Spring Has Sprung
After an extremely persistent and snowy late-winter weather pattern here in the Pacific Northwest, winter is finally over, and spring has sprung. And there are things to be done.
Seattle, Washington is fairly far north, at least when judged among US cities outside of Alaska. OK, that may not be saying all that much, but we're so far north that mid-summer days are more than seven hours longer than days in the depths of winter. It can take new transplants some while to get accustomed to. But even with that, we average just five inches of snow per year, which means at some years are even less. All those nearby mountains get lots of snow, but the little we do get down here in the lowlands generally melts within a day or two. This year was one for the record books though. February dumped over two feet of snow on me, and the last of it wasn't gone until we got into March here when it has topped seventy degrees more than once already. Spring officially began on March 20 this year. I can tell the difference.
Of course, spring is always a time of change. And that means there are things needing to be done — or at least things I like to do every year around this time.
First off, if you haven't already, check the time on your camera. What with the change to Daylight Saving Time recently, most cameras will require a manual time adjustment. Remember, it's "spring forward," and "fall back." Several states are working to end this madness for their residents, but for now, we have to endure the semi-annual ritual of adjusting clocks everywhere. Every image you shoot gets tagged with whatever time your camera says it is, so make sure it's got things correct. Much easier than trying to fix everything after the fact. Double check that all the rest of your camera settings are returned to where you think they are too. We don't want any nasty surprises out there.
Spring is also known for the rite of spring cleaning. Use this to make sure your gear is in top shape. Go through all your lenses and check that front and rear elements are sparkling clean. Clean the lens caps too. When I'm shooting, the lens cap generally goes in my pocket where all manner of lint and pocket fuzz may lurk. Even if you employ a different technique, I'm betting you pay more attention to the lens than to the caps. Caps are a lot cheaper to replace than are lenses, so this only makes sense. But at least some of the dust that finds its way onto your lenses starts out life on the cap, wherever you keep it when not affixed to its matching lens. Clean any filters you use too. They can be easy to overlook. Then clean or replace whatever microfiber cloths, lens pens and other tools you use in the field to keep your lenses clean in the field. A dirty cloth could lead to a nasty repair if it scratches the coating one of your lenses. Hopefully you at least check most of this after every photo outing, but few us do so religiously, so take some time now to make up for any sloppy habits you may have had in the past. At least once a year, be thorough.
It's a good time to check your sensor as well. Whether you clean yours yourself or pay to have someone else do the job, you don't want to wait until peak outdoor photography season to do the needful. This isn't something you want to rush through, so plan ahead.
Double check that your tripod is clean and properly adjusted. A good tripod can last for many years, but not without at least some periodic maintenance. Leg segments that stick can be a bummer in the field. If you wrap the legs with bicycle tape or other padding, make sure it's in good condition or replace it if it doesn't look like it can last another season of use.
Get your car tuned up as well to be sure your travels over the months to come are safe. And who wouldn't want a little better gas mileage with all that driving to be done to get to where the good shots are.
If you plan to make any changes to your gear, now would be a good time consider it. It's hard to shoot with that wonderful new lens you've been dreaming of until you buy it. Thankfully, it's also the season for income tax refunds. Somehow, the two just seem made for each other. If your old gear is in good shape, consider selling it at the same time to recoup some of the expense if you don't plan to keep it for backup. I have had some lenses continue to appreciate in value over the years, but the norm is for old models to depreciate as new models get introduced. This is even more true for old camera bodies.
Take a look at how and where you store your images next. Take it from me, it's much easier to rework your folders, keyword strategy and related issues before processing a bunch of new images than it is after. If you need more space, buy it now so you'll have somewhere to put everything you shoot this year. Re-evaluate your disaster recovery strategy too. Maybe this is the year to invest in a RAID array for fault tolerance, or to develop a plan for keeping an offsite backup of at least your most important images.
Speaking of disaster preparedness, it may be a good time to review your insurance coverage too. Homeowner policies have limits and you may need to increase yours. If you use "pro-level" gear or make part of your income from photography, you may need to investigate one of the plans specifically designed for photographers. And make sure you have an up-to-date inventory of your gear, including serial numbers, just in case.
It's at this time of year that I generally renew my annual "America the Beautiful" National Parks pass and the matching "Discover Pass" for access to certain Washington state recreation and natural areas. There's nothing worse than heading off to your favorite national park only to realize at the last minute that last year's pass has expired.
So, spring has finally sprung here in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere. The time when a young man's fancy turns to outdoor photography. Even if some days our youth may feel to be in spirit only.