Hi, I’m Alan Barker, owner and operator of Oz Photo Workshops. As a landscape photographer at Oz it’s my job to have photographers in great locations for the day’s best light, while helping them find their vision of what’s in front of them.
I live in Central Queensland, Australia and take great pleasure shooting the amazing variety of landscapes Australia has to offer.
Many photographers will tell you that you don’t take an image, you create an image. I guess that’s like me as a photographer – I started my working career as an educator and evolved into a full-time, professional photographer.
So after 30 years as an educator in schools and I.T. I combined these skills with my photography and Oz Photo Workshops was born.
Photography allows me to interact with the environment and capture my vision of the world around me. It allows every photographer to capture their vision and I love being able to assist photographers find that vision.
It’s true that you don’t have to have the best gear to create great images. It’s also true that photographers swear by the gear they use; as that’s what works for them. So that’s my choice of gear – what works best for me, for what I am trying to create.
My problem with equipment is of my own creation in that whatever gear I have, I want to squeeze it into my bag ‘just in case I need it’. I started out years ago shooting Canon and was very happy with the results but didn’t like carrying 15kgs or more on all my shoots and so I thought I would downsize to mirrorless and as such entered the world of Sony!
I have two go-to camera bodies, the Sony A9 and the Sony A7R IV.
The Sony A9 was my first venture into the Sony mirrorless world and after shooting with it for a short time took it on an African safari. I was hooked!
I fell in love with its ability to grab focus and not let go, the no blackout shooting at 20fps and the silent shooting factor. So many times on that trip I smiled to myself when the driver of the game vehicle said ‘Don’t you want to shoot that?’, to which I replied ‘I just did’.
With the Sony A7R IV I was looking for a body that would give me more megapixels to work with and the 61MP of this body certainly fit that bill. The focus, silent shooting, form factor and numerous other features of the Sony A9 were there and so this little beast became the first one I was reaching for. It still should at a very good 10fps, though with the 20fps of the Sony A9 it often becomes the backup when shooting wildlife.
Both cameras are gripped for extra battery life.
I am a sucker for the Sony G Master lenses and have four main lenses (and one ringer).
Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM – This is my go-to wide-angle lens when shooting landscapes. If I’m looking to capture entire scenes this is often my first choice. I find it nice and sharp throughout and produces nice low-light results. While I don’t shoot too much Astro, this lens combined with the Sony A7R IV is my combo.
Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM – The 24-70mm is my workhorse, the lens I reach for 80% of the time. It works well throughout the aperture range and I love the beautiful crisp details it produces.
Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS – This is my choice for action work or when trying to isolate distant details. The lens does a great job in isolating subjects and produces a nice bokeh in doing so. Beautiful, sharp results.
Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS – The go-to lens when I need the extra reach from the 70-200mm.
Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM – Killer portrait lens!
While I use a trigger the majority of the time, I use the basic Sony Remote Commander RM-VPR1.
If we were to play a game of ‘Camera Bag Bingo’, I’m pretty sure I’d win! I have to confess to being one of those people in constant search for the perfect camera bag. While I can sometimes grab a particular bag based on the nature of the shoot, my main bags over the years have been two F-Stop bags; the AJNA and the Loka UL.
This is a 40L capacity bag and the one I carried everywhere when using my Canon setup. I do a lot of coastal and rainforest shooting, so having a bag that was waterproof was important to me and one of the reasons I chose this bag.
Sadly for me, one day I inadvertently set out to test the waterproof concept. I stepped off my path through a waist-deep stream without any gear, cautious not to slip on the moss-covered rocks, before grabbing my bag and heading into the water.
Long story short, I was trying to help a child panicking in the stream and got off my path, one step later and I’m base over apex and fully submerged while wearing my backpack. Furious, I began to stomp off when, you guessed it, over I went again. So being a slow learner this happened a third time before I realised I needed to compose myself before carefully continuing.
Eventually, I got to my shooting spot, opened my bag and to my amazement, every bit of my gear was bone dry. Yeah… the F-Stop AJNA is a great bag.
F-Stop Loka UL
The Loka replaced my Ajna bag as I was looking for a lighter solution. The Ajna is 1.8kgs while the Loka UL (ultralight) is 1.2kgs. As I always carry-on my camera gear on flights, consuming nearly 2kgs out of the 7kgs allowed with an empty bag, didn’t make much sense. The Loka has a great aluminium frame, capacity, water-resistant and is very reliable.
Regardless of the bag, I’ll always find a pocket for some microfibre cloths and a cap.
My choice of tripod is the Sirui W-2204 Carbon Fibre Tripod.
When looking to invest in a serious tripod I liked everything about the Sirui W-2204, apart from the fact that I couldn’t pronounce the name! It has a waterproof system, can hold the biggest rig I would use (I think it holds 16-18kgs), two-piece centre column to allow reversal and one leg can be used as a monopod.
With the tripod I use the Sunwayfoto GH-PRO Geared Head, this allows for minute adjustments across all axis and I have found this head to be totally reliable. Sadly this model is discontinued as it has been superseded by a new model.
Also in my tripod bag is a small travel umbrella that I use to hold over my tripod and camera when the rain kicks in.
I use NiSi filters and would absolutely swear by them. In my experience, they do not produce a colour cast and are extremely well made. Word of caution – they are glass filters and do not bounce (found out the hard way). I carry:
Neutral Density 3, 6 and 10 stops
Gradual Neutral Density 3 stop
Natural Night (removes yellowish cast in night lights)
Hardware & Software
I do my editing on an Apple iMac, though I do carry an Apple Macbook Pro on the road for first looks and processing demos on workshop trips. For backups on the road, I carry a WD 2TB Passport external drive.
In terms of memory storage cards, I shoot with Sandisk Extreme Pro 64GB SDXC UHS-II 300mbs. These cards handle high-speed shooting, video and anything I throw at them. I carry 6 of them of any workshop I’m running.
When editing, like most people, I started out using Lightroom CC and Photoshop 2020, but for the past three years have changed my workflow to use Capture One and Photoshop 2020.
Capture One is tailored for Sony shooters, in part, as there is a separate Sony version. I like it as it provides great colour control and now has a seamless round-trip into Photoshop 2020. Photoshop 2020 is where I do a lot of my work, though Capture One is constantly developing and now uses layers, before & afters and many other useful features.
One bit of additional gear that I always carry is a bit odd, but that is an old toothbrush. I keep an old toothbrush in my tripod bag for use when I’m shooting in and around water. Before closing up my tripod I use it to brush away any sand grains or debris from around the joints to keep them clean and stop them seizing up.
Keep chasing that great light and I hope to see you in the field!