Put some distance between you and your macro subject
Close-ups are my favorite part of nature photography. I say that not because I love bugs more than waterfowl or flower parts more than rocky landscapes. I love close-ups because they can connect me with nature anywhere, anytime. I can shoot close-ups of spiders building webs outside my backdoor or of orchids in Peru, of flowering weeds outside of my office or lichens on the rocks of Arches National Park. With close-up gear, I’m good to go whenever I want, wherever I am.I was excited to get a sample of Tokina’s new 100mm ƒ/2.8 macro lens (officially named the AT-X M100 AF Pro D). At 2.9x3.7 inches and 19 ounces, this compact lens offers film and full-frame digital cameras 1:1 at 12 inches. For small-format digital SLRs, you get an equivalent of 150-160mm (still at the fast ƒ/2.8) and more distance to 1:1. The lens includes a newly engineered multi-coating to minimize reflections when using a digital camera’s sensor (which has a shiny protective surface).
Impressive black-and-white prints are within your grasp
This past summer, some friends of mine bought a new condo in Southern California, although they must have promised their first born to the mortgage company with prices the way they are. The condo was a sizable step up from their rental apartment, and in addition to a lot more square footage of floor space, it has a lot more wall space than the former residence (along with a second full bath and a balcony). Suddenly, the collection of wall art that had filled the old place barely made a dent on the walls at the new one. I should have suspected there were ulterior motives when I found myself invited over for a big dinner (with plenty of good wine). Somewhere between grilled salmon and crème brûlée, the innocent question was posed, "So, Chris, do you have any prints of your photographs you could give us for the walls?" I don’t sell them, so why not give them away?
A compilation of our favorite gear, gadgets and accessories
Technology—you can’t stop it, you can only hope to contain it. In the past year, a range of new products has crossed the threshold of the Outdoor Photographer editorial offices. Of that collection, we’ve chosen our favorites and assembled them into this guide. The list of gear ranges from camera bags to color management, software to memory cards, and although it wasn’t easy, we’ve done our best to narrow down the selection to some essential items that we think will help your photography.
Expand your image-making possibilities with a wide-angle lens
Wide-open spaces. One of the best ways to capture this feeling is by using a wide-angle lens. The first time I used a wide-angle, I couldn't put it down. I suddenly was offered a unique way of photographing a scene beyond what a standard focal-length lens could provide. Its versatility allowed me to shoot images in tight spaces as well as compose expansive landscapes.
A 12.8-megapixel full-frame image sensor is at the heart of a new addition to the Canon D-SLR lineup
A full-frame SLR allows you to use your existing 35mm lenses at their native focal lengths with no lens magnification. This provides full use of your wide-angle and ultra-wide-angle lenses while creating a high-resolution digital file.
A new generation of cameras aims to maintain the high quality that medium-format shooters expect and demand
When digital technology first melded with medium-format cameras and lenses, it was in the form of mounted digital backs in place of the traditional film backs. It was a natural way to do things since so many of the medium-format cameras were modular. Many photographers will continue using it for years to come, especially because it offers an advantage of being able to use the same body and lenses for both film and digital photography.
Get superb print quality fast, plus CD/DVD printing capability
A great print is something most outdoor photographers cherish. The Epson Stylus Photo R1800 offers superb printing up to 13x19 inches (13x44-inch panoramas), but, of course, when new printers come out today, many photographers wonder if it’s worth upgrading to the new and improved. They accept the "new," but wonder about the "improved."
This compact D-SLR offers image stabilization with every lens
Do you know what an obsidian dome is? Well, other than knowing that it had something to do with old volcanic activity, I didn’t either. I had noticed a reference to an obsidian dome between Mammoth Lakes and June Lake, Calif., on the maps and I was curious. It turns out an obsidian dome is a huge upwelling of volcanic rock that has solidified into black, glass-like obsidian rock.
Use a spotting scope and a digital camera for wildlife photography
When photographing wildlife, especially small, elusive animals, one of the biggest challenges is having enough magnification to fill the frame with your subject. Most of us have taken a photograph of a bird or a deer where the animal is so small in the frame that it’s difficult to tell what it is. Although a super-telephoto lens of 600mm or longer would help, the price tag for one of these focal lengths can be prohibitive for many.
Flash accessories and lighting concepts to help enhance your photography
I’ve been a studio shooter for quite some time, so when I started getting involved with nature photography, I wanted to bring some of my studio equipment along. As you can imagine, big battery-powered strobes are cumbersome. I decided that I didn’t want to have that burden when hiking and enjoying the wilderness so I opted to leave them at home. There are much easier and lighter ways to achieve a similar look by using small accessory flash units.
Small and compact, the XT still packs a full-featured camera inside
Like many of my generation, I’ve known a lot of heavy film SLRs. They offered great performance, true (and often were so solid that they could be used to hammer tent stakes), but heavy cameras and lenses just aren’t something I want to deal with anymore. My ideal now is to grab a small pack with a camera and a few lenses and hike more lightly into the field.
Use simple and affordable accessories to take your landscapes to the next level
My job requires me to look at a lot of photographs, thousands of them. It’s something that I’ve always enjoyed, and I consider myself lucky to be able to review the images of some of today’s best photographers. When it comes to landscape images, I often see familiar locations: Yellowstone, Arches, slot canyons. The places are immediately identifiable because of some distinguishing landmark and because I’ve seen the location photographed hundreds of times before.
Gain added wide-angle capability for your small-format digital SLR
A steady complaint about small-format digital SLRs is that they lose wide-angle possibilities. With their smaller sensors, they take lenses that we’ve known and loved from 35mm work and cause them to gain a telephoto effect. Focal lengths that worked great for wide-angle shots in nature lost that wide-angle feel.
One new challenge to the digital photographer is space around the computer. Scanners, printers, card readers, extra hard drives and big monitors all vie for real estate on your desktop. One way to create more room is to use an all-in-one printer and scanner. Up until recently, though, they didn’t fare favorably to stand-alone units. The Epson Stylus Photo RX620 is designed for some serious photo usage, however, which you can tell right away from its Stylus Photo designation.
A new breed of inkjet printers is lighting the way for a resurgence in top-quality black-and-white printing from a desktop darkroom
Everything old is new again. After lying dormant for more than a few years, black-and-white photography is growing explosively. Printer manufacturers are putting sizable resources into developing better ink and paper combinations, plus improved software and firmware, to generate black-and-white prints that surpass what was possible in the old wet darkroom. As the latest generation of products comes to market, we’re taking a look at the possibilities.