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Don’t Leave Home Without It:  Your Spares and Repair Kit

Don’t Leave Home Without It: Your Spares and Repair Kit

Photo by Eric Bowles.

By Eric Bowles.

As nature photographers, we need to be prepared for just about anything out in the field. That’s why, through the years, I’ve learned that one of the most important things I can pack for any photo outing is my Spares & Repairs kit.

What’s that? For me, it’s a zip-lock bag that contains solutions for all the problems I might run into in the field (and for all the workshop participants or friends who may be with me). It goes beyond just a spare battery and memory card. Instead, it’s a small bag with all the replacements and tools for things I might lose, break, or need to repair on a trip. My kit is like an insurance policy covering all of the problems I’ve encountered through the years – including the solutions I wish had been with me at the time.

You should put together a Spares & Repairs kit that suits your particular needs. But to get your started, here’s what’s in mine.

My kit starts with the thing I lose most often – lens and body caps. It’s such a nuisance when you lose a cap, and it adds some risk that you will scratch your lens elements or expose your camera body to dust. I carry a rear lens cap that fits all of my lenses, and the 1-3 most commonly used front lens caps. I also have an extra camera body cap. These items don’t need to be branded OEM parts. You can buy a set of three third-party lens caps for any size at about the same cost as one lens cap from your camera’s manufacturer. I carry 82mm, 77mm, and 62mm spare lens caps. That’s not enough for every lens, but it covers the ones I use most frequently.

Next for me is a set of tripod wrenches. You know, those small wrenches you need to tighten or adjust your tripod legs or the hub. A floppy tripod leg can be a horrible nuisance, so you need to be prepared. Gitzo uses a special star-shaped wrench, while others may use hex keys or Allen wrenches. Just be sure you have the types and sizes you need. Also be sure to carry the wrench you need to tighten or remove camera and lens plates if necessary. After all, a good camera plate doesn’t do you much good when your camera is spinning around loosely. I also pack a spare tripod foot; it’s not something you need often, but it can be a real nuisance if you lose yours.

On the subject of tools, a handy item for me is a set of small screwdrivers. This is an easy-to-find item often used for computer repairs or eyeglass repairs, but it can be very useful for tightening a screw on your camera mount or on a lens foot. On my 70-200mm lens, for example, the foot mount is attached to the lens with four small screws, and if they are loose my lens will not be stable even on the best tripod. If you are dealing with a loose screw, there is a risk it will loosen again, so I also carry a small tube of Blue Loctite as a thread locker. Just a fraction of a drop is enough to hold a screw in place. Don’t use the Red Loctite, which requires heat to loosen.

I like carrying some basic cleaning supplies as well. Start with a bulb blower to clean your sensor. Dust can be a problem, so at the very least, carry a blower in your bag. I use a Giottos Rocket Blower to handle most dust on my sensor. It’s also great in the field just in case you get something on your lens or camera that might scratch the glass if you rub it. Add a small microfiber lens cloth as well. This is an all-purpose item that not only cleans lenses, it can double as a lost lens cap. For lenses, I carry a handful of Zeiss lens wipes, the small alcohol-based wipes intended for optical lenses. These wipes are perfect not only for removing dust and fingerprints, but they work very well with rain, mist, snow or frost on your camera or lens. Alcohol is used in anti-freeze to prevent freezing, but it also dries more quickly than water.

Let’s remember a few basics that are probably already in your bag. These are items you can’t live without and are probably not in a Spares kit, but you better have them. Start with an extra battery and memory card. If you use more than one type of memory card in your cameras, keep at least one old card for each format (this is a great use for old cards). Have you ever left your camera battery sitting in the charger at home, or a memory card in your card reader? Having spares of these items can save a lot of stress. If you are traveling, the other critical item is a battery charger with any cables required. Finally, if you wear glasses, be sure you have an extra pair in your camera bag for emergencies.

So, what’s in your Spares & Repairs kit? Everyone will make their own decisions about what is important. But before your next trip, make sure you have the supplies you need to handle the unexpected.


Eric Bowles is a former president of GNPA, a professional nature photographer, and director of Nikonians Academy. He leads bird photography workshops for Nikonians, Chattahoochee Nature Center and Georgia Audubon in addition to his own programs.





GNPA photographers create amazing images, and we want to share them–so we’ve created the new GNPA_PIX Instagram page to offer a new way to network, learn, and be inspired by the outstanding work our members share.

GNPA_PIX is a curated page, where our moderators post selected images. And we’d love to feature your captures!

To let us know when you’d like an image featured on GNPA’s page, post it in your Instagram account and use the hashtag #gnpa_pix on your Instagram post. And don’t forget to follow our account, too.

