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Monday, May 1, 2006

Bare Essentials

Four professional photographers share how they travel light in the field

[ Art Wolfe]

Wolfe's Light Gear >>
• Canon EOS 5D
• Canon EF 17-40mm ƒ/4L USM
• Canon EF 70-200mm ƒ/4L USM
• Canon EF 400mm ƒ/4 DO IS USM
• Canon EF 2x II extender
• Four Lexar 4 GB CF cards
• B+W polarizing filter
• Singh-Ray two-stop ND filter
• Tamrac backpack
• Gitzo G1348 MK2
Inter-Pro Studex tripod
• Kirk Photo BH-1 ballhead
Mobility is particularly important to Art Wolfe, as he prefers the ability to pick everything up in a compact, lightweight backpack and move with his subject. Light is always changing, and the animals are nearly always in motion, so packing light allows him to keep up with the quick and often unpredictable movements of the animals.

Whether photographing wildlife or landscape, Wolfe definitely sees the advantage of traveling light. You see this in his choice of lenses, which include the 17-40mm ƒ/4 and 70-200mm ƒ/4. Although there are faster zoom lenses available, Wolfe takes advantage of the reduced weight versus the one-stop gain he'd receive from ƒ/2.8 lenses.

Shooting digital also allows Wolfe to increase the camera's ISO sensitivity on the fly. When he was shooting film, such adaptability required carrying different speeds of films in his bag, which inevitably increased the weight he had to carry. Now, he often carries a Canon EOS 5D with four Lexar 4 GB CompactFlash cards, allowing him to shoot thousands of images.

A tripod is an essential part of his inventory, but to keep weight down, Wolfe uses a carbon-fiber tripod. Particularly important when working under low-light conditions or when using a super-telephoto lens, this type of tripod delivers the stability and ruggedness he needs, but with less weight than a comparable model made of aluminum.

[ Carlton Ward ]

Carlton Ward's photography is diverse, ranging from wildlife and landscape to his most recent work creating documentary images that reflect human impact on ecological systems. Regardless of how or what he's shooting, he finds times when working light is essential.

Ward's Light Gear >>
• Nikon D200
• 17-35mm ƒ/2.8D AF Zoom-Nikkor
• 28mm ƒ/2.8D AF Nikkor
• 80-200mm ƒ/2.8D AF Zoom-Nikkor
• Singh-Ray ND filters
• Gitzo G1228 MK2 Mountaineer
Reporter tripod
• Kirk Photo BH-1 ballhead
• Nikon SB-80 Speedlight
• Nikon MC-30 remote release
• Five Lexar CF cards
"When it comes to working light, a lot of it has to do with the length of the assignment and how long I'm going to be out in the field," explains Ward."If I'm going to be gone for two weeks and I have a variety of subjects to shoot, I'll keep my bigger gear, like the 600mm lens and the heavy tripods, in the truck and only use them part of the time for specific things."

Ward's latest assignments have allowed him to leave the long glass behind and work under more intimate conditions. "A lot of stuff that I'm doing now is shooting cultural heritage and people, all within an environmental context as it relates to resource conservation. For that kind of work, I just keep a Domke shoulder bag with one camera and a couple of lenses."

Ward carries either a single or a pair of Nikon D200s with 17-35mm and 80-200mm lenses. As he prefers to have complete freedom of movement, he only takes a camera bag with him when he knows he can set it down. Otherwise, he keeps one camera on his neck and another over his shoulder using Op/Tech neoprene camera straps. For situations where he needs to carry additional accessories, he also utilizes a Kinesis belt system. "I also carry a cable release and an off-camera TTL flash cord for my Nikon Speedlight," he says. "I'll include a two-stop and three-stop Singh-Ray ND filter and a Gitzo 1228 tripod with a Kirk BH-1 ballhead as well."


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