February 19, 2016

Bubble Levels

Plus, monuments and parks …

There has been news out of Washington, D.C., as three new national monuments were signed into existence, all in California: Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow, and Castle Mountains. For some more info and a personal take, see this great essay by James Fallows in The Atlantic: “Welcome Our Newest National Monuments!

In other media news, I recommend reading the article about Denali National Park in this month’s National Geographic: “How Can 6 Million Acres at Denali Still Not Be Enough?” It’s an excellent profile of a park most “mainlanders” never get to visit, along with the wolf challenges there.

Speaking of national parks, next week I’ll be speaking about them four times on three consecutive days in New York City. On Monday I’ll be visiting the Park West Camera Club, and on Wednesday I’ll be speaking at Lincoln Center as a guest of the Sierrra Club.

In between, I’ll be spending a day talking at one of my favorite places, the B&H Event Space. They run a great program of near-daily free lectures about photography, videography, etc. On Tuesday, February 23, I’ll be delivering two lectures, “Photographing America’s National Parks” and “Photographing Acadia National Park.” The latter presentation is sponsored by Formatt-HiTech, the UK-based manufacturer of amazing neutral density filters.

Both of my B&H lectures are free, but seating is limited, so be sure to register! Hope to see you there!

Onward…

This Week’s Question

Vello Low Profile Bubble Level

Q.  I read your book. You mention different pieces of “ancillary” gear but I didn’t see any mention of hot-shoe bubble levels. Do you not use one? And if not, why? I see one on some people’s cameras but not all. I’m considering securing one before visiting parks in the northwest this summer.Levi B., Wisconsin

A. You have amazing timing, because I just ordered a bubble level two days ago.

The answer to your question is no, I have not historically used a hot-shoe bubble level. I did buy one once before, about six years ago, and promptly lost it during a trip  to Yellowstone. (Please let me know if you find it.)

I suppose I should have been using one in the sans-live-preview film days, but I either didn’t think about it or I was spending my money on other equipment that I considered a more important investment. (For me. I’m not saying it wouldn’t be a worthwhile investment for someone else.) Once the digital days came, I didn’t see much use for one, because it’s so easy to correct for a slanted horizon in Photoshop and Lightroom. (Just click-and-drag the ruler!)

Another reason I ignored this product was because my hot shoe was often busy doing something else: tracking my whereabouts. Before finding the AMOD AGL3080 geotagger a few years ago, I used the Nikon GP-1, which attached to the hot shoe, pretty much full-time.

Aside from that one week in 2010, I haven’t used a bubble level at all, nor have I usually missed having one. So why did I buy one now?

My first reason is because I’m doing more and more night photography, and the bubble level sure does help there. It can be much easier to ensure your camera is level by shining a light on a little air bubble than by looking at a dark landscape through the camera’s viewfinder.

My second reason is because I found this really cool, relatively flat Vello Low Profile Bubble Level. It’s less intrusive to have on the camera than the traditional cube design. My hunch is that the flat version won’t get knocked off as easily, so I can feel safe using it in Yellowstone.

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