Archives for September 2013

Confessions Of A Recovering Gearhead

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Hi, My name is Laurie and I’m a recovering gearhead!  There, I said it!  (the “recovering” part that is)  I have been a longtime gearhead, lusting after the newest, coolest, most trick item to add to my camera bag.  New camera…I have a matched pair, new lens…it’s in my bag along with all the other must have paraphanelia.  Cool new accessory…if I don’t have it yet, it’s likely on order, and on and on it went. If it was new, cool, new, useful, new it was either in my bag or would be shortly.  If someone wanted to know about a product, they would email me just knowing that I was likely one of the first to get one and had put it to the test.  I was the Photo Equipment Advice Desk for NAPP for a number of years (they found a very good outlet for my gearheadedness).  I was even at the top of the list for each and everything new item that came into my favorite camera shop (Competitive Camera in Dallas…ask for Eugene).  It was bad!  I was bad!  I had a serious addiction for new camera gear, I was a total gearhead,  I simply couldn’t say no to a piece of camera equipment dangled in front of me.

200-400mm fr VR…500mm f4 VR…600mm f4 VR…I had ’em all…

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Until traveling with bulky, heavy equipment began to get more and more difficult.

So, how did I get around this?  Being a gearhead, I went out and bought the 500mm.  Here is where the agony began.  OK, having a 200-400mm, a 500mm and a 600mm tele lens is a little extreme and even though I actually do use all three at any given time I really can’t justify 3 super telephoto lenses in my arsenal.  But, which one goes?  Do I sell the 600mm and keep the 500mm due to the weight restrictions?  If I do that, what about the 200-400mm?  I forgot to mention that also I have the new 80-400mm VR which is wicked sharp (but, I’m sure you figured that one out) so, do I get rid of the 200-400mm too?  Leaving me with only on tele lens?  I was nearly delerious at the thought of divesting myself of not only one but, 2 of my babies.  I began to think it through…what lens did I take where, and why…  Well, let’s begin with international travel (which I have been doing more of lately)

-I encountered it all three times traveling to Churchill to photograph polar bears.  They weighed everything and I mean everything including our carry-ons and attached litle bands that said we met the weight restrictions to bring our gear on board…that is after some very creative re-packing and intense stress.  My first year I took the 600mm and next two years I took the 500mm and was perfectly happy with it both for reach in most cases and for the lighter weight.

-Next came ERA on a flight from Anchorage to Kodiak.  The gate personnel were NOT going to allow me to bring my camera bag on-board as carry-on.  It was too big not to mention too heavy.  I had my credit card out and was ready to buy another seat for the priviledge of carrying on my camera equipment before they relented…as long as I check my computer bag…without said computer inside.  Go figure.  I have taken any of the three tele lenses to Alaska for different perspectives.  I love the 600mm for in your face, nose and toes kind of images but, I can really get those same images with the 500mm and teles the bears get so close.  And, when hand-holding off the boat, while I can and have hand held the 600mm for short bursts I certainly do prefer the lighter weight of the 500mm when the need to hand hold arises.  I love the 200-400mm for hand holding from the boat as it is even lighter than the 500mm but…the new 80-400mm with it’s sharpness and ability to accept teleconverters quickly took the place as my second lens.

-Kenya, you want to bring big, heavy glass with you, plan on gate checking it.  They, too, weigh everything.  Once again, I pleaded to their kindness to carry my bag of expensive equipment on the plane.  After I opened the compartments and showed them what was inside my bag, they finally relented and gave me a tag that approved it as carry-on.  That was with the 500mm both times.  I did notice that in Amsterdam a photo group was all forced to gate check their camera gear which was in hard sided rolling cases while I was allowed on board with my photo backpack.  However, had I been forced to gate check my gear, I would not have had confidence in my equipment arriving in working condition in the softer sided bag.  It’s a trade off for sure.

On and on it went.  It’s not easy traveling with camera gear these days!  Plain and simple as that.  So, really, why own everything if you can’t even enjoy it?  The  indecision was killing me.  Until I thought about doing what I recommend to many of my adventure participants who don’t own big glass…rent what I need when I need it!  Now how revolutionary a thought is that!  For me it was the first baby step in my recovery as a gearhead.  I know I can count on my friends  at LensProToGo, Borrow Lenses and Lens Rentals to fix me up with good glass when I need it.  And it will be the latest and greatest of it’s type without my having to keep up with all of that.  600mm on ebay, SOLD!  200-400mm next, SOLD!  I began to dig deeper into my gear closet pulling this lens and that one out.  24mm 1.4…oh, such a sweet lens for night photography but, I find myself reaching for the 14-24mm 2.8 for night photography due to the wider focal length and my camera’s low noise capability, 24mm 1.4, SOLD!  200mm f2…I LOVE THIS LENS with it’s gorgeous bokeh but, when do I actually use it?  It’s too big to carry along when I have one of my other big lenses, it’s not long enough for most wildlife photography, face it, it’s a pretty specialized lens which I hardly ever use, SOLD!  85mm 1.4 same thing, SOLD!  On and on it went until I felt both literally and figuratively much lighter weight!  And…it felt…GOOD!

When the dust had settled from my selling frenzy this is what I had left…

Nikon D4 x2

Nikon AF 16mm 2.8 Fisheye

Nikon AF-S 16-35mm f4

Nikon AF-S 24-120mm f4 VR

Nikon AF-S 80-400mm 3.5-5.6 VR

Nikon AF-S 500mm f4 VR

Nikon TC-14E II & TC-20E III

For those special occaisons when I need the speed…

Nikon AF-S 70-200mm 2.8 VR

and when I want to do close up work…

Nikon AF 200mm f4 Micro-Nikkor

Nikon SB-900 Speedlight when natural light is not enough.



Excellent Photo Adventures…Kenyan Safari…Nakuru to the Mara

For those who prefer flying from camp to camp, this is what you would miss along the way…

A boat ride (on a Lake whose name I have forgotten) in search of the African Fish Eagle.  They were playing coy and staying out of reach but, we didn’t lack for great subjects.

Yellow-billed Stork

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It was kind of eery to know that at any moment a hippo could rise up from the depths for a breath surprising both those above and below water equally

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Fishermen set nets then “herded” fish into the nets catching them to sell to the boat operators as bait to lure in the African Fish Eagle

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and, as always, the ever so friendly children who waved at us as we passed through town after town on our road trip to the Masai Mara…

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It was a long and bumpy ride but, we loved every minute of it as we caught brief glimpses into the lives of the everyday Kenyan.  I for one felt honored that they acknowledged us in a very friendly fashion as we passed (however briefly) through their lives.  Masai Mara here we come.  Stay tuned.





Excellent Photo Adventures…Kenyan Safari…Lake Nakuru 2

With all the recent rain, Lake Nakuru was lush and green providing a lovely setting…


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for the Rothschild Giraffe that call this magical place home…

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It’s also home to some exquisite birds such as the Lilac-breasted Roller

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The Secretarybird is quite an unusual charachter

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We spent a very nice morning with an African Grey Crown Crane family

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And as we made our way back to Lion Hill Lodge for the evening, we had one last treat with a pair of Verreaux’s Eagle Owls.  One flew off but, the other stuck around to pose for a few shots before joining it’s mate.

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All too soon, our magical time at lake Nakuru drew to an end.  Next stop the Masai Mara!  Stay tuned.

Excellent Photo Adventures…Kenyan Safari…Lake Nakuru

Lake Nakuru is best known for the million + flamingos that are attracted to the algae that flourishes along the shores.  However, the last couple of years have brought on excessive rain and with it flooding which has shrunk the habitat for many of the wildlife that call Lake Nakuru home including the flamingos that may number in the hundreds at this time.  With that said, we had the most magical two mornings and a productive afternoon despite the afternoon thunderstorm.  The experiences were many and varied and so I’ll let the photos tell their own stories…

Cape Buffalo

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Grant’s Zebra

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I’ve always wanted a zebra fight sequence and was thrilled when one unfolded right before our lenses…

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with the chase…

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and pushing each other around…

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We had a special treat with not just one rhino sighting…

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but several…at…one time…

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and a cooperative fella who stopped to strike a pose for us…

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We couldn’t resist the Olive Baboons and they provided us several opportunities to capture their antics…

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I feel that Lake Nakuru was so productive in our short time there that I will make two blog posts of the area and wildlife that abounds there.  Stay tuned.