by Sean Setters
lf you're like me, you keep a catalogue (either mentally or on paper/electronically) of locations you'd like to photograph "...when the time is right." For many locations, timing is everything.
Yet the opportunities for some types of photography are remarkably fleeting and/or rare. One such photographic endeavor where time is really of the essence is lightning photography. Typically speaking, lightning photography is optimally captured at night and the circumstances which make it ideal for capture sometimes catch you by surprise (for example, when you're sleeping).
For instance, I've been awoken in the early morning hours by the distant sounds of thunder and immediately thought, "Now would be great time to capture a lightning strike featuring downtown Savannah, GA." Unfortunately, the last time this happened I was unprepared to rush out the door quickly. It took me about 15 minutes to gather all the items I thought I'd need to capture lightning, including double-checking battery and memory card capacities. As I was driving downtown, I saw the last lightning strike that the storm had to offer. The opportunity had slipped through my fingers.
That got me thinking. What I really needed to do is prepare a "go-bag" that's ready at a moment's notice. So for the last two evenings where thunderstorms have been forecast, I've packed a bag before going to bed so that I can bolt (pun intended) out the door when necessary.
My lightning oriented go-bag includes:
For what it's worth, I carry the Canon TC-80N3 for redundancy; if the MIOPS trigger's internal battery becomes exhausted, or I'm photographing in a location that's too bright for the trigger to sense faint lightning, I'll use the Canon Remote Timer and simply fire the camera continuously using the intervalometer.
When packing the bag, I always check to ensure my camera's batteries have a sufficient charge and that its memory cards are in place. After that, I place my Induro CT-314 tripod (similar to this
) on top of the bag so that I don't forget to take it as well.
Preparing your go-bag well ahead of the time you actually need it has two very tangible benefits. The first is that you're able to get out of the door as quickly as possible. The second is that you're less likely to forget a vital piece of equipment because you aren't frantically rushing to get everything packed.
Cloud and/or sunset photography are other endeavors that may benefit from a prepacked go-bag including a circular polarizing filter, step-up rings (if needed), and possibly a strong ND for longer exposures. If the sky is filled with interesting clouds or a beautifully warm, hazy sunset, just grab your bag and head out to your favorite location before conditions change (wherever that may be).
Do you shoot bands in night clubs? Do you ever get calls 15-minutes before show time with requests to shoot a gig? Your go-bag would likely include several wide aperture primes and, maybe most importantly, earplugs.
While having a go-bag prepared isn't necessarily advantageous for all photographic disciplines, it can really come in handy for those all-to-fleeting photographic opportunities where minutes matter.