Accessories & Support
Think Tank Hydrophobia 300-600 V2
A rain cover for your long lenses! Super telephoto lenses don’t come cheap so you need to give them some better protection. I’ve reviewed this cover on my photography blog. As with all Think Tank products the build quality is exceptional and I would trust this thing with my most expensive lenses in a monsoon.
Sandisk Extreme memory cards
As with all memory card manufacturers Sandisk have a huge range of cards in various formats with varying speeds and sizes. For me the only two models worth considering are the Extreme and Extreme Pro cards. Both of them are designed for much more rugged use and rated down to some serious negative temperatures which make them great for what I do. Currently available in 64GB, 32GB, 16GB and 8GB models the Extreme cards give you a write speed up to 60mb/s and the Extreme Pro cards can get you up to 90mb/s. Having a card with a fast wrote speed is essential for shooting HD video and also for shooting a lot of continuous photos. For my work I have to shoot RAW, the magazines demand it but that really limits the buffer in the camera. Having a faster writing card can squeeze an extra couple of photos out a line that someone is skiing. If you are shooting a line in Alaska that cost you hundreds of dollars in heli time to get to, you’ll appreciate every photo you can get from that line! In all the years of shooting with these cards I’ve never had a failure so I can’t think why I’d use anything else. I have a collection of 8GB and 16GB CF cards for my DSLRs and 16 GB SD cards for my GoPro and point and shoot camera.
Really Right Stuff BH-40 ballhead
Only available from RRS
I spent some time when I first got into photography messing around with crappy cheap ballheads. They all broke and eventually I saw the light and spent the money on one of the best heads out there. The RRS BH-40 is a beautiful piece of made in the USA engineering. I have written a review of this head before HERE. Buying a ballhead should be one of those things that you do very rarely in your career if you get the right one. I intend to use this one for many many years and I’ve no doubt it will last. RRS simply makes the best, most precisely machined gear on the market and the BH-40 is perfect for my needs. It holds a 70-200 and a pro body without problem and even occasional use with the big 300mm f2.8 is just fine. I actually don’t use a ballhead that often for my work, but I do appreciate having a perfect one for those times when it’s necessary. RRS gear is not cheap, but it IS worth the money. I make sure all of my camera bodies and telephoto lenses are also fitted with specific RRS body and lens plates that slot perfectly into the clamp on the head. The RRS website has a HUGE amount of information on putting together a support system and even if you aren’t looking for a head right now I’d urge you to take a look. I’m sure you’ll learn something new and you can also look at their gorgeous carbon fiber tripod range.
Really Right Stuff MH-01 monopod head
Only available from RRS
Another fine product from RRS and this time they have solved the conundrum of what is the best type of head to put on a monopod. Now I’ll grant you that a head is not often necessary at all on a monopod but it can come in very handy sometimes and make for more comfortable shooting with long glass. The head is designed to allow tilting movement up and down , that is all. It is a very elegant solution and I highly recommend using a screw type clamp on this head and not a quick release. I tend to only use this with my 300m f2.8 but if you are looking upwards or down a slope towards the skier it allows you to keep the monopod vertical and still follow the skier down their line. It does add weight so I use it sledding and when we fly in the heli and not so often when I am under my own steam. Something of a luxury item for sure but I love it
Induro carbon fiber monopod
Not all that many action sports guys use a monopod and if you are just starting out it will certainly be a long way down your list of necessities. I mostly use it with the 300mm f2.8 IS because that can get tiresome to hold for long periods and the monopod makes a convenient place to put it while you are waiting for the right light or waiting for a skier to get into position. I just jam it into the snow and it stays upright holding camera and lens. I also use the monopod when shooting urban if I am dragging my shutter. With this I can shoot at 1/60 or 1/80 and still get super crispy shots and sometimes if my framing is VERY specific and tight, it helps me maintain the exact framing I want. I have only ever had this one carbon monopod from Induro. They don’t make the exact model anymore but its been a great purchase and I’ve never had issues in cold/wet/snowy conditions. They are cheaper than Gitzo, but probably have 85% of the quality. If you have the money get the MC-34 from Really Right Stuff but that is even more expensive. For shooting sporting events like World Cup Bobsled or skiing where you have the long glass out all day, a monopod is a must.
Canon shutter release cable
Again this is one of those things that I don’t use that often, but when you need it you really need it. They are pretty cheap so just get one and put it in your bag. One day you will realize why you did that and you will be happy! If you are shooting landscapes with camera on a tripod this will minimize vibration and give you a sharper shot. I often set my camera on a tripod for urban shots and fire it using this remote. By not looking through the viewfinder I find I can sometimes time things a little more accurately so if it’s a shot that need VERY specific timing then it can be handy. You can also get the more expensive option with the built in timer if you are into doing timelapses.
With most newer cameras having built in sensor cleaning the days of having to use this before every shoot are now gone. Occasionally though you’ll get a few pieces of dust that stick a little harder and 95% of the time a quick blow with the rocket blower will dislodge it. Again just get one and keep it in you bag or at home and you’ll know when you need it, but trust me you WILL need it. Airport security love these too for obvious reasons……
A handy little contraption for shading your LCD screen in bright light. I often use this to check images when I’m shooting on a bluebird day skiing. With so much light bouncing off the snow it can be hard to make sure you got the shot looking the way you want. It comes in it’s own little padded pouch and doesn’t weigh all that much. If you are working with an art director for something its a nice way to let them get a better look at your shots too.
Letus Hawk viewfinder
I’ve written extensive review of the Hawk VF on my other site HERE. Whilst the Hoodman above works well for still images it just doesnt cut it for critical focusing while shooting HD video with the Canon DSLRs. For that purpose I have now tried a few of the viewfinders on the market and the Hawk VF from Letus is by far the best. Crisp optics and upgradeable design mean its worth the money in the long run.
Benro carbon fiber tripod
Just like a good ballhead, a tripod is one of those things that should last a very long time if you buy the right one in the first place. Don’t waste your time on $40 tripods because you WILL end up spending the money on a good one eventually. My Benro tripod has been with me for 4 years now and for the price that is not too bad. They are much cheaper than Gitzo tripods but definitely not quite as good. I’d say this is about the bottom of the range you want to be looking in and honestly I wish I had bought an even better one as this one is starting to feel a bit loose in places. Again though, I’ve had 4 years work out of it around the world so I don’t begrudge it anything. It will shortly be replaced with a Really Right Stuff TVC-23 though which IMO is the best tripod you can buy right now.
Manfrotto 701 HDV video head
A great lightweight fluid head solution for those using small video cameras of DSLRs with short prime lenses. I have written about it before on my other website HERE. I don’t shoot a lot of tripod based video stuff and when I do it’s usually alongside photos so I need a compact kit. The big expensive fluid heads are WAY smoother than this but sometimes a compromise needs to be made. This one is cheap and cheerful but it gets the job done. Those of you who have seen my Cliff Trampoline video, that was all shot using just this tripod head.