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One of the tools I use most often is my Nikon 300mm lens. I have had this model so long I don’t think Nikon makes it anymore. It doesn’t appear on their website. I am in no hurry to “upgrade” to the new model of the same 300mm lens because the lens I have does everything I ask of it and then some.

Why I Use A Nikon 300mm Lens.

The most common use for a 300mm lens is nature and wildlife photography. That is also the main thing I use the lens for. The 300mm lens lets you see wildlife close up without having to be so close physically that you scare the animal or put yourself unnecessarily in harm’s way. 

See examples of my wildlife photography here: KRNaturalPhoto Wildlife.

Add the fact that I use the 300mm lens in conjunction with Nikon cameras that provide the extra magnification boost I talked about in my previous post (New York | Photography Gear | Cameras) and I can get an even closer look at my subjects. I also pair my 300mm lens with a 1.4 teleconverter which adds more magnification to my lens. Instead of the view of a 300mm lens the view is closer to 420mm magnification.

The biggest drawback in using the 1.4 tele-converter is that I lose 1 stop of light. The 300mm lens I use has an f-stop of 4. With the addition of the 1.4 teleconverter the f-stop increases to 5.6.

Photograph taken using the Nikon 300mm lens with 1.4 tele-converter.

What About The F-Stop?

Why does the f-stop matter? The f-stop determines how much light is let into your camera. The more light you can let into your camera the faster the shutter speed you can use. Faster shutter speeds allow you to freeze motion in the frame so that your subject is crisp and clear.

I prefer to hand hold my cameras as much as possible so f-stop is even more important to me. Hand holding a camera and keeping it steady is not always easy. It is increasingly difficult the larger the lens is that you are using. The 300mm lens is not small. There is a minimum shutter speed at which you have to shoot in order to eliminate hand shake. Hand holding is invariable unsteady to some degree and the camera will often move if even slightly. This will cause images to be soft or blurry if the shutter speed is not fast enough.

The new model of the 300m lens is shorter and lighter than that which I have. The new model also has vibration reduction technology to help with having crisp images while hand holding. So, it may be beneficial to move to this lens in the future.

Photograph taken with my Nikon 300mm lens and 1.4 tele-converter.

There are other lenses that can have a 300mm or greater magnification but often they have the tradeoff of having a smaller f-stop. That means less light gets in. And increases the likelihood of blurry images. I have used lenses that have that tradeoff in the past. That is why I am very comfortable with my choice of the Nikon 300mm I currently have.

There is of course a way to combat lack of light and camera shake and that is with a tripod. I do sometimes use a tripod with my wildlife photography but it is just not my preference. A tripod also does not solve the problem of blurry images cause by subject movement. It is possible to use a gimbal to try and alleviate that constraint. However, the more gear I have to use the less enjoyable the experience is for me. I have a gimbal I use occasionally but I only use it in specific circumstances. I use it when I am intentionally trying to photograph subjects in low light. I do not carry around a tripod and gimbal with me regularly for wildlife photography even though I have one.

There are lenses that have greater magnification and wider f-stops than the lens I use and I would love to have them but the cost of those lenses increases swiftly as you move in that direction.

Another way I use my 300mm lens in addition to wildlife photography is for race photography. I use the 300mm magnification to single out individual runners in a crowd as they approach my location along a race course. I can usually pick one runner out of a crowd and photograph them individually while they are still off in the distance. I can also use the long lens to capture close up images of runners once they get closer to my position.

Surprising Ways I Use The Nikon 300mm Lens.

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As a photographer I use three types of cameras. I use DSLR camera bodies. Mirrorless cameras are also a tool a frequently use. And for specialty projects I use GoPro Cameras.

I use Nikon Cameras

I am not a fan of the camera wars arguing over what camera manufacturing brand is the best. I also think we are way past the days of looking at how many megapixels a camera has. Most cameras from most major manufacturers can produce good photographs for whatever you want to accomplish.

I use Nikon DSLR Camera Bodies. I don’t use them because I believe they are superior to other brands. I use them because they fit a need for me. They provided a benefit for the type of photography I was interested in creating. And that is how you should choose your camera. What camera provides the best qualities to allow you to do the work you envision?

I have stuck with Nikon for very simple reasons. The gear is good. It allows me to do the work I want. I have never been disappointed. I use my camera bodies until there wear out before replacing them, for the most part.

I have also continued to use Nikon cameras because camera bodies and lenses are expensive. Once you find gear that you like and that works for you and allows you to create the work you envision, why would you change what you are working with if it is working for you? There will have to be a very compelling reason for me to change the tools I use. It is financially impractical for me to switch to something new. If I switched to Cannon cameras I would have to buy all new Cannon lenses as well.

I took this photo using my Nikon D300s camera body.

The Reason I Chose Nikon

When I first became interested in photography I knew what type of photography interested me the most. I loved animals. Nothing captured my imagination more than wildlife photography. I wanted to create wildlife photography myself. That is where my interest in photography was.

When I started reading about photograph and studying photographers I admired I discovered what the biggest impact that choosing a brand of cameras could have on my photography was. When I started using digital cameras around 20 years ago there was variability in what size sensors different camera manufacturers were using in their digital cameras. Canon was using full frame sensors that pretty much replicated the size of an image as seen in 35mm film. Nikon on the other hand was using sensors that were smaller than the dimensions a frame of 35mm film. The smaller dimensions of the Nikon image sensor meant that a narrower field of view was recorded upon taking a photo. So in essence the smaller image sensors gave increased magnification to the lenses used in conjunction with it because they were cropping out what would have been present in a 35mm frame.

As someone just getting into photography and especially as someone who was interested in wildlife photography this was great news to me. This meant that using a Nikon camera would allow me to get closer views of my subjects than with Cannon cameras. As a wildlife photographer that is pretty much the whole game right there. Getting close to the subject is often the key.

I have used several different camera bodies over the years. The two camera bodies I currently use are a Nikon D300s and a Nikon D500. I love them and they do almost everything I could ask for. The D500 was an upgrade from a D300 that I wore out. The D500 shoots at a fast frame rate perfect for capturing the action of wildlife or other subjects without missing anything. At this point the ability to shoot a high number of frames per second is one of the main features I look for in a camera these days. 

I captured this image using my Nikon D500 camera body.

Mirrorless Cameras

I first became interested in mirrorless cameras because I became a runner. I know what does running have to do with photography or cameras? I’m getting to that. 

I’ve always loved nature and being outside. Developing into a runner especially a trail runner allowed me to see how much nature I could see by being able to go out and run. The more I went out running in the woods the more I wanted to be able to photograph the scenes around me. Advancing cell phone technology was helping with that, but I really wanted a device that is closer to the quality of a DSLR.

The problem with standard DSLRs is that they are relatively big and relatively heavy. Add a lens to that and the weight only increases. These features are really not conducive to running through the woods and stopping to take photos occasionally.

This photo was taken with my Nikon 1 J4 camera body.

That is when I discovered mirrorless cameras. Mirrorless cameras are generally smaller and lighter than their DSLR counterparts. As someone who already used Nikon products I turned first to Nikon to see what they had to offer. And there it was. Almost exactly what I wanted. Small compact cameras that had almost the same quality image capture as a standard DSLR.

I am glad I began looking into mirrorless cameras when I did because it allowed me to discover the Nikon J series of cameras. I currently use the J4 and J5. They are pretty much the smallest cameras I could find. Now mirrorless cameras seem to be going more towards the DSLR size in the Nikon lineup with the Z series, which I am sure is great for some people. It is not what I need for my photography however.

If I had come looking for mirrorless cameras later I may have never discovered the cameras I use now. Timing is key in everything. Not just in creating images but in finding the right tools.

I often carry my Nikon 1 J4 while running so I can capture images that inspire me. (More on how I do that in a future post) I had a photography exhibit that was exclusively about what I see when I am out running and most of those images were taken with my Nikon 1 J4.

I found Mirrorless Cameras because of a desire to combine my passion for running with my passion for photography. I started using them to photograph my running adventures. Now I increasingly use them to photograph other subjects. I have used them to photograph while hiking in the forest, to photograph waterfalls, and for flowers or to simply get a different perspective than my standard gear while photographing the same subjects.

I addition to the Nikon 1 J4 I also use the Nikon 1 J5. I don’t usually take the J5 out on runs. I also use a larger lens with theJ5 frequently so it isn’t compatible with runs all the time. But it is great to have the J5 as a lightweight additional option to photograph subjects I can’t quite capture with whatever other cameras I am using at the time.

This photo was taken with my Nikon 1 J5 camera body

GoPro Cameras

The other camera tool I employ is GoPRo cameras. The GoPro cameras serve a similar purpose as the mirrorless cameras. However, I employ them in very different circumstances.

With the mirrorless cameras I stop and photograph the scenery around me. With the GoPro cameras I photograph the scenery literally while I am running. My goal is to capture the experience of running on camera.

The most common use of GoPro cameras is probably to shoot video content. Video would do a good job at capturing the running experience, it is also what everyone is doing and I want to do something different. While I do create some videos of my running adventures, I mostly use my GoPro cameras for their time lapse photography capabilities.

Last year I ran the last person standing event, Last Rebel Survivor, put on by Rebellion Running and recorded this short video. https://youtu.be/p20SnocRbZM

I like to use the time lapse feature because my main interest is still photography rather than video. While you can excerpt a frame from a video and use it as a still image the quality is not as good as taking still photos to begin with. So I do the opposite and I create a series of still images and compile them into time lapse footage videos. They take on a very unique quality in video. 

Using the time lapse feature allows me to capture way more photos than I ever could stopping and taking a single image constantly. Plus I would never get done running if I did it that way. The time lapse method also allows me to capture images I would otherwise miss or overlook or simply choose not to take because I can’t afford to take that much time.

This year I took on the Limitless Vertical Challenge from Aravaipa Running. During that challenge I ran at Worlds End State Park in PA. During this run I recorded some time lapse footage:

Time lapse footage from GoPro

The GoPro cameras also allow me to capture images as unobtrusively as possible of people, gatherings, and runners because they either might not notice the small camera or they do not know that the camera is on. I can capture unique images this way. 

There are two main ways I use the GoPro cameras while running. At big events I like to carry both of them into action with me, but often I will just use one at a time. I have a chest harness that I can mount a GoPro camera on and I can capture images from that perspective. I also have a couple of different handles that as the name suggests I attach the camera to and I hold in my hand while running. This allows me to move the camera around and point it in different directions and angles while I am running. I also have a head strap, but I have not used that method yet.

Four Ways I Use My GoPro

1.) Capture footage of myself and others while we run:

This photo was taken with a GoPro during a 26+ mile trail; adventure with friends.

2.) Capture photos of the scenery around me as I move through it.

Time lapse GoPro photo taken during the 2019 Sehgahunda Relay

3.) One cool side effect of the limitations of the GoPro cameras in shutter speed taking still photos is that they can sometimes create these cool abstract like images that really show the motion of the camera as I am on the move.

GoPro time lapse photo from 2018 Worlds End Ultra. Notice the focus point in the center and the swirling motion around that point.

4.) Capture a static scene with subjects moving through it.

GoPro time lapse photo as runner comes into view.

What Would Make Me Change Camera Brands?

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One type of question people like to ask about any activity they are interested in is what kind of gear do they need or what is good. I completely understand the impulse to ask this question and I have probably asked it myself in many venues. However, it is a very difficult question to answer for a variety of reasons.

One reason it is hard to answer is that photography is a very task oriented field. The tools you need are specific to the goals you want to accomplish. So what is good for one task may not be good for another task. It requires a lot of discussion and detail to hone in on exactly what the best tools for the job are. Sometimes it can really come down to personal preference and has nothing to do with the gear itself.

Another reason why this can be a difficult question to answer is that there is so much out there. Unless someone’s job is to review gear or test gear most photographers have a set of tools they have honed in on and have been using for a while. I can tell someone in a general sense what they need, but I could not name a specific product. Unless I thought the perfect thing for them to use was a product I myself was using.

I think the best way for me to answer the, “What gear do I need?” question is to talk about what I use and why I use it. Then if you are interested in doing similar work you would have an idea of what types of tools work well for that.

This will be an article discussing all the gear I use in general and then I will follow it with a series of articles about specific tools I use and go into a little more detail.

Camera Bodies:

At this point I have 6 camera bodies that I use on a regular basis. I have 2 standard size Nikon DSLR models. Then I have 2 smaller Nikon mirrorless camera models. And I also employ 2 different GoPro cameras.

The 2 Nikon DSLR’s I use are the D300s and the D500. I have had them for quite a while now. They are the camera bodies I use the most often. There is a very specific reason I use Nikon camera bodies. I will discuss that more in a future article so stay tuned. But the answer is not that Nikon is just better than other brands. The answer lies in the fact that the Nikon cameras were the right fit for the job.

