5 Accessories to Take With You (and Your Camera) on Vacation

No matter where you go on vacation this summer, you undoubtedly plan to take a camera along, too. Perhaps you have your sights set on capturing panoramic landscapes, or waterfalls, or scenic nightscapes in a foreign city. Vacations are a perfect times to try all sorts of photos. But no matter whether you pack a convenient point-and-shoot camera or a bulky-but-trusty digital SLR, here are five important things you'll want to take with you on your trip.

1. Spare Batteries and a Charger

There's an inescapable truth about digital photography: Your camera will always run out of juice at the worst possible time. I've found this to be true both with point-and-shoot cameras that only get about 100 shots on a pair of AA batteries with a professional digital SLR that lasts 800 shots with a double battery pack.

If your camera takes ordinary AA batteries, you can find replacements almost anywhere. But these days, most cameras use Li-Ion rechargeable batteries, so you should have a backup battery packed for your trip--and don't forget the charger. If you're going to another country, you'll need to have an international power adapter.

2. Extra Memory Card

I'm a fan of loading your camera with a large memory card rather than carrying many small ones. The "many small memory cards" strategy is designed to limit the potential losses to your photo collection if a memory card should fail. I can appreciate the logic, but that's more trouble than it's worth to me: You'll likely never encounter a memory card that fails in the line of duty. So why overcomplicate your life?

That said, you should carry at least one spare memory card in case your first one gets full. And given the price of memory these days, why stop there? I carry several cards. Each one of my 8GB Secure Digital cards can hold about 200 RAW or 800 JPEG photos, so three reasonably priced cards are sufficient for any situation (up to and including meeting Elvis on the starship Enterprise).

For more memory card tips, read "Memory Card Questions Answered."

3. Photo Backup

The reason I don't fret over my memory cards is because I also carry a way to back up my photo every night while I'm on the road. For starters, I carry a small laptop onto which I upload my photos after every day of shooting. But that's not enough; if I accidentally drop the laptop off the balcony of my hotel room, the photos would disappear in a heartbeat. That's why I also upload the photos to an online service. Because Microsoft's Windows Live SkyDrive offers a massive 25GB of storage space, that's my go-to choice for backing up my vacation photos while I'm still away (thank you, free Wi-Fi).

Unfortunately, SkyDrive has a Web-only interface for uploading files, which makes it nearly impossible to upload a large cache of photos in any reasonable way. That's why I also use Gladinet Cloud Desktop, a program that mounts SkyDrive as a network drive in Windows. Using Gladinet, I can drag and drop a folder full of photos to SkyDrive as easily as if I was copying them to another hard drive. And while the Pro version costs $50, you can save your money. The free Starter Edition does everything you need to copy photos to the cloud while away from home. Read "Turn Your Amazon Cloud Drive into Desktop-Accessible Storage" for more details.

4. Neutral Density Filter

If you're anything like me, you will want to take a lot of landscape and wildlife photos while you're on the road. In particular, waterfall photos can be especially challenging, because you'll want to get a somewhat long exposure (to blur the water) in the middle of the day. For times like that, snap or screw a neutral density filter onto the front of your camera. A neutral density filter reduces the light reaching the sensor without affecting the color balance, allowing you to take pictures with a slow shutter speed, even in the middle of the day. It's a great tool for your toolkit, and you can one from any local photo shop. The price will vary from about $30 to $100, mainly depending upon the diameter of your camera's lens.

5. Tripod or Monopod

Finally, I recommend carrying a tripod to any location where you plan to do a lot of photography--especially photos at night or photos that might require a longer exposure. For places where tripods might be off limits, like museums and cathedrals, you might be able to use a monopod instead. Some monopods, in fact, also double as a walking stick, which can come in handy for hiking and long walking tours.

For more information about selecting a tripod, you read "Stabilize Your Camera for Razor-Sharp Photos" and "What Makes a Good Tripod?" And if you're looking for a monopod, you can find a great discussion to help you choose one on Canon's Digital Photography Forums.

Hot Pic of the Week

Get published, get famous! Each week, we select our favorite reader-submitted photo based on creativity, originality, and technique.

Here's how to enter: Send us your photograph in JPEG format, at a resolution no higher than 800 by 600 pixels. Entries at higher resolutions will be immediately disqualified. If necessary, use an image editing program to reduce the file size of your image before e-mailing it to us. Include the title of your photo along with a short description and how you photographed it. Don't forget to send your name, e-mail address, and postal address. Before entering, please read the full description of the contest rules and regulations.

This week's Hot Pic: "Shoshone" by Lisa Kidd, Jerome, Idaho

Lisa writes: "This is Shoshone Falls, near Twin Falls, Idaho. I shot this using my Canon T1i using a 1/4 second exposure."

This week's runner up: "Wooden Shoes" by Myka Forrest, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Myka says: "I recently spent th

e weekend in Pella, Iowa, for its famous Tulip Time festival. There were plenty of tulips, Dutch letters, poffertjes, and parades. The Pella Christian Grade School marches in traditional Dutch wooden shoes. I used my Canon PowerShot S90 to capture the drummers' feet, and then used a layer mask in GIMP to add selective coloring."

To see last month's winners, visit our June Hot Pics slide show. Visit the Hot Pics Flickr gallery to browse past winners.

Have a digital photo question? E-mail me your comments, questions, and suggestions about the newsletter itself. And be sure to sign up to have Digital Focus e-mailed to you each week.

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