Nikon D7100 24.1 MP DX-Format I use the latest Nikon mid-range model the D7100. I previously had the Nikon D300s which served me well for quite some time but the lure of more megapixels, the 1.3X Crop mode and better video performance was too strong to pass up. The autofocus of this DSLR is really quick and holds onto subjects without hesitation - allowing for great bird in flight photography. The Camera also sports a whopping 24 megapixels in the un-cropped mode (DX format) allowing for plenty of dynamic range and lots of wriggle room for post processing. The ISO performance is great as well, offering no problems at ISO 1000 or 1600 and only minor degradation at higher levels (which can usually be cleaned up in post processing)
|Photo Courtesy of B&H|
Nikon 300mm f/4.0D ED-IF AF-S Nikkor Lens
For 95% of my avian photography, I mate the D300s body with a 300mm f/4 lens (image below) and almost always a 1.7X teleconverter (see the Teleconverter section below). The 300mm f/4 lens is a fast piece of glass with the ability to shoot in relatively low lighting situations and is both lightweight and compact in size (compared to the 300mm f/2.8 which is also over triple the price). It comes with a built in lens hood, and a manual - manual/autofocus switch which allows for manual override when autofocus is engaged. It's a great lens, especially for the price (and certainly if you purchase it used like I did)
|(Photo Courtesy of B&H and Video)|
Nikon 12-24mm f/4G ED IF AF-S DX Nikkor Zoom Lens
I used to have a 105mm macro lens from Nikon that I really enjoyed but it wasn't getting used enough to warrant the space it took up and the price I had paid for it. I decided I wanted to do more landscape photography and have a true wide-angle lens so I purchased the Nikon 12-24mm f4 which has allowed me to take some awesome landscape images throughout my travels and has given me a totally different perspective than using the 300mm. The fact that the lens is a constant aperture (f4) allows for hand held use in low light situations. The range of 12-24 is also an excellent feature (when compared to other WA zoom lenses) because 12mm isn't terribly distorted (and can be easily corrected) and the 24mm is really nice for portraits (when paired with the DX format camera). Another plus is that the threading on the end of the lens is the same size for this lens as it is for the 300mm allowing for use of any filters on both lenses (in my case, my Circular Polarized Filter or CPL). If you are considering a landscape lens, this is an easy choice.
|(Photo Courtesy of B&H)|
Nikon TC-17E II (1.7x) Teleconverter AF-S
When I bought my Nikon 300mm f/4 lens used, a 1.7X TC also came with it. When you combine these two pieces of glass, your effective focal length is 500mm (though the film equivalent is a whopping 750mm) and it's extremely light and cheap compared to any other route of getting to 500mm (be it a 500mm f/4 lens, or a 300mm f/2.8 + 1.7X TC). But this added focal length comes at a cost - AF capabilities are slowed considerably (shooting birds in flight - particularly quick birds like raptors can be an exercise in frustration) and you "lose light" which means the maximum aperture you have available is f/6.7 - basically a loss of 2 "stops" of light. What does this mean? Shooting in low light is all but out of the question unless you are using a steady tripod and don't mind cranking up your ISO. But, when you are shooting with plenty of sunshine it's hard to beat this combo and as you can see I've produced many beautiful images with these two pieces of equipment paired to my camera body.
|(Photo Courtesy of B&H Camera and Video)|
Gitzo GT3531 Series 3 6X Carbon Fiber 3-Section Tripod with G-Lock
When I started out doing photography I couldn't afford a tripod - eventually it got to the point where I couldn't "afford" not to. To get many types of images (especially landscape images) a tripod is essential. The tripod (and ballhead) holds the camera steady allowing for long exposures (think waterfalls or dawn/dusk images) and allows for minor adjustments to get the scene just right which cannot be replicated by hand. Tripods also can give you an angle that would otherwise be impossible and come in handy if you are doing extended shooting with a long lens (due to the weight of the camera + lens). I purchased a Gitzo GT3530LS which is a top-of-the-line tripod (and has since been replaced by the 3531 series). It was perhaps overkill on my part, but it's nice knowing I have a piece of equipment that won't fail me. It won't freeze, won't break, won't rust, won't bend and is really lightweight. It compacts nicely as well allowing me to take it in a suitcase when flying and comes in a nice padded carrier for tossing in the car.
Sirui G-20X Ball Head
The Ballhead I use is a Sirui G20-X which is a nice compromise for the lenses I use and photography I do. This ballhead wouldn't do me any good if I had a big and heavy 500mm or similar lens, but it's great for landscape and holds plenty strong when I have my 300mm attached.
|(Photo Courtesy Sirui)|
SanDisk Extreme Plus 16 GB SDHC 80MB/s
|(Photo Courtesy of Amazon.com)|
When doing photography from the water, I use my small but nimble Emotion Glide Kayak that allows for lightweight transport and maneuverability in the water.
|(Image Courtesy of Amazon.com)|