A Gear Array

Untitled photo

Gear

Over time most of us accumulate camera gear like the grey hairs on our heads. Some sell old or unused kit while others simply let it gather dust. I have been known to do both but know that I often live to regret selling an item because I find I need it for a one-off or see that it has appreciated in price (and will have to pay more if I re-buy.)

A good example is the Pentax 6x7 I used to own. I originally purchased it after I saw the great book, Himalayas by Yoshikazu Shirakawa, published in 1971. I was so impressed with his work and effort I eventually bought a body and a couple lenses. It's a beast of a camera but the resulting images... oh, my!

At some point I found I was not using the camera and it was still worth a bit of money so I sold it. The last couple years I have had a longing to use one again but the prices, while not as high as the cost of a Mamiya 7, are still more than I want to pay. Live and Learn!

self-portrait of the artist as young man

Untitled photo


What's in My Photographic Kit?


A Global View



 

By


Wilbur Norman, ASMP, IFJ, NWU, LHSA



 

Over the years I have accumulated an omnium-gatherum, the necessities and oddments, required for the active photographic life. Much of my kit was bought for international travel, often to fairly remote territories where I have to be as self-reliant as possible. For domestic travel, whether flying or driving, most everything I take is also a subset from this farrago of the necessary, the useful and the 'maybe I'll need.'

 

Looking at this list you will quickly realize I do not carry everything at any one time. Owning all this stuff I have the luxury of picking the items most appropriate to my immediate needs. I am the sort of person who keeps my products forever until they wear out. I prefer to buy the best kit I can and use it for decades, rather than buy cheap and replace it with annoying regularity. (Re-reading the above paragraph I see that I should have used the word 'guy' instead of 'person'. A surplus quantity of kit seems to be sex-linked: men, I'll wager, tend to be the predominant buyers of mountains of things photographic. If manufacturers had to depend on women keeping them in the black many would go bust in short order.)

 

 

Luggage, Cases & Bags

 

NOTE: for any pull-up handled case with wheels, NEVER get one with a T-style, single extending rod. You cannot balance another bag on top of this wheeled assembly as you walk, much less run, your way thru an airport or down a street.

 

Also, I often buy my flights on the Internet. I look for the least expensive. Many airlines (like United, for example) do not let you board with more than a small carry-on unless you have used their website or paid for the ticket with their credit card. Everything else has to be checked, with an attendant fee. In 2018, after refusing to budge from the ticket counter when they tried to charge me for my camera gear bag, I now know that sensitive electronics like cameras and computers can be brought aboard in a standard carry-on just like we are all used to doing. As I held up the line arguing with the agent a baggage handler came to the front asking what the hold-up was with bags coming through the conveyor. I told him I was not moving until the agent let me take my Leicas on board – unless the airline gave me a document taking responsibility for any damage or theft of expensive gear. He said, "Oh, we have a rule that you can take that sort of stuff with you so we don't have to be responsible!" The agent reddened and glowered but the massive line of people behind me applauded.

 

Like every photographer I know, and all those I don't, I have bought many bags looking for that perfect one for walkabout. Forget cameras and lenses, the Holy Grail of the photographer is the Perfect Bag despite knowing such a thing does not exist. However, in spite of this valuable knowledge, the search goes on, keeping myriad companies afloat. The best I can do is use the right bag for me at any particular time. Here they are:

 

 

Think Tank Streetwalker Rolling Backpack V2.0 – An excellent bag with wheels and an extending handle for moving around in the world of paved walkways and streets. It also has backpack straps for off-road work. The Streetwalker fits in jet overhead compartments – EXCEPT in many of the smaller 'commuter' jets. It is tough and padded enough so that I do not mind letting a jet-way handler take it to put in the luggage compartment until I get to my flight connection with a full-size craft. I do keep an eye on it, though, until it disappears into the hold. Upon landing I try to quickly get to the jet-way to retrieve it as it is brought out and up. As many of my flights are to airports with minimal anything, the fact that I can give this bag to a handler at the last minute means I do not have to walk up portable boarding steps carrying what usually turns out to be a 30 pound bag. $300

 

Porter Case PCi Camera Luggage Cart – A hard-side, rolling, airline carry-on size travel case that can unfold, converting it into a wheeled dolly capable of carrying 150 pounds of stacked suitcases and bags. The interior is open space that can be divided with Velcro padded separators or filled with cubed foam. It is super to be able to de-plane, walk to the baggage carousel with the Porter PCi in tow, morph the case into a cart, load one's luggage onto it and stroll off with aplomb. Expect to be stopped by inquisitive, laden-down travelers asking, "Wow! Who makes that amazing cart?" Alas, the Indiana manufacturer seems to have gone belly-up so none of the versions are newly available – a refrain you will read several times in this document. The next-to-last-version I use has a built-in lock that is not TSA–compliant. $250

 

F-Stop Satori EXP Backpack – A great (62 liter/2.2 cubic feet) mountaineering & photo gear pack that holds a variety of what the F-Stop company calls ICUs, Internal Camera Units. ICUs come in different sizes and configurations that can be custom set-up to carry whatever camera gear is needed for the location. Access is from the top like any backpack and also from a zippered, padded section against one's back while on the move. When you need to lay the bag down in snow or mud to access contents, it is the backside that sits in the soup, not the part that goes against your back. Nifty. I use a sloping ICU so I can fit a jacket and other items in the pack as well as photo gear inside the ICU. Though they discontinued this great bag (a mistake in my opinion) there are others in the company's lineup both larger and smaller that use the system of ICUs. I use this pack in the Himalaya where it is carried by one of my photo sherpas. $360 + ICU $75-$90

 

HPRC 3500 Injection-Molded Resin Backpack – From an Italian company, this pack can be purchased empty, with a custom zippered insert with dividers or with cubed foam. Made of lightweight TTX01 polypropylene plastic resin with a micro-textured surface to reduce scratching, it really is indestructible and is IP67 water resistant. It can take a tumble off a horse into a fast rushing, rock-strewn Himalayan river and keep your camera gear safe. (Don't ask how I know.) I sometimes carry this relatively light load with the camera and lenses I think I will need at a moment's notice while a porter carries the F-Stop pack above. $314 case only + $138 for bag insert with dividers or $67 for cubed foam

 

SKB iSeries 3i Wheeled Case – I like SKB hard-shell cases better than the Pelican ones because they have a little flange on the opening latches that springs the latch without tearing your fingernails (Nanuk uses this system, too.) Very nice! I own a special run of 'The Cure' pink ones. With pull-up handles and sturdy wheels they are indispensible and maximally protective. This 3i model fits in an overhead compartment. One complaint: it takes both hands to pull up the handle. I have to bend over to do this so any shoulder bag comes sliding down my arm. SKB, please change this! $210

 

Wotancraft Ryker II Bag, medium size – I only use this beautiful shoulder bag if I am working someplace fancy, like a traditional business or financial institution. Its supple brown leather and maroon interior are truly gorgeous and expensive-looking, sporting that classy look you might want when you meet an art director for the annual report photos you were hired to shoot. If I must fly with it I use it as my personal carry-on containing my Leica bodies with mounted lenses. It is small enough that I get away with it AND one of the above cases for the overhead compartment. When you look at a Wotancraft bag you can see that they stand behind their line, "quality is everything". $429

 

