As most photographers will tell you, a camera does nothing more than control the amount of light that reaches the sensor (film or digital), and it's the photographer that determines what the camera sees. That said, the specific camera, or camera system, dictates how much of the photographer's vision can be recorded. I currently use a Canon DSLR system for most of my photography and a Sony mirrorless system for the rest.
- Canon EOS 1D X Mark II
This is an excellent all-around body for shooting wildlife and landscapes. The 20 mega-pixel full-frame sensor captures great image data with very little noise up to ISO 3200, and its ability to capture 14 frames per second with a large buffer (about 55 RAW files with a CF card and about 170 RAW files with a CFast card) makes it very nice for capturing action. The new AF system is fantastic because all focus points are active with an f8 lens (like a 600 f4 with 2x extender) and the Automatic selection AF (all 61 points) has better subject discernment and tracking than previous bodies.
- Sony α6300
This is a nice compact body for shooting landscapes. The 24.2 mega-pixel APS-C (1.5x crop factor) sensor captures good image data, and I mainly use it while kayaking.
- Canon EF 24-70mm f2.8L II USM
This mid-range zoom lens replaced my Canon EF 24-105mm f4 L IS USM after it had been stolen. The 24-70 is slightly sharper than the 24-105, especially in the corners.
- Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS II USM
A sharp lens that is a great mid-range zoom to compliment the 600 for wildlife photography.
- Canon EF 180mm f3.5 L Macro USM
A nice, yet large, macro lens.
- Canon EF 600mm f4 L IS II USM
My big glass. It performs well with the 1.4x III and 2x III extenders. It replaced my EF 500mm f4 L IS USM (Mk I) that I had had for years.
- Canon TS-E 17mm f4 L
The ultra-wide-angle tilt/shift lens is great for landscapes where a wide field of view is desired. The shift capability is useful for shooting up or down where the usual convergence effect isn't wanted. The image quality is spectacular from corner to corner.
- Canon TS-E 24mm f3.5 L II
The wide-angle tilt/shift lens is great for landscapes with large "depth-of-field" requirements. The shift capability is useful for shooting up or down where the usual convergence effect isn't wanted.
- Canon TS-E 90mm f2.8
The short-telephoto tilt/shift lens is great for close-ups with large "depth-of-field" requirements.
- Sony Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70 mm F4 ZA OSS
This mid-range zoom is equivalent to a 24-105mm zoom with a full-frame sensor.
Extenders and Extension Tubes
- Canon EF 1.4x III
I use this 1.4x tele-extender on the 24 TS, 90 TS, and 600 f4 IS II.
- Canon EF 2x III
I use this 2x tele-extender on the 600 f4 IS II.
- Kenko DG Teleplus Extension Tube Set
This set of three extension tubes (12mm, 20mm, and 36mm) help me focus closer, and are mainly used with the 180 Macro, 90 TS, and 600 f4 IS II.
Filters – Screw-On
- Basic filters for my lenses except the 17 TS and 600 f4 IS II.
- Circular Polarizer
B+W XS-Pro HTC MRC Nano Coating screw-on filters in sizes to fit most of my lenses. I use a step-up ring to mount a polarizer on the 90 TS lens.
Filters – 4-inch
- Mostly neutral density filters for my lenses except the 600 f4 IS II.
- Neutral Density
These filters fit in the Lee Foundation Kit holder and are used to lengthen the exposure time, usually to enhance water blur and sometimes even cloud blur.
- Lee Filters 4x4" (100x100mm) 3-stop ProGlass filter controls unwanted IR and has a truely neutral color.
- Lee Filters 4x4" (100x100mm) 6-stop Little Stopper for even longer exposures. It has a foam gasket around the edge to keep light away from the back of the filter.
- Lee Filters 4x4" (100x100mm) 10-stop Big Stopper for extremely long exposures. It's good for turning waves into a smooth, cottony surface. It has a foam gasket around the edge to keep light away from the back of the filter.
- Graduated Neutral Density
Lee Filters 4x6" (100x150mm) graduated neutral density filters: 1-, 2-, and 3-stop filters with a soft transition and a 2-stop filter with a hard transition. Used to balance the exposure between a hot sky and a dark foreground. When the image is right (a more or less straight line between the two parts of the image), it's faster to use a split neutral density filter in the field than to create a high-dynamic-range image in postprocessing.
