I've been committed to the Canon EOS system since 2004, principally because I believe it to be the the best and most comprehensive system going. Now I'm a Canon Ambassador I use exclusively the extensive Canon EOS system of cameras and lenses for all my work, but it wasn't always that way. Over the years I’ve used all sorts of cameras and formats.
Back in 1980 I started with the Olympus OM system, a delightfully compact set up with good optics. Unfortunately Olympus abandoned the professional market in the early 90s and the later OM 3 & 4s were just not reliable. When my OM3 locked up whilst trekking in northern Thailand in 1992 I made the decision to switch to Nikon.
In 1995 my relatively new Nikon F4 and lenses took a swim in the sea off Godrevy Point in Cornwall where I was engulfed by a monster wave; a mammoth insurance claim followed and so I took the opportunity to update to the F5. This camera was my workhorse for 10 years; I had two bodies, which never missed a beat on countless journeys to the four corners of the globe.
In March 2005 I made the big change to digital capture and so followed the switch to the Canon EOS system with the 1Ds Mk II. Switching systems was not a decision I took lightly. When I was a student virtually all pros used Nikon, but by 2005 Canon seemed to have edged ahead in the professional market. Nikon’s insistence back then on using a ‘half frame’ sensor size in their pro DSLRs lost them many loyal customers, myself included. They’ve caught up since, but it was way too late for me. The EOS 1Ds Mk II and the Canon DSLRs that followed proved to be phenomenally flexible and reliable cameras over the subsequent years of travel as I turned into a complete digital convert.
In 2008 I upgraded to the 21 megapixel 1Ds Mk III which was my workhorse camera for several years. The quality this full frame Canon produced was very impressive, much superior to medium format film in my opinion.
In 2009 I supplemented my arsenal with a 5D Mk II, followed in 2012 by the 5D Mk III. My current set up includes the super high resolution 50+ MP Canon EOS 5DS R, the extremely versatile Canon 5DmkIV and the creme de la creme of action cameras the Canon 1Dx Mk II. I also use the 5D Mk IV to shoot HD video for the Road Show and video blogs for the f11 Photography Magazine. My original 1Ds Mk II has been converted for infra-red work. The fine detail the 5DS R is capable of capturing and the low light capabilities of the 5D Mk IV and 1Dx Mk II have opened up all sorts of opportunities (such as night sky photography) that I couldn't even have dreamt of back in the film era.
As far as lenses are concerned I use everything from fisheyes to super telephotos. I now have a range of prime optics and fast zooms; they all have their uses. For landscape work I find the 17mm & 24mm TS-E lenses to be so useful and ultra-sharp. For hectic hand held travel portraiture and reportage my dream team consists of the super-fast EF 35mm f1.4L II & 85mm f1.2L II lenses. I don’t have a favourite lens; I use the right lens for the job. The resolution capabilities of the 50+ MP full frame sensor my EOS 5DS R mean that I have to use the very best optics Canon produce. I don’t use flash a lot, now with the capability of setting the ISO on the Canon to 6400 or higher I can produce images which in the past just wouldn’t have been possible.
In my time I’ve used all the professional formats. In the 80s working as a commercial photographer in Bristol a Hassleblad 500CM earned its keep, though I never really gelled with the square format. In 1990 I fell in love with the letterbox panoramic format when a Fuji G617 was rented for a shoot in Venice. A purchase inevitably followed. I then upgraded to the GX617 with interchangeable lenses in 2000. The attachment with the panoramic format continues, but I now stitch my panoramas digitally and so can travel the world with just my Canon system packed; albeit with a fair few lenses!
