FAQ 1... What Equipment do you use..?

One of the most frequently asked questions I get asked is... What equipment do I use..?

I try to keep the kit I take with me as simple as possible... apart from the logistical and physical problems that go with travelling with too much weight there is also the risk of giving yourself too much choice and not being able to concentrate on any one particular subject as you allow yourself to be diverted.. I think the best photos are achieved when you go with specific purpose into the field.. having said that a little latitude is also a good thing because as with all photo expeditions, you never know quite what opportunity might present itself to you.. so, kit I would normally have with me on a landscape/wildlife photography assignment would be as follows:

35mm Cameras:

Canon EoS 1D MkIV

Canon Eos 5D MkII 

(GoPro)

Lenses:

16-35mm f2.8L

24-70mm f2.8L

70-200mm f2.8L

100mm f2.8L macro

300mm f2.8L

1.4x Teleconverter MkIII

Other bits... tripod and/or monopod and gorrillapod, remote controller, speedlite, batteries & chargers, Lee filter kit.. etc...

As photographers we tend to be real geeks when it comes to tech and equipment and we have all been guilty... pro's and amateurs alike... at some point at least.. of being a little or a lot obsessed with camera kit & lenses & gadgets... let's face it... we LOVE it and it's all good fun..!

Bee-eater photographed during one of our wildlife and bird-watching holidays in Greece

Bee-eater photographed during one of our wildlife and bird-watching holidays in Greece

There comes a point though when regardless of the kit you have with you (or your pocket is able to bear) it's you behind the camera that has to make the shot and if you are not ready... technically and physically, and if you are not in the right place... you will not get the shot no matter what equipment you are shooting with.. whether you're on a £1000 100-400mm tele-zoom or a £9000 400mm f2.8

It all comes down to experience.. and you can only get that by practicing and practicing and practicing.. I think that on practically every trip I have made I come back having learned something new.. that is to say.. I will make some mistake at some point and it is then that I get that lightbulb moment.... it is only human to make mistakes and it is only by making sometimes even basic errors that we are able to progress in our knowledge.. be it of our kit or of our subject..

On the point of practicing... we are very lucky that we live in the digital age and the process of shooting not only costs us nothing... but we also get instant feedback.. no more expensive films... being caught in the middle of a roll when the light changes and you suddenly have the wrong ISO film loaded... no more waiting for the lab to process your pics... no more difficult choices.. B&W or Colour.?.. Neg or Transparency.?.. it's all on a plate for us now... instant gratification.. instant knowledge, learning and experience... we have no excuses..! 

Green Woodpecker photographed during one of our wildlife and bird photography workshops and tours of Lake Kerkini

Green Woodpecker photographed during one of our wildlife and bird photography workshops and tours of Lake Kerkini

But then... being human.. we do like to make excuses for ourselves... my camera isn't good enough.. my lens not fast enough.. not long enough.. not wide enough.. etc..etc.. and again we are all guilty of thinking these things.. the point is to know your equipment.. to know its limitations and to work with those.. and you can make some stunning images. If your camera can't shoot 16 frames per second it doesn't mean you can't get a decent action shot... all it means is you have to know how to use your particular camera and more importantly to know your subject so that you can pre-empt the action.. you prepare in advance.. plan your shot.. if your lens won't focus quickly enough.. plan ahead.. perhaps you can get the shot by pre-focussing so that you don't have to think about that as well when the little bird you're after comes into frame... if your lens is not long enough then think about how to get closer yourself.. use a hide.. know when and where that little bird is likely to be passing or feeding and be there early.. hidden...

Practicing with your equipment and thinking ahead with specific purpose in mind will massively improve your chances of successfully getting the shot you have in your mind's eye. Little birds, for example, are some of the hardest subjects to shoot.. they zip about at incredible speeds.. often erratically.. they rarely spend much time in one place.. they love flitting about in dense vegetation which sends your auto-focus crazy, shifting and searching constantly to latch on to something.. but all these things can be overcome regardless of the camera or lens you have attached... try this.. once you are in location put your camera down for 15/20 minutes and just sit still and observe.. don't worry about missing shots... just observe.. patterns of movement will begin to emerge as you do so.. you will notice how though they flit about, they tend to use particular favourite perches from which they launch themselves.. they like to fly between certain trees back and forth.. having observed.. get your camera ready, fix your ISO, set your exposure, focus or pre-focus, keep both eyes open..!! Your non-shooting eye will let you know when something is about to come into frame... and make your photo.. 

Masked Shrike photographed at Lake Kerkini during one of our wildlife and bird photography workshops and tours

Masked Shrike photographed at Lake Kerkini during one of our wildlife and bird photography workshops and tours