What's in the Bag?
By far the most common thing people ask when they hear you’re a photographer is “what camera do you use?” People outside the industry often put too much credit on the camera while people within the industry self-righteously put too little credit on the gear. I like to find a happy medium. While vision, creativity, composition and post processing are arguably the most important aspects of photography, the images technical aspects, such as noise performance, resolution, and dynamic range that can come from the latest and greatest cameras are also extremely important in modern photography.
So, here’s a rundown of the gear I use to get the shots I do and why I chose them/stick with them.
Camera Body That I Use
Until it was recently eclipsed by the Nikon D850, the D810 was the premier high resolution, durable workhorse camera in the photography industry. Although old by modern tech standards being released in 2014, this camera remains a great all-around performer and I bought it in 2016 for the following reasons.
Nikon name and reputation – yes I’m a Nikon shooter. I respect all the other camera brands and think they make great shots too, but my first camera was a Nikon D3200 and have since grown to love the brand
Huge Full Frame Sensor at 36.3 MP
Dynamic Range – Almost 15 stops of DR at the low base iso of 64 for incredible shadow and highlight detail
Acceptable ISO performance all the way up to 6400 (can go much higher but that is generally my personal limit)
Weather sealing – I’ve brought my camera to hell and back and have had confidence and trust in this beast every step of the way
Of course, there are other things I love about this camera, ergonomics, built in time-lapse, decent video functionality, etc etc etc, but as a landscape photographer first and foremost, these are the factors I find most important and the reasons I bought it. I would also like to note that I do a decent amount of portrait photography and this camera, when paired with a fast lens is also a dream to work with.
I’m always trying to get the most bang for my buck these days and why shouldn’t we? Camera gear is EXPENSIVE. That’s why I’m always looking toward Tamron and Sigma for lenses. Without any sacrifice to sharpness, speed, VR, or other performance, you can get equivalent lenses for WAYYY CHEAPER. So, let’s get on with it.
Primary Use Zoom Lens
Standard Zoom Range Lens – Sigma 24-105 F4 DG OS OSM
This is my most commonly used lens and the one that sits on my camera 90% of the time its in my bag. This lens takes the place of a standard kit lens but is much sharper than its variable aperture or other counterparts. On full frame, 24mm is often wide enough for the vast landscapes, and 105mm is moderately telephoto for tighter and more intimate landscapes. However, I have been leaning more on some overlap for two other lenses coming up next.
Telephoto – Tamron 70-200 F2.8 Di VC G2
Increasingly one of my favorite lenses. For portraits, this lens is on my camera over 90 percent of the time. The bokeh is unreal. The compression is beautiful. And the lens feels good in the hand, although it is by no means small or light. For landscapes, picking out details with a telephoto lens provides you with more creative options and really is quite nice.
Wide Angle – Tamron 15-30 F2.8 Di VC USD
The wide-angle lens is overrated in the landscape photography community. This lens, however, is certainly not overrated. While I do think that wide angle lenses and their usage in landscape photography are overrated, it’s definitely an essential piece of kit. The colors, sharpness, and contrast in this lens are superb. Not too heavy and fast enough for some quality astrophotography and milky way photography.
Standard Prime Lenses
Nikkor 50 and 85 F1.8G Lenses
Theses lenses I don’t use that much to be honest. The nifty 50 is a great walk around lens – super light, great for touristy type photography, and great for some kinds of portraiture. The 85 is a great portrait lens as well when I might want a little more speed than the 70-200. Overall, great autofocus, great speed, great sharpness, and even though I don’t break them out of the bag enough, great lenses.
Rokinon 24 F1.4 Aspherical Wide-Angle Lens
Why would I need this lens when I have the 24mm mark covered by two other lenses? One word – astrophotography. This lens is highly regarded as one of the world’s best astrophotography lenses. The wide aperture allows for much lower ISOs and this lens also handles coma (a problem that distorts stars at the edges and corners of the frame) exceptionally well. Also, a lens I don’t use a ton, but am glad I have it for the times I drag myself out of bed at 1am.
Tamron 90mm F2.8 Di VC USD 1:1 Macro
No kit would be complete with a solid macro lens and this lens doesn’t disappoint. For those of you that may not know, a true 1:1 macro lens is unique and important because they allow focusing close enough to be able to replicate the real-life size of something directly on to the imaging sensor for true visual reproduction. They’re a lot of fun to play around with and you can really capture some unique results.
Tripods that I Use
Primary Tripod – ProMediaGear TR344 RED
The new go-to workhorse. Tall, durable, relatively light weight. Everything you want from a tripod as a serious landscape photographer. While the lighter travel tripods are nice for, well, travelling, having the size, heft, and durability of a carbon fiber beast is invaluable. I do need a new ballhead though…
Secondary Tripod – Manfrotto 055 XPro 3
This thing is a beast. Certainly, a big and heavy tripod, but that usually means stable which is exactly what I look for in a tripod. It’s tough for long hikes (because it is large and not carbon fiber) but my camera has sat on this tripod for most of my shots.
Travel Tripod – Manfrotto Befree Advanced
This tripod is literally half the size. I brought this tripod out west with me on a recent trip and it makes plane trips, travelling, and hiking way more enjoyable. I highly recommend a travel tripod, and highly recommend this tripod.
Small Tripod for Phone Time-lapse – Manfrotto PIXI Mini
Don’t use it much but it’s nice to have when you want to make a quick time lapse on your phone while waiting for the light with your main camera.
Other Accessories at Need at Home and in the Field
I won’t go into too much detail here simply because, for landscape photography, speed isn’t imperative. The one thing I will stress is shooting redundant to two cards if that is something that your camera supports.
Remote Shutter Release
These are definitely getting less crucial as cameras can be operated more and more through Bluetooth, phone apps and other ways. But, a remote shutter for me is important to limit camera shake and being able to extend a shutter past 30 seconds for extra-long exposures.
Lens Cloths (and other cleaning accessories)
Enough said. You’ll need them. Make sure you have a lot.
Extra Batteries (and battery grip)
The extra batteries are imperative. The battery grip is not. It is however, a nice luxury that makes shooting portraits easier and can increase your range while shooting time lapses.
Notebook, pens, and pencils
I love taking notes while shooting! I like to remind myself of things to do in the future, problems I ran into, or places to come back to.
Shower cap (seriously)
One of the cheapest and easiest ways to keep your camera dry in the rain (or under a waterfall).
A dedicated photography bag is a great way to keep your gear organized. I have two different setups for bags that I use. For shorter hikes, I use a basic bag where I bring all of my gear with me. This is the setup I will use on location for portraits too.
For longer hikes, I recently started a new system to make hiking lighter, more comfortable, and overall easier. I use an Osprey hiking backpack with a dedicated insert to be able to store and protect my gear. I usually do not bring all my gear (nor could I fit it in this insert).
I have recently invested in a Formatt Hitech filter system and have not been dissapointed. While I do not use the system all the time, having a 4 stop, 10 stop, and 3 stop soft edge grad filters have been invaluable in shooting situations. From ultra long exposures, to water softening, or handling bright skies, these filters have saved me on multiple occasions.
Computing and Software
Before concluding, I want to note the importance of one other piece of kit. Computers, software, and peripherals. For the sake of keeping this page shorter, I will be coming out with another article/page soon outlining my current computing/editing setup.
Photography gear can seem confusing and stressful, but it doesn’t have to be! And just because this is the way I shoot as a landscape photographer who dabbles in portraits, doesn’t mean this setup in its entirety is best for you. If you need help choosing which gear is right for you, I’d be glad to offer you my opinion (for any brand or ay style of shooting). Feel free to reach out!