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Optical Accesories

Enhance your photo fun with tripods, waterproof cases, lens cleaners and padded straps.

By Gibbs Milliken

In the field, one may find that items once considered only accessories often evolve into essential gear. Many of these allow expensive equipment to function at optimum clarity and image brightness.

The Gitzo Carbon Fiber Tripod is ideal for serious naturalists, hunters or photographers. It is a sturdy, professional-quality support for most optics, like spotting scopes, large binoculars and cameras. The medium-size leg system is equipped with a precision magnesium ball-head, featuring a universal mounting plate to attach and remove instruments. The knobbed head is compact, positive-locking omni-adjustable for following fast action in the field. It is shown with a mounted pair of powerful Canon 18X50 IS Binoculars, intended for observation of water birds and other wildlife at great distances. ($786.00, Gitzo Tripod, #GT2540 with $178.00, Gitzo Head, #GH2750, 201-818-9500, www.bogenimaging.com)

Generally, in bright light, it is difficult to see digital LCD camera-screen images. To solve this problem, use a small Black Silk Bandana to cover the camera back. That allows the photographer to eliminate the dimming effects of the ambient light. The cloth can be held in place by Velcro strips or taped with black photo "duct tape." ($10, Black Silk Bandana, 34"x34", Cavenders Western Wear, 866-826-4865, www.cavenders.com)

Keep your camera clean and dry with Aquapac Waterproof/Dustproof Camera Cases that are available in several sizes of special soft-sided packs to protect them from the elements. They allow photography through the ultra-clear polymer lens portion of the case. These may be used at limited depths underwater if care is taken to make sure all seals are locked in place. ($30-$120, Aquapac, 877-789-5255, www.waterproofcases.net)

The Carson Lens Pen is designed for two functions. On one end is a retractable concave lens pad containing a non-liquid cleaner for dust and smears. On the other is a brush for removing dirt. Cleaning lenses frequently is highly recommended. Delicate lens coatings can be scratched if sharp sand grains or other debris are present, so simply turn lenses upside-down and use gravity and the brush tip to dislodge grime. When cleaning smears off the lens surface, the least possible pressure on the pad is recommended. ($12, Lenspen LP99, Carson Optical, 800-967-8427, www.carsonoptical.com)

Flexing Neck Straps for cameras and binoculars by Op/Tech are made of soft elastic with snap buckles for easy removal. These add shock-absorbing comfort when carrying heavy camera lenses, tripods and large binoculars and come in several models for specific equipment. (Prices vary according to strap model, Op/Tech, 800-251-7815, www.optechusa.com)

Another flexing design is intended for binoculars that a hunter or naturalist wants to carry close to the chest. One of the best is the Swarovski Bino Suspenders. When needed, lift optics to the eyes for viewing and release to return to a snug fit on the chest. ($33, Bino Suspenders, Swarovski Optik, 800-426-3089, www.swarovskioptik.com)

Field accessories in a shoulder/hip-pack or tripod case should include operating manuals, rechargers, black duct tape wrapped on the tripod legs, small flashlight and batteries, extra filters and memory chips, plus large, heavy-duty plastic bags in black and silver for reflectors and weather protection. This compact kit keeps optical accessories organized, accessible and easy to transport.

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