Is it the gear or the photographer?
I like to think that gear is not the most important tool when it comes to make a picture but the four inches behind the viewfinder. Now, I will admit that I like to own the best gear I can afford but just because once I am inside a dark rainforest I need all the available light and only a fast lens mounted on a full frame camera will give me the results I am looking for.
Most photographers, myself included, suffer from IGAS (impulsive gear acquisition syndrome) although the fact of having all the lenses and all the cameras available in the brand of our preference, does not guarantee that we will obtain the photo that so much we ambition.
The reason is simple, how many lenses and how many cameras can we take with us when we enter a forest? I can not imagine a photographer carrying a 600mm f/4 and a 400mm f/4 or similar in a distance of several kilometers in addition to binoculars, bird book, backpack with wide angle lens, body backup etc!
I truly believe that knowing your subject is paramount, read about it as much as you can, study its behavior, distribution, calls, then go out and create some artistic images, but most importantly, enjoy the process of creating such images!
My main camera is a Canon 5DIV and my back up is a Canon 5DIII, both cameras live with their battery grips and let me explain why I chose to add a few ounces of weight.
I find a lot of birds and animals with long tails in my walks in the forests, so to me it makes a lot of sense to take their pictures in portrait mode or at least that’s what my composing eye dictates.
Having a grip attached to my camera helps my hands to have a better hold which in turn translates in less vibrations. I also love the fact that I can easily access to the joystick, as I use it quite extensively to move around the focusing points layout.
These are the lenses I trust and use on a daily basis:
I love the soft bokeh that my 600mm f/4II L IS USM produces besides being one of the longest and sharpest telephotos made by Canon.
The new Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L II USM is a fine lens with amazing minimum focusing distance (MFD) capabilities. Also to consider, if you can’t afford the weight of a 500mm or 600mm lens, you can use the 100-400II with the 1.4X tele extender on the newer Canon bodies and still be able to auto focus without loosing much image quality!
For landscape photography I rely on Canon´s 16-35mm f/4L USM lens. What makes this a personal favorite is the fact that I can use my 77mm polarizing filter with it as well as with the 100-400. Also, this is not a bulky nor heavy lens and offers enough range for those super wide angle shots and at f/4 still gathers enough light for doing night photography.
Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX this is my favorite non Canon lens. This lens allows me to get close enough to snakes without being bitten! I love the fact that this lens is OS in Sigma terminology (Optically stabilized).
Then my second favorite non Canon lens is the “cheapo” Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 manual focus lens.
Last but not least, is the Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens. This is not a very common lens among landscape photographers and I can’t agree more but…given the right scenario you could still use this lens to photograph the milky way as it gathers tremendous amount of light given the aperture! it is by no means a wide angle so you should be acquainted with stitching software in order to produce the expected results. I use it to take pictures of my family most of the time 🙂
As for tripods I use the trusty Really Right Stuff carbon fiber TVC-33 tripod. Not a cheap option at all but is the only tripod that has lasted long enough to make for the price! Mounted on my tripod lives a Wimberley head as it is the best in my opinion when it comes to big lenses.