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Old 12th March 2017, 15:27   #1
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Default Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer

A lot of our members are SAPs. Serious Amateur Photographers, that is.. I am also one and thought i would share details of equipments and accessories used by me in my attempts at wildlife, landscape and night photography.

I have divided this write up into three sections:
  1. Basic equipments
  2. Desirable accessories
  3. Post production requirements

Basic equipments:

Camera:

There are many choices available as far as a Camera is concerned- however a Digital SLR would be the equipment of choice. There are umpteen sites which give the relative merits of various forms of DSLRs as well as of different brands. I started with a Nikon D70s and graduated directly to the Nikon D3s which was the top of the line camera during 2009. My advise to the discerning photographer is to buy the best (affordable) camera that you can. I can speak from experience that if you are a SAP then you would very quickly grow out of the cheap initial stuff that you bought and would start lusting for the better ones. That is, if you are a SAP. i have quite a few equipments that were not in the top quality band and now i find that i hardly even touch them. They just occupy space.

Having said that, one has to factor in affordability. Do we wait till we have the lolly to buy that top of the line product or do we buy what we can afford now? That is a good question and my answer is to buy the best quality amongst the products shortlisted in the affordability band. There are many products available now which give amazing results - For example the Nikon DSLR range has numerous offerings from Rs 20k till Rs 450k. Other manufacturers also have a wide range of products and one would be able to find the equipment of his choice and affordability quite easily.

There are numerous write ups on how to decide the preferred choice of formats Fx or Dx and i shall not go into those considerations. Suffice to mention that since you are a SAP; you would be better off getting a Fx format if affordability is not a criteria.

I have only one body - a Nikon D3s - which as you know has a Fx format sensor. My camera is now about 6 years old and has stood me in good stead. I have hardly used 10% of its life ( These cameras are good for 2-2.5 lac clicks - and then they may be refurbished) and though now and then i lust for the latest D5 or feel i must augment my equipments by having a body in the Dx format; till now sanity has prevailed and i have desisted from unnecessary (bragging rights) acquisitions. It is a wonderful camera and is known as the low light beast since it performs beautifully under low light conditions. Here is a picture of it:

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-camera.jpg
Nikon D3s with 24-70mm, f2.8G lens

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-camera2.jpg
Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-camera3.jpg
Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-camera4.jpg


The second hand market in India is maturing and one can pick up good used equipments in markets such as Mumbai, Pune and possibly B'lore. There could be more and i would welcome additions from members. In India, we still don't have shops in the league of B&H of New York; but i am sure that the used marketplace would ultimately mature in India too. Point being made is that if affordability is a criteria, then maybe a used equipment could be considered. Except press photographers who use their equipments amidst very rough and challenging circumstances, most photographers tend to use their equipments with a degree of care. Secondly, one can get a reasonably good assessment of the equipment by showing it to one of the authorised service centres.

One can rent equipments and again in Pune and Mumbai, there are agencies who rent out equipment. However, a SAP would want his own equipment, and hence may be loath to rent out equipment. Yet, it does make sense to try out an equipment that you are contemplating buying so that you can see for yourself if you are comfortable with it. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Nikon does give out its new products to SAPs to try out. I mean SAPs and not professionals. Professionals do get to evaluate it before launch and immediately after launch, but SAPs are also encouraged to try it out. I am sure other manufacturers like Canon, SONY and the like must be also doing something similar or better.

The len(ses)

Many of us spend a lot of time deciding the brand, the format and the specific camera that we would like to buy; but sadly we do not do enough due diligence when deciding on the lenses. While the camera body is important, it is the lens that mainly delivers on image quality (IQ). Our decision making variables mainly centre around the breath and reach of the lens, and the affordability. While most of us enjoy flouting a lens with reach; we do not question ourselves on the specific purpose of buying one. If we are wildlife enthusiasts and want a lens with reach; then we must also realise that most wildlife photographic opportunities occur either early morning or at sunset- and hence along with reach we must have a 'fast' lens - or a lens that has a large aperture or the smallest f number. on a similar vein, a sports photographer may also want reach; but may be comparatively less bothered about a high aperture since most of his work may be during day time or in good light conditions. Please be informed that these are general statements and you could have a sports SAP who likes shooting motorcycle races and if he desires to freeze the shot just round that corner, then he would need the highest shutter speed possible - which may warrant a fast lens. The other factor that has to be borne in mind is that along with lens, there is a host of accessories that would have to be bought; such as filters, lens hoods, covers, quick release plates and so on. The lens that you buy may also require certain other supporting equipment and hence one has to be sure that he can provide for all that in his budget. For example, if you are contemplating buying a 600 mm f4 telephoto lens, then you would have to buy a good tripod capable of supporting it, a lens box, a lens back pack, a specially made quick release replacement foot, and a host of other stuff which costs money and more importantly adds to the weight of the stuff you need to carry.

It is nice to capture that fantastic shot of the bird in the act of catching its prey. But hey! assuming it was done in the wild and was a 'true' photograph captured ethically- the photographer may have lugged some 15 kgs of equipment over a hostile and unfamiliar terrain, and waited hours before getting that shot! So even if you have the moolah, ask yourself if you have the capability, the inclination, the chutzpa to do that? Or are you buying it for bragging rights?

Consider the photo below:

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-_104.jpg
Purple sunbird(female)

This shot was taken in the common plot of the society where i live and hence was in relatively familiar and easy surroundings. I may have sat for about 2 hours - waiting for the sun bird to become comfortable with my presence - and then i got the opportunity. The common plot is next to my house and hence i could get services such as coffee and water. I could get pillows for my knees and apart from the neighbours rolling in the grass in mirth after seeing my contorted and convulsed positions, i did not suffer any bruises - to my body or ego. But all cannot be so easy. Consider this photograph:

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-mr2_3736.jpg
Crested hawk eagle


This was taken at Nagarhole National park (Kabini). This hawk eagle had just killed a grey heron and was plucking the feathers out. It was on the ground. I badly wanted a shot at eye level and since one is not allowed to get out of the vehicle, this meant stuffing my body in the well between the front and second row seats - please bear in mind that i am 105 kgs ( yes, i know i have to reduce, thank you for not mentioning it) and no spring chicken either - far from it! After the shot, i found that i was stuck between the seats! Supreme embarrassment. The driver and the guide had to literally haul me out.

So, to come back to the subject: Do ask yourself that if you have the capability, the inclination, the chutzpa and the sustainability to do this. Do it time and again. The passion. And if the answer is in the affirmative, then go for it. Else rent one and see how it goes.

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-camera-600-mm2.jpg
D3s with 600mm, f4

The above contraption would weigh around 10kgs, maybe more and hence along with affordability, please ask yourself if you would be comfortable hauling such weight around? It would be more, not less.

I have the following lenses:

Nikkor 14-24 f2.8G:
This is a great wide angle lens and allows one to take great landscapes. It is a fast lens and hence extremely good in night photography. Some examples posted here:

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-pangong-lake-ladakh.jpg
Pangong Tso, Ladakh


Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-kumbhalgarh-night.jpg
Entrance to Kumbhalgarh fort


Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-ranikhet-hotel2.jpg
A hotel in Ranikhet

Nikkor 24-70mm, f2.8G: This is the stock lens and the most used by me. It allows one to take some decent landscapes, portraits, and has a little reach. Not useful for wildlife at all, but a travellers lens. This is by default fitted in my camera. It is a fast lens and hence allows one to take photographs in low light situations such as inside of temples, historical edifices and the like. The lens can be stopped down till f 22 and hence we can take photographs with high depth of field requirements, such as for landscapes or in a sports arena. The lens has a good IQ and i would recommend that every SAP should have one in his collection.

Some examples of this lens:

The photo below has been taken inside the Vatican at f4.5 and has reasonable IQ:

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-vatican-stained-glass.jpg
Stained Glass, Vatican


The photo below has been taken at f22 giving good depth of field:

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-coloseum.jpg
Colosseum, Rome

The photo below has been taken at The Golden temple at Bylakuppe in very low light at f 11 and ISO 8000:

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-coorg.jpg
Zangdog Palri Temple

This had been taken recently be me at Nathdwara:

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-nathdwara-sunrise.jpg
Nathdwara sunrise


We can get some interesting compositions and portraits with this stock lens as shown below:

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-vatican.jpg
Grandmother and Granddaughter resting


Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-_dsc0022.jpg
A musician at Amber fort

Before i forget. Though i do have a flash, i hardly ever use it and usually do not carry it with me on my trips. All the photographs shown here have been taken without the use of flash.

Last edited by earthian : 14th March 2017 at 11:55.
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Old 14th March 2017, 07:38   #2
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Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 G VR-II:

This is a great lens, but unfortunately doesn't work for wildlife photography very well. This telephoto lens is too big for street photography and small for wild life. It is probably the least used lens in my kit. (edit: How wrong could i be? See stats at the bottom of the article which shows that the 70-200mm had a decent usage) When i use it with a TC 1.7; though the reach becomes decent ~ 340 mm; i find the results slightly fuzzy. The bokeh of course is not comparable to the 600mm. It is a great lens to cover events, where close ups can be taken when one is not able to come near the subject. Not my preferred line and hence the low usage.

Here are some examples:

The shot below is taken at f6.3 at 320mm (with a TC 1.7) It is not tack sharp as i would like, but the TC 1.7 is known to compromise on sharpness. In my mad rush for reach, i got the TC 1.7 without proper due diligence and i would have been better with the TC 1.4 - known to give much better results.

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-200-tc-lion.jpg
Lion at Sasan Gir


I rather like this photo taken of a co-traveller on a swaying boat, overloaded to its gills. He seems pre occupied and it was this expression that made me want to capture this shot.

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-co-traveller.jpg
Co-traveller on boat


I was lucky to come across this freak butterflies which were co-joined and it was a sight to see them flying with both of them trying to pull forward.

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-sea-gulls3.jpg
Butterflies


The (comparatively) light weight allows one to hand hold and take BIF shots:

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-sea-gulls.jpg
Sea gulls


Though i say that it is not my preferred lens, now and then it gives some gems like this one taken at Sasan Gir:

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-lion-paw-head.jpg
Oh no! Not these pesky photographers again!


Nikkor 600mm f4.0G VR:

This is a very good lens and the IQ is brilliant. Bokeh is fantastic. The only negatives are the size and weight. You cannot hand hold this lens, even if you are Arnold Schwarzenegger. Well, you can hand hold it, and you may be able to get some half decent shots, but that is not the norm. This is my preferred lens when out in the forest. i like portrait shots of animals and this does the job. You do have to take a bunch of supporting stuff to use this lens. I cradle this lens on my lap when the vehicle is moving and your thighs can take quite a beating with the 10kgs pounding your thighs regularly when the vehicle bounces over stones and rough paths. i realise that ultimately, in about 10 years time , i would have to give up this lens - but in the meanwhile i shall make portraits while the sun shines.

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-honey-buzzard.jpg
Honey buzzard (Juvenile)

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Tiger at Ranthambhor


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Eland with ox-pecker bird


This is one of my favourite shots. The expression on the eland buck seems so peaceful - similar to that of Mona Lisa - and i call this photograph "Peaceful co-existence". One can almost feel the velvety skin of the buck! Incidentally, this photograph was well received at some photo contests.

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-crested-serpent-eagle.jpg
White eyed buzzard


This photograph taken at Sasan Gir, is one of the series that made my avatar. i followed this eagle and was lucky to get a shot with a kill (serpent) too.

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-portrait-tiger.jpg
Portrait of a tiger


The tiger is truly a magnificent animal to photograph. Here it is looking directly at me, when i am shooting its portrait.

The last photograph that i would like to showcase to demonstrate the usefulness of the 600mm is this one of a crested tree swift with a hatchling. This was quite far and we did not in fact, either recognise the small nest or the fact that there was a hatchling inside when we saw them with our naked eyes. It was only when i focused, i was excited to see the nest and the hatchling. Though quite far, i got a decent shot. My only grouse with this shot is i could not get the catch light in its eyes. Though there are photographers who bring the catch light in the eyes with PP software, i do not like to cheat and hence it is shown as such. The issue of wild life photographers going to any length to capture that elusive shot has been in the news time and again we have heard of unethical practices adopted by these photographers - be it nailing a writhing snake on the ground for the owl to swoop on it or stuffing a carp with polystyrene so that it cannot sink and the eagle could swoop on it. This is a topic in itself for discussion and i would invite T-BHP SAPs to start a discussion on this. See this and this.

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-crested-tree-swift-hatchling.jpg
Crested tree swift with hatchling

Last edited by aah78 : 16th March 2017 at 21:05. Reason: Crested serpent eagle -> White eyed buzzard, on request
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Old 14th March 2017, 10:34   #3
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Nikkor 50mm f1.4D:

This affordable and amazingly fast lens can be used in very low light conditions and is a delight to use indoors to cover family events. As can be understood, i do not use this lens much and prefer the adaptability of the 24-70mm f2.8 over this prime lens. In order to select photographs for this lens, i filtered my catalogue for this lens and after seeing the results, i realised that it is a good lens after all. I must use it more.

Consider the photograph below: This is not an ideal portrait since the eyes are looking away, almost artificially. Try as i might, i could not make the guard see the camera naturally. This photograph has been selected only to show the possibilities of the 50mm and not due to the (dubious) merit of the photograph. The 50mm is friendly to the subject and distortion is minimal, with the colours and lines being soft and balanced. The background is distracting and i should have used a large aperture to increase bokeh and reduce background distraction.

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-portrait-guard.jpg
Portrait of a guard


Sometimes, it is in fact a blessing to have a small focal length lens when out on a safari. Consider this photograph: i could never have given the perspective of how close the tiger was if i had a higher focal length lens.

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-tiger-crossing.jpg
Tiger crossing in front of gypsy


Women love portraits and selfies! The problem is that if you do not capture their photograph as they imagine themselves, you are in the doghouse for sure! The 50 mm is your friend in such cases and women seem to like its results:

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-women-selfies2.jpg
Women & selfies


We too are vain at times and i am no exception. Here is my attempt at a self portrait:

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-self-portrait2.jpg
Self portrait



Summary:
  • i have the focal length spectrum from 14mm till 200mm, all with reasonably fast lens.
  • i have the 50 mm prime and the 600 mm prime.

There is no end to wanting to buy more for your collection - and just a collection it would be - since your utilisation may not merit the buy. i lust from time to time over the new 200-500mm f5.6E VR and till now i have desisted from buying it. I may succumb, who knows? In short, the lens is probably the most important investment you make and would play a vital part in the IQ. i cannot stress enough that due diligence and compatibility (to yourself and the camera body being used) may be done before buying one.

Edit: Curious as to my lens usage pattern, i analysed my usage since the past 6 years with the D3s. The results were not what i thought my usage pattern was:

Name:  lens usage pattern.png
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Lens usage


While i was right that the 24-70mm was my stock lens, the 70-200 has also shown quite a bit of usage. I am in fact surprised that the 14-24mm has shown poor usage.

Last edited by earthian : 14th March 2017 at 15:06. Reason: added chart
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Old 14th March 2017, 13:33   #4
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Basic equipments (continued):

There may be some debate whether the following constitute 'basic' or 'desirable' equipments. My take is that being a SAP, or aspiring to be one, these would definitely come under the ambit of necessary equipments:

Tripod/Monopod:

A good tripod is worth its weight in gold for a SAP. Well...maybe not gold, but you get the drift.

Generally, most of us tend to scrimp and scrounge when it comes to such equipments. i was no exception and my first tripod costed me about Rs 6000/-. That was when i had the D70s and a couple of low weight lenses. I soon found it useless to use with the equipment i had graduated to. I required a tripod and head that could support a weight of ~ 25 kgs. It is stupid to see your expensive lens and camera come crashing to the ground due to a sub standard tripod. At the same time, one has to minimise weight and size (when collapsed) so as to make travel easier and less costly.

There are umpteen tripods available in the market to suit various requirements and i would not go into the relative merits of each one of them. There are enough sites that do a good job of reviewing them. Only be careful since some of them would be 'paid' reviews.

i have a carbon fibre tripod and monopod:

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-tripod.jpg
Gitzo 3542LS



Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-600mm-back-pack-case4.jpg
Gitzo 5561T


The monopod may be considered unnecessary, but i have found it useful when taking videos. Secondly it is useful as a hiking stick for people like me!

These tripods and monopods do not come with their own heads and hence you have to invest in a good head that would allow you to take photographs quickly and easily and also allow you to switch cameras or lenses easily. In short, these heads must have a quick release system that dovetails with the quick release system in your camera or lens.

I have the following heads:

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-wimberley-head.jpg
Wimberley 200 Gimbal head


Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-ball-head.jpg
Sirui K30x


The Wimberley head is a must when you need to support lenses of the size and weight of 600mm. It is a beautiful head and well balanced which allows you to effortlessly move the lens for the shot you want. The Sirui K30x is also a well made ball head and i wish i had bought the K40x since the 30x does not support the 600 mm well. It is a Chinese brand, but very well made. I use the ball head with the monopod and it is quite convenient especially when quick release systems are in place.


Teleconverters and extension tubes:

A TC is a useful piece of equipment to carry in wildlife safaris when you need to extend reach.Though at the cost of 1 f stop to 2 f stops depending upon the TC, and sometimes also at the cost of slow auto focus; TCs are very useful for hand held BIF photographs. The 600mm, while a great piece of engineering, is pretty useless for BIFs due to its weight (unless we can predict the flight of the bird without cheating). It is here that the 200-500mm f 5.6 VR newly launched by Nikon takes the cake. I use the Nikon TC 1.7E-II with my 70-200mm f2.8 VR-II to take BIFs. Shown below is the TC followed by BIF shots of an Osprey which i took at Kabini:

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-tele-converter.jpg

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-mr2_4782.jpg

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-mr2_4666.jpg

i am not (yet) into macro photography and hence i don't use the extension tubes i gifted myself on some occasion:

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-extension-tubes.jpg


Filters:

Filters are a must in your equipment list. Once you understand the fun you can have with proper filters in place, you would wonder as to how you made do without them in the first place.

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-filters.jpg

Plain UV filters protect your lens and i use them in all my lenses, though some purists maintain that IQ is compromised. I rather protect my glass and wouldn't mind a slight compromise in IQ, as compared to ruining my lens glass accidentally in a fall.

Polaroid filters are useful in certain conditions and i am sure our friends who make such detailed car reviews in T-BHP must be using them to reduce glare. I use it very sparingly.

Variable density filters are very useful and can enhance the quality of a photograph. They can be used to make fun photographs too. Here is a shot of a water fall using a VD 3-400 of Hoya:

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-dsc_2552.jpg

Last edited by earthian : 14th March 2017 at 19:17.
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Old 14th March 2017, 16:30   #5
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Desirable accessories


The accessories which i have for the sake of classification termed as desirable ( some may well consider it mandatory) are mentioned below in no particular order or priority:

Extra battery & charger, lens cap, body cap, rear lens cap,:

I would recommend that one buys an extra battery, particularly if one is into wildlife or night photography. When you are fortunate enough to visit places like Pangong Tso, where at about 15000 feet above sea level, there is very little light, air, or noise pollution and the rarefied atmosphere makes night shooting a dream, it can be a rude surprise to learn that you are running low in battery power. Video drains the battery fast and nowadays most cameras come with video capability. i always keep pouches of silica gel in the place where i keep my camera, lenses and stuff so that they are protected from damp and consequently fungus. Always keep spare lens caps with you in your pocket. They are very useful when changing lenses.

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-charger.jpg Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-extras.jpg

Flash: As mentioned before, i use the flash very sparingly and that too, mostly while covering (unavoidable) family events. I do not recommend the use of flash in wildlife photography since it disturbs them; nor when photographing babies. Yet, it has its uses at times. I do not have any flash extenders, ring flashes and a host of other flash related gadgets.

