A really good stylus - and ballpoint.

   If you’re any kind of journalist, you text a lot by smartphone.  Unfortunately, thumbs are a very 
poor way to text - and the styluses sold by the phone company are both poor and expensive, 
while Wal-Mart’s inexpensive ones are poor.  While you occasionally run across giveaway 
combination ballpoint/styluses, they really don’t work well for texting - and the pen filler is hard 
if not impossible to replace.
   Fortunately, Cross (of mid-price ballpoint fame) makes a combination ballpoint/stylus - and it 
is absolutely great.  The pen extends and retracts by Cross’ familiar twist mechanism.  The stylus 
is always exposed on the other end of the pen (photo below).  Retail is between $13 and $30, 
depending on where you see it; at big-box office supply places, about $30.  It’s available in a 
choice of finishes - and doesn’t look cheap.
   The filler is easily replaceable - as typical of Cross ballpoints - with the filler sold widely in 
the office-supply stores.
   It’s great for texting.  The stylus end is small enough - unlike the phone-company and Wally 
World ones with too-big tips.  And it’s firm - easy to text without errors.

Stylus end of Cross’ combination stylus/ballpoint.


Really good bottled water?

   Fortunately, the lens pocket on back of your photo vest is just the right size for a bottle of 
bottled water.  Unfortunately, bottled water is expensive and a mess to drink - as the thin-wall 
bottles crumple as water empties.
   Fortunately, there are better alternatives - and they pay for themselves fast.  And they won’t 
make a mess as you drink them, either.  Each fits that same pocket.
   From absolutely free to $20, refillable water bottles that are sturdy are readily available.
   Your nearest State Farm insurance agent will give you, free, a sturdy refillable water bottle with 
a push-pull drinking spout.  Pick up one or two.
   Wal-Mart sells for $20 an insulated water bottle by Stanley.  One-hand drinking control makes 
it very convenient - and it will provide ice water all day.  Fill with ice cubes before filling the 
remaining space with water - and ice remains in the remaining water 15 hours later.  Holds 
20 oz. of water.
   Save money; #DontBuyBottledWater.

   The State Farm one is free - but the $20 Stanley one is worth it.


A really good tripod at $100 or less?

   Can you get a really good tripod at $100 full retail or just under?
   Promaster makes an aluminum tripod that stickers just under $100 at full-service 
photo stores.  It has flip-lock extension legs - thus avoiding the typical “freezing” 
problem of some aluminum tripods.  It comes with a quick-detach plate to attach the 
bottom of your camera to - and holds a Canon 7D with the typical “L” zoom sturdily for
either of the zooms favored by photojournalists.
   Compatible quick-detach plates are available - and inexpensive.  They attach to your 
camera by screwing into its tripod mount.
   Legs are three sections each - and maximum height is convenient.
   Head has a bubble level - and an angle degree scale.  Head locks and unlocks the
typical way of twisting handle.
   This tripod is lightweight.  In months of using it, it’s proven totally reliable - and 
convenient to use.  It’s been great for doing headshots - even of myself!  It’s very 
well made.


Too shaky to shoot photos?

   Are you too shaky to shoot photos - or are you starting to get that way?
   Sure, you can restrict yourself to shooting only at ultrahigh shutter speeds - or forcing that by setting widest-possible apertures - but either means you’ll be unable to shoot in many circumstances, or constantly be resetting ISO, or both.  And that you’ll be stuck with a peculiar movie-poster-like effect in many photos - near-zero depth of field.
   But there is an alternative - used for a very long time by competitive marksmen and (presumably) snipers: propanolol.  The generic of Inderal, propanolol is a common hypertension prescription drug - and very inexpensive - that drastically cuts tremors; it’s been used for that by marksmen for many years.  It doesn’t have many problematic side effects - unlike some other hypertension pills that are notorious for that problem.  The effect it has on long-shaky people is amazing to friends when they see them for the first time after being on propanolol for a short while.
   And - since hypertension and prehypertension, a condition just below hypertension, is now so common in America - getting it prescribed for legitimate medical purposes is easy.  Talk with your physician.  You’ll be amazed at the improvement in your photos - and be healthier.


