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GAS: Gear Acquisition Syndrome

A frequent question heard in photography circles is what do I need to get the best photos possible? This is the Canon versus Nikon debate because its all opinion based. Everything we use is a tool. Tools are supposed to make the job easier. The camera is a tool. Don't believe me? Compare a sports camera to a landscape camera, or a portrait lens to a sports lens; they are very different tools. Cameras and all of the extras are just like anything else, you can price yourself out wanting. In my opinion understand what you have and stay within those limits to achieve the maximum results possible.

This is what I travel with from my home when I go out. Add in a couple tripods, lights, lighting, and anticipated clothing I pack!

My go to landscape lens is the Sony 24-70 f4 lens. I know how this lens works, where the "sweet spot" is, and the duties it can perform. Recently, I've wanted to use a wider focal range and am currently learning the Sigma 14-24 lens. Remember, lenses are simply tools to help us accomplish our task. The original zoom was the two foot lens: take two steps closer, take two steps back, take two steps left, and take two steps right.

Other lenses in my box are simply tools to help overcome a different situation.

After a good lens, the most important piece of equipment is a good tripod. For some reason this is where most people want to skimp including me. I always tell people buy what you can afford and upgrade when you can. I am currently using a Manfrotto 055 carbon fiber tripod.

I've topped it with a Really Right Stuff (RRS) pano head and base leveler. The RRS system allows me to change between portrait and landscape shots, as well as allowing me to do panos. The weight of my current set up is significant enough to offer a steady base for longer exposures. I typically carry a backup tripod. I have a Manfrotto 190 and Manfrotto carbon b free: both with RRS ball heads. I have had tripod disasters and been left without a tripod to use while in the field. The tripod is your best chance after a good lens to get a tack sharp image. Remember the rule for handheld photos: shutter speed should be at least 1.5 times that of your focal length and 2 times is even better. If you have a 50mm lens your minimum shutter speed should be 1/75 or faster.

I would then recommend good protection for your equipment. I am a hard case believer and my equipment live in hard cases. I do use backpacks and messenger bags for situation-specific times. Then come the extras: camera batteries. SD cards, lens caps, small flashlights (more than one) for your bags, and lens cloths. These small items will save you at some point if you venture out enough. I have left my SD card at home, I have run out of battery power in my primary flashlight, and I have seen a lens cap fall into the water and float away. Lens cleaning cloths seem to get misplaced very easily. Anything small have a backup or two is my rule of thumb.

My next recommendation would be lens filters. A good set of ND (neutral density) filters can help you control the dynamic range of the scene. Just like everything else there are an overwhelming choice of brands, and then gradient strengths. These are the most commonly used filters in my bag.

In order from left to right, 3 stop and 6 stop ND filters. These are designed to darken the entire scene and provide a longer exposure. I also have a 10 and 15 stop ND filter (not pictured). I also use a 1 and 2 stop soft edge neutral density filter. These are designed to help control the sky. I also have a 3 stop soft edge filter, I feel it tends to add grain. The circular polarizer is a great tool especially around water. Think of it a polarized sunglasses for you camera. The last filter is a 2 stop reverse soft edge ND filter. If you notice the darkest area is in the middle. These are particularly useful for sunrise or sunset pictures. The soft edge filters help control the sky while not impacting your foreground. The effectiveness of filters can be increased as they are stacked together.

Again, in photography there are an overwhelming number of choices for all of the equipment. I adhere to buy what you can afford and continue to learn. When you're able upgrade then buy what you can afford. We all have different wants for this wonderful hobby. The world of photography offers a huge variety of information to study and increase your skill set. The availability of tools allow us to hone a specific skill set.

Thank you for taking the time to read about GAS. please feel free to contact me with any question. Until next time, I'll keep wandering the BackRoads.

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