(Disclaimer: This article is now longer valid for what gear I use or how I use or set it up. For the most current setup I use, please check the About section)
For those of you who wonder what gear I use to capture my pictures, here comes a little description.
For the most part I use a Nikon D200 with a MB-D200. In the camera I have set up for 4 different shooting profiles and 4 colour profiles. The 4 shooting-profiles are set up for what type of shooting I do.
1. Landscape (my main profile)
In the 4 colour profiles I have set them up with different Nikon Camera D2X and the monochromatic profile.
1. Standar is Camera D2X type II
2. Landscape is Camera D2X type III
3. Portrait is Camera D2X type I
4. Monochromatic is the Black and White profile.
These profiles I only use for LCD-feedback on the back of the camera since I import all my images flatted out in regards to contrast, black-point, curve and other predetermined settings that ACR/Lightroom imposes on the raw-files upon opening/import. The reason I flat out my images upon import is that I like the control I get when I post-process my images. The only pre-process in camera I do to my images is to apply neutral density filters, polarizer and U/V or sometimes a skylight filter. I also sometimes adjust the white-balance setting just to get a visual pointer to where the images will end up later.
I don’t have a specific setting regarding the auto-focus. This will be set to what suits the shooting-situation. Mainly I use manual focus for my landscapes. I tend to use an aperture of between f/11 and f/16 as my main setting. Smaller aperture I only use to get the desired shutter speed when needed. Since I use a DX/APS-C format sensor I don’t need to stop down my lens as much to obtain a greater depth of field. The smaller sensor and ultra wide-angle lens settings (17-24mm) lets me obtain larger hyper focus than a similar full format equivalent.
For metering I switch between all three built in modes. I mainly rely on either matrix or centre-weighted metering for landscapes, and almost solely on spot metering for concert photography. In landscapes I use the spot-metering when I need to determine what strength of ND-grad I need to use to obtain correct exposure. Also to check if the shadows fall into the right place in relation to a personal simplified version of Ansel Adams’ The Zone System for digital capture (composed of various sources from the net and also from photographer Michael Frye.
I’ve also set my metering differently than the default settings from Nikon. Here are my settings:
My Center-weighted setting is set to ø13mm.
I also mainly use Center-weighted when I have filters attached as recommended in the user-manual to the camera.
My go-to automatic shooting mode is Aperture-priority for landscapes, portrait and general photography, but I often switch to Manual-mode so my the effect of the filter is correctly captured. When it comes to concert photography I use mainly Manual-mode, but start in Aperture-priority to obtain my rough-settings before I start.
Regarding ISO, for the most part I set it at ISO 100 for landscapes. The slow shutter-speeds aren’t any problem since I for the most part have my camera mounted on a tripod. For portraits I tend to switch between ISO 100 and 400 depending on if I’m handhold or not.
To operate the auto focus I use the AF-ON button on the back of both the camera body and the battery grip.
For back-up I use a Nikon D70. Even though this is an oldie when it comes to D-SLR, I’m still amazed at the quality of the files it produces.
I use Tamron SP zoom-lenses as my primary go-to lenses. For general work I use the Tamron SP 17-50 mm f2.8. It’s not the fastest lens when it comes to auto-focus, and at its widest setting tends to have a slight barrel-distortion. But for me it’s not a problem as I crop most of my images in post-process to 4×5 format. This lens also spots a AF/M switch on the barrel of the lens making it quick to switch between the two modes without fiddling with the switch on the camera body.
Another feature I like with the Tamron lens is its close-focus and filter diameter. The lens has a minimum focus-distance of 27 cm (0.89 feet) throughout the focal range which makes it easy to use for close-up photography. Yes, I know a dedicated macro-lens would have better control of both depth-of-field and sharpness, but since the majority of my pictures are not true macro I don’t find the need for that type of lens.
The other feature I mentioned was the filter diameter, and for me personally, makes a difference when it comes to buying filters such as U/V and polarizers. Mainly because I am on a budget.
The downside with this lens besides the mentioned distortion, is that it tends to vignette easily with screw-in filters that have a standard filter ring. So I’m forced to use slim filter ring filters and these increase in price compared to standard ones. So for me on a budget, this is a plus. A 67mm filter costs less than a 77mm version of the same filter.
I’ve tried a Sigma 18-50mm f2.8. It was an ok lens. Small and light-weight, but I didn’t feel quite comfortable with the lens. It had a larger filter diameter (72mm compared to 67mm on the Tamron), and despite the fact that the lens I tried broke within 2 weeks of use (bought second-hand), I personally like the Tamron better.
My other go-to lens is my Tamron SP 28-75mm f2.8. This is the lens I use for portraits and small club concerts. It’s a bit sharper than the 17-50mm, but lacks the wide option. As I mentioned earlier, I use a camera with a cropped sensor, and for portrait the 75mm setting is just the ticker as this “function” is 105mm on a full frame sensor.
When it comes to quality, this lens is spot on for its price range. It is also quite light-weight, so it does not weigh down my camera bag.
I also have a Nikon AF 50mm f1.8 D in my camera bag, and this is a lens I either use for portraits in lowlight, concert photography or close-up photography when I need more control and sharpness. This lens is top notch, no more to say.
When it comes to filters I use both square/rectangular filters and screw-in types. The screw-in types I use are U/V or Skylight filters to protect the glass of my lenses, and circular polarizers. The main brand of filters I use is Kenko (same as Hoya, but under a different name and lower price). The polarizer is ok and neutral compared to let say Cokin, which I mainly used earlier.
In the square/rectangular section of the filters I use a variety of neutral density filters. I use both 100 mm and 85mm Formatt Hitech with Hitech 100mm filter holder with 3 slots. The filter holder I use for the standard neutral density filters in a range from 0.3 to 1.2, often combined with a circular polarizer to gain an extra 2 stops from the polarizer, making the range of decreased stops to a maximum of 6 stops. Besides the 100mm I use a set of 85mm ND-grad filters. I hold these in front of the lens with my fingers (tips picked up from Art Wolfe and Moose Peterson) rather than using a filter holder. I use this setup for speed when I don’t want to bring along my camera backpack for just some quick shots along the road.
For more on my thoughts on filters check the earlier post. “Click here”
My set of square filter roster contain these:
Formatt Hitech 100 mm:
– ND Standar 0.3
– ND Standar 0.6
– ND Standar 0.9
– ND Standar 1.2
– ND Grad Soft edge 0.3
– ND Grad Soft edge 0.6
– ND Grad Soft edge 0.9
These will be expanded with these filters:
ND Grad Hard edge 0.3
ND Grad Hard edge 0.6
ND Grad Hard edge 0.9
ND Grad Soft edge 0.6 Reverse grad
ND Grad Soft edge 0.9 Reverse grad
Pro-stopper 8 stops
Formatt Hitech 85mm
ND Grad Soft edge 0.3
ND Grad Soft edge 0.6
ND Grad Soft edge 0.9
Yes I know that tripods are not an accessory, but to make this post a bit shorter, I put both tripods and camera bags here.
Yes, the largest accessory I use is the tripod. My main tripod is Giottos MTL-9251 B with a Redged RNB-1 ballhead. The tripod is light and quick to setup. It also has a built-in bubble-level on the base for making stitch panoramas easier (yet it could be more accurate). As I said, I’m on a budget and that stops me from getting a carbon-tripod for the moment. The Giottos MTL-9251 B is an aluminium tripod, with two quicklevers on the legs. These levers are the weak point of the tripod as I’ve managed to partially break two of them in fall that happened during a trip last year. There’s also a reversible centre-column that can be replaced with a shorter one (which will be what I will do, if I don’t get a Redged tripod).
The Redged RNB-1 is a straight up ballhead with Arca-Swiss-style locking for the camera-plate and dials to lock in the ball-socket and the panorama-function. This is the reason why I chose this model. It’s light-weight and has separate lockings for tightening the ball-socket and the rotation. Since I do some stitch panorama, this was a selling point for me along with the price.
I also use a Giottos MH-5001 3-way head when I want more control in my panos. It’s more bulky and not to mention weight twice as much as the Redged ball head. So for the majority of the time I let that head sit at home.
I also have a Vanguard Alta + 233 with a PH-22 3-way head. It’s light and quick but not as stable as the Giottos. I mainly have this as a lightweight option when needed.. Beside the obvious reason of being too light, I also dislike the locking mechanism of the legs that is a weak point. I’m not sure if it’s just mine, but for the second time the lock broke. I ended up not bothering with turning it in the second time around since this is not a tripod I use much.
The bags I use are all Lowepro. My main bag is the Flipside 400 AW backpack fitted with Lowepro Street and Field Pouch 60 AW and a Lowepro D-Res 25 AW to carry my filters, filterholder, radio trigger and hot-shoe spirit levels.
I also have a Bergans 1L hydration system that I stuff in the outer compartment. I don’t have much to put down on this bag. It does what it says on the box and that’s good enough for me.
For on-site shots like portrait or concert I use Lowepro Nova 5 (similar to the Nova 200 Aw) but lacks the AW part. This bag is what I used in my start when I shot film and used to lug around to different systems (Nikon F90x and a Mamiya MSX 500 with three lenses (all prime lenses) or a Canon AE 1). For concert photography I find the bag now cumbersome and have plans to change this to a smaller, softer bag.
For backpacking-trips I use a Lowepro Micro Trekker 100, which I pack with just what I need and stuff into my trekking backpack.
Besides this I use a Sigma EF-500 ST flash (operated manually), hot shoe spirit levels, A Hänhel Radio Trigger that doubles as cable release for the camera.
Update 12.10 – 2011
Since I first wrote this blogpost my main tripod has changed from Giottos MTL-9251b to Redged RTA-428.
Update 18.12 – 2011
There’s been an addition to my batch of lenses, and that is a Tamron SP 70-200mm f2.8