Hours of Idleness-A Photographer's Journey in St. Louis

My Go-To Equipment in 2017

Understanding what cameras and lenses you use most often provides all sorts of data, and is something that I always think is pretty interesting and can be very helpful. For instance, in the pie chart above (based upon the images I selected for My Best of 2017 posts 1 and 2), I know that I leave the bigger, heavier cameras at home at least 25% of the time (or at the very least, I use the iPhone 7+ to document things that I don’t feel warrant the use of a DSLR- I included documentary images in this metric). What’s more, my second backup body, the D200, makes an appearance because my primary body, the D7200, had to be sent in for repair this year.  Also, knowing my stats from last year, I can see that I am using the D300 less and less often, which means that I greatly prefer the images that the D7200 makes, even though it has been a problem-prone camera for me (if it is worth putting down for posterity, I am going to try to do that with the best quality equipment that I own).

As for lenses, somewhat surprising for me is how often I use the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 At-x Pro. If I were to wager why that lens has become such a mainstay for me, I would guess that it relates to the changed nature of the paid/commissioned work I do. When I founded my business, most of the client work that did pertained to portraiture in some way, shape or form.  During this stage, my primary portrait lens was the Nikon 105mm f/2.8G (doesn’t even appear on this graph for 2017!), and the Nikon 50mm 1.8D was perhaps a distant second. Over the last few years, I’ve been picking up a lot of interiors work, ranging from photographing art installations to documenting beer cellars far underground, and this work has been responsible for my more frequent use of the extreme wide angles (note: the Tokina is an excellent optic that really shines in controlled lighting scenarios- flare and CA can be an issue outside).

The 24mm focal length (35mm equivalent on crop) has always been my go to for general purpose (this was pretty much where my zoom remained on my old Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G), though with my current series focusing on St. Louis’ urban landscapes has ensured that the Nikon 24mm f/2.8D is critical to my kit.

The other surprise for me on this list is the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX. When I first purchased the lens, I had a hard time figuring out how to integrate it into my flow, even though I could tell that it was super sharp. At 35mm, it is technically a wide angle, thus retaining some of the distortive properties of a wide angle, even when used as an equivalent 50mm on a crop body. This kept me away from using it for portraiture at first (though this has now become my chief portrait lens). The real awakening for me with regard to this lens, has been taking it out hiking. One of my main issues with photographing in the dense Ozark Forests of Missouri has been subject isolation; basically, when you photograph a tree against a group of trees, they tend to flatten out and your subject can disappear in the conversion to 2D. I started shooting the 35mm at f/1.8 in these scenarios, and lo and behold, have out how make images that I like on the trails close to home. This led to the 35mm becoming my primary hiking companion, and spending that extra time with it and photographing my kids out in the woods, led to me learning how to integrate it into my portrait practice.

I know this has been sort of a strange post, as I haven’t shared this data in the past, but hopefully it encourages you all to look at the images that you are making and recognize the trends. Knowing this can show you what you do well, and where you need to push yourself.

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