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Back in early 2017, I put up a “state of my gear” post. My intent was to document the gear I used, so I could come back and see how it changed over time and with changes in my interests, style, and subject matter. A year has now passed, and I’m going to do that dance all over again since things have changed.

My intent is to look more introspectively into the craft in part by looking at how my evolution as a photographer has changed my perspective on gear. Additionally, I’ve found that the gear I use can have a material impact on the way I go about approaching my vision, and I want to see if I can identify trends with that too.

As an example, in reading through my article from a year ago, there’s been more than a few places where conclusions I made back then have been reversed, or at least I’ve gone off in a different direction. Certainly some of the expectations I’ve had for equipment in the past have proven out to be wrong when put into practice.

Finally, like the last time, this isn’t an extensive list of every bolt and nut of camera gear I own. Major things, and things I use a lot are most likely to be covered. However, there is no hard criteria for what does and doesn’t make the list.

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The Curious Case of Canon’s new 70-200 L Lenses ledeImage: Canon USA

Canon just announced 2 new “updated” 70-200mm pro zoom lenses. The 3rd generation EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM, and the second generation EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM. Of course with any new product release, there’s a lot of talk around the net about these lenses, and what Canon has and hasn’t done with them, and ultimately why Canon is doomed because of what they did or didn’t do.

Anyway, I can’t help but throw my 2 cents into the fray on this discussion. So here it goes.

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How Many is too Many? lede

Many years ago, when I was first getting started with photography, Sports Shooter posted a set of portfolio review videos. One of these reviews stuck out in my mind. A student’s portfolio had 2 images of a baseball pitch in flight with the ball in focus and the pitcher, catcher, batter and so forth out of focus.

Several of the reviewer’s commented on the inclusion of two of these images in this person’s portfolio. He showed he could make that kind of image, repeating it didn’t add any value to the portfolio, and generally wasted precious space.

Portfolios are showcases for an artist. They should show off the individuals best work and their range as an artist. Repeating similar images doesn’t work towards that goal, it just pads out space.

You could almost go as far as arguing that it wastes the time of the reviewer, since they’re just looking at an additional version of the same image.

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Black Bears of Revillagigedo Island (Ketchikan Alaska) lede

In the fall of 2017, I got another opportunity to go back to Alaska on a cruise. Unlike the first trip, this one would be the very end of the season instead of the very beginning, and this means that I would have the opportunity to photograph bears.

For those sticking to cruises in the southeastern part of Alaska, there are two species of bears you’ll be able to see in the wild: black bears, and brown bears.

In this brief guide, I’m going to cover some broad points about black bears, photographing them, and some specific details that stemmed from my experience photographing them at the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary just outside of Ketchikan, Alaska.

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Camera Gear for an Alaskan Cruise lede

In looking back, when I went to Alaska on a cruise in 2015, I didn’t seem to write anything about the gear I took, why, and how things worked out. I did cover the topic in 2016 when I went on my road trip through the Southwest. That said, in 3 years now of traveling for photography, the only constant has been finding out I was doing something less than optimally.

In this article, I’m going to talk through my thoughts on what to take if you’re going on a regular Inside Passage cruise to Alaska as a photographer, and what my thought process was being the decisions. Obviously if you’re going on something like the Lindblad or National Geographic expeditions this isn’t going to apply.

If there’s one point that needs to be made, its that there’s no right or wrong platform, brand, or type of camera for this kind of thing. While I’m talking about my experiences, and I shoot full frame Canon gear, you can easily translate the focal lengths I give for what provides the same coverage on your platform of choice.

This article is part one in a series of posts detailing my experiences and tips on shooting various subject matter on an Alaska Inside Passage Cruise. On this trip, I took different paths than on my first, the experiences and tips of which I detailed starting with Misty Fjords National Monument and Ketchikan.

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Hurricane Irma, Jose, & Maria: Here We Go Again lede

Update 2: Monday 2017-09-18

This is really not the year to be a Floridian, and an even worse year to live in the eastern Caribbean. First, we got smashed by hurricane Irma, which while I don’t want to downplay the impacts of that storm, certainly could have been a lot worse. If it hadn’t had been for the interactions with Cuba (which of course was bad for them) and the dry air that caused the back end of the storm to fall apart, it almost certainly would have been a lot worse.

Right on the coattails of Irma was Jose, which too rapidly intensified into a major hurricane, then just barely squeaked by the already decimated Leeward Islands that Irma just finished with. Thankfully, for everyone in the Bahama’s, and the Southeastern US coast, Jose turned out to sea and has largely not been a huge factor so far. And while Jose is forecast to make a close approach to New England, and potentially loop around in that area, it’s now moving over cooler waters that will seriously hamper it’s ability to continue to maintain its intensity.

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Thoughts on Nikon’s D850 ledeImage: Nikon USA Press Release

Nikon finally announced their latest high-end/pro-level DSLR, the D850. Honestly, there’s a lot to talk about with it both as an upgrade over the old D810, as part of Nikon’s current lineup of cameras, and with respect to Nikon’s future prospects in the industry.

