Hiker on the Bishop Pass trail in Dusy Basin, Kings Canyon National Park, California USA (© Russ Bishop/www.russbishop.com)

Dusy Basin, Kings Canyon National Park, California

When planning a photo shoot many items are obvious and not likely to be left behind such camera bodies, tripods, or a favorite bag. But there’s a reason surgeons and pilots use a checklist before every flight or operation. Even though they have performed these tasks a hundred times, the possibility of forgetting one important item is not acceptable.

Granted photography is not quite as extreme, but we can still benefit from this time-worn ritual. A checklist will alleviate much of the anxiety both when you’re packing, and when you’re far from home and realize you’re missing an important piece of gear. Every trip is unique. Duration, location and expectations will determine whether specialized gear or extra food and clothing is required, but even the short trips close to home can benefit from good preparation.

Here’s a simple list of action items that should be included on any photo trip:

  • Do your homework – create a visual idea file of images to develop a sense of place for where you are traveling and images you hope to make. Google Earth can be a huge help in determining landforms and cityscapes alike, and with the Photographer’s Ephemeris you’ll know exactly when the sun will set and where the moon will rise.
  • Gear List – Make a list of personal gear and camera gear you feel you’ll need for your destination. For extended trips, start these lists at least a month prior to your travel to allow time to modify. Check the online forums for recommendations from those who have been to the location. Often less is more when trying to travel light.
  • Rentals – If you’re planning to rent a piece of gear, be sure to reserve it well in advance to allow plenty of time for availability and shipping.
  • Location List – Create a checklist of locations you plan to visit and subjects you’d like to photograph. You won’t make it to all of them, but having options will allow flexibility when the weather or other obstacles alter your plans.
  • Batteries & Memory – Make sure you have batteries, chargers and memory cards for the specific camera bodies you’ll be taking. Portable solar panels are great for extended backcountry trips, and 12 volt inverters are perfect when working from a car.
  • Card Reader – Memory card readers for the cards you’re taking are much quicker than downloading directly from the camera. Especially on longer trips when evening social time and sleep are often at a premium!
  • Software – Make sure your laptop or tablet has the software or apps you plan to use and that they are up to date.
  • Camera Manuals – Download the PDF instruction manuals for your camera bodies to your phone or tablet. No one likes to read manuals, but knowing what the error code is when you’re miles from home can be a real asset.
  • Camera Cleaning – Clean all lens elements and filters prior to leaving, and pack a sensor cleaning kit. Dust is the bane of digital photography and it will find its way onto your sensor every time you change lenses.
  • Repairs – Pack a small photo repair kit, including jeweler’s screwdrivers, pliers, tweezers, and super glue.
  • Quick Release – QR plates and L-brackets are a real time-saver in the field, but are specific for each camera body. Make sure to bring the correct ones.
  • Weather Report – Check the weather for the location of your destination both for comfort and alerts. Services like Weather Underground have great apps for phone and tablet with highly detailed forecasts.
  • Clothing – Pack clothing items such as gloves, a jacket and shoes or boots that are appropriate for the destination. The layering system including a base layer, insulating layer, and waterproof shell has been the standard for mountain travellers for years, but it will serve you well anywhere.
  • Nutrition and Hydration – Take a water bottle and energy bars (even if you only plan to be out for the afternoon). A water filter is a great option to save on weight if you’ll be near a water source.
  • First Aid – Always carry a small emergency first aid kit.

Obviously this list will vary depending on the location and duration of your trip, but it’s a good starting point for any photographic outing. There will always be surprises and setbacks, but as the saying goes, “Luck favors the prepared!”.

The confidence of knowing that you’ll be comfortable, and that your gear will be up to the task, will enable you to focus your energy on creativity and the photographic opportunities that present themselves.


Travertine cascades on the Korana River, Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia (© Russ Bishop/www.russbishop.com)

Travertine cascades on the Korana River, Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

The mesmerizing waterfalls at Plitvice Lakes National Park are renowned for their unique colors, ranging from azure to green and blue. The waters are fed from underground Karst formations, and the colors change constantly throughout the day depending on the quantity of minerals and organisms in the water and the angle of sunlight.

