Iceland is a wonderland of volcanic landscapes and this was a great place to try out the new Canon EOS 5DS R, which is even superior to the 5DS I shot with earlier in May. This camera is not about pushing the ISO boundaries into the stratosphere, rather it’s about amazing details in the enlargement. The 5DS R offers much more clarity in the shadow and highlight details, a greater dynamic range, in addition to its obvious pixel packing punch in huge installations. I also like the familiar feel and weight of the camera vs. moving away from the 35mm look and feel to a medium or large format type body. This will be a game changer for packing in a camera with this resolution capability to remote locations where gear weight is an issue.
Recently I had the opportunity to shoot with with the new 50.6MP 5Ds while I was teaching a workshop in Olympic National Park. The 5Ds offers much more clarity in the shadow and highlight details while maintaining the convenience of its lighter weight body. This a game changer for packing in a camera with this resolution capability to remote locations where gear weight is an issue.
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***For an updated list of gear I currently use, check out my Gear Page!***
This is a question I get asked all the time, “What sort of equipment do you use?” The answer is usually less than you would expect. In general I shoot with Canon’s 5DS R and 1Dx cameras. For my new Human Canvas photos I am using a Leica S. Digital technology has far surpassed what film was ever capable of and has completely changed the game for what one can shoot in the field.
Where ISO 50 was the norm with film, I am shooting into the 1000s without reservations now. The ability to confirm “you got it” immediately after the shot, zooming in to ensure critical focus, evaluating the histogram for exposure, means that today I shoot far less than I would have in the past. I can shoot half a dozen frames, know I got what I wanted and move on. With slides I may have shot a couple of roles of a single subject before I was satisfied that at least one of the images in the batch would satisfy me later – and later could be several months before I knew what I had.
I have shot the majority of my images with just two lenses over the last few years. Both are “L” series lenses, Canon’s professional designation, the 16-35 f/2.8 L II and the 70-200 f/4 L IS. I’ll use extension tubes for macro work with the 70-200 and add in a 1.4x extender for additional reach when I need it as well. These are my workhorses and they are always in my bag regardless of where I’m headed.
While I may have dismissed the middle range in the past, more and more I am finding myself reaching for a 24-105 f/4 L IS. It is a great walk around lens for shooting in crowded markets, portraits, architecture
On occasion I’ll pack a long lens. Years ago I loved my Nikkor 200-400mm lens for wildlife work; now I use the Canon 200-400 1/4 L IS USM Extender 1/4x.
I’ll also bring a fish eye lens, the 15mm f2.8, for special effects, just to mix things up a bit – but it’s not a lens I would rely on daily by any means.
In addition, I carry a light weight, sturdy carbon fiber tripod. I like Gitzo’s GT3542XLS Carbon Fiber Tripod. They make a fine product and it is light enough that I won’t hesitate to bring it wherever I’m going. I am using a Kirk BH-1 ballhead mounted to a flat plate (no center column). Here is an important tip about tripods – purchase a tripod that is just a little too heavy and you won’t use it. Purchase one with a wobbly center column and you’re better off without it. So spend a little more money up front and you won’t have to do it again for many years. Mirror lock up and a cable release are also a part of the stabilization equation.
Then there are the miscellaneous bits and pieces. An intervelometer for shooting long exposures and stars, circular polarizers for all lenses, a couple of 2-stop, hard step graduated neutral density filters, extra batteries for the camera and intervelometer, hex wrenches, lens cleaning cloths, and of course, a couple of portable hard drives, extra memory cards, and a MacBook Pro. I pack all of this in a Tamrac Anvil 27 bag- simple, lightweight, and effective for me to travel the world.
The following article was modified from Outdoor Photographer’s 25th Anniversary Issue.
1. Gitzo GT3542L Carbon Fiber Tripod. This tripod is missing a key element that many photographers never consider with a tripod purchase–a center column. The eliminated center column allows me to get in much lower and closer to almost any subject than if it were included. In addition the XLS has an extra long leg system allowing me to get higher than my standing height to achieve a little different of a perspective. The other important aspect of utilizing a tripod is the stability, I can fine tune my composition to eliminate even the slightest of distracting elements from my frame.
2. A Singh-Ray 2 stop Hard Step Galen Rowell Graduated Neutral Density Filter. With Adobe’s introduction of Lightroom a few years ago they created a graduated neutral density filter tool within the develop module of their software. This tool allows any user to add this effect after capture and even though I use Adobe’s tool on a regular basis, I still find that using a two stop filter in the field, adds to the overall drama of the effect. In addition, I prefer to spend more time in the field photographing so not having to add additional post processing techniques is always a plus.
3. A Canon TC-80N3 Intervelometer. This little piece of equipment is essentially a standard cable release on steroids. An intervelometer possesses the function of a standard shutter release, which allows me to keep my hands off of the camera and vibration to a minimum during an exposure. In addition to this, I now get to control the number of exposures of a given sequence I take, I can control the time of those exposures from seconds to days, take exposures that are a set timeframe apart, and combine these functions simultaneously. I can shoot time lapse sequences, star trails, and exposures longer than 30 seconds, it truly allows the creative process to come alive.
4. B + W Circular Polarizer. The polarizer is an indispensable tool for the nature photographer. It deepens colors, boosts contrast, and removes reflections from leaves and water surfaces. It works best when your subject is 90 degrees from the light source, but I will often use it on cloudy and/or rainy days in a forest to saturate colors and remove reflections from leaves.
5. Apple 15” Laptop, max Ram, the fastest processor available, and two external hard drives. In today’s world of instant connectivity through the internet my laptop and external hard drives are one of the newest and most import tools that travel with me on any given excursion. I have created images in Antarctica and relayed them back to clients in the states almost instantaneously via satellite. I could have never imagined a world so interconnected as we are today and can only imagine the coming future. In addition, my laptop is a powerful editing device so that upon my arrival back in Seattle, my office already has selected images from shoots with initial adjustments in place. Speed is key in today’s competitive marketplace. The two hard drives give me a redundant back up of everything I create in the field if something should go drastically wrong.