Recent times have not been good to Nikon. Camera sales have been down and of the big the camera makers, Nikon is arguably the most vulnerable to declines in camera sales. Moreover, Sony has been aggressively trying to move into the market space, and most of their gains have been coming at Nikon’s expense.

Compounding matters, Nikon’s D800 series cameras can certainly be perceived as being extremely long in the tooth at this point.

Nikon’s first real attempt to get things moving again, so to speak, was the D5 and D500. Cameras that very much were both simultaneously impressive and disappointing.

In many ways, the D5, and to a very much lesser extent the D500, looked to me like a panicked response by terrified management that saw market share eroding and could only think of how to inflate numbers to make something that looked, in their eyes at least, competitive.

Fortunately for Nikon users, the initial flailing response that the D5 and D500 seemed to embody seems to have past. Nikon seems to have remembered what matters; not putting bigger and bigger numbers on a box to delude gullible photographers into buying the latest thing, but providing a solid tool that photographers can use to produce the images that want to make.

Looking at the announced specs, and some very preliminary performance estimates that have surfaced, the D850 looks to be exactly the camera Nikon needs right now. So lets dive in to looking at some of the announced specs, and what some preliminary testing implies.

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When push comes to shove, I have no idea what’s going on in the minds of the management in Canon’s imaging division. A New Zealand photographer, Rob Dickinson, got an early sample 6D mark II from Canon New Zealand, at least as I understand it, and he’s posed some early images from it. Images from which some people in various communities, most notably Fred Miranda[1], have started looking at them to determine the dynamic range of the camera.

On one hand, I do feel it’s important to point out that the images that all this discussion is based on are from a “pre release camera.”

That said, the 6D mark II is supposed to be released on the 27th of this month. That’s less than 3 weeks away. Right now, Canon is building up inventory to ship so that there are more than a camera to have on shelves on release day. The hardware is all final. There can’t and won’t be any tweaking to the sensor or any other hardware between now and the 27th.

In fact, the only thing that Canon could tweak is the firmware, and even that would almost certainly require a post launch user applied update.

In short, my expectation is that the retail cameras will reflect the performance that’s being seen in the sample images from this particularly pre-release sample.

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Bryce Canyon National Park: Southwest Adventure 2016 lede

In many ways, you could say that Bryce Canon National Park, is the sister park to Zion National park. More than anything, these two parks are tied together by geology. The rocks at the bottom of Bryce Canyon are from the same formation as the rocks at the top of Zion Canyon. This article details my brief experiences with photography in Bryce Canyon National Park.

Back in October of 2016, I went with my family on a week road trip through the American Southwest. This trip included stops at the Grand Canyon, the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, Mesa Verde National Park, and Zion Nation park, among other places.

Even though this wasn’t a dedicated expedition purely for photography — not even for me — I couldn’t help but bring my cameras, and too much gear with it, to photograph this amazing places. Unfortunately, I didn’t have anywhere near enough time to fully explore, or become remotely familiar with these places. At the same time, having to think on your feet and work on the fly is something we always have to deal with.

As with the above linked articles, this “guide”, and I use that term loosely, is aimed at telling the story of my experience in Bryce Canyon National Park, and to provide some ideas on how to approach photographing it on a foreshortened timescale.

In terms of time constrains Bryce Canyon NP was second only to Mesa Verde in how little time I had to work. Part of that is that we were staying at the Zion Lodge in Zion NP, and drove over to Bryce as a day trip. However, unlike Mesa Verde, which is a mere 40 minute drive from Durango, Co., Bryce Canyon is close to a 2 hour drive from Zion NP.

The longer drive, a late start, and the desire to be back at the Zion Lodge in time for dinner — and before it started getting dark — curtailed just how much time we had to explore Bryce Canyon.

Due to our limited time in the park, we basically drove to the end of the one road in the park, to Rainbow Point, and started working back towards the visitor center stopping at each of the lookout points and pull offs.

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Thoughts on the Canon 6D mark II Announcement ledeImage: Canon USA

The last time I wrote about a new camera I wasn’t planning on getting was when Nikon announced the D5 and D500 back in Mach of 2016: more than a year ago now. Since then, mum’s been the word, mostly because I just don’t find cameras to be all that interesting to talk about anymore.

In fact, I generally find the commentary that comes with a new camera to be obnoxious to the extreme. Still photographers are shouted over by people whining about 4K video and frame rates in cameras that are still principally, if by ergonomics alone, still cameras. Moreover, there’s generally so much noise about stats, often being represented incompletely or inaccurately, as if the performance of the camera’s sensor was the primary thing that made a picture good.

Or maybe I’m just getting prematurely old about all of this.

One point that’s been repeatedly driven home to me over the last 3-4 years is that the sensor doesn’t matter nearly as much as the person behind the camera. A great sensor will never make a mediocre picture better, and a comparatively poor quality sensor will never made a emotionally resonant picture fail. The difference between the widest dynamic range in the best medium format camera and the poorest APS-C sensor pales in comparison to what the person using it puts it to.

Instead of caring so much about the sensor itself, I’m increasingly becoming convinced it’s the ancillary and supporting features that make the most difference. Things like GPS, autofocus, metering, frame rate, and most importantly the user interface—the things that make it easier to convert your vision into an image—that matter the most.

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