Covering the shutdown - suggestions.

   Thus far, Washington’s shutdown - now about a month so far - hasn’t produced any iconic photojournalism.
   About the best news photos to come out of it as of yet are overflowing outdoor trash cans, trashed restrooms, and chain-sawed trees in national parks or in areas normally maintained by the National Park Service.  However, no really iconic photos yet have run.
   The coming opportunity for really iconic news photos is very late February or early March - as early March is when the first group would normally get their food stamp benefits loaded to their EBT debit cards, while very late February is when people would start running out of February’s benefits that are being uploaded Jan. 20 at the urging of Washington to make sure everyone gets February’s benefits during the shutdown.  However, current news reports in major dailies say that it’s unclear if - let alone when - March’s benefits will be issued if the shutdown continues.  That would mean 38 million Americans starving due to the shutdown - starting in late February or early March.
   Even the early-issued February benefits have an obvious problem: recipients are being told that they will have to last all of February - plus, of course, the last 12 days of January after their early issuance.  However, beneficiaries already received the January allotment - so that won’t be when the real problem hits; the real crisis starts in early March - in the event that the shutdown continues and no March allotment is uploaded to beneficiaries.

Look for scenes like this Oct. 14, 2010 Tea Party rally in Greensboro, N.C. if March’s food stamps don’t go out because of the shutdown.
This is the shutdown’s opportunity for iconic news photos.


Time to change all your batteries

   It’s time to change all your batteries again - and not only in photo gear.
   Make New Year’s the day you change all nonrechargeable batteries you have - and you won’t suddenly find yourself with something that doesn’t work when you need it most.  Clocks, flashlights, radios (including scanners and memory backup batteries - and, of course, speedlites and ring lights for photos.  And anything else.
   I strongly suggest Ray-O-Vac alkaline batteries; I’ve never had one leak - nor go dead in less than a year without use.  Lowe’s sells them cheap in bulk packs of 36 for the ultra-common “AA” variant - and also “AAA” ones.   And - needless to say - use only alkaline batteries; anything else just won’t run as long in use.
   For speedlites, also change them in June - as they are out in hot and freezing cars often.  And I’ve never had a bad experience changing those every six months that way.
   And replace any battery when you use it.  Let your client pay if it’s in photo equipment.  That way, you always start any job with fresh batteries.
   It’s easy to remember when to change batteries this way.

 

Don’t forget the one “AA” battery your small tactical flashlight uses!
Flashlight about $26 at Batteries Plus.


Why you need to keep rights to your photos.

   About a month ago - on Election Day - Steve Carter (below) was elected as a county commissioner here in Alamance County, N.C.   And I had the photo of his early days in local politics - and own all rights to them.
   I’d met Carter while covering the early days of the Tea Party movement - when he was both local organizer of the Tea Party movement and local head of the “establishment” Republican Party.  He was the person who organized Tea Party rallies and related events - and who played a key role in the merger of the leaderless Tea Party with the “establishment” Republican Party in this state.  He was one of the early people - if not the first - to try to field a “uniformed” wing of the Tea Party in this state, which eventually resulted in such an element at Tea Party appearances at the state legislature whenever they were trying to influence legislation.
   Carter tried to get elected to public office previously in the early days of the Tea Party - but failed.  However, he continued in his role in both the Tea Party and Republican Party - including organizing a campaign stop for the 2012 Mitt Romney campaign that I covered when Romney’s son Tagg came to campaign for him locally.  Eventually, he did succeed in getting elected.
   Will he run for higher office?  I doubt it - but, if he does, here’s one of the photos of him running a joint meeting of top local Tea Party and Republican activists in his home.
   

Steve Carter at meeting of top Tea Party and Republican activists in his home, 
Burlington, N.C., Jan. 19, 2011.


The really good pocket tool?

