I have been a Canon shooter for as many years as I care to remember. Started with bodies like the T90 in the days of FD manual focus lenses to the EOS 1vHS (had two of them) in my last days of film photography.
I moved over to digital photography in 2004 when I changed one of my EOS 1vHS bodies for an EOS 1D Mark II – still one of my favourite digital bodies I have used – and to think it was only 8MP. During 2004 both film and digital cameras were used. Then towards the end of 2004 I replaced my other 1vHS with an EOS 1Ds Mark II, which was a full frame digital body with excellent image quality, but needed to be used at low ISO’s.
That was followed by the 1D Mark III and then the 1D Mark IV. I then had the 1DX followed by the 1DX Mark II and now have the incredible 1DX Mark III. In fact I have owned every Canon 1D series camera bodies except for the original 1D. What has impressed me over the years is that the user interface and controls, to say nothing of the menu system, has been consistent so that when you get a new body you instantly feel “at home” and the learning curve was minimal.
I added an EOS 5DsR, a remarkable 50MP body, to the line-up. This is used principally for landscapes but I have achieved some really good bird images with it. It is my first non 1D series body ever. Must say, I still prefer the solid feel and controls of the 1D Series bodies especially the duplication of controls in the vertical mode.
My typical super-telephoto rig
As bird photography is my first love, I have a range of long lenses.
The key lens is a Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens. I also use a Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM lens with built in 1.4x converter quiet often. It is a very versatile lens for general wildlife. Together with a 70-200mm f/2.8L III IS, a 24-70mm f/2.8L II and a 16-35mm f/2,8L III most other types of nature photography are covered. The 600mm with a 2x extender gives me an effective 1200mm of focal length with very good quality. All my lenses are now the version II or III range with their improved image stabilisation (the 24-70 and the 16-35 are still not image stabilised). With five lenses, focal lengths from 16mm to 1200mm (based on full frame sensor size) are now covered. There is also the 180mm f/3.5L Macro lens for close up work to complete the line up.
More recently, I dipped my toe into the mirrorless world with the acquisition of the Canon EOS R. I can use all my EF lenses with it using the canon EF/RF adapter with control ring. I have also got an RF 15-35mm f/2.8L IS lens for use with the body. This lens is superb and can’t wait for Canon to bring out the new high resolution EOS R5. I am most impressed with the R and am sure once the “pro” model is launched, this will be the future. Update: I have now replaced the R with an R5 and also acquired the RF 28-70mm f/2L USM lens. I have found this camera amazing, especially its in-body image stabilisation and its AF ability with eye recognition. All EF lenses can be used with the RF/EF control ring adapter. With the R5 being 45MP I also traded in my 50MP EOS 5DsR.
Tripods, flash and support.
With the weight of the 600 a Gitzo 1548 is essential. Whilst an old model, and heavy, it is rock solid! This was topped with a Wimberley gimbal type head . However, I recently moved to a RRS PG-02 LR pano-Gimbal head. This is especially well made and it gives me the added benefit of using it when I take panorama images. This necessitates a RRS MPR-CL II Rail with integral clamp.
The rig is complemented with a Canon 600EX-RT flash mounted on the RRS Rail and part of a Wimberley Combo-4 flash bracket attached to the base plate on the 600 lens. A Better Beamer flash extender gives the flash a longer reach. Have added a Gitzo GT1542T ultra light weight small tripod for travelling.
I use a RRS BH-40 ballhead for set ups with smaller lenses. A very useful support is the Platypod Max. This makes shooting on the ground and low wide angle shots a pleasure. A good Macro aid as well, especially with the EOS R5’s tilt and rotate screen.
Canon EOS 5DsR with an EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM lens attached, supported on a Platypod Max with a RRS BH-40 ball head.
When not on a tripod I use Art Morris’ BLUBb® bean bag which is outstanding. In fact on photo safari I use the bean bag exclusively – it works well and is manouverable around the roof opening of our safari vehicles.
Extension tubes, a 12mm and 25mm or both together, are handy for those close up bird shots or Macro work. Circular- polarising filters and some ND filters complete the equpment list. The drop-in type are used for the super-telephoto lenses.
Various software is utilised in my digital workflow. Images from the CF/CFast/CFexpress /SDHC cards are ingested into either a laptop, external hard-drive or desktop using Adobe Lightroom Classic (Creative Cloud subscription). Images are initially sorted and edited using Lightroom or Photo Mechanic on a MacPro or a MacBook Pro in the field.
Adobe Lightroom Library module page
All images are captured in RAW mode. The conversion and initial optimizing is done using Lightroom. Photoshop CC is then used to further optimize images. Both Luminar 4 and the Nik Collection plug ins are utilised. Have tried using Capture One for converting RAW images, but can’t say that I prefer it to the Adobe twins.. Photoshop is utilised to print on either an Epson Pro 7880 or an Epson R2000. If there is a need for a digital image presentation, FotoMagico is used.
Check out the “Equipment” blog for the latest.