What are some tools that every DSLR owner should have in their arsenal?
Why do I need a lens hood?
It will almost eliminate every instance of lens flare when shooting in the sunlight. Sometimes lens flare is wanted. However, in most cases it's an issue that many photographers would like to not see in their images. I discovered that myself several years ago while I photographed one of the Madison, Connecticut Parades. Almost every photo I took was unusable because there was so much lens flare.
A UV Filter is primarily used to protect the front of the lens. There is conflicting opinion about whether one REALLY needs a UV Filter for protection. You can do your own research to decide if you want the protection. The other lens filter photographers should own is a polarizer. A polarizer will deepen the colors in the sky, will make murky water look clearer. Most lens filters will attach to an existing filter, so if you decide to purchase a UV filter for protection you will most likely be able to attach a polarizer over the UV filter easily. There are so many filters available. Warming filters are another option. Google each to see which will work.
Tripod and Carrying Case
For the longest time I carried my tripod with me when I needed it. Let me tell you how awkward that was. Heavy and cumbersome doesn’t begin to explain how much I did NOT want to use the tripod. I avoided carrying my tripod often because it was so awkward. Believe it or not, I never considered purchasing a case until I ran into another photographer with one. Now that I have one, I don’t know what I ever did without one. So easy now to throw the strap over my shoulder and walk to my photo shoot now.
You spent a hefty price on your camera and lenses. Shouldn't you also spend a commensurate amount on your tripod? My suggestion is purchasing the tripod itself and the ball head and mount separately. And make sure the weight of your heaviest lens can handle being attached to the tripod.
If you're doing any kind of low light shooting like sunsets or sunrises you simply cannot be without a tripod or even night photography. Any photography where you need the stability that hand holding won't work.
I’ve discussed picking the right camera bag previously here. You can read the column here:
Picking The Right Camera Bag. I mention the LowePro Slingshot AW. The Slingshot is the bag that I own because I can carry it on my back or shoulder. The same way I carry my tripod now. I find it so much easier to have my equipment over my shoulder then hand carrying. Others may feel different. It all comes down to a matter of choice.
In the meantime:
Focus on what’s ahead of you.