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Holiday guide 2018 GPS, Maps, Tripod, Cleaners, Notes, and more

It has taken me longer to come up with my 2018 holiday list. In the past, I have tried to stay away from photography gear, but this year I have decided to include a few items. I have used all this gear and have found it to be worthwhile. I do not receive any compensation for clicking on one of the links.

For your camera bag

Bushnell Backtrack GPS (

If you hike even on the trail, a device like this one is valuable. I have the original Backtrack GPS and it is no longer made, but you can find similar models from a variety of manufacturers. Basically, when you get out of your car, you mark the location, and turn it off. Once you are ready to return from your hike, you turn it on and it gives you direction of your car. It is not like Google Maps in that it does not show the trail. Rather, the device points to your car rather than north like a compass. You hike in the direction of your car following the trail or off trail in the direction the device points. You do not need to master map reading to use this device.

LensPen Lens Cleaner (

The small pieces of dust on your lens are unlikely to affect the quality of your photos. However, there is some innate need to keep our lenses and filters clean. This handy product is small and does an excellent job. It has brush and a concave tip for smudges and other spots. I keep one in my camera bag and use it when I feel the urge to clean a filter or lens in the field.

Zeiss Pre-Moistened Lens Cleaning Wipes (

What could be better than lens cleaning wipes by one of the top lens manufacturers? These small, one time use wipes are great for lenses, filters, and eyeglasses. I found what seems like a lifetime supply at Sam’s Club a year ago. I keep a few in my camera bag and my car. They are much better than carrying a spray bottle of liquid and a microfiber towel.

Benro TMA48CXL Extra Long Series 4 Mach3 Carbon Fiber Tripod (

I admit, I am getting older and hate to contort my body when shooting, that is for the younger folks. In Indiana, we have steep hills and ridges. By the time you have your typical tripod level, you are practically sitting on the ground looking through the view finder. I finally decided I had enough this past fall. I did a lot of research on tall tripods and found the Benro TMA48XL Extra Long for a great price as a second tripod. It extends to a height of 84 inches! I can stand up straight when shooting from the side of a hill. Comfort!

The tripod is heavier than my Gitzo, but I do not plan to hike with it. It will be used when I shoot from the car. It is very sturdy and I seldom need to fully extend the fourth segment of a leg.

In case you become forgetful

Original Craft Field Notes (

It seems all my friends are getting forgetful. One of my friends always carries one of these and records important information. I decided I should record important information just in case I forget it! I carry one of these notebooks with me any time I go shooting. You never know who might give you directions to some place and you need to record the directions as they are too complex to remember. I have names and locations in my Field Notes. I forgot to write one location down that had a great tree to photograph for the book we are developing. It took me a year to find the tree as it was not where I thought it was (same county, but almost to the eastern edge). Unfortunately, half the tree is now down. If I had written down the location, I could have photographed it last summer when the tree was probably intact.

Start early and take copious notes when shoot. It is also great to record information about test shots you are making.

LAMY Safari Ballpoint Pen – Model 217


If you are going to take notes, you need a good pen and I am particular about my writing instruments. I still have an engraved Cross pen my uncle gave me for high school graduation that is over 50 years old! I have three of these Lamy pens, but one went through the washing machine and no longer works. You will enjoy taking notes in your Field Notes book with this pen!

Odds and Ends

Stacking Drawer Organizers (

I have a number of these in different sizes sitting on bookcase shelves in my study. They are great for organizing small parts. For example, I have drawers labeled for battery chargers, sensor cleaning materials, filter removal tools, tripod parts, lens covers and so on. I use a Brother Label maker to create labels for the front of the drawers. Now when I need something, I can usually find it! It also reduces the clutter and that makes my wife happy until she looks at the flat surfaces.

WeatherTech Floor liners (

I was reminded the need for these this weekend when my wife and I visited Goose Pond in her Honda Pilot. I was driving up a sort of gravel road full of mud holes and ice when she said, “You are going on this road?” Yes I thought, because I am looking for that flock of white birds. Thus, I seldom get to take her SUV on photography trips and I now need to take her SUV to the car wash.