Ready to see what GNPA_PIX is all about? Here are some quick tips to get you started:

  • Follow @gnpa_pix to see every post from @gnpa_pix.
  • Follow #gnpa_pix to see every post that uses this hashtag – every time someone else uses this hashtag, you will see the post, whether it is “featured” on GNPA’s page or not.
  • Add hashtag #gnpa_pix to your posts to give GNPA permission to feature your image AND to make your post visible to everyone who follows our hashtag.

But remember… If your account is “Private,” only your followers will see your post, even if you use #gnpa_pix.

Come check us out, and look for more Instagram Tips and Tricks soon!

(Copy and image by Jenny Burdette)

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Let’s Get Social! How to Get Started on Instagram

By Jenny Burdette

As a nature photographer, you’ve probably spent time enjoying the work of others on social media, and perhaps posting your own images there. But if you haven’t really embraced Instagram yet, perhaps it’s time you did. In many ways, Instagram is much more photographer-friendly than Facebook, because Instagram is all about images.

Here are some tips to get started on Instagram, including how to set up your account, post photos, and learn some basic rules of the IG road.

Step 1:  Set up an Account and Profile

First, you must install the app on your phone or tablet. Remember that Instagram is designed for use from a mobile device. You can view posts and manage your account from a computer, but postings must be managed through a phone or tablet.

GNPA’s Instagram page

Go to the App Store or Google Play and download the Instagram app to your phone or tablet.

Once you have the app on your phone, open it and follow the instructions to set up your account. You will be asked to choose an account name and a user name. These names can be the same, but your user name must be unique from other users. Your profile page will show your account name and your user name, but your posts and comments show only your user name. So other people on IG are much more likely to know your user name than your real name.

Your user name should be relatively simple and easy to spell. You want people to remember your user name, associate it with you, and easily enter it using the keypad on their phone.

Instagram allows a 150-character bio on your profile page. You can add this when setting up the account or come back and add it later. You can also include a URL link. Instagram creates a public account as a default, but you have the option to change the setting to private. If your purpose is to share your photography, a public account makes sense.

You will see that Instagram also offers the options of business or creator accounts, which you may want to investigate, especially if you plan to use Instagram to market your work. Users may switch between personal, business or creator account types at any time.

Be sure to add a profile picture. This photo must be uploaded from your phone or tablet. It will display in a very small circle, so keep it simple, whether it’s a headshot or a favorite photo. You can change this photo at any time by editing your profile.

At this point, your account is set up and ready to go! Search for people you know on IG and “follow” them. You can also follow a hashtag, which will notify you when photos using that specific hashtag are posted. Look for @gnpa_pix to follow GNPA’s page, where you can “like” and comment on the photos there.

Step 2:  Create Your First Post

Remember, posting must be done from your phone or tablet.

Instagram now allows photos in square, horizontal or vertical formats; however, a 2×3 vertical will still have a slight crop on the longer sides. Instagram was originally designed to post images taken with your phone, so any images processed on your computer will benefit from resizing.

Post from Anna Destefano

Image Size

Instagram will take whatever size image you upload and reduce it to fit their specs, but this process often results in an image that seems significantly less sharp. If you are exporting images from your computer, you don’t want to use full resolution versions.

I export from Lightroom with my images sized to 1800 pixels on the longest side and 100ppi. You can probably go as low as 1200 pixels and 72ppi, but 1800 seems to work well for me. Use the sRGB color profile, select high-quality JPEG, and sharpen for on-screen display. If you use a photo-sharing app, it will take care of resizing for you. If you are uploading images taken with your phone, there is no need to resize.

 Moving an Image from Computer to Mobile Device

There are several ways to move images from computer to phone, and if you already have a preferred method, just keep using it. The following methods are the ones I’m most familiar with.

  • Simply “airdrop” the image if you are using Mac devices
  • Use the USB ports and cable to connect computer and phone
  • Lightroom users can use Lightroom Mobile on their phones to get photos from the computer
  • Use Dropbox. Add the app to your phone and use (set up a free account) from the computer to upload images. Then use the phone app to share from Dropbox and save the image to your phone.

Note: Dropbox also offers an option to export directly to Instagram. But this option opens the photo in square format only. Saving the photo to your phone and then uploading to Instagram allows you to choose the aspect ratio.

Post Your Photo and Caption

Once the photo is saved to your phone, go to your Instagram profile page, tap the “+” icon and choose “Post.” If you see a “use Instagram camera” message, ignore it and just click on “Post.”

Photos from your phone will pop up and allow you to select the image(s) you wish to post.

Photos initially display in a square format; you can adjust the ratio if necessary by using the touchscreen or the arrows at the bottom left corner of the image.

Click “Next” (arrow icon on Android) in the upper right corner to open a selection of filters. These filters may be helpful for phone pics, but most likely will not enhance an already edited image, so simply click Next (arrow) again.

Now you have the option to add a caption.