Wotancraft City Explorer 002 Ranger – the last version of this leather and waxed-canvas shoulder bag. Always a custom order it is now, possibly, no longer made as I do not see it in their line of offerings. I have two inserts for this WWII-inspired heritage design: a microfiber-lined, waterproof, military grade, hovercraft polymer one (X-TECH WELD INNER BAG MK-II) and the regular, soft fabric insert. I like it that the City Explorer has a place for my 13 inch Mac Air (alas, not inside the waterproof insert) and has easy top access to the contents depending on how one sets it up. Straps across the top can hold a jacket or some such when you get too warm and straps on the underside carry a tripod or whatever. Expect sticker shock when your desire for one of Wotancraft's bags overwhelms your common sense. But be happy in the knowledge that one of your children will be using it long after you have cast off your mortal coil! $500+

 

ONA Bowery Bag – My general, everyday carry. Light and made of tough waxed canvas, it is the perfect size for an M body and a couple extra lenses and doesn't scream 'Camera!' The rear pocket holds a 10-inch tablet – unless that tablet sports a cover. I usually stuff the bag with socks and small items and put it in my main checked luggage when flying instead of carrying it as my 'personal' item. I have owned the ONA Bowery for many years so the honeymoon is long over and I have settled in for the ride. $170

 

 

 

Cameras & Lenses

 

Leica M10 Chrome Camera, with Kenji Olmo red leather half-case, plastic Thumb Grip, concave Shutter Release – If you offered me a free M10 without a thumb grip and shutter button I'd turn you down! These little bits have become indispensible to the way I use the camera. Same with a half case with a 'Bump Out' handle that takes much of the strain off one's hand and wrist when carrying and using the camera all day. You read so many who declare all these accessories totally unnecessary. Are these opinions voiced by dilettantes who are more comfortable stylin' & profilin' with their Leicas than actually using them ALL day for many days in succession? The generic plastic thumb grip has lasted me for about 5 years. I paid $5 for two with free post from China.  It 'gives' just enough that I think it reduces strain on the hot shoe, a camera part that probably was not manufactured for the strains sometimes put on it by metal thumb grips. I've met a couple photographers whose hot shoes loosened from energetic thumb grip use. For the Kenji (or any leading case maker such as Luigi Crescenzi or Angelo Pelle) you order the case with whatever options float your boat. Mine has a bump-out, a swing-out door for easy access to the battery/SD card plus a flap over the LCD screen. The Kenji case replaces the M10 base plate. Remember to take that original plate with you if you are going to photograph a place like a Jain temple where NO leather products are allowed, else you are dead in the water! Despite the product name this half-case is not really red; it's a dark ox-blood.

 

Leica M10 Visoflex – I have not bonded with this device and only use it in the mornings for a few shots to establish my geo-position with its built-in GPS. I leave the camera in continuous ON mode until the GPS locks onto a satellite. Then the M10 setting goes back to my regular 5 minutes ON before sleeping. I do recognize the usefulness of the Visoflex for some shots; I simply find it onerous.

 

Leica M 246 Monochrom with Angelo Pelle half-case and metal Thumb Grip – Black body so it can be easily differentiated from my chrome M bodies when selecting a camera in a hurry.

 

Olympus EVF-2 for Leica M246 – Rarely used but can be helpful for certain shots. No GPS in this one. You have to buy the special handgrip to get GPS in the Leica M240 platform models. (Note: there is also an M240 handgrip without the GPS. I own it but rarely use it as I prefer the Pelle leather half-case with Bump-out.) In every mechanical way this Olympus is the same as the Leica labeled one but is a lot less expensive! You can scrape off the Olympus wording if you feel embarrassed using it in a Leica-centric crowd. As for me I enjoy flaunting my financial savings. My EVF is silver color as I bought it to use with my chrome M240-P. I recently sold that body so now use it on the black Monochrom those rare times I find it necessary.

 

Leica M4 Black Paint – A film camera. Bought in 1969 and, until 2019, working the same as the day I bought it (tho very worn and beautifully brassed). After 49 years the shutter curtain separated from the crimped-metal leading edge so I need to send it off for repair and a CLA after all these years of heavy use. (DAG/Don Goldberg, Youxin Ye and Sherry Krauter all do this work.)

 

Fuji X-Cams – I have had many of the Fuji X cameras and I love their output. But, it is difficult for me to switch between Leicas and Fujis in an uninterrupted, easy flow if there is fast action. I mainly use this kit now with the XF 50mm-140mm F2.8 R LM OIS lens for telephoto shots. I have owned 7 of their 19+ lenses and all of them are/were really stupendous. I still have the afore-mentioned XF 50-140mm, the XF 56mm f1.2 R (a phenomenal lens with 11 elements in 8 groups, 2 are ED, 1 is double-sided aspherical) and the XF 23mm 1.4 R (pull/push the focus ring backward/forward to switch between manual and auto). Part of the problem for me is that I have never truly warmed to fly-by-wire autofocus lenses, especially ones without a depth-of-field scale. Yes, OK, I'm a control freak! There is also the issue that Fuji does not play as well with Lightroom as with Iridient or Capture One. I spend enough time with software why spend more?

 

Camera Treks® Camera Strap – This is the best rangefinder/mirrorless camera strap in the world. How do I know? Well... because I manufacture it. It features swivels on both ends so it never stays twisted. It comes with inserts for the soft metal Leica lugs so they do not get ground thin. Many companies make climbing rope straps but mine features a leather non-slip shoulder pad and, in a future iteration, will have a wire running through the rope that cannot be cut by a quick-snatch thief using a knife. Italian leather, German rope and USA hardware. It's perfect! $100

 

Sony DSC-RXO ultra-compact shockproof waterproof digital video camera – used with a FeiyuTech G6 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal. Same size as a GoPro. Not used often as I care little for video and have my hands full with stills shooting, but sometimes it is fun to have available.

 

 

Lenses



All, and I've owned many versions over the years, are superbly made pieces of kit that, with a modicum of care, operate trouble-free for years before they need fine-tuning with a proper CLA (Clean, Lubricate & Adjust). I usually travel with at least three (28 Lux, 50 Lux, 75 APO) and up to six depending upon the demands of the trip or job. I often shoot lenses wide-open or nearly so because I rarely use a flash – and they are good enough to use wide-open, so why not!

 

But I am not a bokeh-junky (often a beginner's passion) and frequently need depth-of-field in travel photography. Perhaps I am telling tales out of school but, believe it or not, one can actually shoot the new modern Leica lenses at, wait for it – not just f1.4 and f2 but at, gasp! f8 and higher and still get good quality photographs. (OK fellow villagers, no pitchforks and tar-dipped torches, please – at least until I put on my 28 Lux!) Shooting at f8, of course, will go a long way toward taking care of the issues of less than spot-on focus and possible field curvature in the lens.

 

I am just now experimenting with the latest KURVD Universal Lens Caps that come in two sizes. Even the new Micro size is too big for some of my Leica lenses. But, anything that saves my front element and stops me losing Leica's cheesy – but expensive – lens caps is worth a try. Kurvd caps seem to be made of silicon and I have yet to write the company to see if they have performed any off-gassing tests. (I did find rainbow patterns on the residue left from my purposely leaving a KURVD cover in contact with a lens filter for two weeks!) If you store your lenses in closed cases containing foam or synthetics, over longish lengths of time you may run the risk of developing lens haze from off-gassing of products made from petro-chemicals.

