Gear Overview

Canon 7D at the beach

Unfortunately for my bank account, camera gear can get expensive quickly.  Like most people I want to get the best gear for the money, and often this means matching your shooting style to the right equipment.  Here is a brief list of what I use (I’m sure i’ve missed some things) and why.


Canon 7D (New) –  I just picked this camera up before my trip Maine.  I got the 7D as a backup and companion to the 5D mark II.  Hopefully I’ll have a chance to give it more of a test later since most of Maine was spent shooting landscapes.  So far I am very impressed with the auto-focus and the noise (while more than the 5d) seems very film like.  Here is a quick one from a recent evening at the beach.


Canon 5D Mark II –  This is my main camera.  It offers an amazing image quality and size in a compact package.  While not the fastest focusing or most rugged camera, it fits my slower shooting style perfectly.  The newly designed LCD screen makes framing and checking the focus on a shot easy, it has remarkably low noise and does a good job with long exposures.  The weather sealing seems better (I’ve used it on top of a blowing sand dune and in the rain with no ill effects), and finally the video feature offers another unique way to capture natural moments that wouldnt translate well as a static image.

Canon 5D–  This is the backup camera, and still makes amazing photos.  A used one is probably the best deal for landscape photographs.


Canon 17-40 L- This lens is compact, takes a 77mm filter, and covers a nice focal range for landscapes.  I use this lens often, especially since I shoot mostly stopped down to f11-f16, where this lens seems very sharp.

Canon 24-70 L-
If I only had one lens this would probably be it.  It covers a nice range, has a large constant aperture, focuses relatively close, has weather sealing, and is very sharp across most of its zoom range.  Of course I’d jump on a new version with image stabilization if it ever came out.

Canon 70-200 2.8 IS L-
Very useful for larger wildlife, I also use this lens when shooting landscapes and want to isolate part of a scene.

Canon 100-400 L-
While not the fastest telephoto lens, the 100-400 I have is amazingly sharp, compact, and covers a nice range.  This along with the 17-40 and 24-70 almost never leave my bag, since they cover a huge focal range without breaking my back.

Canon 100 macro-
Razor sharp and has more uses than the mp-e 65mm macro.

Canon MP-E 65mm macro-
Very specialized lens, but if you want to shoot at 5x life size this is the easiest way and gives unique images.

Extension tubes-
I always carry a few extension tubes.  They take little room and are a quick and cheap way to make any lens focus closer.

1.4x teleconverter-
Also compact, and a good way to get a little more reach.  The 1.4x I feel doesn’t cause as much image degradation as the 2x, and is best used slightly stopped down.

I also have a selection of fast primes and tilt shift lens that see less work, but are invaluable for certain situations.


I own a lot of camera bags and they are probably one of the most important things I carry, a bad bag might hurt my back so much that I miss a shot or dont even take the camera out.  So here is what works for me.

Photo Trekker AW II– This is a big bag that hold most of my gear when traveling on a plane or stored at home, it is also comfortable for hiking.

Lowepro Stealth Reporter D400 AW–  This is my main bag for short hikes and daily shooting.  It’s a shoulder bag which is important for me since often I will be in sandy or wet locations where I cant put down a backpack.  The bag is also large enough for several lenses, filter, flash, etc.. and carries comfortably.  Also the Stealth Reporter has a waterproof cover that tucks away and a zippered top flap for when I want to get to something without opening the bag.

Lowepro Slingshot 300 AW–  Another bag that I usually carry, this isn’t as convenient to get into as the Stealth Reporter so usually I’ll carry both bags criss-crossed over my shoulders, with the slingshot holding less used (but still vital) lenses and gear.

Lowepro Street and Field Belt System–  Not used as much but the best option for distributing the weight of lenses etc.. when hiking long distances.  Also makes things easy to get to for quick lens changes.


With digital cameras I don’t use ND graduated filters as much as I use to.  Usually it is much easier to blend several exposures.  However there are a few filters I do still use.

B+W UV and Circular Polarizers – I think B+W makes some of the best filters, they dont bind and the glass doesnt loosen like cheaper brands.  I only own multi-coated filters since they cut down on glare and reflections.  I also only buy slim mount polarized filters to prevent vignetting at wide angles.

Hoya ND x400This unique filter drops the exposure by 9 stops and lets me take interesting daytime long exposures.


Gitzo GT3530LSV tripod–  I really like the new Gitzos.  The anti-rotating legs and light carbon fiber makes these tripods easy to use and setup.  I picked this model since it’s tall enough to get the camera to eye level without a center column, and is very stable.

Markin M20 Ballhead–  Very smooth and strong ballhead that needs little maintenance.  One nice thing is how little creep there is after tightening down.

Really Right Stuff Brackets–  All my cameras and lenses have quick release mounts from Really right stuff.  They are amazingly well machined and the L-mounts make rearranging from horizontal to vertical quick and painless.


These are tools and items that are often overlooked but which I find invaluable.

Canon TC-80N3- A must for any nature photographer.  This relatively expensive remote release has alot of functions that make time lapse and night shooting a breeze.

Canon 580 EX II- This flash is more weathersealed than earlier versions, has a nice quick attachment foot, is very powerful, and easy to use.  I mostly use it for fill-flash or with macro photography.

Gaffer’s Tape– Great all purpose item that wont leave a residue.  I use it for attaching cokin filters, sealing camera joints, holding things out of the way, etc…  Usually I will keep a length of tape wrapped around my tripod leg so I’m never without it.

Camera Rain Cover–  There are several companies that make these, and they really work.  I like the one that has drawstrings and opens from the bottom so I can clamp the cover down tight and shoot even during a heavy rain (which i did for a week in Yosemite with no camera problems).

Wimberley Macro Bracket- This bracket has several joints and is usefull for holding a flash off camera when doing macro work.  I also use this with a home made clamp so that the bracket can hold a small translucent reflector.  When done right this combination yields a nice soft light.

Collapsable Reflector
– Wont take much room but is invaluable for getting light into dark places or softening direct sunlight.

A must for planning sunset and sunrise photography

Hand held GPS
–  Used often to find and record hard to find locations.  Also gives moon phases and tide table for night and coastal photography.

I was afraid the first time I used it, but does a great job cleaning filters (even multicoated).

Leatherman Multi Tool
–  Has a million uses from tightening a tripod leg to pulling a fish hook from a finger.

Extra Batteries and Memory Cards
I always carry extra Hybrid rechargeable batteres for the flashes (hold a charge longer than regular rechargeables), and extra 16 gig cards.  I also carry two extra camera batteries.

Sun and Bug Screen
A must for most locations

There are probably another dozen things I forgot, but I find all these tools useful and some a necessity in the right circumstances.


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