What's in my Bag? Nature photographer Barb DiMattio.

Peggy Farren 2014-09-28

Introduction from Peggy Farren: I've seen Barb DiMattio present this as a talk to our local camera club. She is so organized and informative! I'll be featuring different types of photographers and asking them "What's in your bag?" periodically on this site so keep checking back! Please subscribe to our newsletter for reminders.

Here's Barb:

~~~ Let's start with my favorite camera bag out of the nine or ten bags, vests, and backpacks that lay on my closet shelf, which are too heavy, cumbersome, or not big enough.

It's a briefcase on wheels! I can pull this along without getting tired from weight or shoulder fatigue, can see and reach all of its contents easily, and can carry scads of equipment.

First in is a plain green garbage bag, which I lay on to shoot flowers and birds at eye level. You can even use it to slowly slide up on a critter like a turtle so you don't stress it. I also wrap it around a plant to block out the distracting background. And when it rains, wear your camera across your chest for stability, tear out a face-hole in the garbage bag, and wear it to protect both you and the camera. rain gear camera
Packing vertically for easy grab, my double-sided reflector for flowers goes in next. A computer techie's LED headlamp goes into the zippered side pocket. Flower petals are always warm tones, but often the with no detail. Hold this lamp in your free hand, shining on the flower's center. The center will be extremely detailed, and in cold tones, which denotes distance. And flowers with dark colors that have no transparency, shine the light on the top of the distant ones. 5 6
Also in the side pocket is a pinch clothespin and a lightweight plastic clip to hold unwanted weeds away from my floral subject. Pulling weeds, no matter how unsightly to you, should not be done because they are a valuable part of nature. 10

Into the bag goes a medicine bottle filled with peanut butter to smear onto a log -- just a dab will do. The odor draws small animals. Just sit a little distance away so you don't stress the critter. In another medicine bottle I have mixed bird seed. Spread it on the ground in a very tight area. If you use too wide an area or too much seed the birds will grab the seed and fly elsewhere to eat it, but a controlled amount will make them stay there to eat. In both the peanut butter and bird seed setups, you're using natural foods. Nothing is worse than seeing a shot with potato chips or cheese curls in an animal's mouth! 11 12
14 15

bird photography

bird photography cardinal
Tossed in randomly for easy grabbing are several individual sealed packets of mosquito repellent. Spray cans not only leak but the tiniest bit of liquid repellent on your hands will actually melt the camera body if touched with it. A US Army head-covering net is almost a necessity here in Florida because of spiders, biting flies, and mosquitoes. To soften too-vivid colors, stretch this same soft net tightly over the lens.

off net
Keeping weight in mind I only carry a 50mm lens in a hard-side lens case, plus 1.4 telephoto extender, two spare batteries, and two extra chips in a small zippered leather pouch. My workhorse is on the camera – a 70-300 lens. A small extra pocket camera is packed for emergencies. A tiny lens cleaning cloth and of course, the camera's manuals, are in the side pocket as well.

50 mm lens

50 mm lens

For instant shots that will be just too fleeting for a tripod to be set up or if standing in the proximity of dangerous animals such as bears, moose, or the like, I attach my portable tripod to the camera, ready for use. It's nothing more than a truck engine's very heavy washer with a leather bootlace tied onto it, completed by a dog-clip. One end attaches onto the bottom of the camera, and the washer into your pocket. Drop the washer on the ground, step on it, brace the camera on your elbow-top,and voila! Totally steady, especially for panning.



Extra little must-haves that fit into the side pocket are a brand-new SDHC card, a hot-shoe flash unit, new batteries for the flash unit, and a portable charger that is used with the cigarette lighter unit in your vehicle. Gently add your lunch on top.

flash and accessories

While the zipper is still open, I tuck my tripod head down into the bag with the closed legs leaning against the extended pull-handle. A three-foot fabric-covered steel handy-tie from the hardware store keeps it in place and is quickly undone when needed. Tuck in a bottle of water, close the zipper from both sides to stabilize it all, and away you go!

camera bag on wheels

Barbara DiMattio is a long time nature photographer and the owner of "In Season Framing". You can contact her at 239-272-4834 or imbarb38@aol.com

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