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Thingimys and wotsits

Sunset over West Allendale moors, Allendale, Northumberland

On another post I wax lyrical about plastic cameras and the puzzlingly important place they have in my equipment checklist. Well now I’m going to get sentimental and teary-eyed about a variety of non-camera related gizmos that all contributed to making the above image possible.

First and most important is my humble compass. Now I do have a GPS unit and very useful it is too, but it does have one drawback. Batteries. The thing seems to go through batteries as though they were going out of fashion. And it’s not a smart move to rely on something that may conk out in the middle of nowhere, not even something so cool and cutting-edge. I could of course try the old Boy Scout method of checking what side of a handy tree the moss is growing on as a direction guide*, but there just never seems to be a handy tree around when you need one. So I still prefer to use a compass to help me get to where I need to be and then back to the car again once the job is done.

The next item on the list wasn’t strictly necessary to the successful creation of the featured image but I think it still deserves a mention. It’s a thermal mug filled with hot coffee. And, if I’m very lucky and Mrs T has been baking, I’ll have a flapjack in my rucksack too (because a drink’s too wet without one). It can get cold high in the hills even in summer, so a hot drink helps to keep warm those bits that need to be kept warm and to avoid unpleasant things like hypothermia. So while I’m standing around waiting for the light, out comes the hot coffee to keep the spirits up.

It’s been an interesting few years weather-wise in Britain (i.e. it’s been wet) so a must-have when out in the hills is a waterproof jacket. I’ve got one, as you can probably imagine, and it gets more use than I care to think about. But what I also have is a transparent plastic poncho that I got from a National Trust shop for a fiver. If I have a shot set up on my tripod and it rains, rather than packing everything away again I just whip out the poncho and cover the camera with it. Once it stops raining, it’s then just a case of removing the poncho and getting the shot. Simple! The tricky bit is explaining to passing hikers and climbers what on earth I think I’m playing at. Fortunately, if it’s raining heavily most passing walkers are too concerned about reaching the nearest pub to engage in prolonged conversation.

And finally my most treasured non-camera related piece of equipment. A whistle bought for me by Mrs T as a Christmas stocking filler. Fortunately I’ve not had to use it in anger, but it goes everywhere with me and could just save my life if ever I get into difficulties. And I can’t get a mobile phone signal. So If ever you’re out in the hills and you hear six blasts of a whistle come quickly. It may just be me, lost, in need of coffee and cursing the fact that once again I left my waterproof in the car.

* Theoretically the north-facing side of the tree is the side that moss grows on, because it’s the side that gets the least sunlight during the year. And as every Boy Scout knows, mosses grow best in a shady environment.