I am often asked about the equipment I use, specifically cameras. I like to travel as light as possible. In recent years I’ve shot with the highest resolution pro digital camera offered by Canon: a 1DS, 1DS Mk 2, and now 1DS Mk 3, a 21-megapixel brick of technology. The pro body is almost impervious to rain, snow, and dust, which is why I prefer it to the cheaper 5D Mk2, despite its HD video and low noise capabilities.
I limit myself to a few lenses most of the time, all Canon. More than half of my images are shot with either the 16-35f 2.8 Mk2 or the 70-200 f4, which is just as sharp as the much heavier and more expensive 2.8 version. If I need a more powerful telephoto, I reach for the 400 DO; if I know I’ll be shooting a lot of wildlife, the 500 f4 comes along. That’s it for 90% of my work.
I still need the usual complement of small, rugged La Cie drives and a Lenovo laptop optimized for photographers (review to follow). A few flashes and reflectors make their way into the kit as well.
Cameras are just tools, though. Cartier Bresson shot The Decisive Moment with a Leica rangefinder and a 50mm lens. It is the eye that matters, and the will to get off the couch and shoot.
I drove to the Skagit River flats last weekend. The area had flooded and I heard that the bald eagles were congregating in trees on high ground. It was a grey day, drizzly and dark. The reports were true. We found 15 eagles in a tree, and as soon as we stepped out of the car, we saw why. Voles swam in the flooded fields, scurried under the car, hid in the tall grass. A few drowned voles lay on their sides in the water. It was a buffet for eagles, and they acted showed no interest in further dining. I never touched a camera. Exposing for the black backlit eagles would have pegged the histogram to the right, blowing out the sky. Without light, natural or artificial, there is no shot. Sometimes the experience is enough.
Back in Bangkok to my favorite hotel and amazing street food. The cooks, toiling above a coal fired wok, go easy on the spice when they see a Western face unless you plead for more. For me Bangkok is an ideal Asian city for a traveler where one can explore the exotic or take refuge in a familiar hotel indistinguishable from home.
November 12, 2008
I’ve photographed tigers in India for decades, but we had amazing luck at Bandhavgharh National Park in the center of the country. Seven different individuals permitted us to capture them in a variety of backgrounds and occasionally in excellent light. We could see and hear the reason the park supports so many tigers. We saw Chital aka Spotted Deer, sambar, and a barking deer every day. Langeur monkeys act as sentinels; we watch them to see if there is a tiger in the area. This is a modern day Jungle Book.
November 4, 2008
I’m midway through a trip to India with friends and we are all sick with food poisoning. I never get sick from street food, even here, but we were felled by cuisine in a five star restaurant.
The Pushkar Camel Festival was fun, as usual, a riot of noise, dust, heat, and chaotic activity. Just seeing a line of camels cresting the dunes evokes centuries of commerce at this Indian crossroads. The photographic opportunities were limitless.
I was interviewed by The World on NPR at the Fair and tried to convey the bustle and delightful strangeness of the scene.