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-flash.jpg

Remote: A good remote is a must particularly if one is into night or time lapse photography and such like. There are many remote devices available in the market from mechanical to electrical and those triggered by infra red or radio. Suffice to say that all of them have their advantages and disadvantages and one must buy what one feels is best suited for his work. In my case, i bought a cheap radio wave controlled device and it has given me average service - meaning it acts up sometimes.

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-remote.jpg

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-remote-set-up.jpg

Carrying case:

Carrying cases are a must and when you are dealing with such costly equipment, one must ensure that they are adequately protected by buying a quality case. i have two carrying cases. One exclusively for the 600mm and one for all the other lenses, camera and other accessories.
Here is the one for my 600mm:

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-600mm-back-pack-case.jpgGear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-600mm-case.jpg

The carrying case has thoughtful pockets for water bottle, a rain cover (extremely useful when it starts raining in the forest and you are in an open jeep with costly equipment) and a pouch for keeping useful stuff like lens cleaner etc.

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-lens-cleaner-tissue.jpg Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-rain-cover.jpg


The carrying case for the other lenses is also very well designed:

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-600mm-back-pack-case2.jpgGear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-600mm-back-pack-case3.jpg

There is also a good secure place to attach the tripod along with the case:

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-600mm-back-pack-tripod.jpg

Pouches for lens and other small stuff:

Lens pouches are very handy to have when you do not want to lug the entire back pack with you on a safari. In fact, small, medium and large pouches are very useful. I scout the house for such pouches and purloin them.

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-lens-pouch.jpg

Last edited by earthian : 14th March 2017 at 19:20.
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Old 14th March 2017, 16:59   #6
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Desirable accessories (continued):

Quick release plates:

I don't know why Nikon or Canon do not make lens with a quick release foot that can be used in most tripods or monopods or heads (arca swiss quick release system) Well, since they don't we have to remove the useless foot and fit in a quick release foot or plate. ( the original foot that comes with the lens has to be thrown off) I had to spend good money acquiring a quick release foot to change in my 600 mm, and buy expensive wimberley plates to attach in my other lenses.

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-quick-release-plate.jpg

Lens care and maintenance:

i mentioned the need to keep silica gel pouches in the place where you store your gear, especially camera and lenses. If you spend time in the forest, chances are that your lens are going to get dirty and some dust may also get deposited in your camera sensor ( it happens regularly with me since i change lenses in the field) i always keep stuff to take care of lens after every outing. Spare memory cards, and Allen keys to change plates must also be part of essential stuff to lug around.

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-assessories.jpg

(notice the pouch that has been stolen from my wife)


Camera Holster:

My camera along with the 24-70mm f2.8 weighs close to 3 kgs and it can be pretty tiresome with this weight hanging around your neck when you are on foot exploring a new place. I have found the perfect accessory for me to take care of this problem. It is a camera holster.

A camera holster is a belt that you wear around your midriff. The camera fits in a slot specially engineered and can be quickly 'drawn' and 'holstered' just like a gun in wild west era! There is also a safety to ensure the camera does not become 'unholstered' when bending down or squatting.

Here is a photo of me with the holster:

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-holster-set-up3.jpg

These show the close up of the holster:

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-holster-set-up6.jpg

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-holster-set-up7.jpg

The slot where the pin attached to the camera body goes in.

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-spider-holster.jpg

The safety lock that can be used to protect from accidental 'unholstering' of the camera.

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-spider-holster-lock.jpg

The belt comes with a double lock for safety. Unless both hands are used simultaneously to unlock the centre and side buttons, the belt will not come undone. Good safety.

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-spider-holster-belt-fail-safe-lock.jpg

The camera can be taken out in a jiffy and holstered in a jiffy too. I practised drawing and holstering my camera with my best Clint Eastwood accent "Make my day, Punk".