 

When traveling with my lenses I always pack them with the aperture wide-open so the irises are tucked in and supported by the lens body. Likewise, I put the focus on infinity so those lenses that extend when focusing closer are as short and contained as possible. Take good care of your kit and it will feed you without failure for many years.

 

Below are the lenses I have settled upon and kept of the many I have owned. All, except the Voigtlander and Nikon, are 6-bit coded, either from the factory or by me. I am catholic in my tastes and treat Mandler and Karbe lenses with equal love. The reason I have quite a few is two-fold: Leica M lenses are almost all primes and I fell for, "What if I need this or that lens?" Plus, the truth is, every lens has its own rendering and there are times when I want a specific look. At some point, as a user and not a collector, one realizes that photography and gear is just like life: a series of compromises that, once tackled, make one a better photographer – AND person! If pulling one of these all-metal lenses out of your bag to fondle doesn't make you want to get out and shoot you are beyond help!

 

 

Voigtlander Super Wide-Heliar 15mm f/4.5 Aspherical III – A useful lens when used knowledgeably but requires either the use of Live View, the Visoflex or an external finder in the hot shoe (or cropping after shooting 'blind'). I have only owned this lens since mid-April 2019 and do not use it much so I am still learning its characteristics. Also, I have never been a very good super-wide angle guy despite knowing, technically, how to use one. There never seems to be a good close-up subject to make the image workably interesting when I need it. I keep a variable ND filter on this lens and it can be a bit of a pain as it is recessed into the mini-tulip hood.

 

21mm Super-Elmar-M ASPH f3.4 – A lovely, small and useful travel lens but requires either the use of Live View, the Visoflex or an external finder in the hot shoe (or cropping after shooting 'blind'). I purchased this sharp lens from the late, great Ken Hansen after I sold my Tri-Elmar WATE. I stopped using this lens extensively when I got the M10 in May of 2017. In Live View the camera went wonky in temperatures above about 68¡ F/20¡ C and stopped recording metadata, then brought up a warning text on the LCD and then stopped working completely. I was in the Himalaya and would turn the camera off for 5 minutes. Turning it back on I was good to go for another while (never timed this as I usually stopped using the 21mm and Live View and switched to another lens.) Yes, this behaviour frightened me in a camera of this price. When it first happened, on the north slope of the Himalaya during a cool day in May, I worried I might have fried the innards of my M10. Subsequent Firmware seems to have fixed this trouble but I still don't use the lens that often. Still, it's there when I need it. Has the metal focusing tab that I love.

 

28mm Elmarit-M II ASPH f2.8 – A fantastic shooter, this lovely small gem is my favorite daytime lens for shots of people going about their business. It is wide enough to easily include just the right amount of surrounding environment. But you have to get close! Very Close! Every time I think about buying the Summaron f5.6 I come to my senses and remember I already have a superlative 28mm f5.6 in this perfect, new metal hood, metal focusing tab version!

 

28mm Summilux-M ASPH f1.4 – A photojournalist's dream lens, this is my favorite early morning, early evening and poorly lit interiors lens for capturing images of people going about their business, so-called environmental portraits. The lens has great micro-contrast and is wide enough to easily include just the right amount of a subject's surroundings. But, just as with the lens above, you have to get close! Very Close! Peak sharpness lives between f4 and f5.6 but I love it at wider apertures, too. While small by other manufacturers' standards, it is also relatively heavy but carries it's own weight, so to speak, with its spectacular output. Also possessed of a floating glass element and the now familiar metal focusing tab. Downsides: a) wow! is it pricey and, b) comes, like several other Leica lenses with the rectangular hoods, with a slide-on rubber lens cap that you will lose in the first week of use if you walk around with it on your lens.

 

35mm Summicron-M ASPH f2 Silver Chrome – An older, 1970 black enamel 35mm was the second lens I owned. I eventually bought this modern ASPH lens that is great but I almost never use it; I'm a 28mm kinda guy.

 

50mm Rigid and DR (Dual Range) Summicron with Goggles – The so-called Rigid was my first Leica (Leitz) lens. It was an immaculate lens with matching serial numbers made in 1958. I bought it at the end of 1970 after saving for a year. It has the lock for infinity and a focusing tab. Simply glorious for black & white, including the M246 Monochrom. In a moment of weakness I sold it to a Leica employee. A few years ago, whilst flea marketing in Havana, I found the Leitz close-focus ocular attachment often called 'goggles'. I was not sure whether they fit a 50mm or a 35mm lens as there are versions of each that used this set-up. After walking away, and then a spate of haggling, I bought them for the equivalent of four months salary for the average Cuban. In the autumn of 2019 I finally found a decent 50mm DR lens in Colorado. Fortune smiled on me as the goggles were, in fact, for a 50mm DR. The optics are said to be the same in both the Rigid and the DR but, as in all things Leica, there is some disagreement amongst the cognoscenti: there are those who say the DR is superior. Their reasoning holds water, though I don't see any difference in my two specimens: Leitz pulled the best glass, they say, for the DR lenses as they needed perfection in the tolerances for a lens that had to focus accurately at both 19 inches and at infinity. This supposes that Leitz fudged a little and used glass that was sometimes 'not up to snuff' for the Rigid. Who knows? Some say the DR cannot be used on the Monochrom (or other digital bodies). Something about the back end of the helical running up against the interior bottom edge of the lens mounting area of the body. I have not had this issue on the M246 in close-up mode. However, in regular mode I do not take the lens to infinity. Perhaps it will go the distance, I just have not taken time to play and experiment with care not to damage either the camera or lens. These lenses are often described in loving terms as 'jewel-like'. If you have never held one of these in your hands you still have a wonderful experience ahead of you in Leica-world.

 

50mm Summilux-M ASPH f1.4 Chrome – Love it and its rendering of colors, detail and bokeh! And, even though it is not labeled as such, Peter Karbe, its designer, says it is an APO design. Wish I used it more often but I am not much of a 50mm guy, although when I force myself to mount it I find I really enjoy this 50 [FLE] experience. In my opinion, if you are only going to have one 50mm M lens, this is the one to have even though the Summicron is sharper, the APO-Summicron faultless (and character-less) and the Nocti almost sees in the dark. This lens looks similar to my chrome 90mm Elmarit-M f2.8 but is shorter and heavier. Has the pull-out locking lens hood and a metal focusing tab.

 

75mm Summilux-M f1.4 – My favorite portrait lens but it is damn difficult to master for non-posed imaging. Wide-open it has one of the three most shallow depths-of-field of any Leica lens (6 cm. at 6 feet focusing distance. The other two are the 50mm and 75mm Noctiluxes.) It has a ginormous focus throw: 180+ degrees. I rarely travel with it anymore; it's a beast. No longer manufactured it is steadily rising in price. Mine is the third iteration, one of 300 made in Germany in the year 2000. I think it was $900 with Leica's newfangled 6-bit code that was just coming into use. It also sports a pull-out lens hood but it does not lock into place. I should mention I did not purposely seek out this third, German-made edition; all iterations are good. Indeed, I used to seek out Canadian lenses manufactured under the physical presence and keen eye of Dr. Mandler versus their German-made counterparts. Real Leica users know why, so there is no need to explain. OhÉ and yes, this lens was said to be Dr. Mandler's all-time favorite lens. Not too shabby! When you nail focus on a great portrait you'll see why; its 3D look and beauty are incomparable.

 

75mm Apo-Summicron-M ASPH FLE f2 – A modern, beautiful-rendering, all-around lens – for me. Some think it has a cinematic look for portraits, which I don't understand exactly, but it is very three-dimensional with great color rendition. Has the pull-out locking lens hood. Many folks shun the 75mm field-of-view. That's OK, it means cheaper prices on the used market for those who dare!

 

90mm Macro-Elmar-M f4 with Macro-Adapter-M – A somewhat under-rated lens; detailed, clean, modern images in only four pieces of glass. Remarkable, really! I thought I would use the Macro-Adapter a lot, but have not. It requires a little different concentration, of a different order, from my shooting routine as I travel. The Macro-Elmar-M is a collapsible lens; I often forget to extend the barrel before I shoot, and, as I keep a leather half-case with LCD flap on my cameras, I do not notice the absence of images until several shutter actuations down the road when I decide to 'chimp' to test my capture. This lens is so small (8.1 oz/230 g) it is easily pocketable. This is the latest, current version of the lens, by the by, with the larger head flange. The previous version allowed the hood to fit on backwards making for an even smaller package. I use an old hood made for the Leitz Summaron 3.5cm and Summicron 5cm, the ITDOO in early Leica lingo. Pray I never lose it as this hood goes for $115 to $300 bucks!  I rarely see other photographers using the Macro-Elmar-M. It must be a well-kept secret or, maybe, most feel the need for a faster lens like the APO-Summicron-M 90mm f/2 ASPH (1.1 lb/500 g) or the new Leica Summilux-M 90mm f/1.5 ASPH ($12,995, 2.22 lb/1010 g). So many Leica users equate a higher price or the words 'Lux' and ÒNoctiÓ with being all-around better in every way.

 

90mm Elmarit-M f2.8 Chrome #11808 – Another 4-element lens but you pay a heavy price in weight for falling in love with this yummy kit in chromed brass (19.75 oz /560 g). The black anodized aluminum body weighs less (14 oz/395 g). I know the larger 90mm APO-Cron is supposed to be the bees-knees as the best Leica-M optic ever but the Elmarit-M handles well, is sharp and renders a warm, beautiful look with three-dimensional, eye-popping color. Wide-open at f2.8 I find this lens superior to the non-Apo 90mm Summicron of 1980-1998. Leica, nicely and professionally, used a little cipher on the barrel to indicate the actual focal length of each lens since many diverge slightly from a dead-on 90mm. My 1997 lens is 91.5mm. Oh, did I mention: no longer manufactured. But that's OK, there are loads of them around even if they have steadily risen in price from an unbeatable low in the pre-M9 years. Has the pull-out lens hood but, alas, it does not lock in place.

 

Leitz 135mm Tele-Elmar f4 – My lens is an old 1966 scalloped focusing ring model. It is not a lens that sees much action and mine provides perfectly serviceable images that are difficult to differentiate with the newer Apo version after post-processing. While the Tele-Elmar has less contrast than its current sibling, I value its ability to maintain highlights and differentiation in the shadows. The Tele-Elmar went through several iterations but all seem to have had the same glass. I imagine the coatings improved during its 33 year run, however.

 

135mm Apo-Telyt f3.4 – The longest lens one can use comfortably on an M camera (and the longest for which there are frame lines) this lens is one not many M-shooters use. I rarely see it in action on other's cameras. It is not easy to focus in its intermediate ranges and it sticks out far on the body. But its image quality is superb as is its rendition of color and detail. Also, there are times one desperately needs the reach of a 135mm lens.

 

180mm Nikon Nikkor*ED 180mm f2.8 – Not something I use often but there are times I need a little reach to get those white-headed vultures in a feeding frenzy, blue sheep against a nearby hillside or takhi horses browsing among the trees. As I use this lens on my Leica M bodies, I have a Nikon-F to Leica-M adapter and must then use the EVF or Visoflex.

 

 

 


Miscellany
(and lots of it!)


 

Op/Tech Twist-On Rear Lens Cap, Double-Sided – holds two lenses back-to-back. Formerly, I used to use the old grey Leica ones but have switched as these old-timers, a polymer ring with bayonet mounts on both sides, are entirely open in the center of the ring, that is, between the lenses. When one lens was removed it left the rear element of the other lens exposed unless you installed a body cap; a pain and you had to remember to carry a spare body cap. Op/Tech solved that problem with a solid divider in the center of their ring. Some older Leitz lenses do not work with these type caps because the rear assembly of the lens is way too deep. Op/Tech makes versions for other cameras, too. OhÉ take a dab of red nail polish and mark the ring so you know where to seat the lens, or better, buy a replacement red Leica lens dot and glue that to the smooth ring flange. (Update: this falls off after a few months!) There is a black bump-out line to align your lens but it is none too visible in low light (it helps if your fingers are sensitive enough to read Braille). Ignore my suggestion at your peril as fore-warned is fore-armed: you will waste time trying to mount the lens to the ring and miss what would have been the best photograph of your life. Or, worse, fumble and drop your lens.

 

Hoodman Loupe V2 – Handy when shooting outdoors in bright sunlight to check your critical shots and the histogram on the camera LCD screen. Handy for shooting video on a tripod, too, where elastic cords (Version 3) will hold the unit to the back of the camera. Seems expensive – until you blow a job because you could not adequately see your screen! $90.00

 

FotoMe Globe Trotter Q1 Ballhead Tripod – Has a dedicated carry case. I travelled internationally with this tripod I found at a photo store in Honolulu for years, but now almost never do as I rarely use telephoto lenses. If I am driving, however, it is a no-brainer: I pack a tripod!

 

Gitzo Mountaineer Series 2 Reporter G1258 6X Tripod – A 4-section, carbon fiber locking-ring model with a sliding center 'Rapid Column' that has a center hook for hanging weight for stability. 13 inches tall (splayed legs) to 61 inches, without a head, at its fullest extension, ca. 22 inches long at its most compact and a little over 3 pounds in weight with an anti-leg-rotation system (whatever that is.) I have heard of folks cutting most of the center column off (and gluing the bottom hook back on) to reduce vibration and make space for one's fingers and knuckles when carrying it by one of the legs, folded up. It was around $500 when released (2006?) but carbon fibre units are more common now and probably less expensive.

 

Gitzo Mountaineer G1568 MK2 Carbon Fibre Monopod – 4 twist-lock sections, 1 pound/0.45 kg, closes to 21.9 inches/55.6 cm, opens to 65 inches/165.1 cm, almost 9 pounds/ 4kg load capacity. Reversible ¼ inch or 3 8/16 inch head thread. Replaced by newer versions that have a locking mechanism of some sort for the head mount but the series is still one of the best monopods ever, as it ought to be for the price (circa $210 in 2005.)

 

Sirui G-10KX Tripod Ball Head – Sits, in its neoprene case, atop either the Gitzo monopod or tripods. Not totally necessary for Leica gear but does improve handling swing and tilts without moving the whole monopod. Very useful despite a poor weight-to-use ratio. Made in China with very good quality.

