Field Notes for Photographers

Field Notes Brand notebook, Fisher X-Mark Bullet Space pen, Tombow Airpress pen

Field Notes Brand notebook, Fisher X-Mark Bullet Space pen, Tombow Airpress pen

Why does a photographer need Field Notes Brand notebooks?  Well, there are many reasons that I am about to tell you. Ok, so you don't really need the Field Notes brand; any notebook will do, but here's why I recommend Field Notes:

  • you can purchase a subscription and you'll get 2 packages of 3 notebooks every quarter. I subscribe to the "Colors" edition. 
  • each edition is a surprise so you don't know what you are going to get until just before they are shipped. Who doesn't love a surprise?!
  • they are thin, compact (5.5 x 3.5 x 0.1 inches), 48-page notebooks that fit in your back pocket
  • subscription editions are limited in quantity. Once they are gone, they're gone. There is something fun about owning a limited edition that could become a collector's item later. Check out what some rare editions are going's crazy!
  • if you don't subscribe, you can order their regular kraft edition that is readily available any time for just $9.95 for a package of 3 in either ruled, graph or plain or in a mixed pack which contains all 3

So why do you need a notebook at all? Let me tell you why carrying a notebook is essential to me:

  1. Paper is always "on". I don't have to wait for it to power up. I don't have to open an app to take a note. I don't have to worry about it running out of battery life.
  2. When I'm preparing for a vacation or any photography field trip, I write down my shot list in my notebook, i.e., grist mill on Potters Mill Road; water fountain at Bristol & Vine.
  3. I keep a page or two in my notebook for locations in my area I want to scout or shoot.
  4. I use my notebook to record camera settings that I may need to reference in the future. I recently tried taking some band photos at a local restaurant/bar. I jotted down some settings I wanted to remember for the next time I would be trying it again (see photos below). If something worked well I want to remember it and if it didn't work well, I want to jot down why it didn't and what I want to try next time. 
  5. I jot down notes of anything I may have needed in the field that I didn't have with me so I know to bring it next time. 
  6. If I'm out with a bunch of photographers I use it to record contact information, gear that someone may have had that I'm interested in checking into, etc.
  7. When my notebook is full, I scan the stuff I want to keep and I store it in Evernote for future reference.

As I mentioned in #4 above I use my notebook to record camera settings.  Pictured here is a page from my notebook where I was recording the settings I used while taking photos of a band. I used Jamie MacDonald's custom B&W settings that I had pre-programmed into my Olympus OM-D E-M1.  If you are an Olympus shooter, check out his video tutorial on how to setup your camera with this custom's awesome! I don't haver permission from the band at this writing to post photos of them, so I posted a photo below I took of one of the pedal boards.

If you are carrying a notebook well then you need to carry around something to write with.  Two pens that I recommend for field use are the Tombow Airpress and the Fisher Space Pen (pictured above).  Both have pressurized refills.  The Fisher will write in any angle and in extreme temperatures (-30F to 250F).  Hopefully you would never be subjected to either extreme, but I have had regular pens skip on me or refuse to write in very cold weather. With these pens this is not an issue. The Fisher is also very small. The X-Mark bullet I linked above is 3.6 x 0.3 x 0.3 inches so it fits very comfortably into the front pocket of my jeans. 

So there you have it. My love for photography, pens and paper all in one post!  Cheers!