I admit it, I am a pack rat. Or at least it may appear so to the untrained eye. I hate throwing things away, but empty orange juice bottles can be used to make great flash diffusers; one of the dozens of loose, mismatched screws will eventually prove itself priceless by fixing my tripod head; and that old rubber boot with a hole in it… well, you get the idea – things come in handy, eventually.
I apply the same principle of eventual usefulness when packing my camera bag. In addition to the usual stuff – cameras, lenses, flashes – I also like to throw in a few paper clips, a rubber band, and a piece of rope. Not that I have any idea how I will use them, but I know that sooner or later my life may depend on them.
When I was in Tapanti National Park in Costa Rica last year I spotted high in a tree a huge arboreal salamander. The animal was at least 2 m above my head, and there was no other way for me to take a photo than to climb the tree. And so I did, but the forest was getting dark, and hand-holding the camera was not an option – I needed a tripod. But tripods do not work very well high in the trees, and I struggled to immobilize the camera, while at the same time trying not to spook the salamander. Then I remembered the piece of rope I always carry. Ha! I quickly tied the tripod to the tree trunk, and was able to get a few long-exposure, wide angle shots before the animal slinked away.
A strategically placed rubber band held my flash in place after I had lost a custom-made plastic ring that normally allowed me to attach it to the front of my 14mm wide angle lens, and I was able to get an intimate portrait of this pretty tree frog in Suriname a few months ago.
I am convinced that at some point I will also find some good use for the 10 ft of steel wire I always carry in my camera bag.