inquiring about my trips. This year, still battling a detached retina (thank heaven for auto focus) I’m somewhat restricted travel wise. However, my first outing and shoot of the season was on our regular excursion to Cape Cod in the beginning of February. Not familiar with the Cape? It’s that area of land jutting out to the east of Massachusetts and a summer tourist mecca. I consider these stock trips to enhance my files for photo requests down the road. I am working on a series of diner/café/restaurant views – the one illustrating this column is one of my current favs – taken at the Hole in One Café, Orleans (Cape Cod) MA. Just sat the G12 on the counter and knocked off a couple of shots. No flash – had the camera on AUTO and this was the result – I titled it “Unsweetened Iced Tea and Ketchup”.  (Available for purchase)

I always try to start writing while I’m away and this piece is no exception. It was begun just after breakfast a couple of weeks ago from my creative enclave on Cape Cod in Massachusetts – where for the last eight years, or so, we have been invited by long-time friends to share condo-sitting duties.  It is a huge complex overlooking the Herring River in West Harwich. This is a real hoot – people ask us WHY the Cape in the winter? Why not? We have vacationed on the Cape many times in the summer (traffic jams and hordes of people, sometimes not a pleasant or relaxing time) so being here in the winter gives us a chance to see the Cape at a time of year where you can enjoy some of its hidden gems-stress free. Also I find it a good time to add to my photo stock library just poking around shooting.

That’s it for now – hope these simple, low cost, practical tips can make the everyday tasks of dealing with the sophisticated electronics of today easier.

Happy shooting!

 Remember Bob and Carolyn from my first post? A happy follow-up:

Carolyn & Bob (who forgot their charging cord for their camera on their Alaskan trip) were surprised with a custom made photo CD of the trip with music and special effects from one of their fellow travelers; so all was not lost, I was glad to hear that news and believe me, so were they.

 Ernie Larsen  2012©


Article originally posted February 29, 2012.

The Traveling Camera: Accessories And Organization