- Reverse Graduated Neutral Density
Singh-Ray Cokin Z-Pro Sprocket Mount LB Warming Polarizer. It's much more convenient to be able to access the polarizer in the Lee Foundation Kit instead of between the lens and the wide-angle adapters for the Foundation Kit.
- Filter Holder
The Lee Filters Foundation Kit is a great filter holder for 4-inch (100mm) filters. While it's possible to hold a rectangular filter in front of the lens, it's easier to let the filter holder do it for a long exposure or when more than one filter is being used. I have 77mm and 82mm adaptors for wide-angle lenses which puts the first filter in the holder really close to the front element of the lens, and I have a 58mm regular adaptor for the 90 TS.
Filters – 6-inch
- Mostly neutral density filters for my TS-E 17.
- Neutral Density
- Graduated Neutral Density
Lee Filters 6x7" (150x170mm) graduated neutral density filter 2-stop with a hard transition and Singh-Ray 6x9" (150x230mm) 2-stop filter with a soft transition. Used to balance the exposure between a hot sky and a dark foreground. When the image is right (a more or less straight line between the two parts of the image), it's faster to use a split neutral density filter in the field than to create a high-dynamic-range image in postprocessing.
- Reverse Graduated Neutral Density
- Filter Holder
The Lee Filters SW150 Mk II Filter Holder is a great filter holder for 6-inch (150mm) filters for lenses with a bulbous front element. The light shield on the Mk II verion realy works compared to the simple and not very effective shield on the Mk I version.
The Fotodiox WonderPana Absolute Core for TS-E 17 includes a great adaptor to mount the SW150 Mk II to a Canon TS-E 17mm f4 L lens, but it also includes unnecessary adaptors for 130mm- and 145mm-ring filter holders.
Flash – Dedicated
- Canon Speedlite 550EX
A reliable flash that I usually use as a slave in a two-flash setup.
- Canon Speedlite 580EX II
A very nice flash that has a fair amount of weatherproofing. The new single-button release for the tilt and swing makes the flash a joy to use.
- Canon OC-E3 Off-Camera Shoe Cord 3
An "extension cord" for the flash.
- Quantum Turbo 2x2
This external battery pack is great for powering a flash, or two, for a quick recycle time. I have two CZ cables for it so I can power both of my Canon flashes at the same time. The TURBO 3 is a similar model that is currently available.
- Sto-Fen Omni-Bounce Flash Diffuser
I have an omni-bounce flash diffuser for each Canon flash to help soften the light.
- Wimberley F-1 Telephoto Flash Bracket
The F-1 telephoto kit (M-1, M-2, and M-3 modules) holds the flash above the 600 f4 IS II, and the M-6 Extension Post added to it holds it even higher to get the light further off-axis. The M-1 with the kit, supplemented with another M-1, makes a great beanbag support. (As of mid 2013, it was cheaper to buy two M-1s seperately, than their special kit with two M-1s — go figure.)
- Wimberley F-2 Macro Flash Bracket
The F-2 macro kit (M-1 and M-4 modules) is a very flexible support for macro photography. If you already own an M-1 bracket as part of their F-1 kit (see above), you can purchase just the M-4 module to complete the setup. Use two F-2 macro kits to hold two flashes for better lighting.
Flash – Strobist
- Sunpak Auto 383 Super
I use nine of these (discontinued) basic hot-shoe flashes when I photograph hummingbirds with a fully-manual flash setup. They are cheap (on eBay), and provide manual flash output control down to 1/16 power to provide a short-duration flash to stop action.
- Yongnuo PT-04TM Wireless Flash Trigger
One transmitter mounted on the camera hot shoe triggers nine receivers, each connected to a single flash. These are a very cheap way to wirelessly trigger a set of flashes in manual mode. Several sellers on eBay provide various sets of transmitters and receivers or just receivers. The receivers have a built-in flash shoe, but they're not very well built, so instead I use small ball heads to mount the flashes and short PC cords from the receivers to trigger the flashes.
