Lara's Bags (and Box)
Lara's Bags (and Box)

Several times year I go through my camera bags and replace things that need replacing and clean the bags.

It doesn’t do much good to try to keep your gear nice and clean if your camera bag is dirty on the inside. The outside of the bag doesn’t mean much to me. Makes it look lived in.

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I clean the bags by blowing them out with canned air — out-of-doors is best. A damp cloth wiped around the inside is also a good idea.

I carry a lot of stuff with me when I am on the road. Three bags. I bring everything because I don’t know what I might need if I am out for an extended time.

One bag is what I call my “journalism” bag. In it I keep lenses like the 10-22mm wide-angle, a 50mm and an 80-200mm. That last one is really heavy but the optics are worth it. I just don’t like to carry it very far. These are also the lenses I am most likely to need to shoot events, people and the occasional lucky landscape.

In the second bag are the close-up lenses and accessories. Wildflowers are a big passion of mine and I shoot them with regularity for textbooks, field guides and magazines like the Audubon Magazine.

In this bag are the 100mm macro, 180mm macro and the 300mm with a 1.4 teleconverter — which allows me to get closer to a flower than I could with just the regular 300mm. It also lets me shoot out the car window when I am just too tired to get out at the end of along day in the field.

Of course both bags have extra batteries and memory cards.

The third bag is often the most crucial. It acts as a supplement to either of the other two bags. In it are the flash, a softbox for the flash, and a myriad of necessary items which include: large size freezer zip-lock baggies, twist ties and clothes pins. In here are also white garbage bags, a small first aid kit, a fire starting device and lens cleaning supplies — which I carry in, you guessed it, a large zip-lock baggie.

I have been trying to think of anything special I carry because of our desert environment but nothing come to mind. Everything with me could be necessary in all shooting situations and that includes the very essential eye drops or lubricants. Nothing worse than trying to shoot with dry eyes that feel as if your eyelids are lined with sandpaper.

After trying out several different cleaning methods and companies I have narrowed my cleaning options down to a critical  few. Most folks keep filters on their lenses so these options are used first on the filters. I rarely ever clean the lens optics. Filters are the first line of protection.

Remember, test any product on a damaged filter or broken lens before you use it on the good gear. Your mileage may vary from ours.

Giottos Rocket-Air Large Blower
Giottos Rocket-Air Large Blower

Before you do anything that involves touching the lens filter, just use air. A powerful blower is the first step.

• The Giottos Rocket Air Blower is perfect for blowing dust off a lens that might scratch the lens or filter when wiping with a lens tissue. Their Web site states:

Features

  • Natural and environmentally-friendly rubber.
  • Air inlet valve design prevents air’s back flow from the air nozzle.
    [I think this is very important, a feature regular blowers in cheap lens cleaning kits do not have.]
  • Detachable supper air stream air nozzle.
  • Special design for optional neck strap attachment.
  • GIOTTO’S patented tripod base design provides free-standing function for convenient use and storage.
  • Rocket-Air blows off dust particles, even those clinging to items from static electricity.
    https://www.micro-tools.com/store/item_detail.aspx?ItemCode=AA1900
Lens Pen

•  I also have a Lenspen which is a retractable lens brush. It doesn’t have a cap on the brush end, so it is exposed which doesn’t make much sense to me — it can get dirty. So we keep that in a plastic baggie.

Removing the cap from the other end of the Lenspen reveals a circular pad.

The pad, made of natural chamois, is embedded with a non-liquid compound that effectively removes smudges and smears. The pens also reduce static buildup.

http://www.lenspen.com/403/30/

Pec Pad Non Abrasive Wipes
Pec Pad Non Abrasive Wipes

And if your lens has something just plain icky on it that can’t be blown off or brushed of, there is one more option.

• PecPads and Eclipse optics lens-cleaning fluid: PecPads are micro fiber cloths which are chemical-free and lift dust and oil from a lens. They are antistatic, non-scratching and will not streak or smear the surface.

Always drip the fluid onto the cloth and then wipe the lens; never put fluid directly onto a lens.

NOTE: This item is classified as ORMD. Due to shipping regulations these items can only be shipped via Ground in the Continental United States. ORMD items cannot be shipped to PO boxes.

Eclipse Lens Cleaning Fluid
Eclipse Lens Cleaning Fluid

PecPads and Eclipse are much better than your normal Wal-mart lens-cleaning kit. If you are taking a camera bag on board when flying, check with your air carrier to see if this fluid can be carried on the airplane.The Eclipse fluid evaporates quickly even just sitting in the bottle so I keep my bottle double wrapped in a — wait for it — zip-lock baggie!

These options can also be used on point & shoot cameras, not just dSLRs. But be so very careful with the liquid. You don’t want wet stuff inside the camera. If the camera is small enough, and doesn’t have threads for a filter consider carrying it inside its regular camera bag wrapped in a lint-free cloth or plastic.

Keeping out the ever present dust and sand in our desert environment is crucial not only for good picture taking but for the health of your camera.

I like asking other people what they think — here are a couple of replies:

Thom Bond

What do you like to carry in  your camera bags besides the basics of  memory cards, batteries, etc.

I often carry a small tripod other than the already mentioned items that’s about all.

