Thursday, December 17, 2015

My Camera Gear & Accessories

Over the past couple of months I've received quite a few emails and messages asking about camera brand, lens choices and accessories.  I  remember asking other photographers the same questions  and I found their insight helpful. Sure, there are some lenses I wish I would have purchased earlier and some later. But regardless of which lens I had or didn't have, I kept shooting.  The best lens is the one that you have in your hands at that moment - you make it work!

A favorite family subject!  by Sheen Watkins
Camera Brand
I use Nikon and have never regretted this path.  Their glass is terrific and I find the cameras to be solid.  I would add that Canon, Sony and other brands are high quality and get the job done.

It's a competitive landscape (pardon the pun) which means reputable camera manufacturers will continue to bypass and catchup quickly on features and functions.   The camera brand is important, but it's the lens selection based on your photography goals that should heavily influence your decision.  Even then - they are all close with a few differences.

Camera Bodies
For birds and wildlife, the Nikon 7100 is my camera body of choice as of today.  The cropped sensor format is ideal for photographing birds and wildlife.   For landscapes, macro, portraits and street photography, I used Nikon's 810.  The bigger sensor renders beautiful details, colors and tones.

For information on cropped versus full framed sensors, check out my Light Stalking article: Cropped vs. Full Frame Sensor

Nikon Lenses - zooms:
14-24mm 2.8 extra wide angle
24-70mm 2.8 mid range zoom
70-200mm 2.8 telephoto
When do I use zoom lenses? Travel photography, when I'm photographing multiple subject types, when I don't know what I'm going to shoot and want flexibility, landscapes, wildlife.

Dania Pier by Sheen's Nature Photography using a 14-24mm wide angle lens

Nikon Macro (Nikon refers to them as Micro)
105mm 2.8

Nikon Lenses - primes:  
28mm 1.8
50mm 1.8
85mm 1.8
When do I use primes?  Walk around photography, out on the town with friends, areas where that focal distance 'works' (i.e. 28 mm for landscapes, 85mm for portraits) nature walks where I have limited time, when I want to act like I have a point & shoot.

A Prime Sunrise by Sheen's Nature Photography using 50mm

Non-Nikon Lens/Tamron: 150-600mm Tamron
Teleconverters:  Nikon 1.4 III
Speedlight:  Nikon 910

Schneider Optics B+W:  Circular Polarizer, Neutral Density Filters - a 6 stop and the Big Stopper
Lee Filter: 150 Extra Wide Filter System for the Nikon 14-24mm

Tripod: Manfrotto mt190cxpro4 Carbon Fiber Tripod
Tripod Head:  Really Right Stuff BH-40-LR
Remote Shutter Release: Promaster

Camera bags:
Golden by Sheen's Nature Photography 70-200 2.8
Tamrac 7X - this is discontinued but here is their current model: Tamrac Anvil.  This is a big beast that holds a lot of gear and laptop.  When fully loaded, you'll get a workout as the weight adds up.  I use this bag when traveling on large planes or on a road trip.  This is  partnered with one of the following for travel as this bag is too large for me to hike with.
Lowepro Flipside sport 20"  This is a lean machine.  I typically pack my 810, 14-24mm, 24-70, 70-200 and the needed filters in this streamlined bag.
Tenba Vector Daypack that's no longer produced, limited availability out on the web.    This weighs two pounds, holds a 15" laptop and it's completely customizable inside.  Great for day trips and hiking.  I have two so that when I travel on small planes one goes under the seat and the Lowepro goes in the overhead.

Camera gear is an investment and it is costly.  Initially I started with one camera and two lenses.  Over time my decisions were made using my own research which included feedback that I used and chose not to use from others.

Happy Shooting!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Rise & Fall of Autumn

In the northern hemisphere, Autumn represents football, back-to-school, sweaters and chilly evenings.  In nature, an ever changing kaleidoscope surrounds us.  

Greens, golds and coppers line slow moving streams on crisp, cool mornings.

Reflections of Color by Sheen's Nature Photography

Falling Up  by Sheen's Nature Photography
Towering trees topped with yellow, orange and red lead to the sky.

Even with the season's chill, we feel warmth from indian summer days.  The golden hour starts a little earlier in the afternoon as the days get shorter.  

As a long term midwesterner in Michigan, this season is a bit bittersweet.   

Soon the leaves will be falling and turning to brown ground cover.  Several months of cold and gray are just weeks away.  

Until then, taking advantage of the changing seasons through photography while hiking in the woods is on the weekend's agenda.

Morning Walk by by Sheen's Nature Photography

The intense and fast falling colors reflects mother nature's lullaby before going to sleep.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

It's A Small, Mushroom World in the Woods

Tall One by Sheen's Nature Photography
The sights and sounds of fall in the midwest build each day.  Days get shorter, nights grow longer.  Warm days are tinged with a hint of cool.

