Garden Photography: Accessories

Bee on Aster_DBG_LAH_7241_filteredYou’ve got a camera. You’ve acquired a few lenses. You’re eager to get out into the garden and start creating photos. And you can certainly do so, right now. However, there are a few additional accessories that will enhance your photo experience. What else should you add to your camera bag?

My top priority would be an extra battery, and another memory card. Batteries have improved drastically since the early days of digital photography. I used to go through two sets of four AA batteries in a single afternoon. Now my camera battery lasts two days, or more. Still, there’s nothing so frustrating as being in the middle of a photo shoot and realizing that your battery just died. Carry a charged spare!

Similarly, consider spending the dollars to pick up at least one extra memory card. I currently have three, which I rotate through. A 32 GB card sells for under $15 and it will hold hundreds of jpegs. If you shoot RAW, invest in a 64 GB card instead. One card typically lasts me all day, but if the conditions are amazing, I’ve been known to need my backup.

Extra cards and batteries are small and easily fit into a pocket or camera bag, but they can slip out and you don’t want to lose them. I’ll put in a plug for my daughter’s Etsy shop here. At Zoom Zoom Birdy, she sells little bags perfectly sized to hold a battery, a memory card or three, and perhaps a lens cloth, driver’s license, and/or car key. The bags clip only my camera strap, so I always have my essentials with me. I’d be lost without mine.

Karin's bean bagThe second Very Helpful Accessory is one that will stabilize your camera. Especially when working with minimal depth of field, having a tripod or bean bag will save some major aggravation. Make sure a tripod can be adjusted to hold your camera near the ground, as that’s where a lot of the plants are. And if you’re getting a tripod, don’t scrimp. You’ll just be wasting money on a flimsy contraption that you’ll end up replacing sooner than later. (Shameless plug number 2: My daughter also makes colorful, contoured bean bags (one is shown here) that are perfect for ground work, or stabilizing a telephoto lens on a near-by fence or car window.)

To go with your tripod, it’s a good idea to have a way to trigger your shutter without actually touching the camera. You don’t want to wiggle your set-up—that would defeat the purpose of having a tripod! I used to use a cable release. It screws into the shutter. To take the picture, you carefully hold the other end and push a plunger. My current camera came with a remote control option. It’s wonderful, especially in cold weather—I can even keep my hand in my warm pocket while shooting!

Aquilegia desertorum_Desert Columbine_DBG_LAH_1043_filteredUnfiltered sunlight creates harsh shadows that can ruin a photo. You can either mitigate the bright spots or fill in the dark spots. One way to even out the light is to use a flash. Set it to fill in the shadows without overpowering the brighter spots. Some cameras have a built-in flash, or you can buy them as an accessory that either fits onto your camera body, or is held off to the side. For macro work, many photographers prefer a ring flash that fits around the lens.

A reflector—either purchased or homemade out of aluminum foil and cardboard, is another way to direct more light into the shadows. To lower the light intensity, you can buy a diffuser—a thin piece of fabric stretched on a collapsible hoop, like those windshield shades that keep a parked car cooler. It will cast light shade on your subject.

When using either a reflector or a diffuser, it’s tremendously helpful to also have an assistant to hold the device exactly where you want it. I know of one successful photographer who drafts unsuspecting grad students. I usually bribe my husband. He says he doesn’t mind.

If you’re taking pictures of ponds and water lilies, a polarizing filter may come in handy. It eliminates the reflection of the water so you can see into the depths.

Viola_3600xfAnd finally, there’s an inexpensive little device I carry with me every time I head out to photograph flowers. It’s called a “plamp”—as in a “plant clamp.” Think of it as two large alligator clips (or other attachment devices) at either end of a flexible-yet-stiff pipe. You attach one end to a stable object, such as your tripod, and the other to your subject. It holds that object exactly where you want it, even if there’s a light breeze. Or, you can use it to move a wayward stem out of the way. You can also use a plamp to hold your reflector or diffuser, in case your assistant isn’t available. I have two of these and use them constantly.

So there you go; spring is coming and you’re all set!


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