Monday, August 11, 2014

The Piece Of A Photographer's Kit That No One Talks About

Click to enlarge
We were on the road again last week.  This time it was "The Wilds" (literarily, that's what they call it) of Pennsylvania.  That area northeast of Pittsburgh and northwest of everything else.  We went there to shoot (photographically of course) Elk.  The area around the little (really little) town of Benezett (that's the way it's spelled in town.  On the maps it's Benezette.) has the largest herd of elk east of the Mississippi River.  About 700 - 800 head.  I'll get to the elk in the next post.  Today must serve as a warning to all photographers.  Anywhere you look (books, magazines, podcasts etc.) you'll find discussions, suggestions and recommendations about what the well turned out photog "should" have in his/her "kit".  (That's the Englishmen's term for gear.  I sort of like the term.  Sounds more fun than gear.)  There's one piece I never hear discussed.  I'd put it up there with a tripod or additional lenses and ahead of a second body.  It's so needed that I've determined I can't live without it anymore.  Before venturing out on another sojourn I have to equip myself with this gear or I might end up in a hospital near you.  It's that important.  To find out what this piece of "kit" is, hit the "Read More".

First I'll have to explain how I've come to this epiphany.  It has to do with today's image directly and is coupled with the result of my post about our trip to New Hampshire a couple weeks ago.  Click here to go to that post.  Today's shot is of a small piece of a waterfall is along the Allegany Reservoir.  According to the guide books and online descriptions it "should be" an easy one.  Online it's rated as "easy" to get to.  It's about twenty five feet from the parking area to the falls.  What it doesn't tell you is that it's six feet up, six feet over and about a dozen feet down.  We had just had a nice lunch at a lake (reservoir) side boating area and had to drive about a half mile to the parking area.  In the time it took to drive, a sullen looking, solitary cloud rolled in and dropped coin sized raindrops (in vast quantities) for about ten minutes.  We were trapped in the car for the duration.  Once it stopped we dug the cameras and tripods out in preparation of some good photo ops. 

One thing that happens when coin sized rain pours down onto a clay based hillside is that the clay paths become something akin to ski runs.  Knowing this I proceeded with extreme caution traversing what had become the Pennsylvania equivalent of Everest's Khumbu Icefall.  The most dangerous portion of the "trek".  I gingerly worked my way up the six foot climb, over the six foot traverse and down the harrowing twelve foot descent to the area to shoot.  Once there I setup and shot some frames.  

When finished I was in a state of giddy delight and started bounding back to the car.  It's always a bad idea to "bound" through anything you've likened to the Khumbu Icefall.  With tripod in one hand and protecting the camera with the other I started the long (twelve feet after all) climb.  Somehow it never occurred to me that the clay was as slippery going up as it had been going down.  A misplaced foot slipped right out from under me.  (Shades of our New Hampshire trip.)  This time I did a face plant into the side of the uphill.  The "Really Right Stuff  L bracket was lost into the muck.  It was still attached to the camera mind you, just no longer visible.  I'd thrown my left hand out to block my fall and not eat a whole lot of mud.  That was good in theory.  The practical side... not so much.  The legs of the tripod almost broke my nose and the ball head socked me in the jaw hard enough to rearrange my profile.  

Luckily my knee acted as a brake and kept me from ending up in a heap at the bottom of the slide.  This would be the same leg that took the most abuse during my fall down the waterfall in New Hampshire.  Three weeks ago I had a nasty gash down the side of my calf.  This time it looked like I had some sort of freaky badge attached to the front of my knee. 

The score is now falling down waterfalls 1, falling up waterfalls 1 and a big goose egg for Tom.

When I got back to the car, Doris greeted me with some unusually colorful expressions of gratitude that I had endured.  (I think that's what she meant.)

Oh yeah, that piece of gear every photographer needs?  A better pair of shoes.