Photo Equipment: What’s In The Bag?

Photo Equipment: What’s In The Bag?

Gear Reviews

Photo Equipment: What’s In The Bag?

It’s the most frequently-asked question and perhaps the least important. “What’s in the bag?”

I say it’s the least important since it’s usually the first (and easiest) avenue beginning photographers take to try and improve their photography work. They believe that better and more expensive gear will create a better photographer but more often than not, it only leads to disappointment. A better investment would be in time – time spent practicing their technique and honing their personal vision. Still, photo equipment is not unimportant either. if you’re not convinced, just try doing photography without it!

So with that said, let’s have a look into my photo bag (all links to Amazon):

Photo Equipment

Camera Bag: One of several MindShift Gear bags, depending on the trip or assignment. Moose Peterson MP-1 V2.0, FirstLight 40L, or BackLight 36L.

In addition to the actual bag that I choose for a particular trip, the contents in the bag also depend on where I am going, what I will be shooting, how remote the area, and how much hiking there will be. Here is some of my basic photo equipment:

Canon 1DX Mark II
Canon 5D Mark IV

I’ll carry (2) 5D Mark IV bodies on my landscape or travel photography trips and (1) 1DX Mark II and (1) 5D Mark IV for wildlife excursions.

Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens with Internal 1.4x Extender
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM (when weight is an issue or for bird-in-flight images)
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM
Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM
Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM
Irix 11mm f/4 Blackstone (when I want to travel light and the Canon 11-24 is too heavy and bulky).
Canon Extender EF 1.4X III
Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite Flash (2)
MagMod 2 Basic Flash Modifier Kit
Canon TC-80N3 Timer Remote
Lee Filter Holder with polarizing filter, 3-stop ND, 6-stop ND (Little Stopper) and 10-stop ND (Big Stopper)
Really Right Stuff TVC-24L Tripod
Really Right Stuff TQC-14 Tripod
Really Right Stuff BH40 ball head (2)
Really Right Stuff BH35 ball head

Wimberley WH-200 Gimbal Head II
Lexar digital media
Mac Book Pro 15.4″ Computer with Retina Display, Touch Bar, 2.9GHz Intel Core i7 Quad Core…
LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt USB-C 4TB Portable Hard Drive

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My Favorite American National Parks For Photography

My Favorite American National Parks For Photography

Bucket List

America’s National Parks: My Favorites for Photography

My recent travels have taken me to some amazing places around the world (Iceland, Patagonia, Myanmar, Tanzania, and others) but many of my all-time favorite photography locations are the National Parks of the United States. Most of these parks are beyond beautiful, easily accessible for recreational activities, and are preserved as sanctuaries for pristine mountains, deserts, forests, seashores, tundra, and the wild creatures that inhabit them.

The writer, historian, and environmentalist Wallace Stegner is credited with coined the phrase America’s Best Idea when referring to the National Park System. Here’s what he said in 1983: “National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.”

At the time of this writing, there are 59 National Parks in the United States. By my last count, I have photographed in 32 of them. Here – in no particular order – are my 5 favorite parks, with a few honorable mentions as well. If you have a favorite that American National Park that didn’t make my list, let me know which is your favorite in the comment section, including why.

Yosemite National Park

No other place in the world inspires photographers quite like Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. Iconic landmarks such as El Capitan, Half Dome, and Yosemite Falls are burned into the psyche of landscape photographers in both name and visage. Spring, particularly the month of May when the waterfalls have the highest flows and the dogwoods along the Merced River are in bloom, is the most popular season for photographers. The summer months, with bumper-to-bumper traffic in Yosemite Valley, should probably be avoided but any season will produce fantastic images, including winter. Regardless of the month, Yosemite is always a good idea!

