The Right Equipment

by Cath and Ian Humes


This includes both photographic equipment and personal clothing.  As the saying goes, there is no bad weather just bad clothing.  Some of the most spectacular scenes happen at the in-between times just after the shower as the sunshine breaks through.  If you wait for the rain to stop it will be too late to get the image as it will be happening while you are setting up.

As part of the Glencoe and Isle of Skye Workshop we have a suggested list of photographic equipment and recommended panoramic heads to help you with what to bring.  I have always said that it’s best to be limited by your ability not your equipment.  There are few things more infuriating than seeing the shot and knowing that you can’t capture it because your equipment isn’t capable of it.

We were up on a wet and windy hillside on Skye back in 2004 photographing waterfalls.  To get there we had just struggled up a steep incline that was basically a 45° bog, squelchy at every step, running with water, held together by long grass and bloody mindedness (not one of our tour locations as there are more accessible waterfalls).

Cath was using her new pistol-grip tripod head and it seemed to be working well to start with.  However as the weather changed and the liquid content of the wind increased so did the performance requirement on the equipment.  Strangely, shops don’t let you douse and/or freeze their equipment before buying it.

Unfortunately the weight of the camera and lens pairing exceeded the friction on the now wet pistol grip and as you watched you could see it slowly sagging as were her spirits.  Long exposures became impossible with this unforeseen equipment failure.  We tried various things but we could both tell it was game over.

Canon 1DS Mk3, 70-200mm f2.8L IS at f8 at 1/160, ISO 100, Raw, 10:33 October 8th

To top it off the weather got worse, the wind blew and the drizzle grew up into grumpy rain that came at us horizontally (it was late October and an early winter storm was on its way after all).  There’s not a lot of shelter up here on the moors, low growing heather, coarse grass, tussocks, rocks and photographers.  The moors are soft and squelchy until you drop something delicate and find one of the hard bits.  Bleak and barren, great for photography but not good for finding shelter, but the whiter than white sheep seem to manage as over decades or centuries they had kicked out a hollow behind an overhanging rock. Over that time they have made just enough space to get out of the wind and rain and wait for the squall to pass, they are not as stupid as they look.

On the way back to the car I found a discontented wife sheltering in the hollow, lightning and acid spicing her words as she railed at the pistol grip.  The solution to this disaster; buy another Acratech ball head, small, light and reliable.  Mine has worked for me for years, looks like nothing else and I have no complaints.  Even after having to import it from the USA and pay the painful import duty to get it into the country it has been a star performer.

You know a piece of equipment is good when you swear by it.  The follow on from, “You should be limited by your ability not your equipment” is that if you aren’t, and your equipment surpasses your ability you have a responsibility to improve.  If you are able to do more things, then you should do more things.  It’s a great motivation to try and push what your equipment can do.  You take better pictures and it also makes you a better photographer.  It also makes for a great reason for buying the next item on the wishlist.

All Images Copyright © 2015 Cath and Ian Humes. All rights reserved.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *