Equipment

Camera

Ask any serious photographer about camera equipment and they will have strong opinions toward one manufacturer or another.  Some prefer Canon, some prefer Nikon, some prefer Sony, etc… Often professionals are chasing the latest, greatest camera equipment.  Today most are chasing mirrorless cameras but that is another story.  The truth is that what a photographer likes to shoot with is more a matter of what takes good images and what feels good in your hands.

I often get asked what camera I shoot with. While I’m happy to share that I shoot with a Canon 6D Mark ii, it’s important to know why. First, I shoot a lot of night sky photography. The sensor on the Canon 6D Mark ii is pretty well optimized for low light conditions. It doesn’t have the highest pixel count. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that much higher end professional cameras have. But what it does have is several great things: it takes sharp images, it has great low light capability, a lower cost than many other professional cameras, it is relatively light weight, it has a tilt screen LCD and it feels great in my hands. Especially in the dark — when it matters.

Lenses

Nearly any new DSLR camera with relatively high pixel count is going to yield great quality.  That said, what probably matters as much as the camera is the quality of the lenses that you use.  There is a serious difference in lens quality and durability depending on manufacturer.  Some also have better optics.  Some have better weatherproof seals to guard against dust and moisture.  Some are more durable.

I shoot nearly exclusively with Canon EF prime lenses. They aren’t cheap but they take very sharp images. I also shoot with a 24 – 105mm Sigma zoom lens.  The Sigma provides great quality at an affordable price. My recommendation is that you invest most of your money in quality lenses and you won’t be disappointed.

  • Canon EF 14mm
  • Canon EF 24mm
  • Canon EF 35mm
  • Canon EF 200mm
  • Sigma 24 – 105mm
  • Canon 1.4x Teleconverter

Tripod

When I first started getting into photography, a couple of professionals I know recommended that I buy a sturdy tripod.  Guess what?  Sturdy tripods are not cheap.  If you are going to shoot night sky images or long exposures, you simply need to buy a good quality tripod and say ouch only once.  Flimsy tripods won’t cut it in the field – a word to the wise.

On a recent trip to Iceland a colleague of mine pointed out another photographer that was setting up to shoot some waterfalls near us.  The photographer had an ultra expensive camera worth thousands of dollars and an incredibly flimsy tripod.  The cheap tripod he had was struggling to remain steady in a mild wind.  It is simply amazing to me that people will spend large sums of money on a camera and try to go dirt cheap on a tripod. Steady matters!

Another important investment you need to make is in a quality ballhead.  Guess what? Good ballheads are also not cheap.  I started out with a relatively inexpensive head and had great difficulty taking vertical images with my camera.  It took me a few times to figure out that cheap ballheads are the same as cheap tripods – not worth it.  Invest in a top of the line ballhead that has panning capability and a quick release.  You will love how easy it is to take panoramic pictures and vertical images.  I use Really Right Stuff (RRS) for both the ballhead and my L-bracket.  I know I’m biased but I think RRS makes the best and easiest to use.  Guess what?  Really Right Stuff is not inexpensive.

  • Manfrotto Carbon Fiber 055CX3
  • Really Right Stuff – BH 55 Ballhead
  • Really Right Stuff – L Bracket

Filters

  • Hoya 72mm Variable Density
  • Hoya NXT 72mm Circular Polarizer
  • Hoya NXT 72mm UV Haze
  • Heliopan 77mm Circular Polarizer
  • Heliopan 77mm UV Haze

That’s about it for equipment other than filters.  My advice on filters is the same as the suggestions up above.  Buy quality filters and you won’t be disappointed!