I’m been exploring many of the Georgia’s State Parks to see what it’s like to photograph existing parks. I look at it as a “Do’s & Don’ts” sort of thing. It’s just an extra bonus that I get to take pictures in some really nice places.

My colleague, Sam, suggested the idea for this blog entry. He wanted to know what  camera equipment I carried and he assumes others will also. Yes, the thought of possible sponsors for the Photography Park did cross his mind (he is in charge of marketing after all). It’s not like it hasn’t crossed my mind. I want this Photography Park to be a Public endeavor. But this is an idea anyone (or any organization) can steal. The fact that this could become “The Nikon Photography Park” was one of the first things that crossed my mind.

Speaking of which, that’s the cameras and lenses I use — Nikon. A lot of my friends use Canons. Sam has the coolest little Panasonic camera he uses. The point being, there are a lot of great cameras out there.  I just wound up choosing Nikon a long time ago.

My camera list is woefully short. Sure, I have the same disease as all other photographers — I always want more gear. I just don’t want to carry it all. (Or pay for it.) So I limit myself to the following (right now).

Nikon D7000 with a 80-200mm F2.8ED

Nikon D5100 with a 18-55mm F3.5-5.6mm

That’s it.  Professionals would be aghast. Gearheads would laugh. I’ve got a D80 I no longer use (but keep as a backup) and a couple of specialty lens (macro and a fast 50mm) that I don’t carry around on a daily basis. They are both over 20 years old. Poor, poor pitiful me. For those just learning how to lust after the latest-greatest, the 80-200mm is the previous generation (no stabilization) and the 18-55mm is just the standard kit lens Nikon sells on its amateur-market DSLR cameras. That’s fine with me because I am an adamant amateur. Still, I manage to take some decent pictures with such modest equipment.

To haul all this gear around, I use a Lowepro Pro Runner 350 AW. I love this bag. As a matter of fact, I can recommend Lowepro products without reservation. The Pro Runner is a backpack-type camera bag but I have an old Lowepro conventional camera bag I bought around 30 years ago that is still serviceable. They used to make these specialty photographer’s gloves that are the only gloves I’ve ever found I could manipulate a camera’s controls while I was wearing them. Sure, they were just knit gloves so they wore out quickly but it’s a whole lot better than touching metal with bare skin. When they stopped making them, I bought several pairs. I’m still using them and I haven’t found a substitute.

Anyway, back to the bag. It can haul more gear than I can carry. It fits on an airliner (just barely) and I’ve hauled it from Cancun to Yellowstone. I use it every single day (*every* day) and it endures. It’s a great bag made by a company that makes great products.

What else is in the bag? Well, I have some assorted filters. The only ones I really use are the Graduated Neutral Density ones (from Cokin Filters) and the polarizers (Nikon).  But as far as camera equipment, that’s pretty much it. I don’t even carry a speed light. Both of the Nikons have built-in flash in case I get desperate for a flash.

You might be wondering why I have such a big bag for so little camera equipment. It’s to carry all the things that make outdoor photography possible — outdoor stuff. I have a ground cloth I use in case I have to lie down in the dirt to get a shot. In the winter, I keep a couple of  HotHands in there in case the Lowepro gloves and fingerless wool gloves aren’t enough. In the laptop compartment (I’m telling you, this bag has more hidden compartments than you can shake a stick at) I keep my latest, favorite piece of outdoor gear — an L. L. Bean rain suit. Obviously, I bought it in case it rains while I’m outdoors. But I’ve found it so effective in blocking the winter wind that I use it more for warmth than I do for rain.

But the real reason I have to keep things light is that I’m a tripod guy. Yep, I’m one of those people. And I don’t believe in short, light, flimsy tripods.  I want one I don’t have to hunch over to use. I currently use a Induro AT313 with a BHD3 ball head.  It’s the first time I’ve owned a ball head (previous ones were pan-and-tilt) and I’ll probably try another one. So far the tripod head is holding up fine but the legs are worn out.  Lets say I’ll give the head a “B” and the legs a “C”. The foam padding on the legs is too short and cracked pretty early.  They’re duct-taped to stop the fraying. The spring-loaded locks (that catch as the legs spread out) are all worn out. One leg swings freely now because the screw that provides tension won’t stay tight and another leg is headed down the same path. In fairness to Induro, I’ve used this tripod every single day for about three years. In other words, I use my gear as often as many pros. But Induro doesn’t charge the prices pros pay for “pro” equipment. I like the tripod. It just wore out too quickly. When I buy a new set of legs, I’ll check for a tougher model.

Buying any type of photography equipment is an expensive experiment. You never know what you like and need until you buy something you don’t like or run across a situation where you don’t have what you need. If you live near a decent-size city, you can probably rent some equipment to try out. I know that the next time I go out West, I plan to rent a big telephoto.