Thursday, August 21, 2008

UFO Sky Fishing - Your Field Camera Bag Dissected

By Michelle Drumheller

Sky Fishing, which is growing in popularity in the United States, is documenting Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO's) using a camera (digital or film), visible and invisible to the naked eye.

Before you go on a UFO sky fishing trip take some time to organize your equipment.

Which camera do you bring?
Some digital camera enthusiasts I know buy a really nice digital SLR camera (and all of the associated lenses that go with it) and don't want to take it anywhere because it is too heavy. Others think they might break the camera by taking it into the field--that it is too risky for their camera. Usually, these are the people who have 2 digital cameras-one very light point-and-shoot (which they use a lot) and the heavier more expensive digital SLR which sits at home. I believe if you buy a digital SLR you should use it. UFO sky fishing requires high shutter speed and a digital SLR camera has a higher shutter speed than most point-and-shoot digital cameras. If the camera is too heavy for you, consider you bought the wrong camera and might want to look at other lighter digital SLR cameras which might work better for you. You can bring both your point-and-shoot as there may be a time and place to use it, but consider taking your digital SLR if you have one as it will most likely take better pictures.

Enough memory cards
I recommend taking at least two or three 2-4 gigabyte cards for a weekend trip. Before your trip make sure you download all your digital pictures off of your memory card and onto your computer. After they have been downloaded make sure you delete the pictures off of your memory card. Start your trip with NO pictures on your memory cards. I always say this but I don't see it in practice-the memory card is not a permanent storage device for your digital images-you should put them on your computer hard drive or external hard drive and organize them.

Extra batteries
Maybe 2-3 extra batteries, recharged the night before. Even batteries that haven't been used should be recharged as dormant batteries lose some of their charge when lying around. If your camera takes AA batteries buy longer life batteries. Even though they cost more this should save you money. The package for longer life batteries will say they are for digital cameras and electronic devices. You don't have to go to a specialty store for them, most supermarkets and other stores that carry batteries will carry these as well.

If you have a digital SLR you need to consider which lenses to bring. A good all-in-one lens such as an 18-200mm (or to 300mm) may be a good choice. If you have specialty lenses think about which ones will work best for you on your trip. If you bought a digital SLR and still have the lens that came with the camera consider other lenses. A digital SLR is all about the lenses you attach to the camera.

A camera bag
This protects your digital camera and you can keep everything in one place. You should have this anyway and if you don't you should consider a good one. Camera bags are also personal preference. Some people want a big bag that will hold everything including a tripod. Others want a camera bag that is small and easy to put in a purse or pocket. Also, consider everything you need to put in the bag. I recommend for digital SLR the Lowepro Slingshot camera bag, which comes in 3 different sizes. This bag has one strap for over your shoulder so try it before you invest in one and make sure you like it. This camera bag has a quick open and close feature when you need your camera fast.

If you are shooting at night a tripod is essential. It may be almost impossible to get a clear shot without one. Again, a good tripod is a personal issue. There are light tripods, there are heavy tripods. There are one-legged tripods and 3-legged tripods. The mount for the camera on tripods differ as well.

I always carry Tylenol, kleenex, some form of identification, and some money for emergencies. Also, consider good walking shoes and bug repellant.

The night before a big trip test your camera and make sure it works. Look through your camera bag and make sure you included the batteries you charged up. Did you download all your pictures from your camera to your computer and delete the pictures off your memory card? If you are trying something new such as shooting in RAW (image file format) make sure you can download these images to your computer before you leave on your trip. There is nothing worse than taking a lot of pictures and not being able to download them or view them without a lot of hassle.
Know how to operate your camera before you go into the field. Know how to take the flash on and off because if you are shooting at night you probably don't want to use it. Just in case, take your camera manual.

And, don't forget to have fun and take great pictures!

Michelle Drumheller

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