• Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint

Put It in Gear

Just about the only accessories we think are must-haves are a camera bag and at least one large memory card. Beyond that, it's up to your personal taste, budget, and artistic inclinations to start adding to your gadget list. Professional photographers generally have one (and often two) of everything they can think of, and while that's great for being prepared to take photos in absolutely any kind of situation, it can also be a hassle to pack and carry all that gear (not to mention trying to get through airport security—and you thought your shoes were a problem!). So take your time, get to know your camera, figure out what kinds of photos you take most often, and then plunge into the world of accessories.

All Geared Up: Keeping your gear watertight, even in a deluge

Reed Hoffmann got a very wet reminder of how important the right accessory gear can be during the Eco-Challenge Fiji adventure race in 2002. He was part of the Blue Pixel team photographing the race for the TV broadcasters USA Network and Sony AXN, among other clients. Hoffmann was dropped into the high jungle by helicopter to cover the action over a mountainous section of the course, where competing teams would climb up and rappel down steep cliffs and dodge waterfalls, among other adventures.

It started raining right after he arrived, and the deluge lasted for two days. Hoffmann had no choice but to keep shooting despite the miserable conditions. He was carrying two pro cameras, several lenses, and a laptop computer, and keeping all that stuff dry while also doing his job was a big challenge. When transporting or storing his gear, he used an Ortlieb dry bag, a completely submersible backpack-like sack. When shooting, he used a Lowepro DryZone waterproof camera backpack and a regular old umbrella.

“An umbrella is not a sexy tool, but it's one of those essentials,” Hoffmann says. “You can do a lot of work under an umbrella unless it's windy.” He says he generally wedges the umbrella handle against his chest with an elbow or forearm, allowing him to use both hands on the camera.

Using his combination of rain-fighting gear, Hoffmann took hundreds of pictures during his two days in the mountains. He cites one picture, taken at the top of a ridge, that was typical of the way he worked. “The contestants had to make their way up this steep, slippery incline,” he says. “With the gray clouds and rainy mist in the background, I thought it would have this nice sort of lonely look.

So I waited in the rocks at the top of the climb, huddled under my umbrella in my rain gear. You're basically just miserable. Eventually one of the racers came along in the right spot at the right time, and I made the shot.”

Hoffman ended up stuck in the mountains for the length of the rainstorm, and the Ortlieb dry bag proved its worth in dramatic fashion when he finally made his escape. The weather had prevented helicopters from coming up to bring him out, but on the morning of the third day it looked as though the rain might clear. So Hoffmann stuffed his gear into the Ortlieb bag and headed for the landing area.

“By 3 p.m. there's still no chopper,” Hoffman says, “and I'm getting really depressed. I'm going to be stuck in that mess for at least another day. And then I heard it—a helicopter was coming up the canyon.” Because of where the pilot landed, Hoffmann was forced to wade across a waist-deep river.

“To get to the passenger side,” he recounts, “I have to cross in front of the chopper. I'm sort of hugging the passenger compartment bubble, wading through this pool, and right as I get in front of the pilot the river bottom just drops off. I hit a hole and go completely underwater. Because of all the air trapped in my backpack and rain gear, I popped right back up, and I look through the windshield and the pilot is laughing so hard he's practically falling out of his helicopter.

“Now I'm not very happy at this point, but at least I'm getting out. And then the radio in the helicopter goes off. The pilot and his spotter wave me away from the chopper, and they take off. You can't print what I'm thinking as they fly off.

“It turns out they had an emergency medical evacuation—one of the racers was sick. But they must have taken pity on me, because they stopped and picked me up on the way back out. When we landed at the main camp, it was 80 degrees and people were wearing flip-flops. I'm soaking wet from head to toe, but when I opened up that dry bag, there wasn't a drop of water in it. All my gear was dry.” —EAMON HICKEY



Not a subscriber?

Start A Free Trial

  • Creative Edge
  • Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint