Tag Archives: gitzo

Australia – what worked and what didn’t?

FBJ Photo Gear Australia 2008-800pix text

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!

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My gear for a photo trip

EDIT July 2010: This article is rather old and much equipment has been updated. I shall write a new blog post soon

I always travel light. There’s no point in travelling to the finest landscapes in the world only to be weighed down by so much gear I can’t be bothered to hike that extra kilometer or stay out that extra hour. I once managed to go to Australia checking in only 12 kilos of luggage (no laptop and a lot less photo gear though).

Leaving for Australia tomorrow I am presently packing my gear and I am getting fairly good at it, I know exactly what setup I need. This is what I’m bringing (well this and a t-shirt or two). Click to see large:

FBJ Photo Gear Australia 2008-800pix text

I have my trusty Canon EOS 5D as main camera of course and an old EOS 20D as backup camera (in case my 5D gets eaten by a Kimberley crocodile). I only take 3 lenses, Canon 17-40 f/4.0 L, 24-105mm f/4.0 L and 70-200mm f/4.0 L. All reasonably lightweight L lenses compared to the f/2.8 versions. My Gitzo carbon fibre tripod is only 1,2 kilos with ballhead.

I bring about 40 gigs of compact flash cards, and don’t erase CF cards until I have at least 3 copies. My trusty Asus V6V slim lightweight laptop still works great, I use an external WD drive for backup and I also burn copies of image files to blank DVDs – Murphy Law is universal! In the field where I can’t bring my laptop I backup to a Hyperdrive Colorspace. The Arctic Butterfly keeps my sensors clean and Ipod Touch and Sennheiser headphones keeps my ears grooving! My Moleskine notebooks keeps my brilliant (cough) observations – and everything fits in the build-as-tank and very comfortable Kata R103 laptop+camera backpack that fits as carry-on. Kata makes security gear for special forces and now also camera gear so of course I use their gear. It’ll serve as protection from the crocs I will be battling soon!

It is lightweight and I am happy travelling with this configuration; I know it works great day in and out for months. I will get the Canon 5D mkII when it’s out and a new laptop someday; but for now this is great a travel setup!

Your 3-legged friend the Tripod

Tripod is not only a very funny Australian comedy trio but it’s also an essential tool for getting the best out of your camera and lenses. Of course you need a tripod for long exposures (unless you have bionic arms and can lock the motors) but every single shot you do should be made from a tripod with a cable release if you want ultimate quality from your gear. The difference really is very noticeable! Here’s an 8 second exposure from just after dusk at Lake Peblinge in Copenhagen today (one of the bloody angry Swans at the lake almost attacked me during this shoot!).  At this size you can’t tell but it is a perfect tack sharp shot due to tripod, mirror lock-up and cable release. I did a 30 second exposure at iso50, also super sharp but this 8 second one had the best reflection on a windy afternoon. Click to see larger:

Click to see large size on my gallery!

Every hand held shot suffers from camera shake, it’s just a matter of degree. In broad daylight shooting handheld at 1/500 you still have camera shake. To make matters worse, on a SLR camera you also have the slap from the mirror adding even more camera shake! Stick your camera on a tripod with a quality lens, use mirror lock-up function (very important!) to avoid mirror slap and a cable release – and you get tack sharp images you won’t believe!

Having said that I used to hate shooting with tripods and I just owned a cheap heavy Manfrotto (still use the bag!) that I didn’t use much. Takes the fun out of it, I like to jump around, shoot all sorts of angles (like an artist doing sketches) and have freedom. And sometimes there’s no time, I have maybe 20 minutes of good sunset and dusk light and want to bring as much data home, get as many different compositions as possible. This requires me running around the scene like a man obsessed with a big smile on my face (you should’ve seen me at Hawk Dreaming)

gitzo Having seen the difference in image quality and gone professional I realize now there’s no substitute – I need shots on tripod, mirror lock-up and with cable release to get max image quality and be able to deliver the fine art images I strive for.  So courtesy of the great guys at my favorite shop in Copenhagen Photografica – I now own the amazing Gitzo carbon tripod (with Gitzo ballhead) shown on the right! It is actually so light I have no problem bringing it everywhere. The tripod including ball head weighs only 1.5 kilos! (my camera bag with Canon 5D + lenses is the problem and what’s killing my shoulder, must be 5 kilos at least)

I’m still not a big fan of tripod shooting but at least I now have a fantastic Gitzo. Until I can get those bionic arms, this carbon tripod is now a part of me!

EDIT: Forgot to add that this means I can also get started on my Copenhagen By Night photo project!