Canon lenses

Rick's List: Alaska Bald Eagle Workshop Gear

© Rick Sammon
I'm gearin' up for my April Alaska workshop with Hal "Bull" Schmitt, who is the lead instructor at Light Photographic Workshops.

The focus of the Alaska workshop will be on photographing bald eagles, but we'll also be photographing spectacular landscapes and sea scapes . . . and few whales.

Because gear is a very poplar topic here on my blog, I thought I'd put together another "Rick's List," this time discussing the gear I'm packing for Alaska - and why I'm packing it.  I'll be using the same gear for my Bosque del Apache workshop in December with Juan Pons. I updated this list/post after doing a test: 7D vs. 5D Mark III.

The pictures you see here are from my 2011 Alaska trip with Hal.

Here goes.

Canon 5D Mark III - Two: one mounted with a telephoto lens or zoom, and one mounted with a wide-angle zoom.

Canon 400mm DO lens - my main BIF lens. A relatively compact lens that I borrowed from Canon's CPS.

Canon 100-400mm IS lens - for extra shooting flexibility when the birds are zooming toward and away from the boat (our shooting platform).

Canon 70-200mm f/4 lens - great for when the birds are relatively close to the boat.

Canon 1.4X tele converter - makes my 400mm a 560mm. I don't use a 2x converter. I just crop in camera.

Canon 15mm fisheyes lens - for very wide shots of the glaciers (see below). I'll probably upgrade to the Canon 8-15mm lens soon.

© Rick Sammon
Canon 17-40mm lens - my standard landscape and seascape lens.

Canon 25-105mm IS lens - I never leave home without it. Great for people shots, on land and on a boat. A wonderful general-purpose lens, too.

Storm Jacket camera/lens protector - to keep my camera and lens dry.

Tiffen Polarizing Filter - to reduce reflections on water and ice.

Tiffen Variable ND filter - to reduce the light entering the camera so I can shoot waterfalls at slow shutter speeds in bright light.

© Rick Sammon
Lexar 16GB and 32GB cards - so I can takes lots of pictures of birds in flight without chaining cards.

Blower - to keep my sensor clean.

Head-mounted flashlight - for hands-free shooting in the dark.

Small flashlight - just in case the lights go out.

Extra camera batteries and charger - for extra power.

Plastic sandwich bags - for extra camera protection.

Believe it or not, all that gear fits snugly into my Lowepro AW 300 backpack.

Not shown: my Induro tripod and ball head . . . plus all my clothes, etc.

My computer gear includes:

MacBook Pro
Lexar Card Reader
LaCie portable hard drive (500GB).

I pack my computer gear in a Lowepro roller.

I hope to see you someday on one of my workshops, group or private. To get on the list, shoot me an email.

© Rick Sammon
Explore the light,

Happy New Gear

Is Your Lens Sharp?

In this photograph, the whiskers and hairs on the animal's body are tack sharp.

Several factors contribute to sharp images:

• The sharpness of the lens.
• Accurate focus.
• The aperture at which you shoot. Three stops down from the widest aperture is often the sharpest aperture.
• Contrast, with pictures taken in high-contrast situations looked sharper than pictures taken under soft  light.
• The shutter speed at which you shoot, with faster shutter speeds usually producing sharper hand-held pictures.
• A clean front and rear lens element.
• Lens flare.
• Camera shake, with the mirror lock-up feature helping when a camera is on a tripod.
• Condensation on the front element of your lens.
• The sharpness of the actual subject, with say a baby's skin looked softer than the skin of a sexy senior citizen.

Consider all the aforementioned factors before you shoot.

Here's a cool product that I just discovered that lets you check the sharpness of your lens. It's called the LensAlign PRO Focus Calibration System.

If you are serious about getting sharp shots, check out this sharp accessory.

You really can't turn an out-of-focus shot into a sharp shot. However, InFocus, a plug-in from Topaz Labs, does the best job I've seen.Topaz Details can also help you fine-tune the sharpness of your images.

Explore the light,

P.S. Speaking of sharpening, it's not a good idea to over-sharpen your images. A way-cool plug-in for sharpening is Nik Software's Sharpener Pro. Use this code to get a discount upon checkout: RSAMMON