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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

My Favorite Things

The gear Elizabeth Carmel relies on for her landscape photography

Backpack. Many photographers are on a constant quest for the ultimate backpack. I've tried out dozens over the years and likely will continue my quest as long as I'm still walking around with a camera. My current favorite is the Lowepro Flipside 500 AW. It's not too big, but can still carry a Nikon D800 and my three main zooms, batteries, accessories, etc. I like that it opens from the back panel so the part of the pack that stays against your back isn't laid in the dirt to get to the camera. It's also possible to keep the belt around your waist and get to the camera without taking off the pack if it's not possible to lay it down. It has a waterproof cover that tucks in, and it can carry a tripod on the outside.

Tripod and head. I have two tripod and head combinations. My big tripod that I take whenever possible is the Gitzo carbon-fiber three-section that extends over 60 inches. I don't use a center column since that's less stable than putting the tripod head directly on the legs. I splurged and got the Arca-Swiss Cube head for that tripod; it's a geared head that allows for precise positioning, but it's very heavy and not for backpacking with the camera. My backpacking tripod is a Gitzo carbon-fiber model with an Acratech ballhead. This is a great lightweight setup that performs well.

Filters. I always have a set of split ND filters and polarizing filters in my pack. Polarizing filters reduce glare on foliage, re-move reflections on water and act as a neutral-density filter to allow slower shutter speeds, which I often use to blur moving water. You can't really duplicate the effect of a polarizing filter in Photoshop. Stronger specialized ND filters even can blur moving water in broad daylight. My favorite is the Singh-Ray Vari-ND. Split ND filters allow you to expose for a foreground without overexposing the sky. I've found that using a split ND filter on the camera often works better than trying to blend exposures in postprocessing. I use the Lee filter system for my split ND filters.

Software and backup. For developing my images, I use the latest version of Photoshop and Adobe Camera Raw, along with the proprietary RAW file developing software from Nikon and Hasselblad. I'll often compare which software does the best job of developing RAW files with a particular image, and it can vary depending on the colors of an image. I use all the Nik Software; I particularly like Silver Efex Pro 2 for black-and-white conversions. I use all the onOne Software plug-ins, and I like to upsize my prints and create canvas wraps with their Perfect Resize plug-in. For backup, I use the OWC 8 TB RAID, which I've duplicated in two different locations. I also have all my work backed up online with PhotoShelter, which I really like for providing high-resolution download links for licensing clients.

Printer and paper. To produce my fine-art prints, I use the Epson Stylus Pro 11880 60-inch-wide printer. It has been working well for a number of years with little maintenance needed. The printer is industrial-strength and can withstand the demands of high-volume printing. Most importantly, the color reproduction from the UltraChrome ink is beautiful. My favorite papers are the Epson Exhibition Canvas Matte for canvas wraps, Epson UltraSmooth for matte cotton prints and Innova FibaPrint warm-tone gloss for photographic prints.

Cameras and lenses. The most common question people ask me is what type of camera I use. Most recently, I've been using a 40-megapixel Hasselblad H4D. I was thrilled when Nikon introduced the 36-megapixel D800/D800E this year. I use the pro-level Nikon zooms, and I'll be experimenting with some of the prime lenses as well. I also plan to get a Nikon perspective-control wide-angle lens for the kit. I won't attempt to explain all the technicalities of the differences between the D800 and D800E, but will share that I decided on the D800E. I felt it gave a slightly better edge for my purposes, and I've found that moiré isn't an issue with my style of landscape photography.

I could keep going on with listing more of my favorite things, so look for future installments on this topic. I try not to get too worked up about equipment at the expense of other important facets of photography that I've covered in my previous columns, but it's fun to let my photo-geek flag fly every now and then!

See more of Elizabeth Carmel's photography at elizabethcarmel.com and thecarmelgallery.com. Workshop information is available at elizabethcarmel.com.


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