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?
It’s the most wonderful time of the year and, with so many good books being published and winter vacations approaching, we think it’s quite the season for book reading, too. If you’d like to lay off the eggnog and candied yams and indulge your senses in something with a little more sustenance and a lot less fat, there’s quite an array of books from which to choose.
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."
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Large-format printers deliver big size, big color and more
Even a well-exposed and beautifully composed photo can lose something when printed small. A large print, particularly of a landscape or wildlife, draws you in. It allows you to become immersed in the scene, providing a taste of what it felt like when the shutter was released.
Discover different tools to fit your photo needs and budget
Good photography requires creativity and imagination. You also need the right tools to translate your vision to that final print. But like any art, there isn’t one perfect tool. Just as there’s diversity in nature, a variety of cameras, lenses and printers are available to help transform the snap of the shutter into your final image.
High-quality optics give you a sharp view of tiny subjects
I love to work with macro lenses because they focus close enough to give me a window into another world. With a macro lens, common spiders become giant predators, and a grasshopper is a creature from outer space.
A wide-angle zoom with a fixed aperture delivers digitally
The Tokina AT-X 124 AF Pro DX lens provides photographers shooting with digital SLRs a high-performing and affordable 12-24mm wide-angle zoom. With a constant maximum aperture of ƒ/4 throughout its entire zoom range, this lens becomes a valuable addition to any landscape or travel photographer’s camera bag.