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A Lesson in Preparation

Last week I set out for a vacation to the Bruce Peninsula to explore some of the popular attractions in the area. I had never travelled that way before but I had seen some beautiful photos of the area so I had an idea of what I was getting into. First and foremost this was a family vacation but my secondary goal for the trip was to come away with some memorable photos of my own.

Flower Pot Island - Fathom Five Marine Park

Flower Pot Island - Fathom Five Marine Park

With that in mind I started drawing on my past experiences to determine what photo gear I needed to take with me. Years ago I travelled to British Columbia without my tripod. That’s a choice I still regret to this day and a mistake I will never make again. So that was the first piece of gear to go with me outside of my camera of course... what good would a tripod be without a camera? In another instance also many years ago I travelled to Costa Rica with only one camera battery and no charger. I realize now that was one of the biggest photography equipment related mistakes I’ve ever made. So two fully charged spare batteries and a battery charger were the next couple pieces of gear to go into my bag. In numerous other situations I have run out of memory so I was also sure to pack multiple spare (already formatted) CompactFlash cards. 

Bruce’s Caves - Couldn’t have shot this without a tripod!

Bruce’s Caves - Couldn’t have shot this without a tripod!

With those pieces of gear packed up it was time to decide what lenses I’d take with me. I don’t have a large collection of glass so this was an easy choice to make. My 17-40 and 70-200 seemed like the obvious favourites. One for wide landscapes and one with a bit more reach just in case. In the end both lenses got a lot of use and I only have one regret with my selection. There were two scenarios on the trip where my 100mm macro lens would have come in handy. I chalk this up to bad luck more than anything. I was trying to travel pretty light and didn’t want to take everything I own with me. I don’t think I could have forecasted the need for a macro lens as both situations involved chance encounters with cooperative wild life. I ended up being able to get really close to one of the subjects with my 17-40 so that wasn’t a total loss. Eventually I scared it off but I could have got a better shot with the macro lens. The other situation included a swarm of tent caterpillars that would have made for an interesting close up photo but without the macro lens in my bag I didn’t even attempt to take the shot. Hindsight in this case is 20|20 but I won’t beat myself up over it.

I was able to get surprisingly close to this frog with a 40mm lens

I was able to get surprisingly close to this frog with a 40mm lens

The biggest failure I made in my preparation was with my filter selection. I knew I was going to be visiting at least one waterfall on the trip, so I knew from past experience that my variable neutral density needed to be in my bag. That would allow me to shoot longer exposures and create the silky waterfall look. It was also going to allow me to control my shutter speed if I wanted to shoot any video on the trip, so it was going to serve two different purposes.

Inglis Falls - Owen Sound

Inglis Falls - Owen Sound

When grabbing that ND filter I had to move my circular polarizer out of the way. I didn’t realize how much I would regret that until I was on a boat tour in Big Tub Harbour looking down through the water at a ship wreck from the 1800’s. Although the water looked crystal clear and I could see the details in the wreck with my eyes, the shots I was taking just weren’t doing the scene justice. Had I been prepared and packed the circular polarizer I would have been able to cut down on the reflections the water surface was causing and get a clearer shot of the ship. There were also many scenes along the shoreline of the Fathom Five Marine Park where the polarizer would have opened up the scene below the water even more. How much space and weight did I save by not including a small piece of gear that I already owned? In the scheme of things it would have cost me nothing to include it but it would have had the potential to enhance some of my photos. 

The Sweepstakes - Shipwreck in Big Tub Harbour

The Sweepstakes - Shipwreck in Big Tub Harbour

In the future this will end up being another memory that I draw from when approaching a photography trip or project. As a photographer I use my past experiences to help capture future scenes with more skill and more creativity than I could have in the past.  Basically I am a product of my mistakes because that’s what’s really sticks with me - the moments that got away because I ran out of memory, the scenes that looked good on the camera screen but were actually out of focus, the shots that I completely missed because my battery was dead.

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All in all I’m happy with the scenes that I managed to capture… but next time I’ll do better!

Other people on the boat tour thought I was crazy for taking photos of the water but I love this shot.

Other people on the boat tour thought I was crazy for taking photos of the water but I love this shot.