Although I believe that gear isn’t the most important thing a fine art photographer needs, in my view artistic vision, passion and creativity are far more important, I realize that having good gear is essential for boosting the moral for any photographer. It can inspire in some ways, it can make it more fun at times when things aren’t going your way and it can make it more effective and time efficient if you can get things right in-camera instead of correcting it in post-production. Below I will list what gear I have and what I use it for with some comparable alternatives and also I will list what’s on top of my wish-list.
- Canon 5DS/R – My primary all round full-frame camera with 50.6MP for seascapes, architecture, automotive, portraits and still life. I shoot everything with this. A lot of megapixels which makes it the ideal camera for me for my large prints (50 to 100 inch prints or 1 meter to 2.5 meters). In those cases the more megapixels the better the large print will be printed. There’s also a Canon 5DS and the difference with the 5DS/R is that the 5DS comes with a low-pass filter and the 5DSR with a so-called ‘self-cancellation’ filter to make images even sharper.
- Canon EOS 5D Mark III –My back up camera in case one of my camera fails. Great camera with which I’ve been working for 4 years and it never let me down. Some would say the dynamic range isn’t as good as for example the Sony A7RII Mirrorless or the Nikon D810 and perhaps that’s true but still it didn’t prevent me from having my photos as large prints in galleries in NYC, Las Vegas and Europe, and in printed magazines all over the world. I think the person behind the camera is more of a decisive factor than the dynamic range.
- The less expensive but equally great full frame Canon EOS 6D is a great alternative if you want to save out on the camera. The great thing about this camera is that it has a built in wifi option so you can easily connect this with your iPhone, iPad or Android device for remote shooting and viewing. No need to buy an external field monitor or Camranger device. Which is a big PRO in my book especially when you shoot architecture!
- If you’re more a Nikon man then I can highly recommend the full-frame Nikon D810 with 36.3 mega-pixels and in the same price range as the Canon 5D.
- Canon EOS 7D – Back up camera for seascapes and architecture and very useful for portraits and still life due to the cropped sensor.
- Fujifilm FinePix X100 Digital Camera – All round camera, small, light weight and quiet and hence ideal for street photography. Also useful as a carry-around camera for the occasional snap-shot, long exposure, portrait, etc. I love this retro styled camera.
- Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II Tilt-Shift Manual Focus Lens. If you shoot a lot of architecture like I do then this would of course be the ideal lens for that type of work. Far more easy to compose architectural photographs without distorted verticals by using the so-called shift functionality of the lens that keeps the image plane (and thus focus) parallel to the subject. At the same time this lens captures details so much better due to its superior optics. Or if you want to you can create artistic looking images, especially portraits, by using the tilt functionality of the lens to create selective focus. Note that this is different from small Depth of Field photos that have a different effect. See more on T/S photography the tutorial on T/S photography on this website by Regan Shercliffe.
- Canon 17-40L – great allround wide angle lens, for anything landscape or seascape and also architecture. Not too expensive with good quality.
- Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto Zoom Lens – great lens for portraits, still life and even for long exposures with the ‘long view’.
- Tamron SP AF 10-24mm f / 3.5-4.5 DI II Zoom Lens For Canon DSLR Cameras – A lens I only use on my Canon 7d, great for ultra wide angled shots of seascapes or architecture.
- Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II Lens for Digital SLR Cameras – An older lens before I had the 70-200 f2.8 but still a great lens for portraits and still life especially when mounted on the 7D.
- Canon 50mm 1.4 USM prime – I rarely use it now, but a great fast all round lens for street and portrait. There are also cheaper and more expensive versions.
Tripods and ballheads and L-plates
- FLM CB-58 FTR ball head with tilt-lock system. The best and biggest ball head I’ve ever came across that’s also very affordable. It has a tilt lock to lock the ball on one axis so it’s much easier to level the ball on the other axis. Why didn’t other manufacturers think of this? I have the version with the SRB60 QR clamp instead of the version with the QRP-70 Quick release system since this system, even though it is Arca compatible, won’t accept all Arca Swiss style plates, the SRB-60 on the other hand will accept almost everything.
- Novoflex L-plate – I prefer using an L-plate to the regular plates. This makes it much easier to switch the camera from horizontal landscape orientation to vertical portrait orientation.