(Top) The Yosemite Valley floor and Bridalveil Falls with ground fog. (Bottom Left) A stand of Giant sequoia trees in the snow. (Bottom Right) Last light on Half Dome.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

It’s the most visited of all the national parks in the United States as well as one of the most ecologically diverse. Often dubbed “Wildflower National Park” because of the profuse blooms each spring (mid to late April is best) the Smokies have so much more to offer than flowers. There is spectacular autumn colors in late October, stacked mountain ridges, and wildlife too, including the highest density of black bears in the world. The Smoky Mountains National Park is also my “home park” and the place where I honed my photography skills many years ago.

(Top) Rolling clouds through the mountains from Clingmans Dome. (Bottom Left) Splendid autumn colors on the ridge lines. (Bottom Right) Trillium wildflowers in bloom near a spring cascade.

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park in Maine is one of the few places in the US where you can capture both deciduous autumn color (second to third week in October) and dramatic seascapes in the same frame. Favorite photography locations within the first national park east of the Mississippi River include Jordan Pond, Jordan Stream, Otter Cliffs, Monument Cove, Cadillac Mountain, Duck Brook, and Hunter Beach Cove. Nearby Bass Head Lighthouse can be crowded with other photographers at sunrise or sunset but it’s certainly worth a visit anyway.

(Top) A vivid sunset at Hunters Beach Cove. (Bottom Left) Autumn reflections and lily pads in The Tarn. (Bottom Right) Twilight at Jordon Pond and The Bubbles.

Arches National Park

Delicate Arch is the most famous landmark in Arches National Park (it’s featured on Utah’s license plate) but it’s certainly not the only shooting location. All in all, there are more than 2000 sandstone arches in the park as well as many other geological formations, windows and fins that make superb photo subjects. With Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park nearby, the town of Moab, Utah makes a great location for a week or two of landscape photography and you still won’t scratch the surface of the available locations.

(Top Left) Rainbow and Balanced Rock. (Top Right) A sunstar peaks through Delicate Arch. (Bottom Left) Shadow and light on the sandstone wall at Skyline Arch. (Bottom Right) Light painting and star trails at Double Arch.

Yellowstone National Park

As America’s first national park established in 1872, Yellowstone National Park is best known by photographers for its wildlife and the many geothermal features found within its 3,468.4 square miles (8,983 km2). I’ve been traveling to Yellowstone for wildlife for more than 20 years and it never disappoints for the wildlife opportunities or the geysers, mud pots and fumaroles. Lamar Valley is often referred to as “America’s Serengeti” because of the sheer abundance of wild animals and is one of those places no wildlife photographer should miss during their lifetime. My favorite seasons for visiting for photography are spring, autumn, and winter while summer is a bit too crowded for my personal taste.

(Top) Fountain Geyser with dramatic evening light. (Bottom Left) Bison in harsh winter weather at Midway Geyser Basin. (Bottom Right) Pine tree skeletons on a foggy morning.

National Parks That Deserve Honorable Mention

Olympic National Park
Zion National Park
Glacier National Park
Denali National Park and Preserve
Death Valley National Park
Grand Teton National Park

Now you can leave a comment to tell me which national park should have made the list but didn’t!

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Travel Essentials: Six Items You Should Never Leave Home Without

Travel Essentials: Six Items You Should Never Leave Home Without

Gear Reviews

With each trip comes an entirely different packing list. Warm weather versus cold weather, backcountry hiking and camping versus four-star hotels, wildlife shooting versus landscapes or street and urban photography; all of these factors, and more, need to be considered. The type and amount of photo gear can vary greatly from place to place (I can’t take it ALL with me) as does my selection of clothes and footwear. I have four different camera bags in my office, for example, and each has features and benefits that are preferred for a certain types of trips. My MindShift FirstLight 40L Camera Backpack is my standard, go-to camera bag however (I love this bag). As far as luggage, the same principle would apply. Most of the time it’s my Rimowa Classic Aluminum Roller while for other trips a duffle is best.

