Blog

AUG
01
2018

Coastal Maine Photography Workshop Equipment Suggestions

This article is for the photographers in my Coastal Maine Photography Workshop at the Spruce Point Inn this fall. This workshop is fast approaching but there is still room for more guests to participate in this small-group learning adventure. If you are interested in going us for this fall’s workshop please contact Cindy Poe, Reservations Manager at the Spruce Point Inn, at 1-800-553-0829 soon.

The Coast of Maine is one of my favorite places to photograph! I cannot tell you how excited I am about our upcoming workshop. Hopefully, the camera and lens advice in the article below will help you to select the right equipment, and accessories, for our upcoming adventures together.

Let me state emphatically right here at the beginning of this post that none of the equipment that I recommend in this article is required for this workshop. You can capture great images on this workshop using any camera body or tripod system. The advice below is intended only for those of you who are shopping for additional equipment before this workshop begins.

In addition, all of the camera bodies and lenses that I recommend in this article are available for rent from reputable companies like BorrowLenses.com. Renting a nice lens or a camera body, for a photographic workshop like this one, makes a lot more sense than buying something expensive that you will not use everyday in your regular photographic endeavors.

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Camera Body Advice

Canon EOS 5D Mark III Camera Body

Working with a modern digital SLR, or mirrorless, camera body makes life easier. This is by no means a complete list but the following camera bodies are all excellent choices for this type of workshop.

Ironically, the Canon 6D Mark II and the Nikon D750 are two of the least expensive camera bodies on this list yet they arguably offer some of the best image quality. The other DSLR models offer more megapixels, beefier construction, and other features but for image quality these two “entry-level” full-frame DSLR bodies can’t be beat.

Mirrorless systems like the Sony Alpha a6500, the Sony Alpha A7 III, the Fuji X-T20, and the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III are also all excellent choices for this sort of workshop. Modern mirrorless cameras are much smaller, and lighter, than their bulky DSLR cousins yet their image quality is equally spectacular. If you are looking for a smaller, lighter camera than a mirrorless system is definitely the way to go.

No matter what body you choose a couple of spare camera batteries, and a couple of extra memory cards, are also recommended for this workshop. Opinions on which brands / models of digital camera memory cards are the best vary widely. I have no particularly brand loyalty here and I am more influenced by price than the manufacturer’s claims of top-notch performance. I have been buying memory cards like these inexpensive SanDisk 32gb SD memory cards lately to give myself plenty of extra image storage space.

Lens Advice

I strongly suggest bringing at least one high-quality wide-angle lens along on this workshop. Lenses in the 16-30mm range are my favorites for sunrise and sunset shots beside the ocean. Canon, Nikon, and Sigma all make excellent wide-angle and telephoto lenses.

The Sigma Art line of wide-angle lenses, in particular, are my current favorites. I have not used every lens in the ever expanding Sigma Art line yet but the ones that I have used are incredibly sharp, well-built, and they are often hundreds of dollars less than their Canon or Nikon competitors.

Sunrise over Boothbay Harbor shot with a wide-angle lens.

Sunrise over Boothbay Harbor shot with a wide-angle lens.


Recommend wide-angle lenses include:

Telephoto lenses in the 100-200mm range are also useful along the coast for shots of passing sailboats; for close-up photos around the lobster traps, and for our day out at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.

A reasonably powerful telephoto lens should be more than adequate if we encounter eagles, osprey, seals, and any other types of wildlife in our travels together. You are welcome to bring more powerful telephoto equipment but a monster length zoom lens will not be necessary for this program.

The Sarah Mead sloop and fog shot with an 100mm telephoto lens.

The Sarah Mead sloop shot with an 100mm telephoto lens.

Recommended telephoto lenses include the:

If you want to add more zoom power to your equipment, without adding a lot more weight, then consider adding a 1.4x teleconverter adapter onto your favorite telephoto lens. Teleconverter tubes are an easy way to get more magnification power without spending a lot of money. Please do your research though because not every model of telephoto lens will accept a teleconverter adapter and not all teleconverter tubes produce top-notch results.

Tripod Legs and Ball Head Advice

Manfrotto MT190 Tripod Legs

No other piece of equipment will improve the quality of your landscape photography as much as a sturdy tripod and ballhead system. Many of the techniques that make photographing by the sea so rewarding, like long-exposure shots or time-lapse photography, simply cannot be done well without a reliable tripod. Everything that we will shoot at dusk, or dawn, requires a sturdy tripod!

When it comes to tripod legs, one of the biggest choices is always aluminum versus carbon fiber. Carbon fiber has every technical advantage but carbon is far more expensive. Unless the weight of the tripod, and the ballhead, are big priorities for you then aluminum legs will work fine for this workshop. Of my three tripods, all but one are made of aluminum.

