My Gear Bag


 

The items below are those that currently make their home in my gear bag.  I use a lot of stuff…way too much to fit into one bag, so this list represents the gear I carry with me all the time.  I have chosen it carefully through years of trial and error.  Some things I use every time I am out and others only rarely, but all of them are items I see as indispensable.  Remember, these are the items I have chosen because they serve me and my shooting requirements.  One should never take another photographers gear choices as gospel….this is just what works for me and I hope you find it helpful.

Thank you.

Nate.


Canon 1D Mark IV

The best wildlife camera I have ever used.  Built like a tank, a super fast auto focus system, amazing file quality, 10 FPS and a 1.3 crop 16.1 MP sensort. While the Nikon D3s wins hands down in high ISO performance (past 3200 ISO) the Canon 1D Mark IV’s asset list makes it my favorite wildlife camera ever.  The 16.1 MP file combined with a 1.3 crop factor are the two main areas where the Mark IV pulls ahead of the Nikon D3s for me.  While the D3s is the acknowledged “Lord of the Darkness” (usable files all the way up to 128,000 ISO), when it comes to long lens work the 1.3 crop sensor and 16.1 Mpx file are tough to beat.  If I were shooting sports or indoor events I would be hard pressed not to shoot a D3s….for wildlife however, the Mark IV is my choice.  My only complaint is Canon’s choice to go with one CF (Compact Flash) card slot and one SD card slot unlike Nikons Dual CF cards.  I don’t know who made that decision but it wasn’t a photographer.  CF cards are far more durable, easier to insert, harder to lose, easier to find if you drop them in the field and WAY faster read/write performance.  Please please let us see dual CF cards on the next model….please.


Canon 5D Mark II

This is an excellent compliment to the Mark IV as full-frame landscape camera.  It does not have the Mark IV’s focusing system or frame rate but the files are gorgeous  even at high ISO’s.  At 21 Megapixels with a full-frame sensor this camera begins to approach medium format image quality  and is generally considered to produce higher quality files than Canon’s current flagship full-frame camera the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III.  A new Canon 5D Mark III is on the horizon but right now this is the best landscape camera Canon has to offer.


Canon 5D Mark II Battery Grip

For me this is a no brainer…I don’t use a camera that doesn’t have one.  Increased battery life, more comfortable vertical shooting and all around just nicer to hold.  If the camera doesn’t have one built in I always purchase this addition.  There are third party options out there but for reliability sake I always stick with name brand.


Canon 500 mm f/4 L IS USM Lens

This is my workhorse and what I reach for when I need a long lens for everything from mammals to birds in flight.  Its sharpness is legendary and its all around performance is top shelf.  The IS (image stabilization) is outstanding and I regularly hand hold this lens with no issues.  Combined with a 1.4x tele-converter the results are spectacular with no little to no loss in image quality as and only slight loss in AF performance.  There is a new version coming out with updated IS, new lens coatings and a lighter design.  All indications are that they are going to be sweet…and expensive.


 

Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8L USM II Lens

This is the lens I go to when I want to shoot big landscapes. One of the best wide angle zooms Canon makes.  You’ll love it.


 

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens

A great mid range zoom lens.  There are a few options out there from canon to fill this focal range but I went with the 24-105 and have never been disappointed.  I am sure there are people out there who have strong feelings about other lenses in this range but for me this lens has been great.


Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto Zoom Lens

One of the best lenses you can buy from canon.  It will cost a lot but you will love it.  The previous model of this lens was a workhorse for most pros and it was mystifying as to how they could improve it much.  Well whatever they did worked because this new lens is amazingly fast and sharp.  When combined with the new series III 1.4x teleconverter you will see superb performance and the image files will make you drool.  Amazing.


Canon Zoom Telephoto EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM Autofocus Lens

I have a love/hate relationship with this lens.  I love the image quality and compact size but I hate the push/pull zoom and slow focusing speed (basically I just miss my Nikon 200-400 f/4 and would like for Canon to hurry up and bring one to market).  For what it is however, this lens delivers and it is light years ahead of Nikon’s 8-400 which I found unbearable.  It has been around forever and used by just about everyone who photographs wildlife with Canon.  When I can only take one lens for wildlife and I want portability, this is it.


