What gear I use

 With the amount of different options these days it can be pretty difficult to choose the right gear to suit your needs. And then there is also your want versus what you actually need or what is sufficient.

My first camera was a Canon 650d with a kit lens. This was for a trip to Europe with my now wife. I knew nothing about photography at the time and even less about landscapes. I bought a magazine about how to shoot landscapes and read it on the flight over. It's fair to say I didn't come away with any great landscape shots. though It was great to put the information I had just read into practice. I learnt a lot from my mistakes, but that's how we move forward I guess.

It wasn't long before I was after new gear. From what I had read and been told was that getting quality glass was the best way to get better quality out of my images. I had realised that for landscapes I was really going to need a wide angle lens to get the type of shots that I was after. So after talking with a photography friend I ended up with the Canon 17-40mm F4 L. It wasn't the best lens money could buy, but it was what I could afford at the time, and it was going to help me achieve the shots I was after.

This did improve my images considerably compared to the kit lens. The images definitely came out a lot sharper and helped me get the perspective I was after. But once again I was wanting to take my photography to the next level. So the next thing I bought was a filter kit, a Cokin one to be exact. These definitely helped me balance the exposure a lot more in camera so I could capture as much dynamic range as possibly. Only thing with these particular filters was that they again weren't the best quality and they had a horrible colour cast. This was something you could correct in post, but wasn't ideal.

After shooting with that setup for a while I decided to upgrade my camera. With the 650d being a crop sensor camera I was looking to upgrade to a full frame. This was mainly aiming to get that wider angle out of my 17-40mm. On a crop sensor camera 17mm is equivalent to 25mm, so I was never getting that true wide angle I was wanting. I ended up going with a second hand Canon 5d mark ii. Even though this was a more professional camera, it was actually a lot older. The 650d came out in 2012 and the 5d mark ii came out in 2008. In some ways I actually took a step back, but I got the full frame I wanted, and got the true 17mm out of my lens. Technology wise though it was definitely a step back, less focusing points, not flip screen or touch screen etc.

This continued to be my setup for a long time other then changing out the Cokin filter system with a Nisi filter system. This was a much needed upgrade that I should have done a lot sooner. There is next to no colour cast with the Nisi filters, and the glass is fantastic quality, which in turn gives you that clarity in the image. 

I wanted to keep this setup until I really felt that it was holding me back from progressing forward in my photography. A lot of the time we just upgrade because something new comes out or we think that the new camera is going to all of a sudden give us better images. In some ways it does, as the new camera might have a higher megapixel count and have better dynamic range etc. But having said that, a new camera isn't going to help you get that better composition, or get you a nice sharp image or help you edit better in your post processing process.

I really did push this setup as far as I could and I believe it made me a better photographer because of it. Instead of focusing on the what new gear I could get to improve my images, I focused on how much better I could get my images with the gear I had. Just because you might have the most expensive gear out there doesn't mean you are going to take a better photo. The gear is just the tool and the skill is in the operator and how they use that gear to produce those images.

After years of shooting with the Canon 5d mark ii and 17-40mm I finally felt that my gear was really holding me back from going to that next level. The dynamic range on the 5d was well behind the new gear on the market at the time, but also to be fair it was over 10 years old.

Before making the big investment I did a fair bit of research to see what was going to suit my style of shooting. In the end I decided to make the jump to Nikon and went with the Z7. The difference was like night and day. I more than doubled the mega pixel count, dynamic range was outstanding compared to my old camera, it was a lot smaller than the 5d, and the camera actually has some technology in it. I paired this with the Nikon 14-30mm F4, so now I have super wide angle lens that really helps give a great perspective on the foreground.

I went with the Z7 because Nikon have always been well known for their dynamic range and for being able to retain detail in the shadows. And being that most of my images are based around sunrise/sunset, you tend to have a lot of dark shadows. This has made a world of difference to my images, and with the 45.7MP sensor I am able to crop in on my images to how I like with out the fear of losing too much detail.

 This is still my current gear to date. My go to landscape setup at the moment is the Z7 (with a small rig L bracket) with the 14 - 30mm f4 and the 100mm Nisi filter system up front. All of this is sitting top of the Sirui w-2204 tripod with the Sirui K30 ball head. I do have a Nikon 24-70mm F2.8 that I use for landscapes and for my Astro as well as a Samyang 14mm F2.8 mk2. Im looking to get a 70-200mm F2.8 as well to add to my gear list to give another different perspective.

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