My Shooting Style and Background

I should make it clear up front that I have particular needs for my kit, which may be different to other people.  In particular I am not a professional so don't need much of the stuff that a pro would need.  My main styles of work revolve around travel and street photography, urban exploration and Landscapes with a few dabbles into macro and wildlife.  Basically most things really :-)

I've also developed over the last couple of years, needing different and better tools as time has gone on - therefore I've outlined what kit I started out with (Entry Level Amateur Kit), and what kit I consider to be an advanced amateur / semi-professional.  Of course, this is a matter of choice, opinion, preference and all those kind of things.  I started out as a Nikon shooter, so all my gear revolves around that brand at the moment.

Advanced Amateur / Semi-Pro Kit

Below is essentially my current kit, with one or two additions (like the 200-400mm) for completeness.

Nikon D800 Digital SLR Camera (Body Only)

Super awesome - latest Pro level Full Frame DSLR camera from Nikon

Nikon TC-20E III AF-S Teleconverter

Used to extend the 70-200 for longer range shots

Nikon AF-S 24-70mm/2.8G ED

 

Perfect Walk around Lens - this is my everyday lens, and takes 80 - 90 % of my shots

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II Lens 

Longer range zoom 

Nikon 14-24Mm F2.8G Af-S Ed Zoom Nikkor

Great wide angle, fantastic feel to the images from this lens, and better quality than the Sigma 10-20mm

Nikon 200-400Mm F4G Af-S Vr If-Ed Zoom-Nikkor  

I can dream can't I ? :-)

3 Legged Thing: Brian Evolution 2 Carbon Fibre Tripod

I replaced my old steel Manfrotto and small fixed head carbon fibre Manfrotto with this - it's almos as small as my old 'travel' tripod, but supports a standard ball head and 8kg of weight.  This is quite a revelation from a functional point of view:  it is the one of the most compact, lightest, yet tallest reach with a reasonable weight support (for pro camera and lenses), which also doubles as a monopod.  I'm very impressed with this functionally, and the build quality seems as good as most others at this level.  The only downside is one that all compact carbon fibre tripods (and most in general) have, and that is that when fully extended, there is some give in the structure - so using the centre column weight bag that comes with it will be important when in windy conditions (most of the time not an issue though).

Kata UL-B-222 Bumblebee Ultra Light Backpack

Spacious bag for all this kit + Macbook Pro Laptop and other bits and bobs, for airline hand luggage when travelling and full kit storage at home

kirk bh-3 ballhead

Kirk BH-3 Ballhead

Purchased this recently and what a wonderful upgrade to my old tiny Giottos ballhead.  It is super sturdy, and the controls are quite easy to use to fine tune the positioning of the camera - I was finding my old ballhead would keep sinking a few mm after composing the frame, so had to guess at how much higher I needed to set it so it would settle in the right place... very annoying, and clearly I had outgrown that ballhead.  This has none of those problems, even with my D800+Grip+70-200 f/2.8.  One small problem though is that both of the ones I purchased (sent the first back) had serious issues fitting onto the screw of my manfrotto tripod legs - this is an engineering issue with these ballheads I would guess, where the tolerance levels are a bit too low.  It can be wrestled on after A LOT of twisting back and forth (basically cutting a new deeper groove in the thread), but really, for this price, I shouldn't have to do this...  (I still think the ball head is great, despite this)

kirk l bracket for nikon d800 + mbd12

Kirk L-Bracket for D800 + MB D12

Took a while for this to arrive, but now it's here I'm very happy - it is a perfect fit, and has solved a number of issues I had with using a tripod.  I can also connect the Black Rapid Strap to the bottom plate where there is a screw fitting.  This is now my (almost) perfect set-up... I say perfect, because I would prefer if the black rapid could remain connected whilst I used this on a tripod.  This would make me very happy!

