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.


I redid my business card - and so should you.

   When I recently started running low on business cards, I slightly redid mine - and so should you when you need more printed - before going to the printer.
   My business card is on a low-cost color choice - which allows it to be without the high price of “fluorescent” color paper, yet bright and will get attention.  The printer I use - Markell, here in Burlington, N.C. - does great work inexpensively, being that it specializes in political ad material and commercial ad specialty items.  I buy them by the thousand.
   And I give those cards everywhere.  I leave one on the table when leaving when I eat out.  But, now, in addition to listing the types of photos I shoot - and, of course, the Web address of my portfolio and phone number - it prominently advertises that I license archived photos (see photo).  That is, if you or someone else wants to use some photo I may have shot previously, just call me - and see if I have it and what the licensing rates and terms would be.
   Licensing allows you to continue making profit from your past work - from your hopefully-growing photo library - not only from further work.  That’s why you should always think in terms of licensing, not selling, photo rights.  This is especially important if you shoot politics, sports, or entertainment; today’s junior-varsity nobody may be tomorrow’s NFL star - or tomorrow’s president - and today not been covered by photojournalists.  Former president Reagan played football - and someone had a great photo of him playing high-school or college ball.  The highest-payoff photo will always be someone who became a superstar - taken back when they were a nobody and no serious photos were ever being taken of him or her; licensing allows you to make the profit.
   Of course, I have photos of politicians at top news stories - some at stories they’d much rather forget.  I have the photo that made our likely coming president world famous - and one of the guy about her age urged to run for Congress who conceivably might run against her!  And also the protest movements that roiled then-president Obama’s presidency: the Tea Party and Occupy.  And photos showing the economy - another favorite subject of mine.
   Guess which version of my business card I handed out at the all-but-official declaration of the candidacy of Trump’s likely successor - that was packed with her crew!

My new business card emphasizes licensing of past photos.  
Yours also should.


Remote controls for cameras

   Sooner than later, any serious photographer will need a remote control for the camera.  In fact - after a tripod - it’s probably going to be any serious shooter’s first thing beyond top lenses and a speedlight and a bag to carry them.  Even if only to shoot headshots of yourself or Christmas photos of your family that will include you, you’ll all but need a remote.  And - if you’re shooting news or sports or wildlife with a camera mounted in a weird place, or with multiple cameras - you’ll need a remote.
   Basically, there are two kinds of remote shutter releases - and shutter releases are about all that a remote really can do at all well, since you need to know what’s going to be photographed when the dSLR clicks before you push that button and that really can’t be remoted!  
   The first - and by far the simplest and cheapest - is an infrared one like your TV set’s.  It has a range of about 16’ claimed - and must be designed for your model camera.  For most Canon dSLRs, Canon’s RC-6 (leftmost) is about $20 - and truly is the Keep It Simple Stupid remote, since nothing needs be attached to your dSLR.  Easily used - with either instant mode or two-second delay setting.  Only one quick, easy setting change on your camera.  And really, it’s perfect for shooting headshots or group photos you’ll be in - and where only one camera will be used by only one shooter in the area; it’s thin, lightweight, only one cheap battery and that battery’s found everywhere.
   The second - about $90-99 even for an aftermarket brand like Promaster (center and right) - is a two-piece radio one.  You mount the receiver on your camera’s shoe - and run the appropriate cable to the remote jack on your camera; be sure when buying this kind of remote that the thing’s cable will attach to your particular dSLR.  The transmitter has a short pull-out antenna - good for a range of 100’ - and both transmitter and receiver have user-settable codes, so your competitors don’t shoot your cameras and you don’t shoot theirs; it’s thus ideal for wildlife, news, and sports shooters.  For the Promaster, there are 16 user-settable possible codes.
   Remotes can let you produce the iconic every-hair-in-place movie-poster-look photos using the camera(s) mounted securely easily.  Or the sports photo picked from a dozen cameras all triggered at once.
   But which is better?  I have both - and have used both.  And, really, that cheap infrared one’s my choice most all of the time - because it’s so simple to set up and use, because it doesn’t interfere with mounting a speedlight, etc.

Canon RC-6 infrared remote (top left); Promaster radio remote (center and lower right).
Both are great.