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-holster-set-up4.jpg

Last edited by earthian : 14th March 2017 at 19:23.
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Old 14th March 2017, 18:30   #7
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Post production requirements:


Software:

There are many PP software in the market today. Some of them come free with the camera you buy and they are quite good too. However, for the discerning SAP; freebees won't do and he would want some thing in the likes of Lightroom or Adobe Photoshop or similar. i use LR-6 and find it very useful and quite easy to use, if not master. There are a number of tutorials in the net and if one diligently follows them, the power of PP processing to enhance the quality of ones photographs can soon be mastered.

Card readers:

Earlier, i did not use a card reader, preferring to download pictures from my camera into my computer directly. However, apart from the fact that your battery has a (~)fixed number of charging/discharging cycle, there could be complications that arise when downloading directly from one's camera to the computer via a PP software. I have therefore started using a card reader to very good and fast results:

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-card-reader.jpg

The Photographers Ephemeris:
This is an essential software that you should have particularly if you are interested in shooting the night sky, moon or the rising and setting sun. It is a free software for the desktop and a paid one if you want it in your smart phone. Smart move, that from the developers!


Other tips:

Some of these tips may sound silly and commonplace, but i am mentioning them out of experience ( of having not followed them).

Clothing: Sensible (depending upon weather) clothing of light brown or forest green colours which allow you to blend in and not alarm the target. I usually wear stretchable jeans which allow me to bend at the knees without any pressure and cool cottons along with a cap. Yes, it does make a difference to wear clothes that blend with the environment. A bright red or a fluorescent yellow is a distinct no-no. A photographer's jacket is a useful piece of attire:

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-jacket.jpg

Shoes: Good sturdy hiking shoes are definitely the norm. Many a time a good opportunity is lost since you do not have the correct foot wear to access that place. When in Ladakh, we could access some places safely without any incident. i am not saying it was due to the shoes only, but safe practices do matter.

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-shoes.jpg

Binoculars: Peering through your lens searching for the Pied Kingfisher or the Asian Paradise Fly catcher would soon tire you out. A good pair of binoculars help.

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-binoculars_.jpg
(notice the pouch. Grab a pouch where ever, when ever you see them)

Beanbag: A bean bag helps in stabilising your lens on top of a vehicle or on the side rail. I use a neck rest, available on the roads for Rs 20/-. It comes with an elastic strap that i loop around the lens. Since it is very, very light it makes easy carrying and is a great tool.

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-neck-rest.jpg


That is it, folks. I hope i have been able to list down all the points i wanted to do, but am sure i would have missed something. Feel free to point out or add. I hope this article is useful for all the SAPs in T-BHP. Having talked about equipments, accessories and stuff, let me make one thing clear. Let it not be thought that in order to take a good photograph, one must have the best equipment possible. No, not at all. Far from it. Technique, perseverance, hard work and talent count for 90%. Good equipment the rest 10%. I rather have a good, safe and steady driver at the wheel of an Ambassador, rather than a crazy idiot at the wheel of a Mercedes.

Have fun!

Gear for the Serious Amateur Photographer-wimberley-head2.jpg

Last edited by earthian : 14th March 2017 at 19:26.
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Old 15th March 2017, 08:40   #8
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Old 15th March 2017, 08:52   #9
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Good thread with appropriate advice and illustrative photographs to help make the point. Thanks for sharing Earthian.

Just like you I too use the 24-70 2.8 most frequently.
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Old 15th March 2017, 10:21   #10
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Thanks for the knowledge sharing. I'm sharing this post with my son who is getting interested in photography.

I feel, this will be a good starting point for him.
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Old 15th March 2017, 10:55   #11
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Thank you for a very informative post. Definitely useful for aspiring photographers. Amazing photographs, by the way! Hope the best opportunities come your way, after which you can grace us with more breathtaking images. God bless
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Old 15th March 2017, 11:09   #12
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Thanks for sharing information!
I think the photography kit you own is overkill for amateur photographer, it has surely crossed SAP boundary towards pro photographers kit area. I have seen many pro photographers who drool over many of the equipments you have listed

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Old 15th March 2017, 11:24   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by techcoze View Post
Thanks for sharing information! I think the photography kit you own is overkill for amateur photographer, it has surely crossed SAP boundary towards pro photographers kit area. I have seen many pro photographers who drool over many of the equipments you have listed
His is an advanced amateur/professional kit which is dictated by need (genre of photography) and of course the budget. It varies from person to person.