But there are some non-photography items I would never leave home without – they are just too essential. I traveled to 13 different countries last year and they made my travel easier, my travel gear lighter, and my life on the road much more simple. These six essentials are by no means exclusive and they have nothing to do with photography specifically.

My Six Travel Essentials

JW Hulme Overnight Briefcase – No, its not cheap but it’s one of the best-made briefcases you can buy anywhere. There’s ample space for my laptop, books, phone, passport, wallet, extra underwear and socks, and still plenty of room to spare. It’s all leather with real brass hardware and zippers with a lifetime warranty from a company making leather goods since 1905. Mine has been all over the world and the older it gets, the better it looks. More info at Amazon: JW Hulme Overnight Briefcase

Think Tank Photo Cable Management 30 V2.0 – I need to keep my computer power cord, iPhone and iPad charging cables, power adapters, and other cords and accessories neatly organized and stowed safely away in my briefcase for when I need them. I know myself all too well. If I don’t stay organized while on the road, I’ll lose stuff. This little organizer has been priceless to me. More info at Amazon: Think Tank Photo Cable Management 30 V2.0

Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones – Noise cancelling technology is essential for long flights. Airplane noise, loud talkers, and the wail of crying babies will disappear with this device while your sanity is restored. But unlike bulky headphones, these earbuds fit into a nifty little carrying case just slightly larger than a deck of cards. More info at Amazon: Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones

ExOfficio Men’s Give-N-Go Boxers –  Why is this man sharing his underwear with us? Look, I pack just 2 or 3 pairs of these boxers on a trip of any length and they’re all I need. I can wash them in the sink and they dry in 2 or 3 hours. They’re also extremely light and comfortable to wear while sitting for hours on a plane or hiking in the hot desert. More info at Amazon: ExOfficio Men’s Give-N-Go Boxers

The North Face Paramount Convertible Pants – These lightweight, fast-drying pants can easily be washed in the hotel room’s sink if necessary and the legs unzip to produce instant shorts. The belt and clasping mechanism are built into the pants and they’re made of cloth and plastic so no issues during airport security. Take three pairs, roll them up tightly, and fit them into a corner of your suitcase. Neat and efficient. More info at Amazon: The North Face Paramount Convertible Pants

Buff Original Headwear 12-in-1 Headband – I never go on any photography trip without at least one of my Buffs! This featherweight (less than 3 ounces) microfiber headband can be used as cover for sun protection, around the neck and collar like a scarf to keep warm in cold weather, and as a drying towel in a pinch. Buff claims there are 12 different uses for one and I guess it just depends how creative you want to be to find all 12. More info at Amazon: Buff Original Headwear 12-in-1 Headband

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People and Faces of Gujarat

People and Faces of Gujarat


I just returned from the state of Gujarat in northwest India where I was a guest of Gujarat Tourism for 10 days while completing an assignment for a major media client here in the United States. And while I photographed many captivating landscapes, city scenes, and festive events during the Navratri season, it was the people who made the most indelible impression on me. Their warmth, friendliness, and hospitality will stay with me until my next visit to India, which I am planning for 2017 or 2018. Please enjoy a few sampled images of the beautiful people and faces of Gujarat!


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The Desolate Beauty of Greenland

The Desolate Beauty of Greenland


A Place Like No Other may be an overused bit of hyperbole found on every other Trip Advisor or Lonely Planet article you read (I mean, how many places like no other can there be?), but when describing a country and experience like Greenland, it’s actually true.

Greenland, the largest island in the world not considered its own continent, is a place of raw natural beauty and desolation. Steep, craggy mountains, titanic icebergs of sparking blue adrift on the sea and in the fjords, some of the largest glaciers in the world, tidy and colorful Inuit fishing villages, the aurora borealis, and the list goes on.

