Spring Training Checklist – 7 Things to Do Right Now to Prepare for Great Photography this Summer

Daylight Saving Time begins on the second Sunday in March throughout most of the US. Despite the nonsensical grumbles about losing an hour of sleep, this annual event is a reason to celebrate. It heralds the first hint of spring—and if that’s not enough—it brings us an extra hour of useable light before dinnertime. It also stands to remind us to clean out the tackle box, as it were, to get things in order for another wonderful summer of photography.

Don’t misunderstand—I know you take pictures in the winter and in the dark and every other time—I’m right there with you, brother. But you’ve got to admit, summer makes everything better. (For our readers in the Southern Hemisphere, set this story aside and read it in November.)

Here is your Spring Training Checklist in no particular order.

1. Avoid Battery Failure
Rechargeable lithium batteries don’t last forever. Even if you follow manufacturer’s directions to the letter, batteries are full of chemicals and chemicals break down over time. The smart choice is to buy a brand new cell and have it on hand when the one that’s now in your primary camera decides to give up the ghost.

And don’t be penny wise and pound foolish—don’t buy cheap batteries with strange names you’ve never seen before just to save a buck. Defective batteries can be dangerous—to your camera and to your face if your camera happens to be near it when the battery detonates. The only thing less sensible than buying a gypsy brand is buying a used battery. That’s like buying a used sandwich.

 

2. Replace Memory Cards
Bigger cards cost less than they did last summer. I’m looking online right now at a 32GB name brand UHS-I Class 10 SDHC card that’s available at the everyday price of $13. Thirteen bucks! Miserly 8GB cards (which are big enough for most chores that don’t involve video) are priced lower than lattes. The point is that it’s time to go through your memory card stash and upgrade to larger capacity, higher speed cards.

And while you’re shopping, buy that SanDisk 128GB CZ43 Ultra Fit USB 3.0 that I keep harping about. In case you somehow missed it, the SanDisk Ultra Fit is an extra-small 128GB flash drive that plugs into a USB port on your computer and behaves like a new hard drive, effectively giving you an additional 128GB of storage for images, videos, etc. It sticks out less than one centimeter and for $29 it may be the bargain of the year.

3. Check All Camera and Bag Straps
Inspect all straps—camera and gadget bag—for signs of wear. In particular, check all areas where the strap contacts metal—those are the most likely places where friction can cause fatigue and eventually failure. Test the straps by giving them a healthy tug—better to break it while testing in your living room than to have it suddenly tear loose while you’re traversing the Grand Tetons or some such place.

4. General Scrub Down
Before summer arrives, give your hardware a thorough going over, even if everything looks pristine. Like most of you, I keep my cameras clean. I give them a good wipe down with a microfiber cloth fairly regularly—partly to burn off the nervous energy that accumulates during a photo shoot, and partly out of good work habits. I’m talking cameras here; lenses are an altogether different ball of wax.

I clean lens barrels and focusing rings with the same vigor and enthusiasm that I swab cameras. But when it comes to the glass parts, I clean only when necessary and then very carefully. I recommend Purosol lens cleaner for many reasons, the most important being that it works great.

5. Prep Seasonal Equipment
When you sort through your equipment cabinet, zero in on the stuff you’ll be using as the winter ice thaws and crocuses begin to awake. What gear you use in early spring is a very personal choice. For me, spring means more close-ups of flowers and bugs, and more outdoor portraits of beautiful subjects. Fortunately, I can do both with a good macro lens. I use a Fujifilm 60mm f/2.4 XF macro lens on my X-Pro2. It’s the equivalent of a 90mm f/2.4 so it’s ideal for portraiture. The image at the top of this story is a good example.

6. Ready Seasonal Apparel
What you wear can be as important as what you pack in your gadget bag. My teenage daughter clicks her tongue and shakes her head slowly when she watches me leave the house to take pictures—she says I have no fashion sense. That’s true of course, but instead I have a good sense of what works. I sometimes wear a military surplus M65 Field Jacket because it’s warm enough to stave off the spring chill and has four generously large pockets that hold lenses, cameras, binoculars, multi-tools, a stray burrito and assorted other things I may or may not need but like to have along.

 

7. Check the Calendar
Spring is a good time for planning summer and fall outings. Do a little research online and note the dates of upcoming events. For example, strawberry picking season on the East Coast usually starts sometime between May 20 and June 1. That’s a great venue for family photos. If you want a more colorful example, the New Jersey Festival of Ballooning three-day extravaganza runs July 28-30, 2017 (100 hot air balloons, music, food, and a family-friendly atmosphere, etc.). You get the idea. I used to think that winter was the best time to daydream about summer—until I learned that many of the summer things I want to do don’t show up online until spring.

What do you do to prepare for summer photography? Leave a comment, please, and share with us all.

—Jon Sienkiewicz