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Putting the camera into position for this shot put the "p" in "precarious". Fortunately, I'd had practice.

To reach this spot I'd climbed over thickets of rebar and its uncertainly-attached concrete remnants, and still needed to lean as far out as I could to find a stable anchor-point for the camera. Levelling and sighting the camera was another neat trick, but I really wanted to have a clear view of the tree and city skyline, and to avoid cropping into that concrete block that's emerging from the lake on the right. It's a three-second exposure that took me at least fifteen minutes, and three visits to the Spit over the course of six weeks, to make.

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But most importantly, the camera was being held on a small clamp with a just-long-enough arm and a arca-style quick release.

That clamp arrangement is also something that has taken many tries to get right, and now it's indispensable. It's quick to attach to improvised supports, holds securely enough, and sighting along the quick-release gets me surprisingly close to the right composition even before I attach the camera.

I initially avoided quick-releases for my pinholes, preferring the bare ¼" tripod thread screwed directly to the camera. That seems simpler and lighter-weight. But for the sake of practicality I've mostly changed my mind.

For that lead photo I never would have risked attaching the clamp with my half-kilo Ondu 6x12 already mounted to the arm. The combination would be too heavy, too awkward, and too much to risk dropping. That favourite clamp isn't even expensive, photographically speaking – $38 for everything – but without that specific configuration of bits and pieces I couldn't have taken the photo that I really like. 

Photography is half about being in the right place at the right time, but the other half is having the right stuff. Little bits and pieces included.

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After carrying so much for World Pinhole Day I've spent a fair bit of time going over what worked and what didn't. Learning from my mistakes, and eager to make better ones, I revised my kit and went back to the Spit again, and then again a week later.

For both of my revisits I carried my Ondu 6x12, that nifty little clamp, and a tripod. So that's two fewer clamps and one less camera than my Pinhole Day visit, which let me carry more water inside my little Fuji-Domke – Fomke – 803 satchel. 

For the first reshoot I brought a short-but-tough ground-standing tripod. It's a SunwayFotocopy T1A20, which looks a lot like an RRS model, just without the financial support for a failed attack on gay rights in California followed by a completely unrelated relocation to Utah. With an Arca-Swiss P0 head it weighs about four pounds and extends a mighty twenty inches above ground level. It's perfect for adverse conditions and almost indestructible, except for having pivot-bolts that self-unscrew. It's overkill for the weight of the cameras I'm putting on it these days, but it suits the terrain, and pinhole cameras need to be close to things. Using a tall tripod inherently puts them too far away from anything interesting.

For my Pinhole Day trip I had carried an ineffectual Manfrotto tripod that was still just as bulky and annoying to carry as my Fotocopy, but the stronger and heavier tripod was more useful and was definitely worth carrying. So naturally, for my next visit, I left it at home.

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I felt like I had made the most of the heavy tripod, so I didn't want to repeat myself on my next trip. And the day was even warmer, so leaving it at home let me carry even more water and still pack less weight. Weight is a function of both time and distance, and I was anticipating plenty of both.

For my second reshoot I still brought that favourite clamp as my main support, and a little arca-compatible Sirui tabletop tripod for open land use. It's what I used for the snapped telephone pole photo, and through no fault of the tripod, that also marked the second time I've dropped the pretty wooden Ondu. Well, maybe it was a little bit the fault of the tripod. The Sirui 3T15's legs can't be set at individual angles, so it wasn't balanced very well when I stepped on the concrete slab it was resting on and tipped it over. Just a little scuff – the camera is fine. (I got my Zero 2000 hit by a car, so this is pretty minor for me.)

That little tripod is small enough to carry inside the Fomke satchel that I use as my pinholing bag, but its knobs stick out at odd angles, making it a bit awkward. Next time I'll give up its arca-clamp head and just use my tiny Gitzo tabletop tripod, which I prefer anyway. It's sleeker and over a hundred grams lighter. Its lack of a quick-release isn't a problem since I've found an arca camera plate with a quarter-inch tripod socket built in, giving me the best of both attachment options.

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From all this I've learned a useful lesson. It seems obvious when I write it out loud, but it's this:

The heaviest thing I carry should also be the most important.

That doesn't mean that it has to be something I use for every photo, but that would be nice. At the very least, if I'm going to carry it, it should be what gets me the defining photo(s) of the day.

The catch is that I don't always know what that will be, and anticipating a particular set of results sometimes leaves me less able to see unexpected opportunities. But even still, when I'm packing and repacking my kit for the day, "is this the most important thing I'll be carrying" is an incisive question. One honest yes-or-no answer about the biggest thing is far more mentally productive than the energy I spend spinning around about all the little things every time I go out. Seriously, packing indecision is a big part of why I'm never out early in the morning.

So now I know. One camera, maybe two – but only if the second is lighter and smaller. My field-proven clamp. My best little tripod. Fewer snacks than I think I'll need, and twice as much water. Two more rolls of film than I expect to use. Anything else should be critically important for me to consider carrying it.

(Easier said than done, but it's a start.)