Ever changing greens merge into yellows.  Cool
mornings with floating mist melt into golden hour sunshine.

In the woods, there's another small world that's loaded with color, texture and purpose.

Mushrooms, fungi, toadstools emerge in a variety of shapes, colors and locations.  They glow, they hide, they cover and also stand alone.

A recent weekend spent up in the Leelanau Peninsula in Michigan was perfectly timed.   Mushrooms were everywhere!

Tall, short, skinny and stumpy. Bright, dull and somewhere in between.

Muted browns and vibrant oranges glowed against dark shades while tall brights popped out of nondescript ground cover.

Just Glow by Sheen's Nature Photography

When hiking in wooded areas, instead of looking up, look down along tree stumps, dry leaves and crevices in tree trunks.

It's a Small World by Sheen's Nature Photography

A tiny world awaits.

Happy Shooting!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Date Night & The Morning After

Sweet Dear by Sheen's Nature Photography
No, this is not the name of a movie for mature audiences.  Friday nights represent so many things.  From the end of the work week to the beginning of the weekend, time to chill, time to party, a date with a spouse or significant other, time with your best friend and the list goes on.

As a photographer, my idea of a great Friday date night includes my hubby Dave, a long nature walk with no specific agenda and my camera.

Some of my favorite images have been as a result of the surprise photography moments that surfaced while we were chatting along the way.

The sweet deer to the right popped up in the woods as we were walking along the trail.  The fading sun provided soft illumination  through the branches while gently lighting his face.

A walk by the lake is part of the routine but the view is never the same.  One day the sky is clear blue (boring!), another day it's overcast with flat light.

This past weekend, the light breeze and white fluffy clouds celebrated summer color across our neighborhood lake, Quarton Lake.

Date Night Routine by Sheen's Nature Photography

The morning after with the same mindset offers its own creative inspiration.

Drinking coffee on the deck in the warm season while looking over the garden, there's almost always something new to capture.

The bright white flowers below glowed against a background of rich foliage prior to the sunlight reaching the garden.

I think part of the enjoyment is that I'm not looking for anything intentional.  I may not even snap the shutter once.  The times that I do, it's one or two snaps and I have a photo that came from the heart.

Morning After by Sheen's Nature Photography
Sound a bit crazy?

Part of the enjoyment and inspiration is the spontaneity as a result of using this as down time with my best friend (that would be my husband but he may feel he comes second to the camera at times).

This next weekend, grab your partner, your camera, a comfortable pair of shoes and see where the journey takes you.

Happy Shooting!

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Blue Door Leads to my Office

Where will your work take you today?

It's Monday, and for many of us it's starting the week with a cup of Joe.  After the cobwebs have cleared, it's time for the morning workout.  Then it's heading out the front door to our respective office to continue last week's unfinished work and begin new projects.  This may be a building, a warehouse, working in our cars or in our homes.

I prefer my weekend office door.  In blue, please.

The Blue Door to My Office

This weekend door opens to the great outdoors where birds sing, butterflies flutter and nature surrounds me.

In nature photography and for those you enjoy just being immersed in nature, you don't have to go very far.  It may be just a few steps and you're in your garden or going for a hike on a nearby nature trail.

A Day in the Weekend Office
Female American Redstart

As a photographer, I need and enjoy my regular job to pursue my passion for photography.

My photography office door opens on the weekend.  And while it's not the one above that I photographed this weekend, it is blue.

Happy Shooting!

My website is located at

Monday, July 6, 2015

Celebrating Feathers With Songs

One of the most brilliant sounds in the forest is that of our songbirds.  As a bird photographer who spends many hours hiking in the woods, an added bonus is hearing their bright delightful calls and songs.

The gray catbird below bursts out a cheerful song and also a "meow" call that is the reason for his name. 

Gray Catbird by Sheen's Nature Photography

Particularly in the spring, birds' songs and calls echo through the woods and in backyards. It's the time in which the males actively seek their partner for breeding.

The male redstart below sings near the lunch hour at a significant bird migratory spot in Ohio, Magee Marsh.

American Redstart by  Sheen's Nature Photography

The females, such as the female redstart below, respond in return with their cheerful, melodious songs.

Female Redstart Sings the Morning Away
Sheen's Nature Photography
An easy way to connect with nature, even if you are not a bird photographer, is to walk in the woods, stop and listen.   Nature will guide your way.

For a free monthly photography tip, visit my website signup page. Or, just visit my website to view nature, landscape, wildlife and nature photographs. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

From Golden Moment to the Blue Hour

In the deep south and other places too, there's a brief time called "The Magic Hour".  On front porches, patios and outdoors in the summer, friends and family gather for conversation, a snack or early meal and maybe even a favorite beverage.

