Black Darter Sympetrum danae (female)
The digital revolution marches ever onward, but despite the advances in sensor technology, there is no substitute for good technique. Outlined below is what I currently use on a regular basis
CAMERA BODIES: Nikon D3X D800 D810
TRIPODS/HEADS: Unilock & Benbo covering 3 sizes; Kirk BH1 Ball & Socket Head; Kirk L brackets & focusing rail.
For consistency I shoot virtually every image I can from a tripod, only resorting to a monopod or handheld when conditions or the terrain make it difficult to use either. I had a specially designed movable platform head made for working at higher magnifications. The Monfrotto quick release bracket and plates were custom made for me by Monfrotto. I also use a Kirk BH1 ball and socket, an L bracket for D3X and D3 and a focusing rail for precise focus at higher magnifications.
MACRO LENSES: 85mm Nikkor PCE, 105mm VR and 200mm micro Nikkor’s.
The 200mm is my most frequently used macro lens. It gives me extra working distance when photographing shy and mobile subjects with less chance of hitting the surrounding vegetation. The built in tripod collar allows me to change the view format without having to tilt the whole camera assembly on its side. The narrow angle of view helps in controlling background clutter often producing a more diffused result.
The 85mm PC-E is a wonderful lens, which allows me to alter the plane of focus, which I’m finding useful with static subjects such as, lichens and plants. The 105mm is useful in tight situations, where I have restricted room to maneuver or in situations where I have to handhold the camera.
TELEPHOTO LENSES: Nikkor 300mm 2.8 & 500mm
I often use the 300mm for portrait shots of orchids and fungi etc. when I want to create a soft diffused look to an image, where the background and foreground is well out of focus; also a Nikon 500mm for general wildlife photography.
WIDE ANGLE/ZOOM LENSES: Nikon 24-70mm; 24-120mm and 24mm Nikon PCE Shift Lens.
The 24-70mm is my most frequently used zoom lens for general landscape and routine photography. I find it indispensable when I want to illustrate a subject in relation to its habitat. I also have a 24mm PCE Sift Lens – I am using this lens more often now for landscape and subject in-situ work in preference to my 24-70mm.
FLASH: R1C1, SB29s and 2 SB800’s
Flash is an essential part of the macro photographer’s kit. Apart from my own bracket designs, I frequently use the Nikon R1C1 and SB29s macro flash on small subjects and at high magnifications and for shadow control on sunny days. For fill-flash, I use a single flash on the R1C1, which I can rotate to whatever position, I need. I use two SB 800’s off camera, with the commander unit from the R1C1 when I need more power and height.
LEE FILTER SYSTEM: call me old fashioned, but I still in most occasions prefer to use this approach to my landscape photography rather HDR. I’m not saying that I don’t use HDR but very selectively.
OTHER EQUIPMENT: Nikon GP-1 unit; an essential piece of equipment for me in the field.
Metadata: I have always attached grid references and location data to all of my images where possible. This adds valuable information to the image in terms of its precise location, which turns your image into a valuable record. Geo tagging has many useful advantages, especially for landscape, close-up photography, particularly rare plants.
EXTENSION TUBES: increasing magnifications and making lenses focus closer than their minimum focusing distance.
ELECTRONIC CABLE RELEASE: absolutely essential for reducing vibration during longer exposures.
POLARISING FILTER: for reducing or eliminating reflection on the foliage of plants.
CUSTOM DESIGNED TWIN GOOSENECK FLASH BRACKETS: used when working in rock pools and in situations where I need to increase the distance between the flash units and subjects.
REFLECTORS: two sizes for diffusing direct sunlight on subjects especially flowers
KNEE PADS: saves your aching knees when working at ground level on stony or rocky terrain.
STORAGE AND BACK-UP IN THE FIELD: iPad 3 & Apple 17in MacBook Pro
I no longer need to carry a laptop with me in the field. I can download cards to my iPad 128 GB anywhere and the high quality screen allows me to do an initial edit of my raw files back at base. Which I then transfer to one of my portable drives for editing on my laptop. This is especially useful when working abroad.