 

Leitz 14100 tabletop tripod – A revered (and expensive) Leica stand-by for many years. Rock steady and compact, the legs rotate independently, coming to a stop in the same plane so the unit will lie flat. Comes in black, black-crinkle, silver and hammertone. I have only seen one Leica leather case for the unit, such as its Minolta cousin had, and I own it. (I also have the Minolta tripod with case but have not used it in years.) It is a perfectly fine unit but does not disassemble. One thing that peeves me to no end is that the wing nut on the bottom does not align with the collapsed legs when tightened, thereby taking up just a little more space. And, do not never, lose the little rubber feet. But wait! You are not complete after the expense of buying a #14100 TOOUG. You still need a:

 

Leitz Small (14119) &/or Leica Large (14110) Ball Head – When my Large Ball Head is attached to the Leitz tabletop tripod above, I use the unit as a chest pod to steady my camera in places where a tripod is verboten. Only once in my life have I been challenged by a guard for using a forbidden tripod in a museum while using the #14100 this way. He pointed out that the device had three legs and, hence, was a tripod. I tried arguing but he was solid in his position. I turned my back and quickly loosened the bottom wing nut, moved the two smallest legs together and voilˆ! I had a duopod. Surprisingly, he was satisfied. Talk about 'letter of the law'! The later versions of these heads are better to use than the earlier ones (unless you get a killer price. I do not know the cut-off years but they do look different.) Large Heads of all vintages possess the ugly side screw for the head tightening lever/lock. The lever does not need to be over-tightened to lock firmly. It's bombproof.

 

Think Tank DSLR Battery Holder 2 & Battery Holder 4 – I carry a few of these nylon cloth battery holders as airlines have strict regulations for the transport of lithium batteries (must only be transported in carry-on NOT checked luggage!) I have three of the Model 2 for the Leica M10 and M246 and several of the Model 4 (for my Fuji X cameras whose batteries drain like water thru a sieve.)

 

Leica M10 BP-SCL5 battery – I carry two and a third in the camera itself for 15-hour days, or shorter days in Arctic cold. I can really go thru a battery if I am shooting with a need for LCD screen time, such as heavy use of lenses wider than 28mm where the viewfinder cannot show me what the lens is actually 'seeing'.

 

Leica M10 battery charger – Sometimes I carry two of these. I have ditched the electrical power cord in favor of a Duck Head AC Wall Plug whose figure-8 connector fits the charger perfectly! Makes for a very small package. This connector also fits a Mac laptop power cord block so one need not carry the thick power cord (unless you need the length).

 

Leica M246 BP-SCL2 battery – I carry three. This has always been enough, except before I had the M10 and traveled with the M240-P as well as the M246 Monochrom. Then, I carried four batteries as both bodies use the same BP-SCL2 battery.

 

Leica M246 battery charger – Before I sold my M240-P I carried two of these chargers. I have ditched the electrical power cord in favor of a Duck Head AC Wall Plug whose figure-8 connector fits the charger perfectly! Makes for a very small package. This connector also fits a Mac laptop power cord block so one need not carry the thick power cord (unless you need the length).

 

Nitecore ULM240 & ULM10 USB Battery Chargers – Can be used with a 12 volt plug so the M batteries can be charged in a vehicle. Very nice! The M10 ULM10 Pro has bays for two batteries. Beware! Early versions of the unit discharged the battery if you left the battery in the unit after it was fully charged. The Nitecore giveth and the Nitecore taketh away. The company says they have fixed the problem but there are bound to be older, defective units, banging around.

 

SD Cards – Loads of SanDisk Extreme Pro 64MB cards. One, or more, Optimus cases (see next entry) will have empty, Leica-formatted, cards and one, or more, cases are empty to store the cards I will use. I do not erase the used cards during a trip. In fact travel pics are usually kept on these cards for months in case, down the road when I re-look at the photos, I find a corruption in the initial transfer of photos from my SD cards to my studio Mac Tower (and thence to my other backup solutions.) I have never had this corruption happen but I am a belt & suspenders kind of guy when it comes to my images. Side note: I never erase/delete the odd image/s on the SD card in the field as it can, and will, leave fragmented files in the same manner this happens on one's computer (remember the DeFrag apps). You are begging for errors on your cards if you do this. If you fear running out of cards on a trip, just buy additional ones before you go! Lastly, never buy cards on Ebay unless it's B&H, Adorama or some know vendor. There are plenty of fakes on the site.

 

Optimus SD Card Holder – The best SD card case. Period. Alas, no longer made. It holds 4 SD cards that click into place, just like they do in the camera. Don't extract them without keeping a finger over the card as they will take flight and land in the mud, disappear in the sand or sail overboard. Other SD card holding systems pale in comparison. Pelican ones with closed-cell foam seem like they ought to do the trick but the cards simply fall out when the case is jostled as it will be in traveling (you only know when you open the case and cards fall to the ground like leaves upon the autumn wind.)

 

Think Tank Photo Secure Pixel Pocket Rocket – During the Covid-19 fiasco in 2020 I added this card pouch to my arsenal. It holds 6 CF, 6 XQD, 12 SD, or 12 micro SD memory cards inside its see-though slots. Each row of memory card slots features a zippered closure for enhanced security. It has a belt loop and detachable lanyard and is woven from water-repellent nylon for durability as well as weather resistance. An ID sleeve can display contents or owner information.

 

Leica SF 20 Flash – I rarely use a flash but it's there if I need it.

 

Phottix Ares Wireless Flash Triggers – inexpensive and I have not had them fail. I have read that some people have had instances where they did not work faultlessly where there was signal interference or obstruction. Be careful putting them back into the little black, zippered carry case. If you insert them 'backward' you can unknowingly snag the ON/OFF switch. The next time you are about to use the triggers you will discover dead AA batteries!

 

Reflector folding disk – these come in handy even without the use of a flash unit. As long as there is a source of illumination you can reflect some of it. I also have a triangular one that is silver on one side and gold on the other with an integrated handle. When shooting alone I hang the handle on a tripod, tree, clamped to a stick in the ground or whatever is handy. With any luck some child is peeking around the corner and will be pleased to hold a reflector after you show them how much fun it is to bounce light into another's eyes.

 

PhotoFlex LiteDome Q39 Platinum Series – for more serious flash work. If I know I am doing that kind of shooting this comes with.

 

Sekonic L-358 Incident Light Meter w/ Lumispheres – Bystanding photographers often view me with amusement when they see me using a light meter. Let them laugh; a light meter is still a useful accouterment for the traveling photographer. If I don't have a ready battery I carry the Sekonic L-398 Studio Deluxe. I can acquire exact exposure with these old-school tools even tho my in-camera meters do a passable job.

 

Leica Universal Polarizer w/ 35, 46 & 49 adapters – no explanation needed, except mine was bought used as the new price is Leica-rific!

 

60mm Polarizer – for the 75mm Summilux lens.

 

Circular Polarizer - Lee Filters Sev5n System

 

Lee Filters Sev5n System Filter Holder

39mm Adapter Ring - Lee Filters Sev5n System

46mm Adapter Ring - Lee Filters Sev5n System

58mm Adapter Ring - Lee Filters Sev5n System

62mm Adapter Ring - Lee Filters Sev5n System

 

0.6 ND & 0.9 Grad filters - Lee Filters Sev5n System

 

Lee Big Stopper filter – the secret to getting those dreamy, moving water shots.

