Monthly Archives: November 2012

Four Wheel Campers

A problem facing landscape photographers in the western US is the vastness of the region.  It’s often a very long distance from a good location to the nearest lodging.  Consequently, most of the nature photographers I know who live here have some sort of self-contained vehicle, so that they can stay on-site.

I just got back from southern Utah, where a group of photography friends got together to spend a week in the remote back country.  This was really just a social gathering, but with some very serious photography tossed into the mix.  What set this gathering apart, though, was another connection.  All of us have four-wheel drive pickup trucks (from Toyota Tacoma to full-sized GMC) with a popup camper mounted in the truck bed.  More specifically, we’ve all bought camper models manufactured by a California company:  Four Wheel Campers.  Yes, this is a plug for their products.  I’ve owned a Four Wheel Camper for a number of years now – and am planning to upgrade to a new model this coming spring – and have nothing but good to say about both the campers themselves, and the company.  The company definitely understands photographers as Tom Hanagan, the owner of Four Wheel Campers, is a Nikon shooter himself.

The truck camper is my base-camp, my home on the road, my office in the wilderness – with all the creature comforts of stove, refrigerator, furnace, 85-watt solar panel, queen bed, and lots of storage room.  The weather can be awful, but I remain dry and warm, able to work on my laptop, cook a meal or make coffee, or read with a glass of wine at hand.  And I can set up camp – or break camp and be on the road – in just a few minutes at most.

For specific details, check out their website:

Here are a few photos from my trip.

Rock and cracked mudFirst lightAgave and lichened rocksIce crystals over streamLake Powell sunsetSunrise on Burr TrailRocks and cracked mudHoodoos at sunriseTemple of the Moon by moonlightSunset light on ridgeWeathered juniper in sandMorning light on hoodoos


D800 Email question

For the past four weeks I’ve been on the road, traveling in parts of the world where there has either not been any Internet connection at all, or only a dialup connection which was so slow and flaky that I could barely check for email, let alone post to this blog.  Yes, to all you digitally connected and addicted people, there really are many such locations around this planet.

Now I’m home for a short while, and in the backlog of emails I’ve discovered several (five, to be precise) almost identical messages.  Let me quote part of one:

I’m going to purchase a Nikon D800E.  What lens should I buy?  I want to purchase the best all-around lens.

Wow!  I would stongly suggest that if you have to ask that question about a lens, you should definitely first think twice about the camera purchase.  The D800/800E bodies are, in my opinion, specialized cameras for specialized applications.  They are not general purpose bodies.  Why do you need so many megapixels?  Tell me the truth, do you really make large prints?  How large and how often?  Do you always use a tripod?  Do you own a tripod?  Are you shooting RAW?  Or do you primarily post images to the Web, where a “large” image is around 800 pixels in the long dimension?  Before you purchase the camera body, you need to define exactly why that particular body, of all cameras, is the best choice for you.  What are your criteria?  Specifically, how will a D800 make you a better photographer?

Asking me what lens to buy is a pointless question.  How am I supposed to know what subjects you want to photograph, what your budget is, what lenses you already own (or if you indeed do already own any lenses)?  And I have no idea what an “all-around lens” is, let along which one is the best.  The best lens for wildlife is certainly not the best lens for architecture, while the best lens for architecture is probably not the best lens for portraiture, and the best lens for portraiture is most likely not the best lens for macro work.  Actually only one lens fits the “best all-around” bill, the mythical Nikon 15-600mm f/2.8 eight stop VR, macro focusing, levitating, voice activated, postitive AF…you know, the one with a $5 list price.  Oh, wait a moment, I just heard it was being replaced with an improved 12-800mm version which will be free.  Yeah, right.