   There are all sorts of pocket tools - from Swiss Army knives to Leatherman multitools of various sizes - each favored by somebody, but for a working photographer and particularly a working photojournalist, it’s very hard to beat Leatherman’s Juice S2 (below).
   Unlike most all pocketknives, it includes a pair of pliers - a really good pair of stout pliers.  It is about the best pair of pliers I’ve ever seen - including by comparison with ordinary pliers; it includes a wire cutter, a needle-nose pliers, and an ordinary pliers.  There are few pliers jobs it can’t handle well - as well as a whole toolbox of pliers.
   It also includes a few screwdrivers - both straight and Phillips.  Also included: scissors and a bottle/cap opener.  
   The knife blade is razor-sharp straight from the factory - very unusual for pocketknives.
   Best of all, it’s capable of most all work - while sized to fit in a woman’s hand; it easily carries in a pocket or photo vest - not needing a separate belt sheath.  And it’s even capable of most emergency auto fixes.
   If it has one weakness, it’s that bottle/cap opener - but, honestly, how many times do you really use one on your pocketknife?
   The thing’s overall design seems obviously inspired by a World War II escape tool issued to the predecessor of the CIA - but that was an afterthought to an ordinary pocketknife.

Leatherman Juice S2.
Just over 3” long folded.


2020’s emerging story: good jobs

   2020 now has an emerging clear dominant issue: good jobs.  As in the kind of good-wage jobs that Trump’s promise of got him elected - not “jobs” that now visibly largely are in nil-wage industries such as fast food and “tipped-wage” restaurants, historically high-schooler pocket-change jobs but now mainly are held by adults lacking any alternative of good-wage jobs.  And it’s a natural for photojournalism.
   With a “truth squad” of downsizing victims - “Good Jobs Nation” - now already having emerged and haunting Trump’s stops in the Midwest, good-wage jobs historically held by adults has become 2020’s clear dominant issue.  “Good Jobs Nation” is a very photographable presence of this issue; unlike how, say, today’s food stamp debit cards prevent any iconic photos of suffering Americans in bread or soup lines of the type shot in the 1930s depression - a fact clearly benefiting both Wall Street and incumbent politicians.
   Good-wage jobs - or the continued dire and worsening scarcity of them - easily outdoes Russia scandals, Kavanaugh’s appointment, or anything else as the dominant 2020 issue.  It is easy to Google up daily news stories of big downsizings of middle-class or near-middle-class jobs - and has been throughout the past month.  In industry after industry, in state after state, good jobs just have kept being downsized in droves.
   The other side of the dire scarcity of good jobs shows, of course, as the huge number of adults stuck in nil-wage jobs historically only teen jobs - obviously, of course, not having good jobs to flee to!

Occupy - here, Occupy Chapel Hill (N.C.), Oct. 22, 2011 - was an early if unfocused good-jobs protest movement.
The ability of large numbers to live in encampments clearly showed they didn’t have good-wage jobs that they couldn’t afford to lose!


The disaster news photo essential

   Press photos of disasters - and their aftermath - are big items for top stories.  Too bad you probably won’t be able to plug your camera’s charger in anywhere nearby!
   The answer is a battery grip.  You may not have tried one - or you may have found one useful for its making for better balance especially when using a long heavy lens, for shooting vertical photos, or for both.  But there’s one other thing a battery grip lets you do - run your dSLR on ordinary “AA” batteries, widely available, if you buy the proper adapter.
   For my Canon 7D bodies, that’s Canon’s BGM-E6 (photo); it lets you run the 7D on six “AA” batteries.  You put the penlight batteries into it - and then put it into the battery grip in place of the rechargeable batteries.  It has the “wiring” all built in - making contact with the “AA” batteries and the battery grip all by itself.  Other Canon dSLRs require different battery grips - and, possibly, different battery holders for “AA” batteries.
   Note that you must buy the proper battery grip for your dSLR - and, if not included with it, the proper adapter for the “AA” batteries.
   Similar battery adapters are common for ham radio walkie-talkies - and, possibly, also for scanners.
   Lowe’s and Wal-Mart are the best places to buy the “AA” batteries - as their low prices make for rapid turnover and fresh batteries.  And each sells them at hefty discounts if you buy a pack of many batteries.  Be sure to get alkaline batteries for longest life.

Battery grip adapter lets you use your dSLR on “AA” batteries.