After experiencing gruesome colour casts in the skies when using cheap filters I swopped to the Lee Filters System decades ago and have used them ever since. Tripods have invariably been Manfrotto 055s, I've got through a fair few in my time, but now I’m also using the excellent Gitzo 3542 Systematic. I’ve always preferred a geared head. You’ll find loads more background information on equipment and techniques in the f11 Photography Magazine, but this is my current kit list:
|Canon EOS-5D Mk IV||Canon EF 85mm f1.2 L II USM lens|
|Canon EOS-5DS R||Canon EF 14mm f2.8 L II USM lens|
|Canon EOS-1Dx Mk II||Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens|
|Canon BG-E11 battery grip||Canon EF 200-400mm f4L IS 1.4x USM lens|
|Canon EF 16-35mm f2.8 L III||assorted Delkin memory cards|
|Canon EF 24-70mm f2.8 L II USM lens||Gitzo GT3542XLS tripod|
|Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8 L IS II USM lens||Manfrotto 405 Pro Geared Head|
|Canon TS-E 17mm f4L tilt & shift lens||assorted Lee filters|
|Canon TS-E 24mm f3.5L II tilt & shift lens||Apple Mac Book Pro 13"|
|Canon EF 35mm f1.4 L II USM lens||Canon Legria Mini X video camera|
Computers, Memory & Software
Here in the office we have 3 main desktop computers all with the latest fastest processors and big hard drives, all networked and hooked up to 2 monitors each. My main monitor is a giant 27” iMac screen. I remember working on images in Photoshop in the late 90s with a painfully slow machine and tiny 12” screen; things have moved on somewhat and continue to do so at an alarming rate. I find this side of the business excruciatingly boring; thankfully we have our IT guy Matt who keeps it all ticking over. Back-ups to massive hard drives all happen automatically, but there are constant IT headaches.
My Mac Book Pro lap top has become an essential travel companion, particularly now with the amount of writing I do. Soggy days in Cumbria are not the waste of time they used to be; now I can get on with the monthly issue of the f11 Photography Magazine, knock out a newsletter or post an image on Facebook to see what you lot think. The laptop is also a useful temporary back up device for storing unedited images whilst traveling. I don’t yet have a tablet; I can only use so many devices at a time, but maybe it’s inevitable that sooner or later I will.
I use Delkin Devices 64 GB CF & SD memory cards and fast card readers. I don’t often need the fast write speeds sports photographers do, but the download speeds when coupled with the USB 3.0 reader are very handy.
In the office the software I use for processing is Adobe Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC and Premire Pro CC. Lightroom is also a handy tool for managing our huge image library. For some time I did use Capture One for my RAW conversions, but now I find Lightroom a generally more useful asset management program.
For cold conditions a merino base layer is vital. Generally I find Páramo’s Directional Clothing system to be the best. I’m not exactly cutting a dash but it all keeps me warm and dry. I have more pairs of boots then our niece has dress shoes. Well, maybe not, but there is a pair for every occasion; a summer ramble, a Scottish peak in winter, deep snow in Jasper or a tea estate in Sri Lanka all require different bootage. I generally prefer Scarpa footwear.
For general temperate outdoor clothing I’ve always liked Rohan’s gear. There is so much of this stuff about though, it all comes down to personal preference. Having the right gear does make a huge difference. Outside of the tropics I’ll always have hat, gloves and a spare layer available. Different environments will always present unique challenges that require their own solutions clothing wise.
For a landscape photographer a 4WD vehicle is a useful asset. Don’t get me wrong, the last thing I want to see are vehicles rampaging across the green pristine landscape, but they are so useful for getting about up rough tracks in adverse conditions.
For all of this millennium I’ve been a Land Rover Discovery devotee. My latest Discovery 4 which I’ve had 5 years now has earned its keep many times over, as many a guest on our Workshops can vouch for. It’s not just the off-road capabilities that make it so useful, living and working out of the back for months on end as we rove around Europe is a joy - Countless meals have been cooked on the tailgate.
The load space is also so useful when we run Road Shows, or stage exhibitions, and the ability to seat 6 passengers is crucial for our Workshops. I’ve completed various Land Rover off-road driving courses to take the vehicle to the limit of its capabilities; never has a middle aged bloke had so much fun.
Further afield we’re forced to rent vehicles. In Latin America, Africa and Australasia we’ve hired a multitude of 4x4s; Toyota Land Cruisers and Nissan Patrols are tough no nonsense vehicles that have served us well.