1.4x and 2x Teleconverters

A simple and inexpensive way to add some focal length.  The 1.4x practically lives on my 500mm lens and I couldn’t tell you the last time I noticed a loss in file quality.  Using the 2x is always a bit of a sacrifice in terms of image quality and  performance but sometimes you need to use it.  With proper long lens technique you can produce publishable results.  The new series III teleconverters are a definite improvement upon the series II and Canon claims they are optimized for use with their next generation lenses which are mostly yet to be released.  We’ll see.

 


Canon 25 mm Extension Tube

A useful piece of gear that can help you attain a closer focusing distance for your lenses.  I use it quite a bit with my 70-200 for macro work or with my 500 when needed.  Kenko offers a set with three different length tubes as well but I have not had a chance to use them.


Canon TC-80N3 Timer Remote Control 

More or less a must for landscape work.  A little more fancy than you need and something like the Canon RS-80N3 is more than enough.  I personally like the built in timing system so I spent the extra money.


Canon Speedlite 580EX II

The current top of the line off camera flash from Canon.  To be honest I have always found Nikon’s flash system far superior to Canon’s but if you shoot Canon this is the best.


Canon Twin Flash

Canon MT-24 EX Macro Twin Lite Flash

A great unit for close-up and macro photography.  A definite improvement over previous ring flash options.


fx1-better-beamer-flash-extender-01

Better Beamer

It works.  Nothing fancy and it is a lot of money for a bit of plastic but it does it’s job.  Helps to concentrate the angle of coverage of you flash as well as giving you a bit of extra reach and efficiency.  If you have a long lens and want to use flash it is a must have.


Power EX Batteries and Charger

I have used Power EX batteries and chargers for years now and couldn’t be happier.  If you shoot with a flash I highly recommend rechargeable batteries.


Gitzo Tripods

There are lots of tripod options out there and many less expensive than Gitzo but for many photographers these are the standard.  For me it was the new locking style legs that really set them apart.  If you have ever been frustrated by twist locks then theses will make you smile.  Fast, reliable…you’ll love them.


Really Right Stuff BH-55 ball head

The RRS BH-55 is one of the best ball heads on the market.  If you wan to “buy one and be done” this is a safe bet.


Wimberley WH-200

Basically the standard when it comes to full sized gimbal heads.  The Wimberley WH-200 is as good as it gets when it comes to photography equipment.  It does what is says it will do.  There are lots of other options out there for gimbal head mounts but this is the one you will see on more pro’s tripods than any other.


Wimberley Sidekick

I use this as a back-up for my Wimberley WH-200 as well as when I am hiking with a ball-head for landscapes but may end up shooting wildlife as well. It is a great product but in my opinion is not as good of an option as the Wimberley WH-200 for a dedicated long lens tripod head.  It is however, extremely flexible and I wouldn’t be without one.


OTHER STUFF 

Sensor cleaning supplies, rain covers, screwdrivers, allen wrenches, dust blowers,  moisture control pouches and all sort of other little bits.


Image Management in the Field

When I am on the road I take along my 15″ Macbook Pro with a UDMA card reader and a  2 Western Digital drives for a double backup system. I have customized my Macbook with 16 GB RAM, a 240 GB SSD drive for the main disk drive and removed the optical (CD/DVD) drive in order to add a second 750 GB hard drive. This helps give me both speed and extra space.   I import directly into  to Adobe Lightroom and  do a quick initial edit while saving the main edit for back home on my desktop.


Think Tank ~ Airport International V 2.0 Bag

Designed by photographers for photographers, this has quickly become my favorite camera bag for travel.  There are lots of good options out there  and I have tried most of them, but if you want a great travel bag with lots of space (i carry all of the gear listed above inside it—minus tripods of course) this is one of the best.

 

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