Our Gear

What tripod do I buy? How should I carry my gear when I travel? What computer programs do I need? Hopefully this page helps to answer some of these questions! Picking the right gear is hard- there are lots of options to research at just about any price point you can imagine (and some you can’t).  Have a look below for what gear we are using- More details will eventually show up in blog posts!

Isn’t all this stuff really expensive? Yes. And when you do it wrong (like I did), that just makes it worse. Thom Hogan has a great article about how being too frugal when buying your first kit only adds cost later on. He (correctly) assumes, that after buying the cheap “stepping stone” stuff, you’ll need to upgrade to the better stuff, only further inflating the total cost. Better go big right from the start. Thom’s Article


Cameras and Lenses:
cameras final
glass final
Our primary body is a Nikon D800. With a full frame sensor and 36.3 megapixels, this a beast of a landscape camera. Having used Nikon bodies even back in the dark ages of film, continuing to use the same controls and lenses made a lot of sense. Nikon’s in camera software has lots of program flexibility to make taking bracketed photos a breeze.

B&H: D800

Just as the D800 was a groundbreaking full frame DSLR, the D90 helped to put Nikon’s early DSLRs on the map. With the pro-level D300’s 12.3 MP sensor, and bracketing controls this was (and still is) a great way to get started with more serious photography. The kit 18-105 lens isn’t all that bad, and provides a lot of flexibility as a travel camera. B&H no longer sells it (there lots of nice new DX Nikon bodies), but it is still available new.

Amazon: D90

This is our main walk around lens. Though it is listed one of the lenses Nikon certified as clear enough to be used with the D800, it is not without some controversy. As with any body or lens there, is a lot of debate about its clarity and ability to fully resolve the D800 sensor. Numerous articles and lab tests go through its faults and virtues, but in the real world it pairs well with the body. The VR, nano-coat technology, and zoom range helps to make this a great all around lens for traveling light.

B&H: 24-120

What a bargain! On DxOMark, this lens is just as clear as the $3000+ Zeiss 14mm. Sure there is a lot more distortion, but that is easily fixed in post. If you are looking for a fast, compact, affordable wide angle- this is as good as it gets. An absolute must for the inside of churches, and outdoor night photography.

B&H: 14mm Wide

The Big Zoom: 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 – Not the best zoom out there, but not bad for the money. Definitely a must have for safaris! When combined on a DX body, this is long!

B&H: 70-300 Zoom

Wide Prime: Nikon 24mm f/2.8. Another so-so lens, but it’s easy to carry and its very light! Both in terms of weight and speed, its great (ok decent…meh) for night time street photography.

B&H: 24 Prime


Tripods and Support:
 tripods final
heads final

Used mainly for when I travel, this is one of the smallest and lightest tripods that is still sturdy enough for a serious DLSR. At 1.8 pounds is just as light as any of the carbon tripods. Also, at about $100, it’s cheap!

B&H: Travel Tripod

A new edition, this is the Rolls Royce of tripods. Carbon fiber, full size, and light for its size this is the way to go when you don’t need to cram into a really small carry on. I have the non geared (G) version, and it is the tripod to use. Both of these tripods fit in a standard 22 inch carry on, so you have no problems taking them anywhere.

B&H: Gitzo Carbon



Tripod Heads:

Manfrotto 494RC2 & RRS BH40 with Quick Release and L bracket

The Manfrotto is a great starter head- light weight and simple. For a bit more stability Really Right Stuff is the way to go. I hemmed and hawed about spending so much on a tripod head and after talking to numerous people, RRS is really the right stuff to go with. It’s very stable, which is important for shooting at night with a heavy body and lens. The QR plate and L bracket is equally important. This keeps things stable and easy to position.

Manfrotto Ball Head

RRS BH 40 Ball Head

RRS L Bracket

The One Strap To Rule Them All

I spent a long time looking at how to better carry a heavy full frame camera. I really liked the Custom SLR strap which enabled a better side carry position, but didn’t want to give up the bottom mount, and couldn’t trust it. My search took me to the Vulture strap- the carabineers allow me to attach it to anything and do all sorts of creative carry methods with lots of security. Sadly, the Vulture kit is crazy expensive. Luckily, they sell their bottom straps for twenty bucks! Pick these up, and get a custom strap made for another $15 at strapworks.com! let me know what you think. I know, it’s awesome. You are welcome.