- I have an extra large Sirui tripod: the R-5214-XL which has 10 carbon layers, 4 leg sections and a load capacity of 30 kg. It can be extended up to 2 meters (6ft 7″) and it’s by far my favorite tripod for architecture and seascapes under challenging conditions. It has a price of around $1,000 but unfortunately it’s a tripod that’s almost impossible to obtain in the USA. Much easier to get your hands on this tripod in Europe.
- Gitzo GT 2830 or GT 2840 tripod and Gitzo 2781 QR ball head (this is a similar version to mine on B&H but not in Safari green) – this is my secondary tripod made of basalt so it’s not too heavy for traveling and not too light for long exposure photography in windy conditions. I can recommend any Gitzo tripod but be sure if you shoot a lot of long exposure work that you have a sturdy tripod that’s not too light in windy conditions
- Manfrotto 055XPROB Tripod with 804RC2 ballhead
- Few other smaller tripods from Vanguard that I use to beat up annoying security people:)
- 1 Formatt-Hitech Firecrest 16 stops ND circular – This is the ND filter I use all the time, it sits on my 24mm Canon TS-E lens most of the time.
- 1 Formatt-Hitech Firecrest 10 stops ND circular
- 1 Formatt-Hitech Firecrest 13 stops ND circular
- 1 Formatt-Hitech Firecrest 16 stops ND rectangular
- 2 Formatt-Hitech IRND Prostop 2 circular 8 stops filters
- 1 Formatt-Hitech IRND Prostop 2 rectangular 10 stops resin filter
- 1 Formatt-Hitech IRND Prostop 2 rectangular 6 stops resin filter
- The above rectangular or the circular slide in filters from Hitech are the ones I can highly recommend. Unlike the older Hitech filters that had quite a persistent blue color cast, these new IRND filters are very neutral with just a slight blue color cast. My favorite filter set at this moment and prefer these filters to the comparable Lee Big stoppers. Why? The Lee filters are always out of stock and have a slightly stronger blue cast compared to the Hitech.
- 2 B+W ND 10 stops filters – these were the filters I always used before I had the Hitech IRND filters. High quality circular screw on filters with a slightly warm red/purple cast. Easily to get rid of this color cast in Post processing.
- 1 B+W ND 6 stops filters – since 10 stops isn’t enough when shooting long exposures I always add a 6 stops to it to make it 16 stops which most of the times is exactly right for my type of photography.
- A Lee Kit holder with 77mm adapter for attaching the Hitech IRND rectangular filters.
GENERIC PHOTO EDITING SOFTWARE
- Adobe Photoshop Extended CS6 – my digital darkroom, I can’t create the art I make without this.
- Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 – I use this as a workflow tool where I manage all my photos. I use it for some minor corrections like white balance, crop and perspective corrections only.
The rest is being done in Photoshop and with the following plug-ins I’m still using or have used. As you may know I’ve created my own software panel for Photoshop to replace most of the plugins mentioned below
ADDITIONAL PLUG-INS FOR B&W CONVERSIONS, RESIZING PHOTOS AND NOISE REDUCTION
- Silver Efex Pro2 – There is, or better yet, there was no better piece of software for B&W conversions than this. By far the best there has been on the market. It’s been a while since Silver Efex Pro and the entire Google NIK Software collection is free of charge after being taken over by Google, but Google is not going to support NIK Software’s SEP2 from 2017 onwards. Which basically means, SEP2 is going to be eliminated.
- onOne Software Perfect Resize – I always create photos with as main objective to print it in all sizes. Also very large for some of my architectural work. In that case it’s easy to resize your photo without any loss of quality using the best resize software there is. High quality output and it really is easy.
- Topaz DeNoise – This is the plug-in I’m still using to remove noise in a subtle and very effective way without any loss of detail. I’ve written an extensive tutorial on using Topaz DeNoise on the Topaz Website.
- Topaz ReMask – creating selections is an essential part of my workflow in order to completely control the image up to pixel level. I find that Topaz ReMask reduces the time I spend on creating selections quite considerably. I still need to do manual corrections but I save up to 50% of the time usually spent on creating selections. If you know that on average I spent 20 hours for creating complex selections in my architectural work then saving 8 to 10 hours is very good. Just click on the logo below to buy it directly from the Topaz Labs Store
- Or buy the complete Topaz Complete Collection to have all these and more great plug-ins like Topaz B&W Effects which is now, after the demise of Silver Efex Pro2, the best B&W conversion software there is (of course I prefer and use my own Photoshop panel for B&W conversions, but I’m biased). It comes with so many presets that even if you think it is not always your taste, it can give you some artistic ideas you haven’t thought of. This is also the way I like to use plug-ins: to quickly get an idea how the photo could look like, just by selecting the preset. The various toning presets are very inspiring too: from simple Sepia toning to more advanced split tones and also the Van Dyke Brown toning to name a few.
