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Did you know that there’s a stolen photography equipment registry? Apparently, it happens often enough that there’s a list of stolen cameras and other gear. So I’m not being overly cautious when I tell you that it happens all the time and you need to be vigilant. I’ll simply tell you what works for me. While some of these suggestions may sound like I’m being paranoid, I’ll just say that in 27 years of taking pictures, I do what’s on this list and have never had any equipment stolen. If only I could apply these easy suggestions to other things I own. (or used to own)

  • Keep your equipment with you at all times. – If you follow just this one suggestion, you don’t have the worry about most of the others. It only takes a second for your equipment to sprout legs and walk away. Just keeping it in your sight is not good enough. Anytime you are doing location shooting, keep your equipment on your body. Always put lenses and accessories back in your bag. If you must leave your camera momentarily (to stage the shoot or move props) have an assistant watch it closely.
  • Never put equipment in checked luggage – This should go without saying, but you simply won’t see it again. I’m not saying that baggage handlers are dishonest, but I certainly don’t want to give them the opportunity. All they need to do is x-ray your bag, keep it from getting on the airplane, and they can rummage through it at their leisure. Keep your equipment with you as carry-on baggage. If you have too much for carry-on, consider using Fedex or UPS with insurance to deliver it to your destination.

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When I’m shooting for a client locally, I’m not really concerned with the same things as when I’m traveling and taking photos along the way. These are different situations and they call for different equipment. When looking for travel cameras and photo gear, here’s what I consider important:

Quality is paramount

There’s not much point in taking photos if they’re not the best quality available today. Photo quality isn’t determined by the resolution or the camera processor, but by the glass that you shoot through. Good quality lenses make better photos, so I stick with well-respected German or Japanese brands. I explain this in much more detail at Choosing photo equipment.

Resolution is important

Medium format equipment these days can produce 50 megapixel images. Most digital SLRs are between 24 and 36 megapixels now. Even point and shoot cameras can capture 18 megapixels or more. Even though I just said in the previous paragraph that resolution does equate to quality, it is important, because a higher resolution image allows more flexibility for cropping and manipulation. So if that art director doesn’t want all that foreground that you’ve included in the shot, they can simply crop the photo and not sacrifice too much resolution to get only what they need. A low resolution image can’t be cropped much without some pixelation occurring. For what I’m doing, 20 megapixels is the minimum. Read More »

Curious camels

Capturing images in extreme conditions

Taking pictures in the Middle East can be a challenge. The sand and heat are just a couple of the things you’ll probably worry about. Even without a sandstorm, the sand seems to get everywhere and into everything. Left unchecked, it will eventually cause problems with your camera gear. And even without film to worry about, the heat will take its toll on you and your equipment. Here are a some things to consider and some tips to make your picture-taking more enjoyable.

Sand

It gets everywhere and it can’t be avoided. The best thing to do to avoid getting it into all those inaccessible places in your camera is to keep your camera in a zipped bag, pouch or pocket when you’re not using it. Avoid using your camera in sandstorms or windy conditions. If you can’t keep the sand off your gear, be sure to bring a squeeze bulb blower to help remove the sand and dust. Canned compressed air works well, but it tends to be bulky, heavy and forbidden in your carry-on. Be sure to thoroughly remove any sand or dust from both your camera and your bags and cases before changing lens, batteries or memory cards.

Wraparound sunglasses will keep the sand out of your eyes. I don’t recommend wearing contact lenses in the desert because the chance of getting dust in your eyes is almost guaranteed. High-top shoes or boots will help keep out the sand as you’re walking around shifting dunes. Read More »

In My Camera Bag

  • Nikon D300 Camera with MB-D10
  • Nikon D300 Camera (second body)
  • AF-S Nikkor 12-24mm f/4G ED
  • AF-S Nikkor 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED
  • AF Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D
  • AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D
  • MF Nikkor 55mm f/3.5 Macro
  • AF-S VR-Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED
  • Nikon AF-I Teleconverter TC-20E 2X
  • Kenko Ext. Tube 12
  • Nikon SB-800 Flash
  • Macsense Geomet’r GNC-35 GPS receiver

Camera Support

  • Gitzo G1220 MkII Tripod
  • Arca Swiss B-1 MonoBall Head w/RRS flip-lock QR
  • Gitzo G026 Tripod
  • Kirk BH-3 Ball Head
  • Gitzo G1566 Monopod with Kirk QRC2
  • Nodal Ninja NN3 Panoramic Head
  • Kirk Camera Plates and L-brackets

I often get asked for advice about which camera to buy. I don’t try to sell people on Nikon just because I own one. I have Nikon cameras because I own a lot of Nikon lenses. I could just as easily have a Canon system if I had started out with one. Nowadays, there are so many options for digital cameras that it’s easy to get confused. Megapixels, sensor size, aspect ratios, mirrorless and crop factors are just a few of the terms thrown around in the camera stores and media.

I believe it’s important to have access to a large system of accessories. I certainly wouldn’t buy a lesser known system such as Ricoh, Pentax, Olympus or Sigma. That’s because there isn’t much support for those systems in the way of aftermarket accesories. The one thing that I find most important in choosing a system is the glass—the lenses. No matter how good the resolution or size of the sensor or quality of the image processor, without good glass, your pictures will lack in quality. Some of the best glass is German, with Japanese a close second, but you won’t get that level of quality in a $200 point and shoot. For quality lenses, plan on easily spending over $600 for a single lens and well over $1,500 if you want a really good high-speed lens. Great glass comes from German makers such as, Leica, Zeiss and Schneider. You’ll find these lenses paired with cameras from Panasonic, Sony and Samsung, respectively. Good glass comes from Nikon, Canon and Fuji, which they use on their own brand of cameras. Read More »

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