Category Archives: Gear

Product Review: Oben CTM 2500 Monopod

A $99 Monopod That Delivers in the Field

Oben CTM 2500 monopod
The Oben CTM-2500 5-section monopod

I recently started using monopods again for bird and wildlife photography. Monopods provide stability in the field yet are far easier to pack and maneuver when shooting. I wanted to try out something less expensive than my older Gitzo monopods, so I looked at options and found the Oben CTM 2500.

The Oben CTM 2500 Monopod

The Oben CTM 2500 monopod is an inexpensive carbon fiber monopod that is sturdy enough to hold my 500mm f/4 Nikkor lens. However, I’ve done most of my testing using the Nikon 200-500 f/5.6 VR lens and my D850. I was very pleased to discover that this monopod performs well in the field.  Continue reading Product Review: Oben CTM 2500 Monopod

Behind the Shot: Western Gull

How my gear made a difference

Western gull by Jason P. Odell
Western gull, La Jolla, CA

Here’s a pretty standard shot of a Western Gull, which I captured a few weeks ago while leading my San Diego Birding photo safari. Gulls are relatively easy targets for practicing your bird shots, and while this shot isn’t remarkable by any means, my choice of gear still made a difference.

First, I was using the Nikon D850 DSLR. The outstanding dynamic range of this camera allowed me to capture the entire gamut of shadows and highlight details in a single exposure. Should I decide to print this image, I could go as large as 24×34 without any resampling.

Second, I used the versatile Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 VR zoom lens. For a “consumer” lens, it’s really hard to beat. But why this lens was perfect for this shot was because it was not only light enough to hand-hold, but also that it’s minimum focus distance of 7.2′ (2.19m) allowed me to get really close to my subject and create a really smooth out of focus background.

For my last two birding safaris, I’ve eschewed my heavy tripods for the flexibility of a monopod with tilt-head and shoulder-stock. The monopod is lightweight and mobile, but when combined with my Arca-Swiss shoulder stock, I get a very stable configuration in the field, with my legs replacing a tripod. This isn’t easy to do with a monopod alone; the shoulder-stock creates a solid contact point between my camera and my body.

Finally, because processing the final image is just as important to me as the capture itself, I used Adobe Lightroom Classic CC to fine-tune the exposure, tone, and detail in the RAW image. I leveraged Adobe’s Nikon Camera Neutral profile to open the shadows and protect highlights while giving me maximum control over global and local tone and color.

Shooting Specs

 

 

Birds In Flight!

BIFs!

I’m trying out a new camera accessory designed to make capturing birds in flight easier. The (BIF) BullsEye™ Arca-Swiss camera stock is a lightweight aluminum shoulder stock that makes tracking flying subjects smooth and steady. I mounted my Nikon D850 with the surprisingly sharp Nikon 200-500 VR lens to the (BIF) BullsEye and took it into the field in Florida. Here are some of the shots I’ve gotten with it so far. I love being able to stay mobile without a tripod using this rig!

(BIF) BullsEye Arca-Swiss camera stock
Bald eagle in flight, Merritt Island NWR
(BIF) BullsEye Arca-Swiss camera stock
Great egret in flight, Merritt Island NWR
(BIF) BullsEye Arca-Swiss camera stock
White ibis, Merritt Island NWR
(BIF) BullsEye Arca-Swiss camera stock
Roseate spoonbill, TM Goodwin Waterfowl Management Area

Holiday Gifts for Photographers

Gift ideas for the photography enthusiast

holiday gift ideas for photographers
Make sure the photographer in your family gets what they want this year.
Hope you’re on the “nice” list this year!

Ah, holiday shopping season is upon us again, and that means it’s time to take a look at some of my recommended gift ideas for 2017. We all know that photography enthusiasts can be a picky bunch, so here are some ideas for gifts that every photographer will find useful. I’ve come up with ideas that should fit everyone’s budget, from stocking-stuffers to the ultimate gift for your photo sweetheart. You can also check out the current holiday deals at B&H,  or see my recommended deals here. 

Continue reading Holiday Gifts for Photographers

Nikon D850 Hands-On Review

The Amazing Nikon D850

My hands-on, non-techincal, totally subjective review
Nikon D850 Review
Sunset at Bandon Beach, Oregon captured with the Nikon D850

I’ve had the Nikon D850 for about a month now, and I’ve been able to use it on two of my landscape photo safaris so far. I figured then it’s time for a Nikon D850 review! I want to briefly present my impressions with this camera based on my experience in the field. I’ve previously shot with both a Nikon D800E and Nikon D810. This is my subjective review of how the Nikon D850 DSLR camera has impacted my photography. I’m sure others will post detailed technical reviews of noise, dynamic range, etc. I’ll leave that to the technical geeks and instead focus on my personal experiences with this new camera. Continue reading Nikon D850 Hands-On Review