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Tips and techniques

NATURE’S VIEW: Whatchyamacallits and thingamajigs (Part One) Story and photographs by Jim Clark

By June 6, 2015No Comments
Sunrise at Black Duck Pool, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia. © Jim Clark

Sunrise at Black Duck Pool, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia. © Jim Clark

It’s that time of the year when nature photographers are either embarking on a summer season filled with photo adventures, or they are making the final preparations to do so. They have their tripods, lenses and cameras all cleaned, inspected and primed, ready to go into action. Watch out nature, here we come!

Often, we forget to bring along the little things—the whatchyamacallits and thingamajigs—that can save us from those minor and major inconveniences we encounter in the field. During my workshops, I have a show-and-tell session to disclose to my students some of the lesser known items I keep in my camera bag or vest—very handy and inexpensive stuff that can make a difference in having a good photo shoot or a bad one.

Here are just a few items you might consider adding to your photographic toolbox:

Portable Powerbank Charger: Can’t get around it, everyone has in their possession a cellphone and/or a tablet these days. They are indispensable and can certainly have apps that help us in our quest for photographic perfection. Of course, the issue is power. To maintain a full charge while in the field, I keep a portable powerbank charger with me. These units are compact and designed for easy storage. The ones I use even have a handy built-in flashlight. Just remember to charge the charger before you go into the field.

Portable LED Flashlight: These flashlights are lightweight and portable and nearly essential for those pre-sunrise and post-sunset shoots. Many folks rely on a flashlight app on their cell phones. Either way, you’ll need some form of artificial light to help you maneuver around your camera controls in low-light situations and to find the way back to your car.

Jar Lid Remover/Wide Rubber Bands/ Filter Wrench: Got a stuck filter on your lens? Use a jar lid remover to get a firm grasp on the filter. I also keep a bunch of wide rubber bands, which do the job just as well. Just wrap the rubber band around the filter to help you get a little more traction. You can also purchase a filter wrench, but I find these are not as reliable as a jar lid remover or a rubber band.

Media Card Protection Case: These cases protect media storage cards from dust and moisture. The brand I use can hold four cards and has a viewing window, so you can see the cards. It is also watertight and floats.

Allen (Hex) Wrenches: Indispensable! These wrenches are a must to help tighten quick-release plates, tripod legs, etc. I keep several sets of them in my camera bag, vest and car.

Soft Brush: After photographing in sandy situations, such as the beach, I make my students use a brush to wipe off the sand on their tripod legs. Once the sand gets into the tripod, it can damage the bushings.

Next month, in Part Two, I’ll suggest a few more whatchyamacallits and thingamajigs that have helped me over the years.

A past NANPA president, Jim is a contributing editor for Outdoor Photographer and is the nature photography instructor for Chincoteague Bay Field Station, Wallops Island, Virginia. The author/photographer of six books, Jim is particularly proud of two children’s books he did with his son Carson. Jim was also a major contributor to the book, Coal Country. Visit Jim’s website at, blog at or visit him on Facebook.