Photography / Buying Guide

Outdoor Gear for the Urban Photographer

Maybe your shtick is classic street photography. Maybe you photograph events and weddings in your town. Maybe you make architectural photographs of office buildings and homes. Regardless of where your urban photographic outings take you, there is a lot of outdoor adventure gear that can make your experience more fun and comfortable. After all, isn't there a reason they call it the "Urban Jungle?"

On the Ground

Have you ever stretched out on a New York City sidewalk to get a shot? I have. Have you been shooting for hours from your knees? I've been there, too.

Whenever I lie down in the prone position on a NYC sidewalk, I always think to myself, "Wouldn't it be convenient to have a yoga mat on me for this excitement?" Well, now that I think of it, I would prefer the TETON Sports ComfortLite Regular Self-Inflating Camp Pad. To save the knees, if I had the TETON Sports ComfortLite Self-Inflating Cushion, it would be well broken in by now.

If you are too rugged and tough to carry stuff with padding, a space blanket like the Snugpak Jungle Blanket weighs less than 2 lb and will keep you from having to lie down directly on whatever is making your sidewalk colorful. These blankets pack up into tiny packages and are a must-have for numerous emergency situations, as they are water-resistant and windproof.

While probably not something you want to haul around all day, if you know you are going to be camped out waiting for that sunset shot or fireworks display, a portable camping chair or Walkstool Comfort Folding Stool might save your legs for when you need them.

Carry Stuff

You know that B&H Photo carries almost every camera bag known to man, but sometimes a dedicated camera bag is too singularly purposed for an afternoon or weekend photo outing. You sometimes need to carry a change of clothes, or maybe your lunch.

Camping and hiking backpacks offer roominess and, sometimes, superior ergonomics and comfort features to the user. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors; some are incredibly rugged. Use a padded lens wrap to cover and protect your lenses and camera bodies, and your hiking backpack is now a virtual camera bag with room for more.

Lumbar packs are great for the photographer traveling light. Many offer plenty of room for small cameras, a second lens, or any other gear you might need that you don't want to carry over your shoulder.

Are you doing urban shooting in wet climates? Having a waterproof case might make the difference between having a working camera and an expensive new paperweight. And, if you are exploring the urban jungle by bike, B&H Photo has some bicycle bags and panniers to help carry your stuff to your location.

Stay Warm

Oh, where was this stuff when I was out in the snow in Prospect Park last year? Turns out it was in the B&H warehouse and not on my person! Photography in cold weather can be amazing and rewarding, or it can, if you are not prepared, be an absolutely miserable experience! The key is staying warm and dry.

B&H Photo is now carrying an assortment of hand and foot warmers to keep your extremities happy. Also, the Brunton Heatsync Vital Under-Jacket Warmer is a heated vest designed to keep your core toasty as it heats up to a balmy 131°F; it can be recharged by USB.

How fun is it to sit on a freezing cold park bench? It's not fun. Until now. The Brunton HeatSync Bench Warmer Heated Seat, or Folding Chair, or lie down on the heated mat. I just changed your world!

Stay Hydrated

One of the benefits of urban photography is you can often duck into a convenience store or deli to find nourishment and beverages, as the urban jungle is a bit more forgiving than the real jungle in this regard. However, if you’re on a night-photography outing, it’s very possible that your nocturnal activities can leave you outside while everyone else is inside enjoying the latest television shows, and stores are shuttered.

Stay hydrated with water or another type of non-diuretic beverage from a water bottle or hydration pack (note: some bags come with hydration packs included, others have sleeves to accommodate optional hydration packs). The Tamrac MX5398 M.A.S. Water Bottle is designed to attach to the company’s camera bags and backpacks with the M.A.S. system. If you don’t think water is tasty enough on its own, add some hydration mix. And, if your urban jungle is one in which you shouldn’t drink the water, it’s best to have a filtration and purification system handy for when you get thirsty.

Hungry? Pack some energy bars and gels in your camera bag or car. And, if you want to keep stuff cool while in the car, B&H has you covered with a wide assortment of coolers, including the Pelican Elite coolers that keep ice from melting for 10 days in a 90oF degree room!

Be Prepared

It might not be practical to carry a 200-piece mechanic’s tool kit on your outings, but today’s multi tools can fix any of number of things that break in the urban environment. Photographers swear by the Leatherman Micra and Wingman to perform any number of tasks. I have always been a fan of the Victorinox SwissTool multi tool family. Combine your multi-tool pliers with gaffer tape and you can make a clamp for hundreds of hands-free holding purposes.

I’ll credit Maglite with making flashlights cool back in the 1980s and 1990s. Today, there are dozens of manufacturers making ultra-powerful and ultra-compact electric torches that feature advanced electronics, LED, and gaseous illumination technology that makes any flashlight you owned as a kid seem like something that you got free from the bottom of your cereal box.

Night photographers get geeky about flashlights almost more than they do about cameras. The ones I hang with endorse flashlights like the NITECORE SRT7 Revenger Tactical Multi-Color LED Flashlight and Vulta Volcano Multi-Spectrum LED Flashlight for both finding your way in the dark, as well as light-painting duties.

I have found the Pelican VB3 2220 LED Camera Bag Light to be useful in illuminating the internals of my camera bag with a nice glow while I work. It certainly keeps you from having to dig around your bag in complete darkness; or use a bright hand torch or headlamp to find a filter or other small item.

The diminutive but powerful Fenix LD12-G2 LED Flashlight runs on a single AA battery and puts out 125 lumens for everything from emergencies to autofocus assist to light painting to finding things in your car or the deep recesses of your backpack.

Mobile phones are found in almost everyone's pockets these days but, if scouting urban locations with friends, sometimes the convenience and communication speed of 2-Way Radios cannot be beat, especially if you are in an area with questionable cellular coverage or, perhaps, overseas and not wanting to rack up roaming charges on your domestic cellular phone.

Urban Fashion

If you are dressed poorly and walking in the woods, will anyone notice? Urban photographers must be fashion forward. How about a snazzy vest? If the rain comes, be the lucky photographer who can break out a poncho for you (and one for your camera) on short notice to keep you and your gear dry until you make it under a distant awning or overpass.

Sunglasses are a must for urban adventures. B&H Photo has you covered with a full line of Smith and Tifosi sunglasses.

Gloves are required for cold weather. But, you need some that allow you to manipulate your camera's dials and buttons and that give you a good grip on your gear. B&H carries a full line of dedicated photo gloves.

Stay Safe

And, finally, the demands of the urban jungle always make having a first aid kit in your car or pack a great idea.