I get asked all the time about my camera equipment for fly fishing and fly tying to capture images here on RiverKeeper Flies. I thought I’d share my equipment and a little information about why I use them.
If you aren’t interested in photography details, I totally understand if you skip this week’s post.
First off, I’m not a professional and don’t pretend to be even close to one. I know what I know and know what I like. But at times, it’s a struggle to accomplish what I’d like to do. Perhaps I should put as much time into my photography as I do with fishing. Nah!!
Secondly, you can thank my wife, Dancingtrout, for today’s post. We were sitting on the riverbank the other day and I asked her if she had any ideas for a post. One of them was to provide information about my photography equipment. Seemed like a good idea to me.
If I don’t count my Samsung Galaxy, I use two different setups for specific purposes, although there is a cross-over at times which I’ll explain below.
I currently shoot with a Nikon d7100 and Olympus TG-6.
Sharing a list of cameras and lenses would be simple to do, but result in a relatively short post.
I’ll do just that and add a few thoughts for those who may consider upping their photography game just like I did.
Here is the list:
Nikon Z50 DX mirrorless camera – I’ve replaced my d7100 with this mirrorless outfit and really like it! It’s smaller and lighter and takes wonderful images. I purchased the kit which included the 16 – 50 mm and 50 – 250 mm lenses and the FTZ adaptor.
NIKON Z 50mm f/1.8 S Prime Lens – My most recent purchase to go with the kit lenses mentioned above.
Nikon FTZ Adaptor – This adaptor allows the use of “F” style lenses on the Z50. It’s what I use to mount the Tokina macro lens listed below.
Joby Gorillapod 5K Kit with Rig Upgrade – I purchased this tripod to use when creating YouTube fly tying videos for my RiverKeeper Flies channel.
Nikon d7100 – I purchased a d5100 used camera body from my friend Al Beatty who gently nudged me to improve the images on my website several years ago. I’m forever grateful he did. Al provided some tips to help start my photography journey. Since then, I upgraded to the d7100 which allowed me more flexibility in the lenses I use.
- Sigma 50mm 1:2.8 DG Macro D
- Nikkor 28-200mm AF f3.5 – 5.6 G ED IF
- Nikkor 35mm AF-S DX f/1.8G
- Tokina 100mm Macro F 2.8 D
- Nikon SB-700 speedlight
- Nikon SB-26 speedlight
- Nikon SB-22 speedlight
- Neewer CN-160 LED Dimmable Ultra High Power Panel – I use 2
- Nikon SC-29 TTL Off-Camera Shoe Cord with AF Assist – Coiled 3-9′
- Eneloop 2AA rechargeable batteries
- BT-C2400 Battery Charger
- Neewer Pro 4-Way Macro Focusing Focus Rail
- Neewer Four(4) Packs of Hot Shoe Flash Stand
- Clear lens filter – B+W 62mm Clear with Multi-Resistant Coating
- Lowepro Pro Tactic SH 180 AW. Shoulder Camera Bag
- SanDisk 64GB Extreme PRO SDXC UHS-I Memory Card
- Nikon ML-L3 Wireless Remote Control (Infrared)
- Sirui W-2204 Waterproof Carbon Fiber Tripod
- Sirui 3T-35 Tripod + Mobile Phone Clamp (Black)
- Oben BE-117 Ball Head
- Kirk QRC-2.6 Arca-Type Quick Release Clamp
- Nikon CF-DC-3 Semi-soft Case
Here is my “home studio” for close-up images of the flies you see on RiverKeeper Flies.
I set up my equipment on the dining room table and snap a few pics, then put it all away.
Settings for close-up (macro) using Nikon equipment:
- shutter speed 1/160
- Speedlight 1/16 power
When taking photos, I set the SB-700 in “remote” and SB-26 in “manual ISO 100”. The SB-22 is connected to the Nikon with the SC-29 TTL Off-Camera Shoe Cord. It serves as a “trigger” for the off-camera flashes. I utilize the diffusers which come with the SB-700 and SB-26 to soften the light. Light panels are turned on low power so as not to blow out the background. The background is colored stock glued to a backer board. These can be purchased a JoAnn’s Fabric.
I’ve used the Tokina macro lenses for all my close-up photography since I purchased it. I use it on the Nikon Z50 with an FTZ adapter. I can set up with greater distance between the lens and fly, which greats better depth of field.
Olympus TG-6 – choose red or black
Light diffuser FD-1 – This simple accessory improved my images tremendously when using the macro mode. I’m constantly finding insects that seem to like the shade. Adding light makes a difference.
SanDisk 64GB Extreme Pro SD card
Tempered Glass Screen Protector
The Olympus TG-6 replaced my TG-4 model because I cracked the LCD screen in July 2019 (see Road Trip Final Thoughts). I dropped it out of my waders onto a gravel parking lot. It isn’t the first time I’ve dropped this camera. It hit just right on a rock and the back viewing panel broke. The camera continued to work, but I was unable to shoot any underwater photos.
Here is an example of an underwater shot of a Bull Trout.