- Light Stands
Two (discontinued) Bogen 3372 7-foot and two (discontinued) Impact 2205 6-foot light stands support my flashes and background.
- Canon Timer Remote Controller TC-80N3
An electronic cable release with various timer functions, including the ability to set an exposure for more than 30 seconds — no more checking my watch for long exposures.
- Shoot RC-300 RS-80N3 Wireless Remote
A wireless cable release that's great for wildflower photography because you don't have to worry about a long cord or switch housing dangling in the wet foliage.
- Canon Angle Finder C
The right-angle finder extension is great for low-level shots.
- Hoodman HoodLoupe 3.0
This little device shields the rear LCD to let you view it in any lighting condition.
Packs and Cases
- f-stop Medium Slope ICU
This Internal Camera Unit (ICU) carries a reduced set of photography gear when I want to travel lighter and carry more non-photography gear.
- f-stop Large Pro ICU
This Internal Camera Unit (ICU) carries my standard gear: 1D X Mk II, 17 TS, 24 TS II, 24-70 II, 90 TS, and 100-400 IS II.
- f-stop Satori EXP
This is a fantastic photo backpack! It is lighter and much more comfortable than the LowePro Pro Trekker that it replaced. With the Large ICU, there's plenty of room for water bottles, snacks, and extra clothes.
- Kinesis A257 Body Pouch
A body pouch (duh!) for the Kinesis system. Useful for carrying a second body or a pair of binoculars.
- Kinesis L321 PolyCore™ Long Lens Case 300
A very rigid long-lens case that can hold the 100-400 IS II (with hood in place) and body attached.
- Kinesis L522 PolyCore™ Long Lens Case 500
A very rigid long-lens case that can hold the 600 f4 IS II (with hood reversed) and body attached. It's also useful as a "holster" for the 600 f4 IS II (with hood in place) while shooting out of a vehicle.
- LensCoat 4Xpandable Long Lens Case
A decent long-lens case that breaks down flat for shipping. It can hold the 600 f4 IS II (with hood reversed) and body attached in its short configuration and the 600 f4 IS II (with hood in the shooting position) and body attached in the extended configuration. It's not very useful as a "holster" while shooting out of a vehicle because it doesn't have enough rigidity to keep the body from flopping against the window.
- Lowepro Photo Trekker Classic
I use this backpack for airline travel, and it usually carries my wildlife gear: 1D X Mk II, 24-70 II, 100-400 IS II, and 600 f4 IS II.
- Pelican 1470 Case
This is a great case for protecting a 15-in laptop. It's waterproof, so it'll also keep out dust, and unbreakable, so you can put it in a luggage duffel and not have to worry about it receiving rough treatment.
- Gitzo GT3542XLS Tripod
This medium-duty tripod usually has my ball head attached to it. It is a 6x carbon-fiber model with four-segment legs that extend long enough (78.94 in or 200 cm) for most shots on uneven ground, and without a center post, it can get down to ground level. It folds down to 28.39 in (72 cm) and weighs 4.89 lb (2.22 kg). The 6x legs prevent the legs from rotating and make the locks extremely easy to operate.
- Gitzo GT5562GTS Tripod
This heavy-duty tripod usually has my Wimberley Head attached to it. It is a 6x carbon-fiber model with six-segment legs that extend long enough (109 in or 277 cm) for most shots on really uneven ground, and without a center post, it can get down to ground level. It folds down to 29.5 in (75 cm) and weighs 7.9 lb (3.6 kg). The 6x legs prevent the legs from rotating and make the locks extremely easy to operate.
- Kinesis SafariSack I
A great bean bag for shooting out of the top of a vehicle or from other generally flat surfaces. The SafariSack 4.2 is a similar, in-production, bean bag that also comes in khaki so it'll stay cooler on safari.
- Kirk L-bracket for Canon 1D X Mk II
An L-bracket lets my camera body be mounted on a tripod head in a natural position instead of hanging off the side of the tripod head. Once you use one, you'll wonder why you haven't been using one before.
- Really Right Stuff BH-55 Pro Ballhead
This is a nice ballhead that replaced my Arca-Swiss B-1 ballhead. The BH-55 looks a lot better than the B-1, but the B-1 performed better for me before old age got the better of it. The "Pro" model of the BH-55 has a screw knob to secure the camera clamp.
