Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs and Answers

To avoid repeating myself, I’ve made this blog to help you with all things photography and Ben.

What Camera(s) do you use?

Firstly, they are all pretty similar. Is it the chef or the oven that makes a great meal? Camera’s are tools, it’s up to you to learn how to use them well. Don’t get me wrong, you can’t use broken tools and there’s certainly luck, even someone who points and shoots on Auto settings may get a great shot but you want to get great shots more often than not. Learning to shoot manual is essential. Start with S or A mode. Shutter mode S, A mode Aperture. Play around with shutter speeds and f-stops(aperture) and see what happens.

Camera Body: Sony A7Rii (Main) Canon 5DMii (Backup)
I bought the Sony for about $4000 AUD with a Metabones Adapter in 2017
I bought the Canon for $900 off Ebay in 2016.

What Lenses do you use? Why?

All Canon Lenses. Canon make great Lenses.
16-35mm, 24-70mm, 70-200mm all of which are Canon EF 2.8L II Series Lenses.

16-35mm – I paid $1700 AUD (2016). Newer model is $2800
24-70mm – I paid $2400 AUD (2016). Sells for $2600 currently.
70-200mm – I paid $2700 AUD (2016). Sells for $2800 currently.
You can see that Lenses hold their value well.

The other reason my lenses were cheaper is that I bought them from a company that sells Gray market products. I didn’t know any better at the time. Gray market means that the lenses are still made exactly the same place and quality but they aren’t sold by authorised Canon dealers so Canon can’t assure they are of the same quality. I haven’t had any issues with the lenses though.

I use the 16-35 the majority of the time. It’s great for Landscapes, Canyons, Climbing, Mountaineering. Wide scenes with little people or close up shots of people that show a wider perspective. The shorter the mm the wider, bigger the mm the closer the zoom. Most lenses are made between 11-400mm Lenses start to distort when they get wide, bigger than 400mm you are shooting from over a hundred metres away and capturing a full-size human. Super expensive lenses too. $13,000 for a good 400mm.

24-70 is a great all-round lens. If I was going Skiing and I had to take one lens it’d be this. For Climbing/ Mountaineering I’m usually near the person I’m shooting. Sometimes sharing the rope with them so 16-35 is all I need.

70-200 is great for shooting anything you can’t get close to, like shooting across water, or a Mountain in the distance, animals etc. I rarely use this lens even though it’s the most expensive one of the three. If I can use my legs to get closer to the subject I will.

The best general purpose lens would be the 24-105mm F4 L Canon Lens. It covers a wide zoom range and it’s much cheaper $1000 AUD or $1600 for the new model.

Do you use Filters?
When I say Filters, I mean pieces of glass put in front of the lens to control light and reflection entering the sensor, not an Instagram filter. I use two different types of filters, circular polarising filters and neutral density filters.

Circular Polarising Filters – A polarising filter can be used to help reduce or eliminate reflections and glare from objects such as water and can also be used to darken the sky. I mainly use this filter when photographing rainforest scenes or waterfalls as it helps reduce the glare on foliage while also increasing the saturation basically anything that has a sheen that I don’t want. The effect of polarisation cannot be reproduced or simulated in post-processing which makes this filter a must have for landscapes.

Neutral Density (ND) Filters – A neutral density filter reduces the amount of light hitting the camera’s sensor, enabling you to keep the shutter open for longer without over-exposing the image. Ideal for trying to capture the movement of the clouds streaking across the sky or getting that silky smooth milky water effect. The strengths vary from 1-10 stops.

I use NiSi Filters Professional Kit Version 1. I paid about $1100 the Version 2 sells for $1700 but if you speak to one of their Ambassadors they can give you a 10% discount. Dale Sharp from DK Photography is a legend, hit him up.

What Camera should I get? (Beginner-Intermediate Shooter)

So price range is the most important thing here. If you’re asking this question then you don’t need the best DSLR or Mirrorless.

I recommend the Sony A6500 and a 16-50mm lens as the best combo for a cheaper but solid camera. The Sony A6500 is about $1600 AUD by itself or $1800 with the lens. This is by far the best ‘Travel’ kit on the market at the moment in my opinion. This camera has a lot of high-quality features but it’s also very small and lightweight. Canon 6D and 7DMii are good options too but they’re more expensive. The Canon EOS R looks like it’ll be a good camera too but it’s at the top of an intermediate shooters budget.

What Camera should I get? (Intermediate-Advanced Shooter)

Nikon D850/ Sony A7Riii/ Canon 5D MIV or 5DsR

I’d say Nikon wins here. Sony second, Canon easily last place.