Yongnuo RF-603 N1 2.4GHz Wireless Flash Trigger/Wireless Shutter Release Tranceiver Kit for Nikon D1/D2/D3/D200/D300/D700

Cheap, but effective (non-TTL) triggers.  Some minor annoyances (on/off button hidden under flash when mounted), but in general these triggers work really well for my needs. I am looking at upgrading to the pocket wizards, but it's a hard sell given that these meet the vast majority of my needs at the moment.

Nikon 1,4/50mm Nikkor AF-S 1,4/50mm G Lens

Sigma 150mm f2.8 APO EX DG HSM Macro Lens For Nikon Digital & Film SLR Cameras

Nikon SB-910 Speedlight Unit
Black Rapid RS-7 Camera Strap

SanDisk Extreme Pro 64GB SDXC Card

This large capacity, high write performance (90mb/s) is essential for the Nikon D800

You can find all the above and a few more things on my Amazon Store

 

Entry Level Amateur Kit

Below is the list of kit I started out with, some of which I still own.

Nikon D90

Nikon D90 Digital SLR Camera 18-105 VR Kit

or the replacement model:

Nikon D7000 18-105 VR Kit

These are great cameras for the enthusiastic amateur, feature rich and great quality images - the D7000 is the more modern version, and I would suggest starting with this - the D90 is what I started with, and is also a great camera.  The 18-105mm kit lens is a good lens to get started with - much better than the standard 18-55mm kit lens, both quality and functionality wise.

Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 lens

 

This is a bit more than entry level, but deserves a mention for when you want to upgrade to the best walkaround lens on a DX/Crop Sensor Nikon DSLR.  This is a fab lens, and served me really well - most of my travel shots, especially the portraits, were taken with this lens.  

 

Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6 EX DC HSM Nikon fit lens

This is a fab ultra wide angle lens, for dramatic landscapes and architecture.  I used this a lot of urbex photography and found the image quality to be great for the price. 

 

Nikon AF-S VR 70-300 f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED

This is a great telephoto lens that I have used for wildlife, long range street photography and certain landscape shots.  Although it is a slightly slower lens (f/4.5-5.6 aperture), the quality of the images it produces are really good - super soft bokeh and surprisingly good sharpness throughout the focal range.


Sigma 150mm f2.8 APO EX DG HSM Macro Lens For Nikon Digital & Film SLR Cameras

This macro lens produces stunning images - it has a very shallow depth of field, which is great for the super soft bokeh, though means you need to nail the focus in some shots.  Great lens, though it deserves respect - I've still got a way to go before mastering this lens

Nikon 1,4/50mm Nikkor AF-S 1,4/50mm G Lens

This fast 50 is a brilliant lens - very sharp and delicious bokeh, very fast and creates wonderful images - obvious limitation is this is a fixed focal length lens, but that is a small price to pay for the quality.

Nikon Sb-900 Speedlight Unit

Very functional flash unit - this has now been replaced by the SB 910 (see further down), which is cheaper on Amazon, so I suggest getting that instead

Manfrotto 055XPROB Tripod Legs Only - Black 

Good quality stable tripod legs

Giottos MH7000-652 Series 1 Ball Head With Quick Release

Decent ball head

Black Rapid RS-7 Camera Strap 

A must for any photographer that works outside of a studio - this strap makes carrying and using your camera so much easier and more comfortable

SanDisk 32GB 45MB/s Extreme HD Video SDHC Card 

Good size, good write performance

You can find all the above and a few more things on my Amazon Store

Software and Other Tools

adobe photoshop

Adobe Photoshop LightroomNik Silver Efex ProNik HDR Efex Pro

I use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop CS6 as part of their Creative Cloud subscription model, aswell as Nik Silver Efex Pro, HDR Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro and a few of their other tools.   I also use Photomatix for HDR & Tonemapping as recommended by Trey Ratcliff of StuckInCustoms.com who offers a 15% discount.

My main computer (where I do most of my editing) is an Apple MacBook Pro 15", and I use a mid sized Wacom Bamboo Tablet for detailed editing work.