Captions and Hashtags

An image is required for an IG post, but you can post without a caption. However, a caption is a great way to engage viewers. A caption can be as simple as naming your subject (“Chipping Sparrow”), or it can be a lengthy blog-type post.

Post from Clay Fisher @cfphotoimages

Post from Jenny Burdette @jennyburdettephotography





















Hashtags are a part of the caption and help others find your photos. One way to choose appropriate hashtags is to think of searching for your own image. What would you enter? You can also look at the hashtags others have used for similar images.

Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per post, although many Instagram experts advise limiting hashtags to 10-15.

Certain hashtags also serve as permission for your photo to be “featured” by an Instagram group or hub. Add #gnpa_pix to let GNPA know that it’s okay to post your pic on our Instagram page, with full photo credit to you and a link to your page.

After entering your caption/hashtags, click OK in the upper right corner. You can always edit your post to add additional hashtags later.

Final Options

You now will have several options. You can tag various people, add a location, etc. Choose the options you prefer, tap “Share” (check mark on Android) in the upper right of the screen, and you’ve shared your first post!

Step 3: Rules of the Instagram Road

Instagram is a social platform and is designed for interaction and engagement with other users. So be engaged, by liking and commenting on others’ posts and responding to users who comment on your photos.

To ensure that accounts belong to real people, not spammers, Instagram places limits on liking, commenting and following. In general, limit activity to 100-200 “likes,” 60 comments, or 60 follows in an hour. Violating this unwritten rule can result in an IG timeout, where you are blocked from any activity for a period of time (days to weeks).

If you see something on Instagram that is inappropriate, report it immediately. Tap the three dots in the upper right corner of the objectionable post (opposite the username in the upper left corner) and choose “Report.”

Step 4: Get Social

Start posting your images and following others. Check out and follow the @gnpa_pix page and tag your photos #gnpa_pix so that our page can find and feature your images. And stay tuned for future posts with more tips and tricks for sharing your photography on the ‘Gram!

Jenny Burdette is a retired English teacher, photographer, writer, wanderer and grandmother. Her images are featured in the Visitors Centers at many of Georgia’s State Parks and have appeared on the covers and pages of several conservation-themed publications. Jenny is a member of GNPA’s Conservation Committee, a member at large on GNPA’s Executive Board, a moderator for GNPA’s Facebook page, and Administrator for GNPA’s new Instagram page, @gnpa_pix. Follow Jenny on Facebook and, of course, on Instagram (@jennyburdettephotography).




Photo by Lauren Brandes

5 Tips For Photographing Children In Nature

By Marcia Brandes

Does this happen to you? At an outside event or gathering, do friends or family members (perhaps even strangers) notice your camera and – assuming that you must know about photography – ask you to take their picture? Of course, you know what to do if you’re photographing a landscape, animals or flowers, but what about people?

If you want to be prepared for this situation the next time it arises, here are five tips to make the human animals in your photos look great, too.

1) Set your focus on faces. We know to focus on the eyes of birds and animals, but they don’t wear sunglasses or hats. Try to angle your subjects so they aren’t facing into the sun and squinting, and ask them to remove those dark shades if possible, especially for closeups. Watch out for hats casting shadows on faces in bright sunlight; if you have a flash, use it to brighten any faces in shadows.

Canoeing at the Chattahoochee Nature Center.
Photo by Marcia Brandes.

2) Don’t crop out the feet or hands. Torso and headshots are fine, but stopping at the ankles looks weird. Let’s have our subjects fully grounded if we’re going for full body shots.

3) Children, like other wild animals, are best photographed at eye level. My knees creak and I may need help getting back up, but my shots will be much more engaging if I go to the trouble of squatting down for the little ones.

Planting at Armand Park Photos by Marcia Brandes

4) Both you and your subjects should relax and have fun. This isn’t formal portraiture; these shots are preserving memories of good times. Mix up the shots – some can be with everyone smiling at the camera, but be sure to get the action shots too, just as you would with birds and wildlife.

5) If people don’t want their photos taken, leave them out of the picture. Most people are accustomed to having their pictures taken or shooting selfies for the world to admire, but not everyone. In our shoots for the Conservation Committee, we’ve found that people at volunteer events, like tree planting or picking up trash, love to have their pictures taken. They ask for us to take their photos, and they want the world to see their children helping and having fun doing it. But we always ask permission to take photos of children.

Friends of Georgia State Parks cleaning a beach at Jekyll Island.
Photo by Jenny Burdette.

Using your skills on people in nature can be especially rewarding, just as you delight in photographing birds, insects, animals and flowers. Practice with friends and family. You’ll make a lot of friends who will be very glad to have you there!  If you are unsure about photographing people, we can pair you up with a more experienced photographer at one of our future events. We have many opportunities with our conservation partners to photograph people having fun and working to keep Georgia beautiful.


Marcia Brandes has been a member of GNPA for seven years and is the current chair of the Conservation Committee.