Nikon 60-mm Macro: A brilliant macro that’s compact, but capable of incredible image quality and life-size macro with good depth of field. Also does double duty as a standard lens saving valuable weight and pack space instead of adding a 50-mm to the kit.
This lens spends the most time on the camera for fishing stories as it’s the best option for picking out the devil in the detail.
Nikon 85-mm 1.8 G: I chose this over the slightly sharper and faster 85-mm 1.4 because of its light weight, low CA’s and lower price. It also easily fits into my big studio ring flash and is damn sharp corner-to-corner from about f4. If I shot more stuff under f2 the 1.4 would have been hard to pass up, though that would have changed the budget and other lens choices around it. As a general portrait lens, I find this one punches well above its weight in the value for money fight.
So that’s the stuff that comes fishing, but what do I add for the mainstream work ?
I don’t use zooms much, but these two are sort of must-haves in my opinion and can do a job that would be hard with a prime lens in some situations. They’re a backup to the primes as well in the event of an accident.
Nikon 14-24-mm 2.8. This lens has very good image quality for a zoom and is perfect for event photography where I might have to get a shot in a tight room or something grand outdoors. On the downside, it’s big, heavy and can’t be filtered (without expensive, clunky adapters) and that makes it hard to pocket for fishing stories, but it does get a run every once in a while when I need the sort of drama that only super-wide can bring and the walk-in isn’t too long.
Nikon 70-200-mm 2.8 VRII: This is the zoom you need for fast action. I have one mostly for concert photography where you can get pegged into a tight spot and still need to cover a whole stage. The focus speed of this sort of lens is blindingly quick. It’s a little heavy to lug around a river, but if I’m not walking to far I do bring it along from time to time. The image quality is exceptional for a zoom. Everyone should have one.
Nikon 200-mm f2: The sharpest lens I’ve ever used and apparently the sharpest that Nikon makes. This thing has unbelievable image quality right from f2 and does everything brilliantly from concerts to landscapes. Of course it’s too heavy and expensive to lug around the river, but for everything else it flat-out rocks.
I think a lot of people are put off by the price of this lens, but mine has paid for itself many times over for its stunning look when shot wide-open or near to it and for its incredible sharpness and focus speed in low, nasty light.
This is the concert lens.
I have my eye on the new 20-mm 1.8 G lens and may add it to the collection as a light, super-wide option soon.
Lugging it all around
Fly-fishing is beautiful, inspiring stuff to photograph, but takes place in a sometimes hostile environment. I’ve had a lot of camera bags in the last thirty years and good or bad, the one thing they have all had in common is that they mostly fail the second it starts raining.
Some have been ‘water resistant’, or had a cover for the rain, but trust me, none of that is good enough when it really hammers down and you have to keep shooting.
To me, ‘water resistant’ has repeatedly proven useless and it’s hard enough shooting in the rain without worrying about the gear.
As an example, I had one trip to New Zealand a few years ago where it rained somewhere between ‘we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto’ to a cold sideways drizzle every second we were on the river for eight days—every single second. My camera remained fairly safe tucked into the top of my waders under a good rain jacket, but everything in my spongy camera pack got wetter and wetter and eventually I had to leave stuff in the hotel drying out while trying to shoot the story with less gear. Not an ideal situation.
Now I have a Patagonia Stormfront pack and it’s clearly been designed by fishermen as opposed to camera bag nerds. The pack is light, very solid and has a brilliant zipper that’s fairly easy to operate as these things go. The harness has also proved comfortable and well thought-out. I’ve fitted the pack out with an insert and dividers from old camera bag and everything is well protected from bumps as well as rain.
Its twenty-eight litres is about right for day trips with the camera gear I carry and it also has room for a jacket, some water and lunch. It also has a few lash points and a couple compression straps to attach the tripod.
The Stormfront has proven worthy of its ‘waterproof’ claims on a few occasions that included serious downpours and being dragged through armpit-deep water in the high country. It’s a brilliant thing, this pack, and well worth the spend.
For a tripod, I needed lightweight above all else and for that a Gitzo 6x with a tiny RRS ball head has no equal. The price might weigh you down for a while, but the actual weight never will and that’s something that sets it apart.
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