 

B+W MRC Nano XS-Pro UV Haze Digital filters – a variety (39, 46, 49 & 60mm) in UV and Clear versions that generally stay on my lenses. I prefer the Clear but, as I buy them whenever and wherever they are cheapest, I end up with whichever one is on offer. Beware fakes; they are everywhere! The real boxes have a Schneider-Kreuznach hologram sticker on one side, the milky-colored, plastic, snap-container inside the box and are stamped with a legend that includes ÒB+WÓ. (Yes, I know, opinions on the use of filters over one's front lenses rival the strong beliefs of Sunni vs. Shites.)

 

OTHER Filters

 

Hoya 72mm Linear Polarizer

 

Hoya 72mm Circular Polarizer

 

Hitech 62mm Multistop Variable ND Filter Fader

 

Daisee 58mm Variable ND filter

 

Heliopan 52mm (Variable) Jet-Polarizing Filter

 

Heliopan 62mm (Variable) Jet-Polarizing Filter

 

Heliopan ES67mm (Variable) Polarizing Filter

 

ExpoDisc 2.0 Professional White Balance Filter – does not get much use, but I have one.

 

Micro-fiber towel – A large one useful and necessary to clean rain or dirt off my gear. It also serves as a towel when none is available. Quick drying.

 

LensPen MiniPro Lens Cleaner – One set for camera lenses and another for filters which catch most of the dirt. Never the twain shall meet.

 

Zeiss Lens Cleaner Kit – Comes in a metal tin containing a liquid solution and a cloth.

 

Sensor Swab Cleaning Kit – The first time I used one of these I was on pins and needles. One's sensor is sacrosanct territory and if it gets scratchedÉ well, kiss a basketful of money goodbye. So I went to a Dodd's Camera store clinic when I was in Cincinnati for their Bi-Annual Photography Fest and they happened to be doing free sensor cleanings. I watched the guy who, tho uncomfortable with me looking over his shoulder, was good-natured. I went, I saw, I conquered (my fear). I was happy to learn proper technique as Leica-M sensors attract dust like bees to pollen.

 

Giottos Q.Ball Angled Air Blaster – Useful, useful, useful. I like the angled one for travel. I also have the straight shaft version at home and the studio but I feel like I will accidently hit the sensor with these. (I know, hold it farther back.)

 

Pearstone Micro-fibre cleaning cloth – Little nubbies all over one side let me know which side NOT to touch with my fingers. A great idea that does not appear to have caught on with companies making the little clip-on pouch cleaning cloths.

 

Chums Microfiber Lens Cleaning Pouch – Most people seem to use these for cleaning their eyeglasses but I use one for my camera lenses. I was initially peeved at the logo on the microfiber cloth as I feared it might mar the front glass element. The logo, however, has now become a boon: I only let my fingers touch the logo side of the cloth so the oil from my fingers does not get on the flip side that I use for cleaning the lens. To that end, I fold the cloth with the logo side out before tucking it back into the pouch. Customer Service at Chums informs me there are no chemicals on the cloth (as eyeglass cleaners sometime have) and that the silicon pouch does not off-gas.

 

Spudz Microfiber Cloth – I also have and sometimes carry one of these, which invariably have a shop logo on the bag as all mine were received free. The bags are cloth (nylon?). Try to get ones with dark-colored exteriors as they quickly become unsightly from dirt. As I do not know which side of the cloth is which, I now use one of my Spudz to wipe down the camera top plate where I tug the Spudz cloth between the tight spaces where dirt lodges. I also use one to clean the view windows, LCD, etc.

 

NOTE: when I wash the above micro-fibre cloths I use a laboratory detergent that does not leave residue. It's expensive stuff but you only use a little each time. I learned this trick in my old wine club where the tasting glasses were washed in a lab soap so as not to have any scent that might mar the wine. Some serious guys, those.

 

Eye Glasses & Keeper Chain – Keeps my spectacles in place as I take them off & on a hundred times a day. I have thought of getting an after-market diopter so I can dispense with eyeglasses while I shoot but most folks I read seem to buy them, use them for a short time and then shelve them.

 

Samsung Note 9 Mobile Phone with 128GB micro-SD card – I am an Android fan despite the few, still-niggling, issues. Never could get on with the iPhone. I laughed at Steve Jobs when he said no one wanted to use a stylus with their devices anymore. I use the stylus – a lot. It is a good tool with a smartphone. I have owned all the Samsung Note phones since number 2 and with the exception of the Note 3 (a loser if there ever was one) they have been great. I am not a fan of the new, easily cracked, glass bodies and sealed backs, however. They say the glass bodies are so the phones can be charged on those little charge pads they sell; I see it more as a way to sell replacements for easily cracked phones. (I skipped the Note 6 that could be used as an incendiary device as I had no such personal requirement. The company itself skipped the Note 7.) I use the micro-SD card to store my 10,000-song playlist and some photos.

 

Blackberry Passport (GSM Unlocked) Smartphone – Yes! These excellent phones still exist! I loved the old Blackberry phones and now have a current version. They were, and are, made for productive work not just silly, teenager use (altho one did not have to be a teen to mostly use one's mobile for useless diversions.) I buy a local SIM card during international travel and use it in this phone.

 

Satellite Phone – I do not keep one between trips. I am partial to the Iridium 9555 (menu available in 21 languages) but your needs will differ. Prices and costs for all users have come down over the years. You must buy a phone based upon where you are traveling. The players known to me are Immarsat, Iridium, Globalstar and Thuraya.

 

Zoom H4n Sound Recorder – Having earlier written that I don't do video, I do own a decent sound kit that creates remote recordings of quality using lapel or boom microphones. On-camera sound recording is rather a Mickey Mouse affair so Zoom systems are great. The kit has too much to go into here, Sennheiser mics and stuff.

 

Moleskine Cahier Journal in a custom Leather cover – when you perspire while working in hot climes your Moleskin notebook in a shirt pocket gets really, wellÉ wet and unsightly. In a rear pants pocket it gets cock-eyed and squishy. The inked entries become unreadable. If you are a sparse note-taker eventually the staples rust and your indispensible notebook simply falls apart. A leather cover is one good solution. I keep business cards and a pair of ThinOptics reading glasses in the small inside pocket. I really need a pen-holding loop on my leather cover but have not taken it to the cobbler to have one sewn in.

 

Orgami Note – just like the Moleskines but manufactured of water-resistant paper!

 

13 MacBook Air i7 – Small, light and fast. Sports a nice Mosiso leather cover with a built-in stand. The magnetic closure is annoying if you are reclining with the Air resting on your stomach. The closure flap covers part of the touch pad area. I fold it back under the laptop to keep it out of the way. This machine is for travel, not general use and only has an email program, Photoshop, Lightroom, Photo Mechanic and some music on it.

 

Mouse – I use an inexpensive Targus, USB, retractable-cable one for travel. Cheap and does the job as the built-in mouse pad as a Lightroom/Photoshop/Photo Mechanic tool is not for me. Remember! You cannot (legally) use a wireless mouse on a commercial jet in the air!

 

Apple MagSafe 2 power cord – I carry only one-half of the Apple power cord, the part with the power block and the cord that goes directly to the latop. I leave the thick-wired section at home and use a Duck Head AC Wall Plug whose figure-8 connector fits the MacBook power supply perfectly. This connector also fits the Leica-M battery chargers. I love multiple use tools!

