If you’ve been following us here at ShotRockers for a while you may know that I’m currently in the middle of a pretty epic photo adventure. For the past 3½ months and for one more month I’ve been traveling all over to get great photos and to continue making more classes (we are currently working on 3 new ones!). More than anything I keep getting questions about what it is I use to get my photos and to be honest I use a lot of stuff, and not just photography related gear. So what I’ve decided to do is to make a list of everything that I use to get my images, photo gear and other and for the next little while I’ll be writing the occasional blog post about each of the following items that help me to get my shots. But before I write individual posts here is a little list and a brief description.
Mountain Khakis – I LOVE mountain khakis clothes! I know it sounds a bit odd to be loyal to one brand of clothes and just for the record I do wear other clothes as well but when traveling I usually only take MKs. If you are looking for durable, good looking, but still quality clothes then look no further than Mountain Khakis. I can’t recommend them enough.
Headlamp – There is nothing worse than waking up at 3:00am, driving to a scouted out location, and gearing up for a great photo day only to find out that you don’t have a light. Needless to say this has happened to me more than a couple of times. For this reason I always leave an extra headlamp both in my camera bag and in my car. You can’t get the shot if you can’t find it.
LED Flashlight – This may seem a bit redundant but when light painting in photography you need a high-powered light that isn’t going to cast a funky color to your subject. LED flashlights, while still relatively new, do a crazy good job of painting whatever I need; from Delicate Arch in Arches National Park to the old school bus from Into the Wild in Alaska, I love these things.
Nalgene water bottle – when out taking photographs, especially when you are planning on being active, water is king. You must stay hydrated and be ready for a long day even if you were only initially planning on being out for a couple of hours. I usually take an extra one just in case I decide on the fly to do some extra hiking.
Appropriate footwear – I actually have two kinds of footwear that I choose from when out shooting: #1 I have a great pare of Hi-Tec Altitude hiking boots. They are durable enough for a strenuous hike but lightweight enough that I can go all day. Additionally they give me the traction I need when hiking on less than ideal trails, and it also helps that they are super comfortable. The second pair of footwear that I always take with me is a pair of Chacos Z/2 sandals. Chacos are the greatest invention for outdoor lovers since the water bottle. They are comfortable, offer great support and with them I never have to question whether or not to get in the water to get a shot. In addition to great shoes, good/lightweight wool socks are a must.
Layers – often before going out to shoot I check the weather report, however weather in the mountains especially can change without any notice. That is why it is crucial to take some sort of jacket that will protect against the elements if needed. My personal favorite is a the Arc’teryx Gamma LT jacket.
Good backpack – Since my first SLR camera I’ve had quite a few bags, in fact I own more camera bags than my wife has purses(currently I have 7). But when it comes down to it I find that the most important one is a good backpack. They are much more comfortable and hold more equipment than the standard shoulder bag. In my collection I prefer to have 2, one larger one to hold a good portion of my equipment (I use the Lowepro Rover Pro AW), and on a much more regular basis when I am just going out for a hike and don’t want a ton of weight I use the smaller Lowepro Flipside Sport 15L AW. It is big enough for my camera and three lenses but is not bulky and still very comfortable even on long hikes.
Tripod – A good friend/mentor once told me to get the best tripod I could afford and I can say that is probably one of the best pieces of advise I have ever gotten. Long exposures will be ruined by a cheap tripod, that’s why I use Gitzo carbon fiber legs with a Really Right Stuff head. It wasn’t the cheapest setup to get but in the long run it has been more than worth it.
Filters – We’ve all taken photos that we thought would turn out amazing but when we get them to the editing room they are less than impressive, not the scene we remember in our heads. I find that the best way to get my images to be like the original scene is with the use of filters. A GOOD polarizing filter is SUPER important. I prefer the Promaster HGX Circular Polarizing filter. It’s high quality glass coupled with the 1 year no-fault warranty makes it a no brainer. I also rely heavily on a set of Singh-Ray graduated filters. They allow my skies to look as they did without having to create a series of bracketed images.
Computer/Lightroom – DON’T GET A CHEAP COMPUTER! Was that clear enough? I use an iMac and a Macbook Pro to get the best results. I feel that they keep up with the work that I need performed. Lightroom with the best program I use. I do very little editing to my images and I feel that Lightroom allows me to quickly edit and catalogue my work.
Camera/lenses – Obviously a huge part of what I do. Over the years I have used several different cameras, from film(35mm, medium format and large format 4×5) and digital cameras. I currently use almost exclusively the Nikon D600 and D800E, The D600 for portraits and the D800E for landscapes. I find the D800E to be a little sharper and don’t notice the moiré. I also use a series of Nikkor lenses, both zoom and prime. For landscapes I use 5 main lenses; the Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8, the Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8, the Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8, the 105mm f/2.8 for any macro work and the 24mm f/3.5 perspective control lens. I find that for most situations I use either the 14-24mm or the 24-70mm. I find that the pro line Nikkor glass is exceptionally sharp and the nano coating on the lenses does a great job of reducing ghosting and helps my images to come out tack sharp.
A good printer – Here is where I differ from many photographers, I do not print my own photos. The honest truth is that I’ve tried and am not very good at it. Instead I have a great photo lab in Allen’s Camera and they can print the images better than I can. The key is to get the print profile so that you know how the image will look once it is printed.
© 2013, Tony. All rights reserved.