Here are a few advanced features I enjoy when using the TG-6:
- Aperture priority mode
- Shutter speed control – set minimum shutter speed to help with low light and utilize auto-ISO.
- Manual flash can be used to power down to 1/64th
- 2 Custom modes which saves user settings
- Super macro autofocus mode
A huge benefit I found upgrading to the TG-6 was the ability to set the minimum shutter speed. When combined with auto-ISO, it allows fast shutter speed in low light conditions. Trying to capture a fish picture quickly in low light resulted in fuzzy images using 1/30 sec. Now I set the minimum shutter speed to 1/200 with improved results. to eliminate motion blur.
The following Youtube videos from Backscatter is some of the best information about the TG-5 and TG-6 I’ve seen. I’ve linked to the TG-6 videos, but you might benefit from their thorough TG-5 videos first.
These videos will shorten your learning curve, I guarantee it!
The Olympus TG-6 can be a complex camera to learn all the settings. But you can shoot in “auto” mode as well. I choose to use “aperture” mode because I have more control with my settings. The camera doesn’t allow a full “manual” mode, but shooting in “aperture” and tweaking a few settings gets me very close.
Here are a few issues I’m still learning to become more knowledgeable:
- Achieving proper depth of field
- Using light effectively
- Blur reduction on stream in low-light conditions
- Mastering the multiple macro modes
What camera to use
Most of my indoor close-up photography is done using the Nikon equipment. At times, if I want to take a quick shot and don’t feel like pulling out all my equipment and setting up the tripod, I’ll use the Olympus TG-6 hand held. I might use it’s flash to “trigger” one of the Nikon speedlights for additional light. I’ve also used the d7100 hand-held as well for a quick shot. I really can’t explain why I use one vs. the other for a quick hand-held shot. Many times, it’s easier to stabilize the smaller TG-6 for a hand-held shot.
I’ve learned over the years that post processing really adds to the final images you see on RiverKeeper Flies. I started using Picasa, which was a free program. It worked OK, then Google decided to stop supporting it. My friend Al Beatty pointed me to Adobe products and I now use Lightroom Classic for most of my post processing. Occasionally, I’ll open Photoshop for something specific, but not very often.
I’ve been shooting in RAW format recently (yes, the Olympus TG-6 captures images in RAW as well) and make minor adjustment with exposure, highlights, shadows, whites, and blacks to create the final image. Since I’ve changed from jpeg to RAW, I find I don’t need quite as many “tweaks” for my close-up fly images.
Here is an example of creating a close-up image of a Green Drake.
I’ve learned I obtain better results if I don’t get too close to a live insect for two reasons – they aren’t as likely to fly off and I get better depth of field.
Here is an original image, a 13.3 mb file.
Look closely at my wader detail and you can see what part of the image is in focus. Notice how shallow the depth of field is.
And the final result you’ve seen on a previous post, a 52 kb file.
Finally, why can’t you just use your cell phone? I do. Cell phone cameras have become MUCH better in recent years. My wife uses hers all the time and captures some very good shots…lots of times I’m in them. For me, the downside of a cell phone is lighting. I just have better options to control light with the TG-6. If it works well for you, use it. The best camera is the one you have in your pocket.
Which is where my Olympus TG-6 is most of the time fishing. I won’t take my Nikon on the river. It’s just too bulky and I had an experience in the 1980s dropping a dslr camera in the water!
I recently experimented with video and my Olympus TG-6 to make a fly tying YouTube video. It’s something else to learn, but I put it on the back self for now. Fishing season is in full swing!
If you know me, I use the word journey a lot. I have been on this photography journey for only a few years and have learned much in that time. But I have a lot more to learn as well. It’s something I enjoy. I’m sure my journey would be faster if I spent more time learning to use my equipment. But I’m OK where I am.
I hope this information has been useful for you. I have a friend who says I should write some eBooks to help offset the cost of my website. I think it would take away from my fly fishing and fly tying. Yes, these posts do take time.
If you think today’s information was valuable to you just like you, I invite you to consider sending a small donation to my Paypal account. It’s the best I can do now for writing an eBook.
Enjoy…go fish, stay safe!
(John Kreft is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.)
Thanks for the info on the Olympus. I have the old predecessor and the camera still works but I can no longer transfer the images to my Apple laptop without a lot of transfers to email etc…. does the new Olympus have bluetooth for moving images around? The tips on settings you used is very helpful too.
I use the cable connected to the camera to transfer images through the USB port or remove the card and use a card reader. It has the ability to transfer images as well as operate via a smartphone over it’s own wireless LAN (Wi-Fi). I’ve used it a couple of times on fishing trips to post images, but don’t rely on that method. The app is called OI.Share.
Hope that helps…John
Good info. We did get the camer for our club. You do a great job on all of your post.
Thanks – Sue & Butch
Great post and good information. Thanks for the kudos but in reality, you are the one who makes your photography (and information) so good. Keep it up, we sure enjoy reading your posts. Take care & …
Tight Lines – Gretchen & Al Beatty
Thanks Al, I still appreciate and am grateful for your “gentle nudge”.