Delicate travertine dams separate the 16 lakes that are visible on the surface, creating a unique ecosystem between each body of water. Formed as plants and bacteria in the water interact with the air, these barriers grow at a rate of 1 centimeter a year and continue to shape and form the myriad cascades the park is famous for.

Established in 1949, Plitvice Lakes is one of the oldest national parks in Europe and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. Croatia is a beautiful country with a rich and colorful past, and as one of the newest members of the European Union its friendly atmosphere and gorgeous scenery make this an ideal addition to any European adventure.


New spring growth on an evergreen branch, Olympic National Park, Washington USA (Russ Bishop/Russ Bishop Photography)

Happy Arbor Day!

Created 143 years ago the first Arbor Day was held on April 10, 1872 by J. Sterling Morton (President Grover Cleveland’s Secretary of Agriculture) as a celebration of trees in all their wonderful shapes and forms. The holiday occurs each year in the United States on the last Friday in April and similar events are now celebrated worldwide.

The Arbor Day Foundation is the world’s oldest and largest tree-planting organization whose mission is “to inspire people to plant, nurture, and celebrate trees”. It is an excellent resource for everything from identifying trees to forest management and educational materials to connect kids with nature.

So whether you plant a tree today, wander through a redwood grove, or simply enjoy the beauty outside your office window – take time to appreciate all that trees bring to our lives.


Lupines, coreopsis (Coreopsis californica), and California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) in the Tehachapi Mountains, Angeles National Forest, California (Russ Bishop/Russ Bishop Photography)

Celebrating Earth Day and National Park Week!

Forty-five years ago the green movement was conceived and since then it has become a driving force in today’s world economy and social consciousness. We’ve come a long way since the early days of tie dye and a novelty called recycling, to 2015 where LED light bulbs are in vogue, hybrid cars are everywhere, and small countries like Iceland are run almost entirely on clean energy.

One of the driving forces in my photography is to show the natural world at its best and to remind us all why it’s important to preserve it. I also support organizations like The Nature Conservancy and The Wilderness Society, which do an excellent job of preserving natural spaces, working with landowners, and educating the public about the connection between health and conservation throughout the year.

Earth Day is April 22nd and kicks off National Park Week (April 18th-26th) with free entrance to over 400 of the nation’s parks and monuments on Saturday and Sunday. It’s a great time to get out and enjoy America’s Best Idea at a park near you or celebrate the day in a natural space close to home. Take a hike, plan a photo excursion, or volunteer with one of the organizations above and marvel at all the natural wonders of our tiny blue planet.


Moss-covered bigleaf maple and lush groundcover along Cannings Creek, Quinault Rain Forest, Olympic National Park, Washington (Russ Bishop/Russ Bishop Photography)

Cannings Creek, Quinault Rain Forest, Olympic National Park, Washington USA

March 22nd is World Water Day – a time to celebrate the season and our most precious natural resource. It’s easy to take for granted when a bottle or tap is always within arms reach,  but we share the planet with nearly 1 billion people who don’t have access to safe clean drinking water or sanitation. That’s a hard fact to swallow when you consider that most of the earth’s surface is water.

The United Nations first began the celebration back in 1993 and it’s grown significantly over the years as a platform for education and public support. Each year, one of the many UN agencies involved in water issues spearheads a campaign to promote and coordinate international activities. This year the theme is “Water and Energy” and focuses on how these two resources are inseparable in our modern world.

On the world front, there are many ways to help those less fortunate than ourselves and at home simple conservation can have a profound effect. I’m proud to be involved with Photographers for Good and the Plus One Collection, which is using its resources to support The Samburu Project building wells in Kenya. I can think of no greater reward than inspiring others with the beauty of nature, while helping to provide life’s most basic necessity to those in need.

This year our weather has been anything but normal with record snow in the east and drought in the west, but whatever the conditions at home we should always remember that water is a precious commodity. So enjoy that drink and spread the word (just don’t forget to turn off the faucet).