Strap Works

Vulture Straps

rrs rail final

Panorama Support:

Somewhat of a DIY kit, I chose this because I’m too cheap to buy the full RRS panoramic kit. This is technically the RRS slide rail for macro shooting, but the slider kit enables you to take single row panoramics without messy parallax issues. Definitely worth the money. As a side note- Sunway Photo, a Chinese company, makes a very similar kit for roughly 60% of the cost. Great quality and same results.

RRS Pano

How to Carry Everything:
bags final

Incognito Backpack:

When traveling it’s a good idea not to flaunt all of your expensive toys. I prefer non-descript bags for my camera, and also because I can repurpose them when I don’t need the camera. Packing light is key. For trips with only one lens, I start with a PacSafe day pack. The really cool thing about this bag is the PacSafe is obsessed with being anti-theft so there are all these cool zipper and sling locks. As it’s not a camera bag, so I had to add in the case. The Tenba top load case fits perfectly and has room for a D800 with an attached 5 inch lends, and room for a small prime. The pouches on the sides do a great job of holding a small tripod as well.

PacSafe 20L

Tenba DSLR Case

kenti final

Gear Travel Bag:

As with Really Right Stuff, FStop Gear is the best of the best. When I needed to start carrying more than one lens this was recommended. Pros like Elia Locardi and Ken Kiemenski use F-Stop as well. Aside from a customizable inside, one of the big selling points on this bag was its size. It fits perfectly under the seat of an airplane AND in addition to a camera, it fits a 13inch laptop (!). This and an overhead carry on (with tripod and head) is all you need for a week+ photo vacation. The shape is unassuming and F-stop has all sorts of cool add-ons to hold tripods and stuff.

FStop Kenti

Computing and Storage

Processing Power:

Unfortunately for us travelers, with image files of this size, a tablet or netbook won’t cut it. Being a staunch opponent of Apple products (sorry- Ill buy their stock, but not their products), I needed a beast Windows machine. To travel, the best combination of lightness and power was a Sony Vaio Z. 13 inches, less than 2.5 pounds, and can be fitted with an i7 and 8 GB of ram and SSDs. This is great for travel and some processing but doesn’t cut it for bigger projects.

For processing at home and the big projects, we have a desktop. Prepare for nerdyness: i7 4770k Haswell @4ghz, 16 GB Ram, Corsair water cooling, NVidia 770GT graphics, and multiple (small) SSDs for storage of programs and for use as PS6 Scratch Disks. For editing and blending, a Wacom tablet is the way to go, it’s best do it by hand!!!

Memory and Storage:

D800 pictures are BIG- 45MB plus for a single RAW. When processing these in PS, they get even bigger, some panoramic projects I have are 4-5 GB. In camera I use 16 GB Lexar SD cards- usually carrying 4 of them and rotating through them so all of my eggs aren’t in the same basket. For extra back up, I also simultaneously shoot JPEGS to a 32 GB compact flash card. Sure it’s probably better to shoot the Raws onto the CF card, but multiple cards is WAY too expensive!

When travelling I bring two 1 TB WD passport external drives to back up shots and store ongoing projects. At home, even 1 TB presents storage issues. In my 2.5 years of constant travel, I accumulated nearly 1.5 TB of data before counting the larger project files and north of 45k pictures. For back up, and to be able to access that data from anywhere I chose to go with my own server. The Synology DS412+ gives me 4 bays, which support up to 3 TB each in various RAID formats. This is the way to do back up (or music and media streaming!)

Synology DiskStation


Photoshop CS6
Nik Collection
Wacom Tablet

I hate light room. Yup, I said it. I don’t use it. Let’s move on. Raw processing is done in Adobe Camera Raw and main processing is done in PS6. I originally heavily used Photomatix (as Trey Ratcliff does), but recently I’ve moved more towards hand blending and luminosity masks (this will have to be a blog post how-to, eventually), in PS with the Wacom tablet. After attending a Ken Kaminsky and Elia Locardi Photowalk in NYC, I got a free copy of Google’s NIK Collection. This does sharpening, color correction, HDR, and lots of other cool effects. Noise is also managed via the Noiseaware PS plug in. Finally, for panoramics, Kolor’s AutoPanoGiga used to be the weapon of choice, but now PS is used in conjunction to edit the individual files.

Want more information on the gear above? Check out the “gear” tagged blog posts here for more in-depth reviews and information.