Alexander Vasiljev's Suggested Photo Gear
There is a great assortment of photo equipment and it can be overwhelming to make a choice. One important thing to know is which lens is right for the job. Here is a quick reference for the most common lens groups and their recommended applications:
• Wide-angle - 14mm-35mm – landscape, urban, architectural
• Telephoto - 85mm-200mm – landscape, urban, environmental wildlife, portrait
• Telephoto - 300mm-500mm – landscape, environmental wildlife, wildlife closeups
• Macro 1:1 - 50/100/180mm – macro, landscape, environmental wildlife, portrait
I have also indicated some of the accessories that I have found most useful. You can read about my equipment choices for wildlife and landscape photography below under "Q & A with Alexander Vasiljev". If you own or are considering Canon or Nikon camera and need advice on lenses or any other accessories please feel free to email.
Finding vendors of photo equipment who offer fair prices and dependable customer service is another difficult task. For many years, I have been using B&H Photo, Video, Pro Audio. I always find their prices to be one of the best on the market and their service the most reliable. Their inventory of photo gear is hard to surpass. I recommend this business without hesitation.
By clicking on the links below you will be directed to B&H Photo, Video, Pro Audio web site.
- SLR Camera Lenses
- UV, Haze and Protection Filters (permanently attached to all of my lenses)
- Singh-Ray LB Neutral Circular Polarizer (in my camera bag)
- Singh-Ray Vari-ND Variable Neutral Density Filter (in my camera bag, used for landscapes)
- Galen Rowell's Graduated Neutral Density Filter (in my camera bag, used for landscapes)
- General - Bags, Tripods, Tripod Heads
- Lowepro DryZone Backpack (I use this camera bag)
- Gitzo Carbon Fiber Tripod Legs (I recommend)
- Arca-Swiss Monoball Z1 sp (Single Pan) Ballhead with Flip-Lock Quick Release (I recommend)
Photo Q & A with Alexander Vasiljev
» Describe your style of photography. What do you consider a successful image?
The closest I can describe my style of photography is: artistic, unconventional and sometimes whimsical. To me, if the photo tells a story or stirs imagination - it is a good photo. When it has depth and not just a depth of field. I tend to experiment and improvise with my subjects. Having an artistic approach, I am not always looking for a completely sharp image, neither am I avoiding naturally occurring white background, or other “unacceptable” artifacts. On the contrary, these can be tools for creating something very unexpected and alluring. I believe there are no standards for a successful image except its effect and appeal to the audience, who is the ultimate judge.
» What is your favourite subject to photograph?
I am very passionate about the tropical rainforest. The complexity of this ecosystem and the way it sustains itself is remarkable. Its landscape is considered one of the most difficult to portray. I like the challenge of photographing what at first seems like a tangled mass of greenery. Rainforest landscapes and wildlife, especially hummingbirds, are my favorites to work with. I also like to photograph people.
» What is your favourite place in the world to photograph?
I photograph everywhere I go and believe that any place is photogenic if you attune to it. But of course, I have my favourite places. One of them is Central and South America. The grandeur of the Andes, the diversity of its habitats, the great variety of wildlife and plants is remarkable. My favourite place within is Costa Rica. The amazingly abundant wildlife is so accessible to photograph that no other rainforest country can compete.
» What equipment do you use?
Here is what I normally carry with me on the trips: two Canon EOS-1D Mark III bodies, Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM + EF1.4x II extender, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, Canon EF17-40mm f/4L, two Speedlites 580EXII, Gitzo tripod GT3540LS, Arca-Swiss Monoball Z1 SP head.
» What is your favourite lens and why?
It is hard to tell what is my favourite lens. It’s like deciding between a fork and a spoon, when each has its own purpose. For photography in the rainforest I like to use Canon EF 300mm f/4 L IS USM + EF1.4x II extender, that gives me combined 420 mm reach. I like this lens for being light and easy to handhold, and with its macro capability it comes very handy. I also use it for landscapes. My favourite lens for portraits is Canon EF 85mm f/1.2 L USM. Shallow depth of field and beautiful background blur are the best attributes of this lens, along with being ridiculously sharp.
» What are your favourite photography gadgets/accessories?
» What is your position on post-processing? How far will you go in editing an image?
Post-processing is very important as it was in the past with film and now in digital photography. However, it is a broad term and could mean many things. When I post-process my wildlife and landscape images I tend to use mostly what is called “dark room techniques”. Simply put, these adjustments include fine-tuning exposure, colour correction, selective dodging and burning, cropping, sharpening, and noise reduction. I often convert colour images to black & white. I almost never add canvas and reconstruct the image, or use cloning with exception of dust speckles. After post-processing my nature images look more fine-tuned rather than recreated. At times I employ more elaborate post-processing techniques to recover certain areas of an image. But normally, I do not add or remove the subjects or backgrounds from the original. If I do, I call these images digitally altered.
» Please describe your digital workflow, including the software you use and any third- party plug-ins?
I am fairly versed in many Adobe software programs and have successfully used Photoshop for many years. However, since Adobe released Lightroom my images rarely see Photoshop. Lightroom uses non-destructive adjustments that can be applied to RAW files and are similar to traditional darkroom techniques. This software was developed with photographers in mind and has become my main software for post-processing.
In its Library module I sort and select the images for processing. Then, I proceed to its Develop module where I fine-tune the images to my standards. I occasionally use third-party plug-ins: Neat Image to reduce the noise and Perfect Resize to resize or change the resolution of the image. Once I am satisfied with the results I copy the images to four hard drives for storing. When I need to print, I use Epson Stylus Photo R2400 printer or a professional photo lab. My computer and printer are colour calibrated to insure correct colour rendition.
» Do you have any special post-processing tips you’d like to share?
Post-processing is fun and as we develop our own skills and techniques our images much improve. My tips of the day are – experiment and experiment more, learn to keep processing to minimum, and be prudent with sharpening.
» What photographers (past and present) inspire you in your own photography?
Photographers with a strong sense of style and depth are my inspiration. Many past and modern photographers inspire me. But, I always seek my encouragement from: Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Annie Leibovitz, and Irving Penn. I often give preference to a poignant artistic shot over a technically executed one, whether it is a portrait, landscape or wildlife.
» Are there any trends or tendencies in photography today on which you care to comment?
More and more people are photographing wildlife. Digital cameras and processing, developing eco-tourism industry, and more willing travelers are the reasons for the growing popularity of wildlife photography. There are less and less secluded places left where photographers don’t visit frequent. Amazing wildlife images are readily available through stock photography and in publications.
The competition between professional photographers is the highest it has ever been. All this drives nature photographers to seek more bizarre and more intense shots. Unfortunately, often it means getting the shot at any price, and in some extreme cases resulting in torturing animals or destroying habitats. This is not a good trend and it concerns me. In my nature photography workshops and photo safaris I teach to respect the nature and how to gain from it.