I have the deep WeatherTech floor mats in my SUV for all seats and in the back. They are great and they keep the car clean and dry. You can even find some spray cleaner to clean them in the middle of winter. If you order a set, make sure you get the deep ones to hold the melting snow. You might want to purchase a Palmyra Gong Brush mentioned in the 2016 list.

Buff Multifunctional Headwear (

My daughter gave me one of these for Christmas last year. I was not overly impressed as I usually wear a turtle neck when I am shooting in very cold weather. The first time I wore this neck gaiter, I was impressed. Worn around your neck, it provides a “seal” between your neck and your jacket to keep you warm. You can also pull it up over your ears and tuck it under your hat to keep your ears warm. And, you can pull it over your nose and mouth to keep your face warm, although a beard does help a little. I wear it all the time in cold weather. I like it so much, I put a second one my list this year.

Google Maps Saved Places ( FREE!

I do a lot of research and reading about potential places to photograph. Once I find a location, I save it as a place on Google Maps and record it in a Word file titled Bucket List. This list is available on all my devices including my smartphone. I use it all the time and even search nearby locations when I am somewhere to see if I have other areas marked.


Natural Virginia Panoramic Landscape Photographs (

Natural Virginia is a great hard cover book by Ben Greenberg a friend and mentor. The book is a collection of panoramic photographs of Virginia. I was fortunate to have traveled with Ben to several of the locations and learned a lot from him during those trips. The book is a great study for anyone interested in learning landscape photography.

I’ll let one of the reviews speak for the book more elegantly than I can summarize it.

A century ago, legendary photographer Edward Curtis set out to capture the traditional world of Native Americans before that world vanished. Now, Ben Greenberg has done the same for the natural areas of Virginia. Devoted to preserving and celebrating Virginia’s diverse but sometimes threatened natural richness, Greenberg has spent years creating a collection of more than one hundred stunning images that range from the Commonwealth’s most well-known to its rarely explored landscapes. By framing all of these photographs—whether of the Shenandoah Valley in full fall blaze or of Tidewater piers in the afterglow of sunset—as panoramas, Greenberg heightens the drama and immediacy of the moment, forging an enduring composite portrait that captures Virginia’s natural heritage while reminding us of its fragility. Read more or download a Word file.

From Chuck Epes’ review of Natural Virginia on his Cheseapeak Bay blog.

“Nearly every page prompts a “wow” or a smile or a memory. Like a fine painting, the images demand that you linger and study their composition, texture, and detail.”  

Click to read the full review.

If you purchase a copy, tell Ben I told you about the book!

Landscapes in Lightroom: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide (

Michael Frye is a great landscape photographer who mostly concentrates on Yosemite. He is also a great writer. I have a couple of his books, but really like his Landscapes in Lightroom book. He gives clear and concise instructions on how to process your photos in Lightroom. It is a PDF ebook that includes 17 video tutorials and sample files you can use as you learn his method. If you use Lightroom and you photograph landscapes, you will want this book in your library.

Secrets to the Nikon Autofocus System and Secrets to Stunning Wildlife Photography (

Steve Perry is also another excellent author and photographer. His Nikon autofocus system (ebook) will provide you with more information that you will ever want if you own a Nikon camera. He walks you through his setup for photographing wildlife with instructions for a variety of Nikon cameras. His book on wildlife photography (ebook) is a great resource for anyone who wants to improve or start photographing wildlife.

A Guide to Natural Areas of Southern Indiana (

Steven Higgs’ soft cover book on natural areas of southern Indiana is a valuable resource for anyone photographing southern Indiana. His thoroughly researched book provides a wealth information about each area. I accompanied him on some of these trips and was impressed by his research and what I saw. He has a book on northern Indiana that will be published later this year. Both books are published by the IU press and are available in bookstores. You can also order at the link above and receive an autographed copy. If you purchase through his website, tell him Gary told you to purchase a copy!

I hope you enjoyed my list for this year. Again, I purchased or received the items in the list from family members and receive no compensation if you click a link. Best wishes for the holidays and many days of great shooting in the coming year!

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