Circular polarizing filter
Although there are a lot of tricks that you can do in Photoshop, one that software has yet to match is the look you get from mounting a circular polarizing filter on your lens.
These filters reduce reflections, just as polarized sunglasses do, but the advantages are far more abundant. Blue skies become a richer blue, rock and asphalt show more detail, and clouds go from featureless masses of white to detailed swirls with depth and texture.
As a bonus, the filter will serve as a first line of defense against anything that might fly up into your lens.
It may be worth spending an extra couple of dollars to have a lens filter wrench in your bag. It applies even pressure to remove a stubborn filter, which may decide at the worst possible moment that it doesn’t want to come off. About $70, depending on size.
Mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras
If you’re ready for an all-out splurge, then a camera from this awkwardly named category may be the ticket. These cameras have smaller sensors than digital single-lens reflex cameras (that’s not so good), but without the mirror of the DSLR, they’re much lighter and smaller, about the size of a large point-and-shoot camera.
As with DSLRs, you can change lenses for true wide-angle and telephoto shots. And because there’s no mirror, there’s no DSLR “mirror slap” sound — the loud click that accompanies each shot. Mirrorless cameras are almost silent (that’s all good).
The sensor size and lens formats vary from brand to brand, but an entry that typifies the largest class of these cameras — called Micro Four Thirds — are the Olympus Pen cameras, which range in price from $400 to $900, with lenses priced from $300 to $900. Unfortunately, those prices are also typical of the category. $400 to $1,000.
Camera bags can be a major expense, but you can convert your messenger bag into a camera bag with a padded insert such as the Timbuk2 Snoop. It has a scratch-resistant lining and partitions that can be moved and reconfigured using some hard-gripping Velcro. The inserts are $30 to $50, depending on size. It would be nice if the zip top were padded and you could buy extra partitions, but that’s not the case. The curved shape is great for messenger bags, but if you have more squared-off luggage, you might consider the $30 BBP Camera Paddy Insert. $30 to $50.