 

MagSafe 2 Car 12-24 volt charger – I have often stayed in shelter without electrical power. But, if there is mechanized transport, there will usually be a cigarette lighter socket. Nowadays, modern autos have what are called 'power outlets' sans the coil apparatus, that bringer of fire from days of yore!

 

Power Bank (3) – Emergency energy bars for which I paid about $5 each. (No, they are not food!)

 

SanDisk MicroMate SDDR-113 Card Reader – An old, early SD card reader that, though USB 2.0, never lets me down. If I need download speed for job demands like getting the images uploaded, processed and off to whomever, I take the next item.

 

Lexar Multi-Card 25-in-1 USB 3.0 Reader with Pop-Up Design – 4 x 2.5 x 1 inches and 5.8 ounces/ 164.4 grams it stays attached to my office computer – unless I am on an extended trip and need USB 3.0 speeds for the download of large numbers of daily pics. As I download every evening I like to get it done as fast as possible so I can get to bed at reasonable hours. This model (LRW025URBNA or LRW025U Rev B) reads SHDC, SDXC and SD UHS-1. To take advantage of the speed of UHS-II cards you need Model LRW400CRBNA (only slots for 4 kinds of cards) but using – and paying for, UHS-II cards with the Leica M10 and M246 is totally unnecessary.

 

The unit allows concurrent downloads and card-to-card file transfer. The reader has hard plastic sides and pressing the detents pops the unit up to expose the reader slots. It requires an (included) cable, and can maintain speeds up to 500MB/s. No external power supply is needed.

 

This white plastic reader can read 25 different memory card formats, many I have never heard of or seen: CompactFlash Type I and Type II, SD, SDHC, SDXC, miniSD, miniSDHC, MMC, MMCplus, RS-MMC, microSD, microSDHC, Memory Stick, Memory Stick (with MagicGate), Memory Stick PRO, Memory Stick PRO Duo, Memory Stick Duo (with MagicGate), Memory Stick PRO Duo Mark 2, Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo, Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo 'HX', Memory Stick Micro (M2), xD-Picture Card, xD-Picture Card Type-M, xD-Picture Card Type-M+, and xD-Picture Card Type-H.

 

SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD – A whiz of a little USB3.1, Gen 2 storage drive for travel. I carry both a 250GB and a 500GB. (There are now models with up to 2TB storage.) Practical and comfortable to grip and use, I was a bit skeptical of their ruggedness as they are made of some sort of polymer instead of metal but so far, so good. Come with a 3-year warranty and said to be able to withstand a 2-meter fall onto concrete as well as dust and a direct jet of water from all sides, including into the cable attachment area. Somewhat thicker than a standard American business card, I have tested these for a couple years so now trust them to replace the La Cie Rugged and G-Drive old-style spinning HDD travel drives I have been using for years.

 

G-Drive Mobile USA 1TB External Drive – I off-load my SD cards here and on the LaCie, below, when on the road. It houses my Lightroom Previews, Smart Previews and Catalog. I use a year-month-day-based system of directories and files just like the setup on the Mac Tower in my studio. Will be replaced by the SanDisk Portable Extreme SSD on the next trip.

 

1TB La Cie Rugged External Drive – The second drive I back up all my photos to when on the road. I do this directly from the SD card inserted into the MacBook in a single, simultaneous download to both the La Cie and the G-Drive rather than doing a time-consuming download to each external backup individually. This drive is on the slow side but has been bullet-proof. Every night I have three copies of the day's images. I keep this drive with one set of images, the Optimus SD card cases, my MacBook and my cameras and lenses in a single bag so if I need to leave the room in a hurried emergency I can save the most important gear from fire or whatever. During the day I cable and lock this bag in my room or tent to whatever seems most immobile (sans camera and lenses which I am out using.) I free the lock at night so I don't have to fumble in the dark to unlock it and waste valuable time if a fast exit is required. This LaCie drive will probably be retired in favor of a SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD, too.

 

USB 3 cable for backup drives.

 

USB Flash Drives – Everyone has come to rely on them as they are truly indispensible. At the end of my tours we often take a few of everyone's best pics and have a slideshow. I can loan these out to my tour participants to upload their photos. A SanDisk Ultra Fit 128GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive holds tons of stuff. I also have lots of SanDisk Cruzer Blade 8GB drives that I send out to my tour participants with dozens of books and articles they read before the trips.

 

Fuji Instax Share Smartphone Printers SP1, SP2, SP3 – I prefer linking them to my cameras and smart phone rather than using the Leica Sofort. With these instant printers I am literally golden in hinterlands around the world. I do not jest. I take pics with my mobile phone and then print them. People in many of the places I travel have never owned a photograph of themselves. Take, and give away, shots of children and they and their parents will love you forever. I even had a Cuban ex-soldier who lost his legs in Angola, break down and cry and try to stand in his wheelchair when I gave him his portrait; he tearfully said, 'Ahora somos familia!' (we are now family). A really moving experience I will never forget. It does not get any better than this in our world of photography. Buy at least 10 packages of film and you will use all 100 shots. Be aware that carrying one of these dramatically slows down your travel as you wait for the images to develop! You can never carry enough film so you have to parcel out the images. NOTE: Airport x-rays will degrade instant film. The film has a high ISO so going through many sets of x-rays will take its toll. I have never succeeded in getting airport security to hand-check my instant film. SP1 & SP2 create business-size pics and I let others use these. The SP3 makes larger, square photos and it is a perfect fit for my leather WWI Swiss Army pouch that I customized for ease in printing and extracting the photos as they slide out. People stand around looking very puzzled when a blank comes out of the printer. I hold up my hand in a 'wait' gesture and as the image begins to appear an audible 'oooohhh' sweeps the crowd. It is always a special moment.

 

CR123A batteries – The Fuji Instax SP1 and SP2 printers require and eat two CR123A batteries. They will print about 30 photos (3 packs) on a good day in warm weather. The SP3 has a rechargeable battery pack. The Sekonic L-358 Incident Light Meter also uses these batteries. I am not fond of tools that require special batteries that cannot be used in something else.

 

Streamlight Stylus Pro¨ Penlight (2 AA) – 90 lumens white LED, 58 meter beam, runs 6.5 hours. Really bright for such a small unit (1.5 oz/47 g; 5.3Ó/134 mm.) The tail switch can either be slightly pushed so the unit lights as long as you hold the button or it can be pushed until it clicks so the light stays on until you click the switch again. This is a very useful differentiation. Comes in six body colors. $20

 

Streamlight Microstream¨ Pocket Light (1 AA) – 45 lumens white LED, 41meter beam, runs 2.25 hours, 3.6 inches long and about 1 oz. Lives in my Think Tank document holder. Bright. Same button arrangement as its longer brother above. $17

 

Streamlight 65006 Stylus Red-LED Pen Light  (3 AAAA) – Ultra slim, waterproof, red-LED, black, aluminum body pen light. Only 2 lumen but visible from over a mile away. One has to hold the rear On button to keep alight. Ridged grip and pocket clip, has a run time of up to 60 hours on alkaline batteries (1.1 oz /length = 6.25 inches). Useful for nighttime photography to keep your night vision as well as rummaging around in the room when all your mates are asleep. Streamlight also sells a blue blood finder for emergency medical use. The blue light highlights hydraulic leaks (a nice way of saying active blood loss in humans. When one travels out of easy and quick range of doctors and nurses medical care ought to be the responsibility of at least one member of your team.) $15

 

Petzl Tikka XP2 Headlamp – Super bright when you need it to be and also let's you switch modes to only red night vision. This is the headlamp I recommend most. It's mid range in price and the red (preserve) night vision mode works in a way that allows you to enable it without having to cycle through any of the bright white modes. Duh.... I've had it for almost 3 years without problems. I can't say the same for the last headlamps I owned.