As for the professionals who covet this kind of gear most would be able to take great photos even if given a basic camera & lens.

At the end of the day it is the skill, both in photography and post processing, that matters first & the gear follows.
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Old 15th March 2017, 11:32   #14
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Good, insightful thread earthian. Great collection of equipment and accessories, equally beautiful pictures. Timely article for me.

I am in a position to become SAP from beginner, kind of transition pace.

Initially I toyed around with point and shoot for couple of years, before procuring above entry level Canon 600D. This is with me for more than 6 years now. Managed to procure few handy lenses too over the years.

Seeing my passion (or madness) got GoPro with 'Karma' grip as a gift from cousin recently.

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Old 15th March 2017, 12:09   #15
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Thanks for the interesting write up.

I donít necessarily agree that a digital SLR is the camera of choice these days. There are a few threads on this already so I will leave it at that.
Just one final blog from a Pro, food for thought:

http://friedmanarchives.blogspot.nl

Quote:
Originally Posted by R2D2 View Post
At the end of the day it is the skill, both in photography and post processing, that matters first & the gear follows.
I agree, I would say there are various attributes that are really important for any photographer. The first one is to actually go out and take photographs! Doesnít matter what camera you have, if you donít use it or use it rarely, you are not going to get great pictures.

The other one is the post processing. Again, you can do it on a shoestring budget, or invest in some proper gear. Obviously, you need some editing program, e.g Photoshop, Lightroom etc. If you take your photography seriously you would invest in a proper monitor (e.g. http://www.eizoglobal.com ) and a proper calibration kit. Even if you donít get the monitor, if you take photography seriously you really ought to spend $100 on a calibration kit, even if it is just for the screen of your laptop. Some of us are spending tens of thousand of dollars on camera kit, so you would think $100 for a calibration kit would be doable.

A good monitor might cost as much as a good camera body! (Think $1-2000)

You mention filters sparingly. Again, it depends a bit on your type of photography. But I would argue any photographer needs to own and use polariser filters. If you are into landscape photography a nice set of (graduated) ND filters is an absolute must. And they donít cost that much either.

As you say there is quite some debate whether you should use UV/skylight filters if anything for protection of your filters. I always did. Since Iím back in the Netherlands I have been attending monthly workshops with professional photographs. Few of them use the filters. To be honest, some of those are also brand manufacturers, so they get all their kit free of charge, no matter if they break it themselves. But itís likely to remain a hotly debated topic on just about any photographic forum.

I have joined the Royal Photographic Society, working on my first distinction. For our club meetings and our exhibitions we print all our work. I rarely had my work printed in the past.

But it is great fun, really gives a whole different perspective. Itís so different looking at a print rather then looking at an iPad. I canít recommended printing your photographs enough! It will allow and help you to get your photographic skills to a much higher level. If anything it will help you look very critically at your pictures and force to decided which one to print and which one to leave on your computer!

Obviously if you get serious about printing you might want to invest in a proper, at least, A3 printer. Also, you will need to develop a whole host of new skills. Printing, at least getting a high quality print our of a high end printer is actually quite a complex process that requires quite a bit of experimentation and lots and lots of trial and error. And then you might also need to invest a bit in the equipment to make your own pass partous.

At the end of the day unless you do a very specific type of photography your choice of camera/lens doesnít matter all that much. More importantly is to get our there and take lots of pictures, experiment, talk to other photographers, follow some of the proís on the web.

Over the years I have always enjoyed going to courses/seminars joining a photo club. I have found it immensely useful to develop my skills. Some of the web based courses are very good. However, I always enjoy the f2f contact. Lots of good courses and some very fine photographers in India that provide all sorts of courses and workshops! Comes at a fraction of the cost of kit mostly too!

Enjoy, Jeroen
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