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By Derrick Story |

Photography Hacks: Power Charging, Repurposed Loupe, MacGyver Box

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Power.

That’s the one thing all digital photographers need. So I’m going to show you a couple “off the beaten track” power sources for your digital devices.

I also have a quick tip for creating an on-the-go LCD magnifier and a handy MacGyver kit that fits in a repurposed filter box.

Photographers typically stash an extra battery or two when traveling. But that’s not practical for the most popular camera in the world: the iPhone. And regardless of what you shoot with or have in reserve, at some point you just need to recharge. Here are two alternative solutions for powering your digital devices.

Waka Waka solar charger and light

I’ll start with the most nimble and versatile solution: the Waka Waka solar charger ($79). This compact, very light device is about as tall as an iPhone 4S, and a bit wider. One side is covered with solar cells and the other features two LED lights that run for over 40 hours on a full charge. One edge has mini-USB power in, and other USB power out for your tech tools.

Inside, the Waka Waka houses a substantial 2200 mAh LiPo battery and a micro controller. Put the device in full sun, and the battery fills up over the course of the day. At night you can use it as a camp light, for reading in the tent, and for recharging your mobile phone or camera (in about two hours).

Olympus TG-1 recharging with a yellow Waka Waka

Olympus TG-1 recharging with a yellow Waka Waka

The device works best with cameras that can be charged via USB, such at the Olympus TG-3 “tough”or the Samsung NX30. Many other models have this capability, too. To recharge the camera, connect it via its USB cable to the power-out port on the side of the Waka Waka.

I carry one Waka Waka in my everyday backpack, and when I’m on the road, I pack two of them. They can be topped off before I head out the door via a common USB charger. But once I’m on the road, I can use it to refuel my camera, iPhone, and iPad mini.

BioLite CampStove and charger

The BioLite stove ($129) solves two problems for outdoor adventurers. First, it’s a robust camp stove that’s powered by sticks and twigs you find on the ground. No more buying, packing, and disposing of expensive fuel cylinders.

Second, the stove uses a clever power module that converts heat to electricity. The energy is used to power a fan that intensifies the cooking flame and prevents smoke. Any surplus electricity is routed to the USB outlet at the base of the module, which can be used to recharge a mobile device or camera.

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The advantage of the BioLite stove is that the electricity is generated on demand. If you need juice, just build a fire—and might as well brew yourself a cup of coffee while you’re at it.

The BioLite is beautifully designed and weighs only 33 ounces, so it’s suitable for backpacking as well as car camping. It can boil water in as few as five minutes. The power output is a respectable 2 watts at 5 volts, about the same as the common USB cigarette lighter adapter for cars.

I must add that the BioLite stove is also fun. Gathering a pile of sticks to burn in a handsome high-tech cylinder is almost as addicting as the nightly campfire—but these flames don’t produce smoke that burns your eyes.

Easy LCD screen inspector

Small, lightweight viewing loupes are easy to come by. You might even have one or two languishing in your gadget drawer right now.

They typically have a clear base to let light in while you’re trying to decipher super small type or determine the year an old coin was minted. With a little bit of gaffer’s tape, however, you can “black out” that clear base and use your magnifier for inspecting your camera’s LCD screen while working outside in bright light.

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I like to have a bit of the cloth tape hang over the bottom rim of the loupe. That makes a nice sliding surface for moving the magnifier to different parts of the LCD screen. And it protects the back of the camera.

I’ve recently repurposed a 10X loupe and carry it in my bag, but it’s a tad too powerful for what I need. I’m more interested in the image than I am the dots that make it up. So I’m going to dig around some more and look for a 5X magnifier. I think that will be the perfect power for inspecting images at the beach and in other bright environments.

The MacGyver box for photographers

Nothing’s more aggravating that digging in the depths of your camera bag for a bandaid or some pain reliever.

To solve this problem, I’ve repurposed a plastic filter box to stash loose odds and ends that come in handy on occasion.

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It’s amazing how much stuff I can pack in there: rubber bands, Advil, wire ties, Band-Aids, a few coins for emergency screwdrivers, a USB flash drive,  a white business card that can double as a flash bounce, a couple safety pins, paper clips (also known as SIM card ejecting tools), and a few bits of tape.

They’re all housed in a thin box that fits nicely in my camera bag, and is quickly retrievable when needed.

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The tools in my MacGyver box might not help me escape from a makeshift jail in the rainforest, but it will come in handy if I pinch my finger on a tripod joint and need a little first aid.

For more photography tips, check out my book Digital Photography Hacks: 100 Industrial-Strength Tips & Toolsand my lynda.com courses—including Managing Your Mobile Photos.

 

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