 

Black Diamond Cosmo Head Lamp in a Petzl case – one push of the top button and you get a bright beam. Swipe the right side of the case and a second, smaller light creates a super-bright 200 lumens beam to light the path ahead for 70 meters. Hold the top button for two seconds to activate a red lamp for nighttime work that does not destroy your night vision. There are three other, more complex operations of the lamps, too. Has a tilt function, uses 3 AAA batteries and Black Diamond says it is rated at IPX8 water resistance (protected for immersion beyond 1m and suitable for continuous immersionÉ) but I have doubts so have not used it in underwater spelunking. I keep it in a Petzl case with belt loop. Head lamps have their place but can be bothersome in groups. Every time a wearer turns to look at you there is a blinding light in your eyes. If you and your group need to wear them some training is in order.

 

Rocketfish RF-DDC01 dual USB charging outlet – 12-24 volt for charging electronics while driving.

 

CyberPower electrical outlet strip – 3 electrical outlets and 2 USB outlets to simultaneously charge all those electronic gizmos we can't seem to live without. Not good if all your mains cable prongs are a blocky unit as the outlets are not spaced far enough apart to accommodate more than three simple plugs next to each other. But this unit is small and that was my priority.

 

International Electrical Outlet Adapters – every conceivable configuration for anyplace in the world! Obviously I only take whatever is relevant for the countries I am visiting. In Asia one increasingly finds wall outlets that accept the 2-prong US plugs. That's the good. The bad is that they are loosey-goosey with enough slop that the plug often just falls out of the socket. Gaffer tape to hold the plug upright and in the socket is the key. I own an assortment of Duck Head international outlet plugs that fit the power block of my MacBook, my Leica camera chargers and other devices. I love items that are capable of double duty!

 

Electrical outlet plug converter (grounded 3-prong to simple flat 2-prong) – you will be surprised at how many places in the USA still have (only) the old two-prong outlets with no ground. These little adapters are life-savers in the electrical power world when you really need that juice to keep your laptop going or are running out of camera power. $1.19

 

2-Prong Figure-8 Non-Polarized Power Cord, 1 Foot Long – for those times the Mac figure-8 plug won't stay in the wall outlet. Lots of places around the world have wall outlets that are so loosey goosey the plug won't stay in the socket. I also carry a strip of gaffer tape to hold plugs in place.

 

Sanyo Eneloop (Generation 3) AAA batteries (8) / AA batteries (8) – Sanyo was bought by Panasonic and a 4th Generation rechargeable Eneloop was developed. I have not tried them as my 3rd Gen batteries are still going strong (they retain up to 90% of their capacity after one year, 80% after three years and 70% after five years. The batteries can be recharged up to 1,800 times.) I love it that there are companies making items most people think of as disposable and are making them as top-notch items that are More-Than-Good-Enough!

 

B.E.D. 4-Cell Battery Fluorescent Orange Cases – For safely carrying all my AA & AAA batteries. Totally encloses the batteries but the latch tab on the case is poorly constructed and is guaranteed to break while the rest of the case is still fine. I just have not taken the time to find replacement cases that cover the battery's +/– terminals as required for air safety.

 

Storacell by Powerpax Battery Caddy – Ah! I now have a replacement for the above battery storage. No basic moving parts to break on this unit. I have two battery caddies that each hold 8 batteries: a yellow one for AAA and an orange one for AA so I am good with the airline TSA.

 

La Crosse Technology BC-700 Alpha Power Recharger – for the Eneloop batteries as I use them.

 

Global Zero Nomad 7 Solar Charger – Light and weather-resistant I can charge USB 12 volt small gear as long as I have adequate sunshine. I bought this unit at REI for a 2008 trip to Africa and it is still in fine nick. $60

 

Samsung Galaxy Bluetooth Ear Buds – Both the ear buds and the case hold a charge. When the buds get low on power stick them in the case to give them a boost. Then, when you are someplace with an electrical outlet, charge up the whole kit. I was skeptical but the sound quality of these is really good: adequate bass, good mid-range and treble. I still have my Bose Mini-Headphones (get the best you can afford) but no longer travel with them.

 

iPod – in my mind still the best way to store and play thousands of songs. I never use my mobile phone for this as it uses battery that needs to be conserved in the wild places some of us travel. Plus, all batteries have a finite recharging life cycle. Why tap into them for music when a made-for-purpose dedicated device exists? The iPod, alas, is no longer manufactured by Apple (do they care if you use up that non user-replaceable battery on your iPhone? Can you say, 'parts and service charges.')

 

Wire security cable with padlock – to lock up any and everything.

 

First Aid Kit – Massively important! I have so many permutations of this kit that I add to a basic outfit so I am not going into the variations here. If you are doing remote, outback travel you probably know what you need.

 

Erwin Puts' The Leica Micro μ-Pocket Book – tiny (7.5 x 5.5 cm) with a wealth of information that cannot be memorized

 

National Geographic Compact Atlas of the World – A little bigger and a lot thicker than a Moleskin Cahier Notebook.

 

Square-Up Credit Card Reader – In case I need to do a credit card charge while traveling. Requires cell service but will keep a transaction in memory until service is available.

 

Tissot T Touch Titanium Watch – I use this watch for international travel because it has functions for Altimeter, Chronograph, Compass, Alarm, Thermometer and Barometer (in hectoPascals). Its readout can be imperial or metric, 12- or 24-hour. It is on the small-ish side physically and yes, it also tells the time. For the Compass, remember to look up the East or West declination of your destination before you leave home. It's easier than getting online at your destination and using valuable Internet time to find the exact magnetic declination you need to adjust for. ASIDE: the moving magnetic north pole has picked up speed so you should check every 6 months to keep your declination adjustments current, not the once a year we (recently) used to check it.

 

Rolex Submariner 14060 – If I am staying in the US I usually just wear this and leave the Tissot at home. The 14060 is simply the classiest Sub: only two lines of text, no ugly Cyclops date window. Less is more. Also indestructible!

 

Business Cards – In the States we take them for granted but people love cards the world over. They especially love my custom, Leica-centric, two-sided design. They may forget me but they never forget my card.

 

IFJ Press Pass, ASMP & NWU membership cards in a Think Tank Photo Credential Holder V2.0 Tall – Holds all my on-the-shoot documents as well as a pen, Streamlight MicroStream Pocket Light and my spare cellphone (a secure Blackberry) and, sometimes, my passport.

 

Passport & International Driver's License – no explanation necessary

 

I also pack a few trools (travel tools) when I work: allen hex wrenches, Leatherman or SOG tool, locking carabiner, quality pocket knife, cigar lighter, SmallRig Locking Cold Shoe mount, gaffer tape, clamps, trash bags, gallon sandwich bags, hand sanitizer, Paracord survival bracelet (cord, whistle,firestarter), etc.

 

Powered by SmugMug Owner Log In