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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Minimize To Maximize


A National Geographic pro on how to lighten up on your gear and keep focused on getting the best photos

This Article Features Photo Zoom


Traveling light helps Dickman to follow the action, even while following a subject through tough terrains like this rock climber.
I’ve also found the new Olympus Pen as a great addition to the “less is more” approach. The E-P2 is smaller than an M series Leica and can be used with specific lenses designed for this Micro Four Thirds design or, via an adapter, the E-P2 can use regular Four Thirds lenses, including all those I mentioned. Oskar Barnack designed the original Leica, first rolled out in 1925, to be small and nonobtrusive, allowing the travel/location/street photographer to work in situations where a larger camera may draw undesired attention to the photographer, and the E-P2 follows in that tradition.


Olympus FL-50R flash
When working, I almost always carry two bodies—one with a wide-angle zoom and a short telephoto zoom on the other body. This allows me to react to a situation and grab the lens I need immediately instead of fumbling around in a bag and missing that moment.

“I was photographing a beautifully sculptured ‘bergy bit,’” says Dickman, “a small iceberg under 16 feet tall, when quite suddenly
—and unexpectedly
—an Adélie penguin exploded straight out of the 28º water and up on the side of the ice. It tried vainly to gain purchase, almost getting a toehold, but slid back into the waters.”

As for lighting, more often than not, I’ll shoot available light. I love the look of natural light; it allows me to work quickly and in a style I like. But when one has to introduce light into a scene, I’ve started using a great piece of gear. Photographer and good friend Paul Peregrine’s FourSquare is incredible as it minimizes taking AC power-dependent equipment as well as minimizes cords, works more safely around water, and in that system I can use Four-Thirds Olympus FL-36R or FL-50R flashes (the FL-50 provides more power). Used with a softbox, I have a very lightweight, very fast to set up and use lighting system.

To round out my working gear, I always carry a lightweight Gitzo tripod with an Acratech ballhead (the total package weighs just a few pounds), along with the specific plates for both camera bodies and lenses. This allows me to attach or remove the camera or lens from the tripod rapidly as the plates reside permanently on the lenses and bodies.


A single crab moves
through a large group of sunning iguanas in the Galápagos Islands.

I use a couple of WiebeTech ToughTech Mini hard drives, so my images are backed up in at least two places. These are fast drives with multiple connection possibilities, from USB to FireWire to eSATA. I’ll also copy my images to a DVD for that third, dissimilar type media. If I go out from my hotel at night, one hard drive goes with me, one stays in the room, and the DVDs may hide in my laundry. Sounds overboard? How much did you spend to get to that location, how many hours or days did you spend capturing your images? Pretty cheap insurance, I think. I’ll also use a Jobo Giga Vu databank, which allows me to view the images on the unit’s screen.

So, am I contradicting myself with this long laundry list of gear? No, as I choose carefully for every shoot. More often than not, a camera body on each shoulder—a wide zoom mounted on one and a short telephoto on the other—allows me to work in almost any situation that doesn’t demand that specific equipment. A small waist pack carries extra batteries and my 7-14mm lens. My camera equipment goes into a carry-on case so I won’t be separated from my gear on the plane—a great advantage of Olympus gear as I can fit all I need for a shoot into one carry-on.
A traveler to distant places should make no enemies. —Nigerian Proverb

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