Unsolicited editorials on cameras, lenses, film, developer, and black and white photography in general.

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Location: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Car as Camera Bag

New Orleans is known for its debauchery, although we use nicer terms than that. Drinking is almost a social requirement. Having been raised in California, I was not accustomed to having a drink handed to me every place I went. The first place I taught in New Orleans, St. Mary’s Dominican College, had beer in the snack bar. I’m already getting off the subject. The point is that, in New Orleans, there are a lot of happy, tipsy people and a lot of pedestrians. Do the math:

(tipsy people) x (pedestrians) = (tipsy pedestrians)

We have another rule in New Orleans. Red lights are for cars. Pedestrians can ignore them. “Don’t Walk” signs? Those are just suggestions. Add to this cell phones, distractions that cause cars to drive through stop signs and red lights, and make some drive the wrong way down one-way streets.
After losing a Nikon SLR and Canon rangefinder in separate slamming-brake-related incidents, I learned that leaving camera gear on the car seat was not a good idea, not in this city. I slam on the brakes at least twice a week when someone walks out in front of me, a car runs a stop sign, or a bicyclist going the wrong way down a one-way street rides right in front of me. Putting the camera in a gadget bag was no solution. It just meant that all cameras and lenses flew onto the floor simultaneously. I tried hanging a Timbuk2® courier bag from the back of the passenger seat, but then it was too difficult to access from the front seat. Then I found Duluth Trading, a web-based store for the working man and woman. They make rugged, comfortable work clothes (and a lot of other things) out of the same kind of canvas used to make fire hoses. What I found most importantly was The Mobile Desk. Not a desk at all, it is more like a reinforced square canvas box with pockets, adjustable partitions, and a lid to keep your stuff out of sight.
Closed, it looks like something that would be housing the tape measure, box cutter, and work orders of a contractor. There is a Velcro® flap in the back that allows you to secure the box to the clasped front seat belt. Inside, with partitions strategically placed, there is enough room for two rangefinders or SLRs, twenty rolls of film, three more lenses, lens tissue and fluid, a light meter, and a handful of music CDs. On the outside, there is a clipboard-style clasp for a pad of graph paper and some pockets for chewed up carpenter’s pencils and an old ballpoint pen. All of that is camouflage. We want this thing to look like something important only to a glazier or furnace repairman. There are also convenient outside pouches for a cell phone and my Sirius® remote.

Duluth Trading also makes an organizer to hang in front of (or in back of) the passenger seat. Called the Cab Commander, it can hold a lot of non-photographic stuff that you routinely need while driving (maps, a Thermos® bottle, a collapsible umbrella, etc.). I find that I can put a lot of stuff within an arm’s reach while traveling without running off the side of the freeway.

Duluth Trading also makes clothes, and I have a lot of them. They like to put pockets in and on jackets, so you can get a decent looking comfortable jacket with plenty of roomy pockets for film, a P&S digital, a light meter, etc. And for the photographer who is a plumber by trade, they actually make a shirt with an extra-long back tail to cover plumber’s cleavage. I highly recommend looking at their whole site. Lots of items you didn’t know you needed until you saw them.