If you use a compact camera, chances are you don't agonize over choosing the best neck strap for your camera. You install the one that came with the kit and you are good to go. The same choice is not always so simple with big, black SLRs. Not only are the cameras large, but with battery grip and telephoto lens, quite heavy indeed.
Most camera makers do give you a neck strap as part of the entry price into your new camera, but they spend more time designing the placement of their logo rather than ensuring you have a comfortable fit. These straps usually consist of a black nylon or canvas strap with hard edges and little "give" or flex to the material.
Back in the day, the straps were even worse as they were made of very thin nylon webbing with a movable (always in the wrong place) rubber shoulder pad. Thankfully, there a better choices today!
Canon F1n with leather strap
Camera straps are a lot like camera bags - some photographers are always on the search for the perfect one. In my ongoing search for the perfect camera strap I look for certain characteristics: softness, flexibility, "give" in the strap that allows it to stretch under load, a quick release mechanism to remove the strap, and metal hardware for long wear (I keep my straps for years and move them from camera to camera).
Years ago I gave up on manufacturers' straps and vowed that I would not provide free advertising of my cameras to potential thieves. I began replacing my uncomfortable corporate neck straps with wide, soft leather "field straps" made by Globus Inc, a company that doesn't seem to be around any more. These straps came in brown or black, had a wide, soft neck pad, gave a little when slung around the neck and had metal hardware. I purchased a number of these in the late 70's and still use them today on some of my cameras. The only downside is that they are made of such soft leather they don't stay on my shoulder. I have developed a habit of holding the strap part way up and pressing it against my body to hold it in place. I have done this for so long that I don't even notice anymore and the camera never moves as I walk.
E-1 hand strap and Lowe-Pro neck strap
More recently I have been using Lowe-pro neoprene straps (model
2070910) that have many of the same characteristics as my beloved leather ones. Again, these
are soft straps with the natural give in them to allows for flexing and stretching when under a heavy load. They have metal hardware and a separate piece of strapping that attaches between the camera and the neck strap. The strap itself is then connected by quick release rings making it easy to detach the strap for storage or when it's not needed. The neoprene neck pad has small "nubbies" on the underside that keep the strap in place on my shoulder.When wouldn't I need a neck strap? When using a hand strap of course! I attach a Canon E-1 hand strap to all my cameras and then hook the neck strap to the E-1. When I am carrying a long telephoto for an extended period of time it is far easier to hang the camera and lens off of my hand rather than my neck. When I am doing this, I remove the neck strap (via the quick release) so it doesn't drag on the ground.As the Lowe-pro strap has now been replaced with newer versions that are not as flexible for my liking, the new Custom SLR Split Camera Strap
from B&H Photo may be a good replacement as it appears to be flexible, non-slip and complete with a removable neck pad. If you're finding that your neck strap won't accommodate the weight of your camera and lens or it just isn't flexible enough, begin your hunt for the world's best camera neck strap (or hand strap) - it may just make it easier to carry your camera more comfortably for longer periods of time.
Catedral Metropolitan, Panama City, Panama
In spite of the fact that they are a integral part of many cruise excursions, I hate tour buses. They are often cramped, crowded and hot - and there is grubby glass between the locale and me and my camera. The lack of space means that it's difficult just to extract my camera from its case
let alone swing it around to take a photo through the bus window. Often the bus blows by interesting landmarks with only a brief acknowledgement of what we are seeing let alone treat us an actual stop.
To improve you chances of getting a good photo from a tour bus, try one or more of the following techniques:
- Use a digital derringer: with very little room to move, a compact camera is easy to remove from a case and hold up to the window to use.
- Use a small lens on your digital SLR: if you only have your big black camera, try to use a short lens so that you don't bang your gear against the window glass. A small, inexpensive prime lens like a 50mm f/1.8 will serve you well in these situations.
- Use a flexible rubber lens hood: this will reduce or remove any reflections that you usually get when shooting through glass by placing the hood directly on the bus window. The above photo of Catedral Metropolitan in Panama City, Panama was taken through a bus window. I had no lens hood but was lucky enough to get this shot with only some reflection - can you see it? With a flexible hood, you can shoot from an angle and still have the hood completely touching the glass and preventing a reflection
- Use a rigid circular lens hood: while losing the flexibility, even a rigid lens hood is better than none at all. On my Leica X1 I use a black metal lens hood from a 90mm f/2.5 M lens that sticks out beyond the front of the lens. I can then press the hood directly again the glass window and eliminate any reflection.
- Use a high shuttle speed: with scenery flying by the bus, you are going to want to freeze those moving trees, so pick a speed above 1/500 if possible or, if your prefer something more automatic, select an action or sport setting.
- Turn off your flash: "blow back" off of your flash onto a close piece of glass is not a good thing. You will get a huge amount of glare and will washout the image you were trying to photograph.
- Turn up your ISO: some tour bus glass can be tinted - really tinted. You may find that there isn't enough light to get a decent photo using the recommended high shutter speed. If you camera isn't set to auto ISO, you may need to run up your ISO to 400 or more.
- Focus manually: the auto focus on some cameras don't like having glass too close to them. You may need to use manual focus (often set to infinity) so that your camera doesn't "hunt" for focus.
- Sit a little further back on the bus: you can often see the "best bits" approaching the window if you are a bit further back. That way you won't be surprised as the scenery flies by! Pay attention to the side pillars of the bus that separate the windows - some seats will place you right beside these making it difficult to shoot around.
- Eschew to bus all together: the simplest solution is not to get on the bus! Look for walking tours that are often more photographer friendly due to their slower pace. You can also look for tours where the bus is only a means of transportation to the real sightseeing rather than being the tour itself.
Lens Hood or No Lenshood?
While not all lenses work well with generic rubber lens hoods. The 50mm lens in the bottom right is perfect to pair with a hood. Zoom lenses, like the ones in the back row, can be fitted with hoods, but make sure you don't get any vignetting at their widest settings. Other lenses like the fish eye in the lower left don't accept any kind of lens hood - and have a front element that sticks out - so avoid placing it up against any glass!
Air Snipe. Ketchikan, Alaska
Tongass Narrows is the channel that runs from Mud Bay in the northwest to Dairy in the south east and is the approach your cruise ship will use to arrive in Ketchikan. There are great photo opportunities along the way as lumber yards, picturesque cabins and derelict boats dot the narrow waterway.
We were approaching from the north and as we neared town we passed by this very handsome motor vessel named "Air Snipe". It looked for all the world like it could once have been a military vessel of some sort so once we arrived back home I did a little digging. This vessel had her keel laid down in December 1942 as submarine chaser SC-1068. In 1946 she was transferred to the US Coast Guard as USCGC Air Snipe and in 1948 was sold to Boyer Towing in Ketchikan, Alaska as a towing vessel.
This is just one example of the interesting sights that can be seen during the run in to Ketchikan along the Tongass Narrows.