In August I wrote a post about my gear for a photo trip just before leaving for Australia on a 5 week photo trip. This is the story of what worked and what didn’t work in The Kimberley and Kakadu National Park in Australia.
Click the Keep reading link below for the full detailed story of what worked and what didn’t!
Cameras – Canon EOS 5D and 20D
My Canon 5D performed absolutely perfectly day in and day out. The 5D is an amazing landscape camera and I am really looking forward to getting the 5D Mk II. The 5D is a bit of a dust magnet though, that Kimberley dust gets in everywhere and is soon very evident at f/16 and f/22 exposures. Fortunately I didn’t need my 20D backup camera at all but a photographer friend of mine did though, as her 350D died at Bungle Bungle so my 20D was called into service!
I only brought 2 batteries though and almost ran out in the Kimberley, I really need to bring 3 batteries.
Lenses – Canon L lenses, 17-40mm, 24-105mm and 70-200mm f4.0
I have a great and extremely sharp copy of the 17-40mm lens and it is by far my favourite lens as I love shooting at 17mm and the images produced by this lens are sharp with great colours and contrast. I shoot stitched panos with it too; usually at 35-40mm. 65% of my shots were captured through the 17-40mm so it is indeed my bread and butter lens. The 24-105mm is also a good lens, it is however nowhere near as sharp as my 17-40 and I only use it when I need to go above 40mm. I also reckon the 17-40 has a better coating creating better colours and contrast. The 70-200 only accounts for a few percents of the shots, it’s a brilliant lens but I shoot so very little at these focal lengths. I’m a wide-angle man and wish Canon had a 16-70mm L lens then I could get away with just one lens a lot of the time.
Tripod – Gitzo carbon fibre Mountaineer tripod and Gitzo ballhead
Works incredibly well; a brilliant tripod. Extremely stable and very very light. I did miss having a spirit level on the tripod itself and have since bought this (it comes as a Gitzo accessory and is definitely needed in the outback). I don’t actually carry or own a pano head for my tripod. I know I would eliminate parallax errors with a pano head but I find I am doing just fine with a normal ball head. And since I shoot a lot of single shots as well with the ballhead I can easily do both, with a pano head I would have to switch tripod heads all the time.
Camera and laptop bag – Kata R-103
This is a great camera and laptop bag, takes all my gear incl. laptop but is still acceptable as carry on luggage. The bag is very strong and well designed and the harness is very comfortable even when the bag is fully loaded. It offers great protection for your gear as I discovered when I left it on the floor of the truck – unfortunately right on top of the engine! It is great for carrying your stuff on planes, and anywhere where it’s not a million degrees warm. I did find however that a backpack is not very well suited to carrying gear in the outback and the incredible heat. I like walking, rock climbing and exploring the bush and it is not very comfortable wearing a backpack in 40 degrees heat simply because you sweat so profusely your shirt and bag and everything gets completely drenched. It gets very uncomfortable wearing any sort of bag so a lot of times I ended up carrying the tripod with camera mounted on it and then stuffed my pockets with filters, cards, batteries etc. I needed bigger pockets though and may look into getting the Lowepro belt system for exploring in the outback heat!
Portable storage – Hyperdrive Colorspace
Years ago I had an earlier Hyperdrive model which didn’t work very well and died completely on the way to Cape York. Looking for a new portable storage device I gave Hyperdrive another chance as I read great things about the Colorspace. It does the job beautifully and worked perfectly every single time I used it. No problems at all. You stick your CF card in it, turn it on and it backups every image to the internal HD and does it quite fast and displaying the jpeg thumbnails on screen while copying as a visual confirmation. Battery life is very good as well, didn’t run out once and I used it every night in camp to backup the day’s work. I only wish the software on it could detect files already copied as I end up with a lot of copies of the same files (if the same card for example gets backed up 3 nights in a row until I’ve filled an 8 gig card). Recommended!
Filters – Cokin filter system and Hoya Polarizer
Filters are an absolute must as a landscape photographer (although I find them a bit of a pest) and the Cokin filter system works just fine. I am getting the Lee filters soon though as they are better quality without any colour cast. My old high quality Hoya Polarizer was used a lot as well to cut down glare in the outback. I did really end up hating screwing that damn polarizer filter on and off though and dropped it quite a few times, so a new Lee filter system incl. polarizer is on the shopping list.
I do not ever leave home without it (actually I bring 2 ipods); no music and my mood drops a few million degrees. Best new cds I bought in Australia: Archie Roach – The Tracker Soundtrack, Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu and Something for Kate live at the corner!
Essential for all my notes and stories and for pretending I am Bruce Chatwin!
And finally…other essential bits and pieces
Mossie repellent! Dry bags (I lent one to a guy who then immediately dropped his camera in the water while crossing Manning Gorge – camera was saved so they work!). Arctic Butterfly sensor cleaner! Australian accent! Sock savers (keeps the muck out’a your boots!) And a sense of humour when everything breaks down and all plans go to shit!