If you are shopping, please choose a tripod system that can adequately support your camera and your heaviest lens. I urge you to select a leg set that can hold your camera at a comfortable height for you without extending the center column. Recommend tripod leg sets include the:

You will also need a sturdy ballhead to sit on top of your new tripod legs. Some tripod systems, like the MeFoto models above, are sold with a quality ball head but many other leg sets are not. Trying to work with anything less than a solid reliable ballhead can be a frustrating experience.

If needed, recommended ballheads include the Induro BHL1S, the Kirk BH-3, and the Really Right Stuff BH-40.

I know that the price tag on a top-quality Really Right Stuff, or similar quality ballhead, is a hard pill to swallow. In the long run though, a top-notch ballhead is totally worth it. Remember too that high-quality tripods, and ballhead systems, are also available for rent.

Circular Polarizing Filters

B+W Circular Polarizing Filter

Circular polarizing filters are essential tools when photographing around water and other reflective surfaces. Circular polarizing (CPL) filters do two things for us in photography. First, they remove glare which can be very helpful on sunny days around the ocean. Second, circular polarizers add contrast and saturation into our images especially on cloudy overcast days.

Recommended circular polarizing filters include the B+W Kaesemann Pro Circular Polarizer MRC Nano Filter, the Hoya HRT Circular Polarizing Filter, and the Promaster Digital HD Circular Polarizing Filter.

Move the Before / After slider to see how the Marshall Point Lighthouse looks to the camera with and without a circular polarizing filter.

Strong neutral density (ND) filters are also fun things to have in your camera bag when you are photographing around the ocean. Neutral density filters are like sunglasses for your camera. These light-blocking filters are useful when you want to shoot at very slow shutter speeds to create that milky water effect using the motion of the waves during bright daylight hours.

Unfortunately, high-quality strong neutral density filters from brands like ProGrey or Formatt Hitech are expensive. I will talk at length about long-exposure photography during this workshop and I am happy to let you experiment with some of my filters. If you are shopping for a 5, or 10-stop, neutral density filter before our workshop beings please give me a call for more specific recommendations.

Cable Release / Intervalometer / Remote Trigger

Cable releases, or remote triggering tools, are definitely not essential items for this workshop. Although these tools are not necessary, they can be quite helpful when you are shooting long-exposures and images at twilight. Simple inexpensive wired cable releases are perfect for long-exposure photography. Intervalometer functionality is only necessary for time-lapse shooting or other advanced applications.

Laptops and Software

I plan on demonstrating some basic image processing skills with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic each day but the focus of this workshop is on shooting rather than complex image processing software tricks. You are welcome to bring your own laptop to class each day but a laptop is not required. Tablets, like the iPad Pro, are also welcome in our classroom but again neither expected nor required.

Clothing Recommendations for our Workshop

October is usually a pleasant time on the Maine coast. Early October temperatures are normally in the high sixties during the day and in the forties a night. If the fog rolls in though, or the wind blows hard, it can get chilly out by ocean.

It is always a good idea to bring a raincoat, a fleece insulating layer, and a wool hat along on all of our excursions. Wool socks, and a light pair of mittens, are also recommended especially for our pre-sunrise excursions.

There will be plenty of room for extra clothes in our van, or on our boat excursions, so please bring some warm layers with you everywhere that we go. Better to have extra layers with you then to wish that you had something warmer to put on while we are out shooting.

We are not going to do any long distance hiking on this workshop but we will be strolling around the edge of the sea everyday. Slick leather loafers, high-heels, and flip flops will not work well here. In Maine, good traction matters more than high-fashion footwear. Please bring shoes with good traction along for our program.

If you have any additional questions about equipment for this workshop, or anything else, please give me a call at 406-356-6279 or send me an email.

Finally, if you are shopping for any type of camera equipment that is on this list, or not, then please give Alan Samiljan at Hunt’s Photo & Video a call at 781-462-2383 or send him an email at alansamhunts@gmail.com. Alan, and the wonderful folks at Hunt’s Photo, are often able to come up with special pricing and offers for my workshop participants!

See you soon!

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About the Author
David Marx specializes in landscape, travel, mobile, and night photography. He is an Adobe Certified Expert in both Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop CC with more than 15 years of experience in the field teaching digital photography. David loves sharing his knowledge with others, whether in person or online, and his entertaining teaching style works well for photographers of all skill levels. In addition to field workshops, David’s extensive library of video tutorials on image processing and mobile photography are available at focusphotoschool.com.