The 2 Nikon mirrorless cameras I use are the Nikon 1 J4 and Nikon 1 J5. I don’t think these are even made anymore as Nikon has moved on to a different and much more expensive line of mirrorless cameras. I found these cameras at just the right time. They are much smaller than a standard DSLR. And that is exactly why I like them. I use these cameras mostly for when I am out adventuring and want to be able to capture images with something other than my smart phone. They are much more portable and can be tucked away in pockets on my adventure gear in ways I could never carry my D300s or D500 and that makes them extremely valuable to me.

I have 2 different GoPro cameras that I use in a few different ways. I have had both of them a while and neither of them was the newest model when I bought them. They are a tertiary set of cameras for my work so it is hard to justify buying the newest models. Even though I really, really want to. I use these almost exclusively to photograph running. And when I say to photograph running I mean exactly that. This si not traditional race photography. I use the GoPro’s to photograph running when it is happening in real time from the point of view of the runner. As in I am running and carrying a GoPro and recording footage at the same time.

Lenses:

This section will cover the lenses I use regularly on my Nikon DSLR bodies. The Nikon mirrorless cameras do have interchangeable lenses but I only use one lens for each camera. The lenses I use for my photography are as follows.

Nikon 300 mm: This lens is great for photographing subjects that are off in the distance or for getting more close up images of smaller subjects that are nearby. I pair this lens with a 1.4 tele-converter to get an even closer view of my subject.

Nikon 60 mm macro: I put this lens to use taking extremely close up views of small subjects. My goal is often to photograph a small subject so close up that it fills the entire frame.

Tamron 18-200 mm: This is my go to landscape photography lens. The zoom capabilities of this lens allow me to take photographs of sweeping vistas or to zoom in on one specific aspect of a landscape.

Nikon 50 mm: The 50 mm lens is my secondary landscape lens. It is light weight and easy to carry when hiking. Being a prime lens that is not at a particularly wide angle of view it requires the photographer to hone in on a specific composition of the scene.

Nikon 70-200 mm: This is the one lens that I do not carry in my bag at all times. That is because for me it is used for very specific purposes. Because I use it for very specific tasks I always know well in advance if I will need it and I only take it when I do. I use this lens for sports, events, and portraiture.

Bags/straps:

I have used a few different combinations of bags and straps over the years. This just like cameras is highly specific to ones needs. I have found tools that I like and have been using for a while. However, I am still looking for the perfect combination of bags and straps that are ideal for my adventure and running photography.

The camera bag I use most is a bag by Lowepro. The Flipside 400 AW model. They are on to a newer model at this point. I use it to carry my two camera bodies. One camera body with my 300 mm lens and 1.4 tele-convert attached and One with no lens attached. The bag also holds my 50 mm, 600 mm, and 18-200 mm lenses as well as my flash. There is also room for filters, memory cards, and plenty of other things I don’t use as much as I probably should.

I also have a small shoulder bag to carry my mirrorless cameras and GoPro’s in as well as a few small tripods and other accessories.

The tool I have found that I really like for securing my cameras while I am working are Black Rapid Straps. The double strap is the version that I like best. This allows me to carry two camera bodies securely and quickly and safely switch between cameras while I am out photographing.

These are what work for me best right now, but I am always looking for solutions that better fit my needs.

Tripods:

Tripods are great tools to use in photography. There are types of photography you can’t really do without them. This is an area where you can really get great value if you spend a reasonable amount. You really get what you pay for here. If you do it right you only ever buy 1 tripod.

This photo was taken using my Gitzo tripod

My main tripod is from Gitzo. The Gitzo GT2531 Series 2 6X Carbon Fiber. It is made of carbon fiber so it is relatively light. I have carried it around with me for as many as 7 miles while hiking and photographing landscapes. The legs are easily adjustable with simple twist locking mechanisms. This allows you to quickly extend and retract legs as needed.

I also have a JOBY GorillaPod. This is a very interesting tool. If you have never seen one I highly encourage you to take a look. This tripod is short so either I get down on the ground with it or I place it on a surface. I usually use this as a secondary set up with so I can capture other angles while out photographing landscapes with cameras mounted on tripods. This tripod can accommodate a full size DSLR or smaller cameras such as my mirrorless cameras.

In addition to the two main tripods I use I also have 2 small inexpensive tripods that are easily portable. They are always in my shoulder bag in case I need them. They work with my mirrorless cameras and my GoPro’s.

