Seattle-based photographer Anne Archambault recommends the best gear for the
Anne Archambault's photography reveals a strong compositional sensibility that makes her a natural landscape photographer. "I'm drawn by patterns and textures and colors coming together, by unusual or paradoxical juxtapositions," she says. Living in Seattle gives her an opportunity to make weekend excursions into the natural world of the Pacific Northwest, and she also likes to take longer trips to more far-flung destinations.
On her photographic expeditions, Archambault uses a Canon Digital EOS 5D as her main camera and a Canon Digital EOS Rebel XT (350D) as a backup body. She likes the wide-angle capability that the 5D's full-frame sensor gives her for capturing expansive vistas, and the lens she has used most on recent shoots is her wide-angle zoom, a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L USM. She also likes to be prepared for any situation, and sometimes finds the compositional elements that interest her in the details of a scene. To capture them, she uses Canon's EF 24-70mm L f/2.8 USM and EF 70-200 mm f/4 IS USM lenses. For travel and outdoor photography, she prefers the 70-200mm f/4 to Canon's f/2.8 lens with the same focal length, because it's smaller and easier to carry, and, she notes, some would argue it's sharper.
Click on the cameras and lenses for more information about them from Popular Photography. To see more of Anne Archambault's images, click the photo at right or visit her website.
Here are some of the other items Archambault takes along for landscape and travel photography:
Canon Extender EF 1.4x II
To increase the flexibility of her lenses without adding too much bulk or weight to her backpack, Archambault carries this extender. She uses it with her 70-200mm lens when she wants to get in close to the details in a scene or capture a subject that's off in the distance. The 1.4x extension gives her the view of a 98-280mm optic. Extenders are available for every major digital SLR brand, so check with the manufacturer of your gift recipient's camera to find one that's compatible if it's not a Canon.
Gitzo GT1540 Mountaineer Tripod
"The key criterion for me is quick use," Archambault says about her tripod of choice. "It's very well designed." She finds its carbon-fiber twist-lock legs fast and easy to set up and adjust, and likes its combination of light weight and stability. Weighing just 2.5 pounds, it folds down to 21 inches and can be extended to a 54-inch height (or higher with the center column raised), and it uses Gitzo's G-lock technology to increase the rigidity of the legs.
Kirk BH-3 Panning Ballhead with Quick Release Platform
Archambault likes this ball head because while it's slightly smaller and lighter than Kirk's popular BH-1, it still supports her camera and any of her lenses without drifting. "If you're bracketing your exposures for HDR or some other reason, you really don't want anything to move at all," she points out, also noting that the head doesn't risk causing damage to her equipment by slipping when she's making adjustments with a heavy lens mounted. She also likes the smooth operation of the knobs for making fine and large adjustments, and notes that the rotation base is helpful when shooting a series of images to create a panorama.
Acratech Double Axis Spirit Level
This little device slides into the hotshoe of a camera to show you if it's level. "It's surprising how often you're not when it seems you are," says Archambault. This simple but useful gadget helps her align shots with the horizon in them and get the composition that she wants just right.
MicroStar/Cleanstar Micro-Fiber 18% Gray Cleaning Cloth
When you're carrying your gear on your back, it's handy to have items that serve more than one purpose. This cleaning cloth is about 8x8 inches and the color of an 18% gray card, which means that you can use it for setting a custom white balance or even to help meter your exposure. Archambault usually just uses it to clean off her gear, but finds that it comes in handy as a white balance tool when people are in her shots and she wants to get the skin tones right.
Garmin eTrex Vista Cx
This is another device that serves two purposes for Archambault. It helps her find obscure locations where she wants to shoot, and it also saves a GPX track so that she can geocode her images -- encode them with the location where they were shot, that is -- when she gets home. (She uses Breeze Systems' $29.95 Downloader Pro 2.0 software to geocode her images before processing them in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.) Archambault described one of her adventures in the Bisti Badlands, where there were no trails to lead her to the location that she had GPS coordinates for: "I couldn't have found this particular location before sunrise without scouting it first the day before. My GPS allowed me to efficiently find my destination in complete darkness. As you can imagine, the backlight came in quite handy!" This model has a color LCD and includes a barometric altimeter, an electronic compass, and a 64MB microSD card for storing detailed maps and recorded location data.
Read on to find out what Archambault would like to add to her kit for travel and landscape photography.