Eastern Greenland is one of the loneliest places on the planet. Along its 13,000-mile coastline of sparse, rocky mountains and hulking glaciers, there are only two small towns and five settlements in total. There are no roads connecting these remote outposts (all travel is via helicopter, boat, or dog sled in winter) and life for the residents has remained relatively unchanged over the past hundred years. Hunting and fishing are the main source of the culture’s food and sustenance.

The primary natural element in Greenland is ice. It’s everywhere. Aside from rock – there are no trees and very little soil along the coastline – ice is what you see in almost nearly direction. In the area near Tasiilaq, the town where I stayed while on the eastern coastline, there are dozens of giant outlet glaciers from the immense Greenland ice field creeping their way down rocky canyons to the fjords, sounds, and sea. Thousands of icebergs, some the size of office buildings, litter the water’s surface in varying hues of blue and silver, scattering sunlight in a dazzling display.

I’ll be leading a Greenland 2018 Photo Adventure in August 2018.

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Five Reasons To Love Iceland in the Winter

Five Reasons To Love Iceland in the Winter

Bucket List

Iceland Winter

Iceland is a true four-season photographic destination. As I wrote in a 2013 Popular Photography feature article, the country has often been mistakenly characterized in the past as cold, barren, and probably hostile to visitors. And with a name like Iceland, one can be forgiven for thinking of this small, northern Atlantic island country in such a way. But with tourism on the rise, the perception is quickly changing. It would be harder to find a more comfortable, less barren, and more welcoming country than Iceland anywhere on the planet. It’s also beautiful beyond words, which happens to be a boon to those of us who make a living creating images. But even to those who know and love Iceland dearly, the idea of visiting in winter might be a bit too much to bear. But Icelandic winters, for the most part, are no colder than those in New York, London, or Paris. In fact, there are some pretty compelling reasons to visit and photograph Iceland in winter – even on purpose.

1. Fewer Tourists and Photographers

Iceland is becoming more and more popular with every passing year and people are discovering that winter is a great time to see and experience Iceland. But there are still much fewer tourists and photographers during this “off season” than there are during the summer months. Want fewer crowds at the popular Icelandic photography hotspots? Try winter.

2. The Aurora Borealis

Iceland is one of the best places in the world to see and photograph the aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights in the northern hemisphere. Iceland falls at exactly the right latitude in the aurora belt (yes it is possible to go too far north to see the northern lights) so as long as the sky is dark and clear, there’s a high probability that you will see it. During the most popular times to visit Iceland, May through August, the sky never gets dark enough at night to see the aurora. Winter nights in Iceland are long and dark, perfect for aurora photography and watching.

3. Surreal Snowy Landscapes

If you like minimalist landscape and nature images, Iceland in the winter is a target rich environment, particularly after a fresh snowfall. White-on-white scenes (with the ubiquitoius pewter winter skies) can be the perfect canvas for creating some stunning winter landscapes. No color or epic sunrise and sunset lighting needed here. Just throw in some iconic Icelandic horses and you have winter’s understated beauty at its best.


Explore your creative vision with Iceland’s magical winter light with Richard Bernabe. The aurora borealis, ice caves, and magical winter landscapes. Come join Richard on this winter photo adventure of a lifetime! Learn more >>

4. Ice Caves

Ice caves are created by rivers and streams carving tunnels under the glaciers during the warm summer months. There are very few experiences as surreal and magical as exploring these sapphire blue caves with a camera and an experienced guide. During the winter season – from approximately November through March – the water freezes and the caves become safe to enter. This is one bucket list experience you do not want to miss.

5. Changing Light

The light in Iceland is phenomenal. In the winter, the sun never rises very high above the horizon so the low-angled light is always soft and warm – the type of light photographers dream about. But even when the weather is bad (and yes, it can be bad) it never seems to last very long. There’s always a break in the clouds somewhere which gives the intrepid photographer hope of something good on the way. Of course, it also makes you appreciate the good weather when you have it. As I said, it’s changeable and highly changebale light is what gives landscape photographers those truly magical moments.

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