What's In The Bag

The digital revolution marches ever onwards, but despite the advances in camera electronics and sensor technology, there is no substitute for consistently good technique. Outlined below is what I currently use on a regular basis.

Camera Bodies

Nikon D800, D810 D850. I use the 810 and 850 almost all of the time now. The D850 is my current flagship camera. I use it for my routine macro images. The backlit sensor delivers superb image quality.

Tripods/Heads

Unilock & Benbo covering three sizes; Uniqball 45X and Kirk BH1 Ball & Socket Heads; 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 to articulate accurately with the platform.  I also use the Uniqball for most of my routine work and a focusing rail for greater precision at higher magnifications.

Macro Lenses

Nikkor 85mm 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 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 beautiful 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 ideal in tight situations, where I have restricted room to manoeuvre or where I have to resort to a monopod or when handholding 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 isolate the subject from its background 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 14-24mm, 24-70mm, 24-120mm and 24mm Nikon PCE Shift Lens and Laowa 15mm 1:1 wideangle macro lens.

The 14-24mm is my most frequently used zoom lens for setting a subject in the context of its background. Also, with the 24-70mm for general landscape and routine photography. I also have a 24mm PCE Sift Lens; I often use this lens when I want to hold both the foreground and background in sharp focus. I occasionally use the Laowa 15mm 1:1 macro which is a great lens for environmental close-ups.

Flash

R1C1, SB29s and two 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 flashes on small subjects and at high magnifications; also 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 prefer this filter system in some situations to exposure blending. 

GPS Units

Nikon GP-1 and di-Geotagger Eco Professional 2 DC units; an essential piece of equipment for me in the field. All of my images have GPS information attached to the metadata; this is essential when working on subjects that are going to be archived by the National Museum in Ireland.

It adds relevant information to the image regarding its precise location, which turns your image into a valuable record. Geotagging has many useful advantages, especially for landscape, close-up photography, especially in the case of rare plants. 

Other Equipment

Extension Tubes

For increasing magnification and making telephoto lenses focus closer than their minimum focusing distance. 

Electronic Cable Release & Hahne IR Remote control units

Absolutely essential for reducing vibration during longer exposures. Cordless operation of the IR units is extremely handy. I don't use wired release units as much now.

Polarising Filter

For reducing or eliminating reflection on the foliage of plants.

Custom Design Twin Gooseneck Flash Brackets

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 Backup in the Field

 15in MacBook Pro

I have started to carry a laptop with me again so I can complete edits when away from base. I can download my cards and view the raw files on my high-quality retina screen which allows me to perform initial edits of my raw files while away from home. When complete, I can transfer the selected files to a portable drive for storage. This is especially useful when working abroad.