Too Much Technology?

MINWR - Stilt-03 I had a good reminder of what is important to gear this week when I was up in Minnesota photographing winter! Temps have ranged all over the place (not unusual for Minnesota), from around 8 degrees for the high, to highs near 30. I was dressed for it, and even got hot hiking in Northern Minnesota when I was going up Lookout Mountain in Cascade River State Park (a climb of all of 600 ft. in elevation to a height of ... wait for it ... 1300 feet!).

With so much clothing, cold conditions (usually), snow and so forth, there is a strong incentive to keep gear simple. It can be hard to change lenses (and sometimes you don't want to), and just handling gear can be challenging. While I do like my Sony NEX cameras, they are small enough with tightly spaced controls that gloves become a challenge.

MINWR - Stilt-01I mostly shot with a Zeiss 16-80mm zoom. I love the focal length range of this zoom (made for the Sony Alpha cameras, I use an adapter), equivalent to 24-120mm on a full-35mm-frame camera. I also carried a Tokina 10-16mm fisheye zoom. I could carry the camera and lens on my tripod, with the extra lens in a jacket pocket (another pocket held batteries and a hand warmer which really helped, and never got hot).

MINWR - Stilt-02Now sometimes I think we get carried away by technology and have to have extra camera bodies, more focal lengths, filters, flash, etc., with us at all times. I did have some additional gear with me, but I never used it. I know from experience that all of that extra gear means bulk and weight that must be hauled around, and in winter, you need a place to put it in the snow.

As I was driving through the state, I was listening to a podcast from Radio West, Rx for Tech. David Strayer of the University of Utah was being interviewed about nature and technology. He said that no technology in nature can allow for more awareness of nature.

That made me think a bit. I realized that not having a lot of gear with me freed me both as a photographer and a naturalist who connected with nature. Strayer was talking specifically about things like smart phones, but I think the idea of simplifying the technology one takes into nature is not a bad one. I know it was a good lesson for me. I think it forced me to deal differently and more directly with the nature I was photographing.

MINWR - Stilt-04

About Rob Sheppard

I am proud of the work I have done as a photographer, author, naturalist and nature photographer, editor and videographer. I love the natural world, and that can be a native bee in my native plants garden as much as a visit to a national park. I am a husband of a beautiful and smart wife, a father to my outstanding son and daughter, and one who lived in Minnesota most of my life, but now loves the variety and very long growing season of Southern California. I have written and photographed a lot of books and magazine articles but what is most important to me about them is knowing that I have helped people become better photographers and gain a better connection to nature. I work to help people connect with photography and nature through speaking and as a workshop leader, too. All of this has gained me a Fellow award with the North American Nature Photography Association. Many people knew me as the long-time editor of Outdoor Photographer magazine and I am still connected with them as a contributing editor. A short list of some of the books I have done: Landscape Photography: From Snapshot to Great Shot, Magic of Digital Landscape Photography, The Magic of Digital Nature Photography, National Geographic Field Guide to Digital Photography, The Power of Black-and-White in Nature Photography and Reports from the Field (an iBook). My website is at www.robsheppardphoto.com; my blogs are at www.natureandphotography.com and www.mirrorlessnature.com.
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12 Responses to Too Much Technology?

  1. John Sylwester says:

    Yes! the beauty of simplicity - whether it be the gear you use or the image you want to capture.

  2. Jim Sandham says:

    Traveling fully loaded vs. traveling light is a choice many of us make every time we head out into nature. For me, the choice has always been simple. If I'm only going to be at this site for a few hours, I travel light -- usually with a tiny Panasonic point & shoot in my pocket and a Canon 60D SLR with Tamron 18-270mm zoom lens. If I'm going to be there for several days, then I pack more lenses, filters, telextenders, tripods, etc.

    Why travel fully loaded when you know you won't have time to use all of the extra gear? Use a small amount of gear if you can. Take great images, and then share the images with your friends in online albums at places like Snapfish, Shutterfly, and other sites. Travel light whenever possible. Have fun!

  3. Steve says:

    In winter, I'm very thankful for my quality zoom lens and digital camera. No changing lenses or replacing film with bare hands. Camera with lens, extra battery and a polarizer are all I need for a 2 hour outing close to home.

  4. Tom Myers says:

    Traveling light allows you (or forces you) to see things from the perspective of the focal length that you have in your hand. Not thinking of what might be in your big backpack, and passing on shots because you don't want to take the time and effort to change lenses.

  5. Anthony Di Novella says:

    I agree with you that there is no need for lot of gear You mention the 16-80 lens you
    use. I have been using Nikon d80 with Tamron 18-250 and lately i haven't been happy
    with the performance .Ilike to buy a new lens of 16-80 or 16-135 but Nikon and other indepentent lens company only make focal length starting at 18mm and i like 24mm
    that you get with the aps conversion To buy just a fix 16 mm is very costly.DO
    you have any particular suggestion

  6. Rob Sheppard says:

    I think any of the big zoom lenses like the Tamron are good lenses, but making such a big range of focal length is very challenging and causes some issues. Like most lenses, they are at their best in the mid-range of f-stops, such as f/8 and f/11. These big range zooms typically drop off in sharpness significantly when you go smaller than f/16, though I have found the Tamron to do less of that than my Sony NEX lenses. I have found that I have a consistent problem of sharpness with these big range lenses at telephoto distances because of my handling of the gear. They have no tripod socket (none do from any manufacturer), so when they are used at telephoto position, they stick out a ways from the camera body. This causes an unbalanced position for the camera on a tripod that can cause camera movement during exposure that will definitely decrease sharpness.

    I really like 24mm (35mm focal length -- 16mm for APS-C), too, and it is significantly different than 28mm (18mm). I don't have an easy answer for you because this is not a focal length manufacturers have put a lot of effort into for the mass market because they know they can easily sell lenses with the 18mm focal length for APS-C and most of their market doesn't know the difference. There is less incentive for them to do a lens that is much more difficult to make and will always cost more.

    You might try a trial of Nik Software Sharpener Pro and see if that helps you without having to buy a new lens, too.

  7. Michael Dimino says:

    I am looking to get some practical advice. I am planning a trip to Costa Rica and I would like to do some good research on the type of camera equipment I should take on my trip. I consider myself to be an advanced amateur photographer. I have never been to Costs Rica and I am trying to best prepare for my trip. What lenses should I prepare to bring? I have a Nikon D 80 Digital SLR and a Nikon 18-200 mm telephoto lens. I am anticipatinmg taking pictures of birds and butterflies. Will a 200 mm lens be sufficient for my purposes? Will I need a flash to take pictures in the rain forest?Is there some good resources that I can avail myself of to best answer such questions ?

    • Rob Sheppard says:

      Costa Rica is outstanding for birds, though you will find that 200mm is pretty short. Even when birds are fed and brought close, you usually can't get close enough to use a 200mm. A 400mm would be much better. You might look into used lenses from KEH.com. I have gotten some Nikkor lenses from them for my Sony NEX camera (using an adapter) and the lenses have been outstanding values. You might also find that one of the big-zoom compact digital cameras that give an equivalent focal length of 400mm and above might be useful. Also, you will need something to allow you to focus close -- extension tubes or achromatic close-up lenses work well. It gets wet there, so bring an umbrella and a travel hair dryer to dry your bags and gear at night.

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