So, it really depends what gear you already have. I’m mixed (Sony/Canon). If you have Nikon or Sony you’re cheering. Canon keeps releasing camera’s that aren’t nearly as good in terms of features/ specs. They make people who film and shoot stills buy different cameras whereas Nikon and Sony have a good combination of all features. In terms of value for money, Sony is the best.

Sony is not as rugged as Nikon or Canon so for tough conditions they aren’t as good. Still solid though. Sony is doing really well to continuously improve. Battery life on Sony is worse but I still leave the Canon in the bag or at home an awful lot.

Guess what? There are companies that make 150MP Cameras. That’s three times the amount of the normal Professional bodies. These are called Medium Format cameras and they can exceed $50K for a body. Totally for the Elite photographers of the world. Useless fact for most…

How do you edit photos?

I mostly use the Camera Raw Program then open images in Photoshop for final edits before saving them as a Jpeg or PNG (for Web) Tiff or PDF (for printing) or PSD. Saving a PSD is most useful as you can export any format later on with no hassles whereas other file types do not convert as easily. Sometimes I use Capture One Pro. Capture One Pro is used by professionals but is not necessary for most. For beginners Lightroom is all you need.

Shoot as JPG or RAW?

RAW. Every time. Or Shoot JPG(Jpeg) and RAW (Canon is CR2/Sony is ARW/ Nikon is NEF/Lightroom creates DNG etc) together if you don’t have the ability to edit your images yet. One day you’ll wish you’d shot every picture in Raw. My Himalayan Porter photo was shot in Jpeg because I didn’t know better back then. In hindsight, I wish it wasn’t.

What does that even mean? This bits boring…
A camera raw image file contains minimally processed data from the image sensor of either a digital camera, or motion picture film scanner, or other image scanner. Raw files are named so because they are not yet processed and therefore are not ready to be printed or edited with a bitmap graphics editor. Normally, the image is processed by a raw converter in a wide-gamut internal color space where precise adjustments can be made before conversion to a “positive” file format such as TIFF or JPEG for storage, printing, or further manipulation.- Wikipedia Definition.

Do you know if I can fly my Drone there? 

If it’s in a National Park you need to acquire a permit before flying anywhere.
If it’s private or sacred land you should also ask the Land Owner before you fly your annoying mosquito.

Few other things about Drones for Recreational use:
Click here. This excludes any drones that weigh more than 2 Kilograms, they require a Commercial license.

How’d you learn photography?

Self-taught, in the last couple of years I have learned from Professionals as well through Assisting them. Either way, you need to shoot and practice, practice, practice for yourself to truly learn. Learn to edit, that is very important too. I shoot knowing what I can do to edit the image I’m taking e.g. I expose for my brightest point unless I’m taking an HDR (multiple images blended or bracketing). So the land might be dark and the sky really bright. I take an image and bring up the shadows or I take several images (landscape scenario with no moving subjects) then blend sections in Photoshop to make it look as I saw it with my eye. I expose for the land and the sky may be way too bright for one frame, the next I may expose the sky properly and the land will be too dark. Put them together and boom.Another way is to use ND Graduated Filters and do this in a single shot. Grad ND’s are typically used to balance the tonality in high contrast scenes where the sky is much brighter than the foreground. This is pretty typical in Landscape Photography these days. Use Youtube, Lynda.com, Creative Live, RGGEDU among others for tutorials.

Learning how to use artificial lighting is a whole new world. I believe that’s what separates Pros from Joes. You’ll truly understand light and how to use artificial and natural light for perfect balance. Artificial light allows you to shoot in average conditions and still make it look good. Lots of people can shoot something that’s already pretty like a stunning landscape sunset (everyone on insta) but those who can shoot in flat light, rain, average conditions and come away with a good shot are the Professionals. True professionals can make artificial lights appear natural in images.

How much are these lights you talk about? You shouldn’t have asked…

You can get Flashes for $150-$800. Strobes aren’t cheap though, nor are the modifiers that shape the way the light falls on a subject. It’s a big investment. More than $5000 for a solid two light set up depending on what you buy. Again, there’s a big range but the most common brands are Broncolor, Profoto, Elinchrom. If you’re looking at this, you should be making money from Photography already. So, I won’t go further but you could buy a new car for the same price as a comprehensive lighting set up with many modifiers. People can take beautiful images with a single light set up. It’s a skill to use minimal gear too.

I want to go around New Zealand in a Van, where should I go?
I did a three week trip in April 2017, I’ve made a guide on where to go.

CLICK HERE.

Anything I should know before going to NZ?

CLICK HERE.

How should I get into Mountaineering?

If you’re already Rock Climbing well and have done lots of bushwalking/ hiking.
CLICK HERE.

If not, don’t bother reading that yet, it’s serious stuff. You need to build up to it. Contact your local guiding company and learn to climb and abseil, gain awareness on bush skills and navigation. It could be worth doing an outdoor recreation course too.