Digital Photography Outdoors

In addition to the usual camera (or operator) failures, you can experience memory card malfunctions, digital wallet crashes, computer meltdowns, recharger mishaps, and battery collapse. To reduce such occurrences to a minimum, follow these pre-shoot steps before you leave home for the field.

  • Recharge all rechargeable batteries, including those in electronic wallets and computers. Bring extra batteries for the flash.
  • Test and clear your memory cards.
  • Check to confirm that your camera settings conform to your preferences or the situation you expect to find. Look at ISO, file format, focus and exposure setting, "motor drive," and exposure mode. Otherwise, a fleeting opportunity may pass you by while you fiddle with the body.
  • Set your camera's white balance to deliver the effect you want. White balance adjusts color temperature so that white objects appear white. Most digital cameras provide for automatic settings, color temperature presets, and manual calibration.
  • Turn off in-camera sharpening. If you can't turn it off, use the lowest setting to reduce the effect.
  • Check memory cards. Add up how much memory you carry. Calculate how many shots you can get on a memory card in the format you choose. You can stretch your cards' capacity by editing in-camera during the day and deleting the obvious mistakes (Remember that reviewing images with the camera LCD screen gobbles battery power.) The wise digital photographer will carry a few smaller cards instead of a single big one.
  • Check image storage systems. Most storage in the field relies on hard-disk drives. These are inherently fragile, so bring two when possible. For example, you might carry a digital wallet and a subnotebook computer and download your memory cards to both machines each night. In the field, consider carrying blank CDs so you can burn the best images periodically. When traveling to a foreign country, bring an assortment of adapter plugs. Retailers and websites specializing in foreign travel can point you in the right direction.


Adapted from Digital Photography Outdoors, 2nd Ed by James Martin (The Mountaineers Books, $18.95, paperback).


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