In photography, the Magic Hour is also referred to as the Golden Hour.  The departing sun casts shades of golden hues that illuminate woods, fields and waters.

In a Place Called Nowhere, the Magic Hour Fades
Sheen's Nature Photography

When traveling home from visiting my family, we stopped in a small town for the night. Across from the hotel was this open field filled with the fading colors of the Golden Hour.

Within minutes, I knew that the look and feel would change dramatically as we moved into the Blue Hour.

The Blue Hour Emerges
Sheen's Nature Photography

Sometimes the phrase 'hurry up and wait' is a wonderful thing.

Thanks for reading.  To join my mailing list for a free photography tip of the month visit the: sign up page on my website.

Happy shooting!
Sheen Watkins

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Flower Power

It's spring and it will soon be summer in a couple of weeks.  Colors line highways, parks, cities and gardens.  Flower photography season is on us offering a rainbow of vibrants to pastels.

Photographing flowers ranges from honing in on the tiniest detail to capturing a collection of color, shapes and movements.

All that is needed is your lens in hand, a quick study of your subject to find the single point of interest or convey an overall story.

From macros using a Nikon 105mm:

To a telephoto perspective with a Nikon 70-200mm:

To using primes - like the nifty Nikon 50mm:

And short range zooms such as the kit Nikon 24-85mm lens:

Nature provides the color, you provide the perspective using your lens of choice and tell the story.  Happy Shooting!


Visit Sheen's Nature Photography website and sign my guestbook to receive a photography tip of the month.  They are always short, simple, fun and to the point.

Thank you!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Dancing with the Stars in Cape Hatteras

A weekend with my dance partner "Nik" (that would be short for Nikon, my husband knows all about him!) included sunrises, lighthouses, piers and stars.

My version of Dancing with the Stars began on my last morning in North Carolina's Cape Hatteras National Seashore  at 3:00 a.m.  After my iPhone alarm sounded, a phone call from my husband who wasn't with me on this particular trip and a wakeup call from the hotel's front desk, I was up and moving.  Why so many wake-up calls?

I was determined to get these shots! 

Star Trails after the Moon had Set
Dancing Stars

Cold, a bit windy and no coffee, several photographers and I headed out to  Cape Hatteras Lighthouse to photograph stars and star trails. 

The gear?  My Nikon 600, a 14-24mm 2.8 lens, tripod and cable release.  Accessories included warm clothing, a timer, Photographer's Ephemeris app and a stars trails map on my iPhone so I could readily locate the North Star.  

First on the agenda was a 30 minute exposure of star trails.  With ISO set at 100, manual focus set to infinity it was a few moments of hurry up, frame the shot, adjust the composition and wait.

After the star trails, it was on to capturing multiple, 30 second exposure settings of the brilliant array of stars.  ISO was raised to 1600 while focus was still set to infinity.

The morning was followed by more photography at sunrise on the beach.  The joy of light and life under the sky!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Costa Rica Travel: Delightful Wings

My Costa Rica travel series in the Osa Peninsula would be remiss if I didn't dedicate a blog or two to the birds.  Common, every day sightings of Parrots and Toucans soared the moment we stepped out of the jeep.  Raptors, such as the Yellow-headed Caracara regally perched on trees that were fairly low to the ground.
by Sheen's Nature Photography
Comical, colorful masks of the Toucans stood out against inky black feathers.

Imagine sitting down for lunch your first day and a toucan is 25 feet away.  My first instinct was to grab the camera versus eat as I didn't want to miss my moment.  After watching the large number of birds hovering nearby, I realized Toucans were quite common.  They  behaved with humans similarly to common backyard birds back home.  

Toucans had their eating routine down to a science.  Like a kid who likes to toss popcorn and catch it in the air with their mouths, Toucans make mealtimes fun.  The pull the berry off the tree, they may crack it a bit before tossing, catching and swallowing whole.  

When most birds go quiet midday, the Toucans are still out and about popping their lunch.

Did I mention that their talons were blue?  What a fab pair of 'shoes'.  

Scarlet McCaws.  Seeing them in flight with the rich scarlets contrasting with bright green trees and sky blue surroundings stopped us in our tracks.

A small family with parents and junior stopped for their lunch where we were able to view family dynamics and get some fairly close images.  Their powerful bills cracked nuts like nobody's business!  Textured faces, inquisitive expressions brought a smile with every snap of the shutter.

by Sheen's Nature Photography
Costa Rica warms the spirit and graces the visual senses with brilliant colors, sounds and wings.

A perfect place for "Happy Shooting"!

Note:  Images taken with Nikon 7100 and Tamron 150-600mm.  The Scarlet Macaw was captured with the Nikon 70-300mm.