What would you recommend for spot cleaning of the lens that would not scratch or destroy the coatings?

I was told many years ago by a wise, old photographer to use a dollar bill (or what ever denomination you happen to have handy) to clean a lens when you have nothing else. They are made of cotton fibers and are quite soft and safe for lenses.

Do you carry anything markedly different for travels in the desert?

I just received a camera bag/ backpack for Christmas. I really like it, it’s comfortable to carry and holds quite a lot of gear. This one has a separate opening on one side so that you can remove the camera without having to open the entire pack. It has special seals on the zippers to keep out water and dust. Also a small, separate section for stuff, like snacks, gloves, hats or whatever

For those folks who don’t use SLR, how do they protect their lens as many of those cameras do not have  filter threads?

Without a filter you just simply have to be very careful. I would suggest carrying a small can of compressed air to blow off your lens and camera. Always do this before wiping it with a cleaning cloth or tissue. Sand will scratch the lens if rubbed, even lightly. Store your camera in a zip-lock bag to keep it out of the dusty desert air when not in use.

Thom owns American Art & Frame Co. in Apple Valley, Calif., at 18838 Hwy. 18 Suite 10 in case you would like to stop in and say “hi.”

Susan Lawson-Berger

What do you like to carry in  your camera bags besides the basics of  memory cards, batteries, etc.

A pocket knife, matches and basic first aid goodies. When shooting in remote areas, and often by yourself, you need to be prepared in an emergency. And a GPS to mark those great photo locales.

A hair scrunchy/clips — there’s nothing worse than trying to shoot and having hair in your eyes. [I can second that suggestion.]

What would you recommend for spot cleaning of the lens that would not scratch or destroy the coatings?

A breath of hot air and gently using a cleaning cloth for eyeglasses is my normal MO.

For those folks who don’t use dslr, how do they protect their lens as many of those cameras do not have  filter threads?

Always keep the lens doors closed when not in use . If I’m out on real dusty roads I’ll even pack it in a ziploc to keep out as much dirt as possible and take it out when I need to use it.

Susan Lawson-Berger is a former staff writer/photographer for the Daily Press in Victorville, now working for the Sunriver Scene, a newspaper in Central Oregon.

Epilogue

Lara's Bags (and Box)
Lara's Bags (and Box)

After putting together the items I carry with me on a daily shoot, I discovered there were several I neglected in my main story. One you can see is quite obvious — the big plastic box. That box sits on my passenger seat. When in the field, taking lenses in and out of camera bags is kind of a pain. So I keep them in the plastic box, always at the ready. The box keeps them from rolling off the seat in case of a sudden stop or turn. Also in the box is an AC/DC power converter. Even though I have several batteries, I keep the converter for “just in case.” You can plug in your laptop or iPod speakers too.

There is also a large packet of baby wipes for hand and face cleaning. Some sort of heavy duty tape — for taping.

You might be wondering why there is a big gym sock included in the mix.

A sock filled with sand can do a great job of filling in for a tripod for those very low angle shots on the ground. Or for steadying the camera on a car window. Don’t let go of the camera though. It is for steadying the camera on the window, not holding the camera all by itself. It takes a little practice, but for a very low-cost support tool, it is great.

The black bag is the gadget bag. Yes, it is a little worse for wear, but I love that bag — like a comfy pair of sneakers.

Another little note: I always keep my camera batteries in the same pocket on both main bags — the right side. That way I don’t have to go poking around in numerous pockets looking for a good battery. When the batteries need charging they get switched to the pocket on the other side of the bag.

I am in the process of creating another small bag for my Lensbaby and accessories — but that’s a story for another time.

8 COMMENTS

  1. I have been a rail fan for 60 years, my father was a huge rail fan as well. My collection includes many images of trains from across the US but, living in Calif, most from So Calif including “The Loop” and Cajon pass area, favorite spots to train watch.
    Thanks,
    Spencer
    Ventura, Ca.

  2. don, good point!

    jim p. when one makes their living making images, t’is better to have a bag of “stuff” than need something in the field and not have it. we do try to keep the clutter to a mimimim. for example, i was out yesterday, for the first time this wildflower season and realized, despite the recent cleaning, my CCD had dust. and for some reason, my dust removing things did not make it into the car. so now extra time will have to be spent removing dust spots from the pics. wow! what a waste of time that is. well, not a waste, but time comsuming, time i could spend shooting. 🙂

    lh

  3. i thought the box was a great idea. I am forever digging away in my bag while driving. what a simple solution!

  4. I’m getting older and as an adventure photographer, I keep it light and simple. I have a Nat Geo small sling pack that serves me well. I also have a Lowepro fanny pack and a huge Lowepro backpack that requires a mule to carry.

    After 41 years of photography, I only carry what I need and no more. As one gets older, the load gets heavier.

  5. talbert, i so agree with you. almost as many years as you shooing and the ol’ back is just not happy after a long day in the field.

    i tried a very nice lumix point & shoot yesterday for an upcoming travel story and while it is very light in comparison to my “real” gear, i found it lacking. too many things I could not do quickly and the images are too noisy, even at ISO 100. For web work i think it’s ok, but for any printing, it just won’t cut it.

    thanks for your comment!

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