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Camera Gear


I mostly use a Nikon D300s body. I also have a Nikon D70, as a back-up. I use them with several lenses:

Nikon 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6G ED-IF AF-S VR mid-range zoom - this is my all-around workhorse lens.
Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED AF VR tele zoom - great for shooting wildlife at a distance, and for my experiments with large photo-stitching compositions.
Nikon 12-24mm f/4G ED-IF AF-S DX wide angle zoom - great for big panoramas and also for indoor work.
Nikon 24mm if/2.8D AF wide angle - small and light with a wide field of view, for when you want to be unobtrusive.
Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF standard lens - a nice portrait lens.

Related Gear

I also have a nice tripod set-up that weighs in at about 4.5 lbs. Light enough to hike with, but sturdy enough to handle the 80-400 lens.

Hakuba HG504-MX Tripod A good, light set of carbon fiber tripod legs (with stock head removed).
Acratech GV2 Ballhead A good, solid, but reasonably light ballhead with quick-release mount - replaces the stock head on the Hakuba legs.
Kirk PZ92 camera plate Quick release plate for the D70, for mounting on the tripod.
Kirk NC80-400 lens collar and plate Replacement lens collar for the 80-400 lens, with built-in quick release plate, for mounting on the tripod. Stiffer and lighter than the widely-reviled stock lens collar.

I carry two EN-EL3e batteries, so I always have a hot spare. I also have several CF and SD memory cards (the D300s can hold one of each) of 1 GB to 4 GB capacity. Some folks prefer the larger cards, but I don't mind switching cards occasionally, and I feel safer not putting all my photographic eggs in a single memory card basket, just in case something happens to a card (lost, destroyed, accidentally re-formatted....)

I have UV-haze filters for all my lenses. I used to keep them all on the lenses to protect the lenses from damage (I actually dropped a lens on its nose once, and destroyed a UV filter - probably saving the lens from an untimely demise). But I've gotten away from that somewhat lately. I also have a circular polarizer for each lens diameter (Well, actually, I have a 72-77 step-up ring so I can use my 77mm CP with the 24-120 lens). I use Hoya's Multi-coated filters.

I use both Zing and Op/Tech neoprene bags and pouches to carry my camera and lenses in (available at fine camera stores, including B&H Photo and Adorama), and I have a WXTex waterproof camera bag (from Pacific Outdoor Equipment) for when conditions get really nasty. Some of the places I've gone, it has been indispensable!

Printing


I have an Epson Stylus Photo R2880 wide-format printer, which does a very nice job on prints up to 13" wide. Lately I've been printing on Ilford Galerie Gold Fibre Silk paper. For larger prints, there is a professional printer nearby who does nice Chromira prints.

Shooting Notes

Quality settings - I always shoot with the image quality set to Large Fine JPEG. Some otherwise trustworthy photographers will tell you that the difference in quality between Fine/Normal/Basic is "practically indistinguishable", so why not save space and time by shooting in normal or even in Basic! But if you do any post-processing then you will be re-compressing that JPEG file when you save the processed image. Starting off with a Basic quality image increases the likelihood that your end product will have noticeable artifacts. And just because you're not printing it at poster size now doesn't mean you won't want to some day. Memory is cheap, and it doesn't take all that much time to download a batch of Fine quality images! Be safe, shoot with Fine quality! Also, often when I'm shooting in really difficult lighting, such as long exposures at night with no flash, I'll use Raw mode, in case I need to do really major post-processing of an image.

Post-processing - And speaking of post-processing, I use Photoshop - awesomely useful software. It does everything you might want, and more. Perhaps a bit cumbersome if you're not computer savvy, but worth the effort if you can manage it. Mostly, I use it to tweak the shadows, brightness and saturation, and of course for cropping. A good crop can make a huge difference in the impact of a photo.

Auto-ISO - Since I'm usually using either a VR lens or a wide-angle lens, I can shoot hand-held at fairly slow shutter speeds without worrying too much about camera shake. Thus I find the Auto-ISO feature not very useful. I set my ISO manually - usually to 200 or 400 (except at night, when I'll go to 800; I find 1600 to be hopelessly grainy). When shooting moving subjects, you need to keep a close watch on the shutter speed anyway (or use Shutter Priority mode 'S'), so here too, setting the ISO manually seems to be better than hoping that the Auto-ISO mode gets it right.

Books

Some recommended reading:

  • Photographic Composition, Grill & Scanlon, Amphoto Books, New York, 1990
  • Creative Nature and Outdoor Photography, Brenda Tharp, Amphoto Books, New York, 2003
  • The Owner's Manual for whatever camera you own. (If you don't have a solid grasp of what your camera does and how to make it do what it does, then you can't reach your ultimate creativity.)
  • "Tripod 101", Thom Hogan, an informative article for tripod shoppers. He also has some excellent Nikon equipment reviews on his website.