Accessories:

I have 3 accessories that I use in conjunction with my photography regularly. I have a Nikon flash for illuminating low light situations. For a lot of my landscape photography I use a circular polarizer. This helps to cut down on glare and bring out colors in the sky and plants. When there is a specific look I am trying to achieve I use my 64x Neutral Density filter. This filter will block out light without affecting the color of the exposure.

What I want:

This article has focused on what I already have in my toolbox and why I have it. Even though I have many of the tools I need to do the work I want to do that doesn’t mean there isn’t a tool I still want. One tool that I would like to add to my kit is a prime lens that is a wider angle than the 50 mm lens I already have. I would like the lens to also have a wide aperture like the 50 mm I already have does. I like what I can do with my 50 mm, but I think a similar lens with a wider angle of view would allow me to do some things that I cannot quite do the way I would like with my current equipment.

If you’d like to learn more about the types of photography gear I use please join my email list below so you don’t miss my upcoming series on the gear I use.

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One type of project I have been wanting to create was a project where I am photographing one specific athlete doing what they do. Most of my sports related photography centers around photographing an entire event. So that is basically the opposite of what I want to accomplish in a project like this. I have worked with a couple of athletes on a smaller scale to work on something similar to this. I also worked with an athlete in 2019 on a project that came close to this. An event where I wasn’t responsible for photographing the entire field so I could hone in on specific athletes. Until now nothing has quite fallen into place.

Ellie Pell running down the trails at Buttermilk Falls State Park.
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3 State Parks then Home

After thoroughly enjoying a beautiful hike at Ricketts Glen (Link Back To Last Post) we opted to follow that up with a day of recovery.

What better way to do that then to spend another relaxing day with our dogs down at the lake-shore. We enjoyed our previous trip during vacation that we decided to take another crack at it and see if we could do it even better this time around. We went back to Taughannock Falls State Park for another day of picnics and relaxation and dogs.

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All The Waterfalls

After a day of relaxation we set out for a hike.

After spending a lot of our vacation relaxing we really wanted to do something active. I wanted to go hike somewhere. I wanted to find the perfect hike that captured all the beauty of our area in one trail.

There are a lot of wonderful trails to hike in our region. I have favorite places to spend time communing with nature. They all have their unique character that I appreciate. But, for this trip we decided to return to a place I had only been once before.

Ricketts Glen State Park
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One Day One Place

After a day of driving around visiting multiple sites we wanted to spend the entire day all at one place. We decided to spend the day at Taughannock Falls State Park. If you are not familiar with Taughannock Falls State Park its most well-known feature is its namesake, Taughannock Falls which plunges 215 feet past rocky cliffs that tower nearly 400 feet above the gorge.

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After a couple day’s worth of long drives we decided to try and stay closer to home. But, I still wanted to see some new sights. I thought I knew just how to make that happen. 

First up was Stony Brook State Park. I had been there once before, but the trail leading to the waterfall was closed at that time. I wanted to go back and get a good view of the waterfall. We arrived. I unpacked the camera gear. We started walking to the trail. WHAT?!?!?! Trail Closed!!! Oh no. It never occurred to me that the trail might still be closed. I should have checked the website. I was so bummed.

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Go North

I talk a lot about wanting to and trying to relax on this vacation, but maybe that is just self-delusion. I did have some goals I wanted to accomplish on this vacation.

Visiting New State Parks

I wanted to visit state parks that I had not visited before. Since it was supposed to be hot all week I thought maybe it would help to go north. We live on the southern border of NY right near PA. So, we went north to the shores of Lake Ontario. FYI, it was just as hot there as it was at home.

Our first stop was Selkirk Shores State Park. Selkirk Shores was a nice little state park. When we arrived there was fog or steam rising up off the ground in the woods.

The area where we parked initially was right at this nice wooded picnic area at the edge of the woods. There was a trail that went off into the woods at one end. We stays in the picnic area to enjoy the views there. The trees in this spot were majestic. I don’t think I did them justice in my photography.

Selkirk Shores State Park
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On day 3 of our vacation we went to a location I am familiar with and enjoy but lately never seem to find my way there as much as I would like. We spent the day relaxing near the shores of Tioga Hammond Lakes. This time it was a day for just my wife and I to relax and enjoy. No dogs this time.

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