It was a frustrating Catch-22. I finally broke down and upgraded my SLR to a fantastic (that is to say, expensive) new full frame camera, capable of capturing stunning outdoor/fishing photos, and then balked at taking it out into the field. It cost too much to take the risk, right? Insurance? Of course I got some. But just the same...
So, for a while, I regressed to carrying my point-and-shoot and cursing my timidity.
Earlier this summer, as upcoming trips to Beaver Island and Alaska approached, I realized something had to give. The new SLR simply had to come along and it had to join me in the field.
In preparing for my travels and for toting my SLR along with me on the water, three questions arose: how to protect it appropriately and carry it with confidence in the boat, on the water, and make use it out in the elements? You know, those times when the light is just right but the weather isn’t.
To be up front, I’m not a professional. My photographic goals are relatively modest, so I don’t need a cart full of camera gear. I’m only interested in bringing to the stream my SLR with a high quality lens or two and maybe a flash. No tripods, no underwater housings, no bells and no whistles. And I don’t want to carry multiple bags, so something that could accommodate the camera and a few fly boxes was what I had in mind.
I started with Fishpond’s 2015 Westwater Boat Bag. It’s watertight, a wonderfully convenient size, and configurable into three compartments with adjustable Velcro dividers. The molded top and bottom also provide stability and structure to the bag while making me more comfortable as it sits in the hatch. I created a generous central section and acquired a block of configurable foam, the kind used to customize hardshell boxes for cameras and other equipment, and created a fitted foam bottom and top within which my camera could sit, safe from water, bumps, and rattling about. Overprotective? Perhaps. But if you have the space… I then fill the outer sections with the fishing gear that I need; rain shell, fly boxes, reels, or whatever. These also add an additional layer of buffer for the well-padded camera. A simple, and safe, solution. And while I may not wish to carry a load of camera gear, extra lenses, et al, the Westwater could handle it, no questions asked.
When it’s time to actually be on the water, away from the boat, a boat bag is a bit awkward. And while a waterproof backpack might seem the obvious answer, it does not allow me the quick access to the camera that I would like. So when leaving the skiff, the camera gets transferred to my Smithfly Digi-Pouch. A heavy duty welded 18 oz vinyl roll top dry bag configured specifically for an SLR, it can be worn as part of the Smithfly Switch Belt system or strung on a sturdy belt via the sturdy MOLLE webbing. I recommend adding the available removable padding for extra camera protection. Hung on my hip or like a lumbar pack, the camera is readily accessible, yet stays dry and protected.
Until, of course, I use it. It’s a sad truth that some of the most amazing images occur when the weather isn’t cooperating. So if the SLR’s got to be out in the mist or light rain, I’ll keep it up my sleeve. My Op/Tech USA Rainsleeve that is. They stand up to the weather quite nicely and I know a number of true professionals that trust them. I’m told to expect rain in the Tongas, so we’ll soon see.
I, and my camera, are now covered. In the boat or the plane, the Fishpond Westwater Bag’s keeps my gear dry and protected. On the water, the Smithfly Digi-Pouch keeps the camera at the ready. And in the murk I can still shoot with the Op/Tech USA Rainsleeve. Now, I have no excuse for coming home from these amazing adventures without some equally amazing images.
Well, lets just say that it won’t be the camera’s fault.