- Really Right Stuff LCF-53 Replacement Foot for 400/500/600mm IS-II
This replacement tripod foot has an integral Arca-Swiss dovetail thus reducing weight and height compared to using a seperate Arca-Swiss place on the stock foot. The LCF-53 extends far enough towards the body to provide proper balance for the 600 f4 IS II on a Wimberley Head with a 2x III and 1D X attached.
- Really Right Stuff LCF-54 Replacement Foot for 100-400mm IS-II
This replacement tripod foot has an integral Arca-Swiss dovetail thus reducing weight and height compared to using a seperate Arca-Swiss place on the stock foot.
- Vertex Photographic V2 Molar Bean Bag
A great window support that packs into a smaller space and weighs less than a metal window support. Well, that's when it's empty. When it's filled, it weighs a ton because it holds about as many beans as three normal bean bags.
- Wimberley M-1 Quick-Release Arm
Two M-1 modules make a great beanbag support. (As of late 2015, it was cheaper to buy two M-1s seperately, than their special kit with two M-1s — go figure.)
- Wimberley WH-200 Wimberley Head Version II
A great mount for the 600 f4 IS II. When it's adjusted properly, the lens practically floats in space and then stays where you point it even hands off so you concentrate on framing the subject instead of thinking about operating a tripod head.
- Gepe Card Safe Extreme
This is a great case for storing four (4) CF or CFast cards — it's even waterproof.
- Lexar 64 GB Professional 3500x CFast 2.0 card
This is a 525 MB/sec read and 445 MB/sec write speed CFast card. The speeds are an incredible step up from CF cards that have 160 MB/s read speeds.
Digital Darkroom – Hardware
- Apple 15-in MacBook Pro Retina (Late 2013, 2.6 GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7)
A fast, compact, and light platform for running Capture One and Photoshop, especially when outfitted with the maximum 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD.
- Eizo ColorEdge CG246
This 24" wide-screen LCD display is my main display. It has coupled hardware- and software-based color calibration to provide a wide gamut of accurate colors, and displays 1920x1200 pixels. It provides plenty of real estate for editing images because I use the MacBook Pro to display Photoshop palettes.
- Epson Stylus Photo R2880
The R2880 is a great printer that has archival-quality UltraChrome K3 with Vivid Magenta inks for the highest-quality color and black-and-white prints. It handles paper up to 13 in wide, and I use it for all of my photo printing. It replaced the Epson Stylus Photo 2200 and Epson Stylus Pro 4800 that I used to use.
- Wacom Intuos 4 Graphics Tablet
The medium tablet provides a nice interface for precise and natural drawing while processing images in Photoshop. With my two-monitor setup, it took some time to train my brain because more screen width is mapped onto the tablet than screen height, such that a 45-degree motion on the tablet creates about a 30-degree motion on the screen, but I can no longer imagine doing serious image processing without it.
- X-Rite i1Display Pro
This colorimiter, and the included i1Profiler software, is a convenient and quick way to calibrate displays and digital projectors.
Digital Darkroom – Software
- Adobe Photoshop
Is there an alternative? The noise reduction capabilities in Camera RAW are good enough that I have stopped using Noise Ninja.
- Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
I use this to process 32-bit images to create realistic HDR images.
- NIK Silver Efex Pro
This is a fantastic plugin for Photoshop (or Lightroom) for creating black-and-white images.
- Phase One Capture One Pro
This RAW conversion tool lets you zoom-in to the pixel level to examine focus and sharpness before processing the image and I prefer the color rendition over Adobe Camera Raw.
- Phase One Media Pro
I use this image management tool mainly to perform a fast initial edit of images, mostly for wildlife where lots of images are captured. It's a very quick way to go through RAW images (it operates on the embedded JPEG) to throw out images that are definitely not sharp or that are framed poorly (like a cut off wing tip). It's much faster than using Capture One, which operates directly on RAW images (not the embedded JPEG). I use Capture One for the final editing because it's possible to view the RAW image (not the embedded JPEG) at 100% to check sharpness.