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What’s inside my bag? A complete list of the Gear Jeff uses.

Here are a few of my personal “rules” that I have subscribed to for years:

  • Don’t use front lens caps ! – They are useless to me. Spend too much time trying to find them, no need for them. The lens really does not need that much protection.
  • Don’t use a UV “protective” filter. It’s just one more degrading optic in front of the lens.  I’ve spent too much time unscrewing them when I want to use other filters or holders.  And then can’t find the filter when I want it.  The front element of the lens really does not need that much protection.  In my 35+ years as a professional, I’ve had dozens of lenses they treated like tools–poorly. In all tha time only one front element had to be replaced because it was scratched too much.
  • Wear a photo vest – When the action is happening, I want to be behind the camera not looking for where I left my pack or bag for what is needed. In my vest I have all my filters, extra lenses, remote release, lens cloth, extra batteries and more. I can shoot faster and better if all my equipment is on my body. See below under “packs, bags, vests” for my photo vest of choice.

Canon Cameras & Lenses Jeff Uses and Recommends

Bodies

Canon 1D X Mark II — This camera is a real brute by weight, but to me it’s worth it. Full-frame sensor, up to 16 frames-per-second, fast image capture recording and has great high-ISO resolution. The battery last forever in sub-zero weather. I use this for fast-moving wildlife and especially winter outdoor adventure…it’s my go-to camera for the Iditarod.

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Canon 5D Mark IV – This 30 megapixel camera is the main one I use for nearly everything. This body combined with the 24-105mm f/4 lens is my go-to setup. Full-frame sensor, up to 7 frames-per-second, fast image capture recording and has great high-ISO resolution. I especially like having the built-in intervalometer—wish Canon would put that in all pro cameras. The battery last a very long time, provided it’s a Canon brand. I use this body for nearly everything, especially landscapes.

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Lenses

A camera body is just a box that has a lot of functionality to it…and an appropriately good or bad sensor. But a good body with poor quality glass in front of it is kinda worthless. So having good glass on a good body is paramount to me. I’m looking for the sharpest image I can make. When reviewing lenses or cameras to purchase, look to the great people at DxOMark — DxOMark is an independent benchmark that scientifically assesses image quality of smartphones, lenses and cameras. Being an independent, I believe this company above any others when it comes to image quality.

Canon 24-105mm f/4L II IS USM Lens: This is my go-to lens if I had only one lens to take on assignment or vacation. Be sure to get the version II as it’s MUCH sharper than the first. While it’s slower at f/4 than the 24-70mm f/2.8 the extra 35mm’s of telephoto (from 70-105mm) is worth it to me. The IS (image stabilization is great) and it focuses very close as well. Combine this lens with a small and light-weight extension tube (see below) and you can get crazy macro stuff.

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Sigma 14mm F1.8 DG HSM Art lens: As of 12/2018 this is the first and only full-frame f/1.8 ultra-wide-angle lens. I use it almost exclusivley for night-sky photography – the Aurora and stars. It’s a very heavy (1,120g / 39.5oz.—2.5 lbs) and very big lens. But it’s sharp as a tack.

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Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L iii I have had a lot of wide-angle zooms over the years. This one is very sharp to me. I use it in a lot of my landscape photography and at f/ 2.8 it’s also my go-to lens for night-sky photography and low-light on the Iditarod. This lens is a bit big and heavy, but if I’m not packing it too far, I’m good with it. It’s also quite pricey. So if price and/or size/weight is an issue go for the 17-40mm below.

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Canon 17-40mm f/4L Until the 16-35mm f/2.8 came out this was my main wide-angle lens. It’s quite sharp and very small and lightweight. A lot less expensive than the after one above. I kept this lens and now use it mainly when I go for long hikes and can’t handle the weight of the other.

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Tripod Legs & Heads Jeff Uses and Recommends

I always buy separate legs from the head. I believe most serious photographers do the same. Not many tripods are matched well with the right head, and it depends on your style and subjects for just what is the best for you. Some photographers like to have legs that do not have center columns arguing that extending the center column increases the instability of the legs. I concur, that can make it less stable. But I very much like the center column as it allows me to fine-tune the height adjustment and with some tripods allows me to get lower to the ground. See below for specifics.

Car Tripod 1: I use this tripod when I’m shooting from near my car and knowing that I will likely be using it while standing up or somewhat low to the ground, but not incredibly low. I like to have the ability to set up fast and these legs set up and are clamped down really fast. I don’t like it only because after a while I must tighten the leg clamps with a tool when they loosen up.

Jeff’s Library of Photography Recommended Photography Books

INSPIRATIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY:

It’s not about the F-stop By Jay Maisel.

From Jeff says: I believe a stunning image is a stunning image. Most times it’s more about the light and most especially about the composition that about technique. Surely one needs to use the science of photography (shutter speed, ISO and indeed the F-stop) in order to make proper images BUT it’s not all about that.

New York photographer Jay Maisel has been hailed as one of the most brilliant and gifted photographers of all time. Here, in It’s Not About the F-Stop, Jay takes you beyond the buttons and dials on your camera to teach you how to “see” like a photographer, and how to capture the world around you in a way that delights, intrigues, and challenges the viewer.

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TECHNIQUE:

Dusk to Dawn—A Guide to Landscape Photography at Night — by Glenn Randall e-book and paper edition.

Jeff says: I had the pleasure of attending a landscape photo workshop by Glenn Randall at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops in 2018. I chose this because of Glenn’s methodical understanding and use of the “Science” of photography to make the best images. In particular is his diligent use of scouting locations and the tools used to predict the best time for light and sun throughout the year in any given place. Glenn does a fantastic job explaining the science behind the optics and camera functions as it relates to night sky. And he also does a very good job explaining how to forecast when the stars will align with foreground subjects you want to shoot. I think it’s a VERY well done book and highly recommend it if you already do or want to learn night sky photography.

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The Art, Science, and Craft of Great Landscape Photography by Glenn Randall e-book and paper edition.

Jeff says: I had the pleasure of attending a landscape photo workshop by Glenn Randall at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops in 2018. I chose this because of Glenn’s methodical understanding and use of the “Science” of photography to make the best landscape images. Glenn does a fantastic job explaining both the art and the science behind making good landscape photography.

Amazon

How to Photograph the Northern Lights – e-book. By Patrick Endres

Jeff says: I’ve known Patrick for decades. He’s a great, talented photographer and quite meticulous. His book here is a perfect read for anyone who is wanting to understand the best way to photograph the Aurora. As Patrick says on his site it is: “…a wonderfully illustrated, comprehensive tutorial that will equip you with all of the necessary information so you can successfully capture your own photos of the northern lights.”

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Online instruction

Software