- A wireless remote shutter release, the Giga T Pro II 2.4 Ghz from Hahnel. It has a bulb timer, interval timer, and much more. Best value for money. Similar wireless remote shutter releases from Canon are either much more expensive or have less features. If you’re shooting seascapes you will find yourselves standing in the water a lot of the time. It’s more comfortable if you can see the elapsed exposure time from a distance on dry ground!
- A remote shutter release cable with a lock. A cheap remote that you can’t do without if you shoot long exposure work. Any remote shutter release will work, and I always bring this with me if the batteries of my wireless remote have died.
- Hoodman compact loupe – Since most of the time I use manual lenses, and I want to be sure my shot is in focus, even when there’s bright ambient light, I always use the Hoodman loupe to see all details much clearer. Indispensable little item for me.
- An Marshall¤Electronics M-CT7 7″ Portable Camera Top Field Monitor With Battery Plate/Battery/Charger” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>external field monitor for comfortable shooting of architectural work without crawling underneath the camera all the time. A must if you don’t want to break your back and compose accurate images. Or even better yet (and I’m going to purchase this one myself): The Camranger is a great device that can do anything the field monitor can do and far more by connecting it to your iPad or iPhone and control your camera wirelessly! PS: no need to buy an external monitor or Camranger device if you’re going for the Canon 6D since it has a built in wifi option that enables you to connect wirelessly with your iPhone, iPad or Android device!
- Wacom Intuos Tablet I can’t edit properly and accurately without this wonderful tablet: if you edit on pixel size, which is a must if you want to create award-winning architectural photos, then this is the tool you need. It’s far more inaccurate and unnatural with a normal mouse. Be sure to choose the medium size version which is perfect for sketching with a natural feel.
- Backpacks: I use the Fstop Loka backpack and the F-stop Satori EXP V2 which is a bit larger than the Loka and I have to say I’ve never had backpacks that sit better on my back than those two backpacks. My older Lowepro Prorunner x450 AW , that you can use rolling with the wheels and the trolley handle or just carry on your back for maximum flexibility on my international trips (it’s also airline carry-on compatible) and larger projects, is something that’s collecting dust right now.
- or I use my smaller Lowepro Prorunner 200 AW when I just go out shooting nearby with my photographic friends.
- A calculator for calculating the long exposure times: you can either download my chart and print it out or download the NDTimer app from the iTunes store. If you’re just starting out with long exposure photography, then this will help you out! Don’t forget to add 30-50% to the calculated exposure time if you shoot with 8 stops and 50-80% with 10 stops or more.
- Sunglasses for that bad-ass B&W fine-art photographer look and the necessary NDs for your own eyes:) I use either Persol (my favorite) or Rayban.
- And while you’re at it, finish it off with a Borsalino (fedora) hat 🙂
My wish list
- The Pentax 645Z digital medium format camera: a very affordable 50Mp Medium format camera. This to be paired with the Hartblei 45mm Super Rotator Tilt Shift lens for medium format cameras.
- A Zeiss Distagon T* 18mm f/3.5 ZE Wide Angle Lens. For even better quality photos: if you edit on pixel level like I do then this lens can make all the difference. Would love to have this for my architectural and seascape work.
- Perhaps the Leica M Monochrom Type 246 Digital Camera. For someone shooting B&W work only this would be the perfect camera. It has a sensor that can only record B&W in RAW format with a quality that resembles the analog film cameras but with the advantages of the digital RAW file. Due to the fact that there’s no color filter array in front of the sensor there is a far better resolution, less noise and no interpolation. Expensive but very tempting. Having said that, it’s much less expensive than the other monochrome only camera on the market, the PhaseOne IQ3 achromatic – see below.
- Alternatively you could rob a bank and buy yourself the PhaseOne IQ3 Achromatic so you can shoot some moody, gritty B&W images while you’re doing time in prison:)