When the “best” camera may not be best for you…

Here’s a phenomenon I’m encountering more and more often these days on photo trips and workshops.

A well-heeled photo enthusiast (usually a middle-aged guy, not unlike myself—except, um, for the “well-heeled” part) shows up with tip top photo gear (i.e. two D3’s, 14-24mm, 24-70mm, 70-200mm zooms, all the big f/2.8s, maybe a macro or fast prime or two, possibly a flash).

Before every stop on the tour or venture out of the workshop, he asks me, “what gear will I need today?”

When I gently point out that “clairvoyancy” does not appear anywhere in my resume, and stress the need to be prepared for anything, I get the lament “that’s too bad because I don’t want to carry the (fill in the blanks) if we’re not going to need them.” And something always gets left behind, and whatever you leave behind is what you’re gonna need. Yes, folks, it’s a drag to carry your whole kit if you’re not going to need it.

It also stinks not to know when the stock market will spike or tumble, which tollbooth line will move the fastest, or whether or not the Knicks will cover the spread in tomorrow’s game (well, okay, that last one is pretty much a slam dunk “nope”).

The point is, you can’t know in advance what you’ll see in most travel situations. So the question you have to ask yourself is this: which photo gear is better? The heavy “pro” outfit, half of which you tend to leave behind, or the smaller “amateur” outfit that is light enough to take with you and have ready at all times?

This photo below, for instance, would never have been made if I had a D3 instead of a D90 with me on Ibo Island in Mozambique. For the reason why, hit the jump.

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Photo © Bob Krist

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In the Jungle with Phil Flash

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From aboard the National Geographic Explorer in French Comoros, Indian Ocean

It may seem counterintuitive to bring a flash into a tropical jungle streaming with hot beams of sunlight, but that’s just what I did when our expedition ship visited M’Bouzi Island, a small island near Mayotte in the French Comoros that serves as a refuge for lemurs.

The trees were loaded with these cute little creatures, found only on Madagascar and the Comoros, but they were usually backlit, or sitting in splotchy light or shade. Digital, and film, hates splotchy light—there’s just too much dynamic range for the chip to record.

Plus, when you’ve got a subject with big dreamy eyes, like these guys, you want to make the most of them and make sure those big eyes have a little catchlight. For the formula that worked the best for me in this situation, hit the jump.
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