My name is Pete Mellows and I’ve worked in hospitality, tourism and now I put together hiking meals. I live in Tasmania, one of the most photogenic locations in the world.
I love the outdoors, so that’s what I shoot mostly. I like my images to be sharp, with loads of detail. I started dabbling in photography when I was seven years old, with a Kodak Instamatic. My dad had an old Pentax from the 70’s, so it was natural that I bought one when I became an adult. And with the advent of digital, I found I could still use all my old lenses.
It was when I ran wilderness tours that I knew I had to share what I was seeing. About two years ago, I began upgrading my gear along with my knowledge and technical skills. I did this just before a trip to Nepal, and the results speak for themselves.
I don’t like lugging gear around – I find it’s bulky and awkward. Although, I keep adding necessary items to the collection, which must be brought along, just in case. Typically, the whole lot weighs in at around 10kg. If I have a specific idea/location, I will take just my 50-500mm lens on an advance planning trip.
I use a Pentax. They are great cameras, but offer little in the way of new lens variety – you can throw on any lens from the last 50 years though. And I’ve learned that the local tip shop is a great source of old lenses.
Pentax K-1 Mark II – Simply put, this camera is a beast. It has a solid construction (I’m not gentle with my gear) and is heavy. Compared to other professional-level cameras, the Pentax K-1 Mark II is considerably more affordable and sports all the features and then some. And with my large hands, it fits me perfectly.
Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG Art – This was my first prime lens and still gets used today. It has a wonderful depth and gives loads of clear detail.
Pentax D FA f/2.8 15-30mm ED SDM WR – Edge to edge clarity with a steady f/2.8 throughout the range. I bought this specifically for night shoots, but it works just as well in full daylight. It captures an incredible amount of detail for such a wide lens.
Pentax D FA 24-70mm f/2.8 ED SDM WR – This is my go-to lens for street photography and smaller scenes. It is unobtrusive and easy to handle. And with a constant f/2.8, it is great for any conditions.
Pentax D FA 70-200mm f/2.8 ED DC AW – Described by many as a bunch of primes in a single lens, I can only agree. I bought this specifically for shooting an indoor gymnastics competition with poor light conditions. It is a very fast lens allowing great close-ups without distracting the athletes. It is a little on the heavy side, at 2.0kg, but worth every ache in my shoulders.
Sigma DG 50-500mm f/4.5-6.3 APO HSM – With a massive optical range, I take this 2.1kg behemoth on location scouts and I use it on all my outdoor sports shoots. For full daylight, I cannot fault it, particularly for getting close shots from across a football oval. For low-light and extreme distance though, this lens is a disaster.
Speedlight Viltrox JY610 II Mini – A handy flash unit for the camera mount. I have used it for product shots as a side-light mounted on a small tripod.
Metz MecaStudio BL-200 kit – I bought this for an awards dinner photo booth. It won’t light up a whole room, but it’s a great entry-level kit, where quality is guaranteed.
Hanimex Movielux – Okay, I haven’t used this yet. I bought it at the tip shop, knowing I just have to use it. It has a wonderful glass, like an old-school headlamp. The globe is a full 650W! But can only be used for five minutes maximum.
I also use hiking headlamps to light a scene as they have adjustable brightness and will easily reach the tops of trees.
Ortex backpack – It’s a cheapie from eBay, does the job and holds most of my standard kit.
Zomei Q666C – Solid construction of carbon fibre and aluminium. It’s lightweight, doubles as a monopod and will allow for hanging the camera upside-down.
Slik Mini 8 – Great for mounting the speedlight on.
Hardware & Software
CaptureOne Pro 20 – I don’t know what I’d do without it – it is simply the best software out there. I can create and edit a session on my laptop, then dump it on the desktop when I get home and keep going.
Apple MacBook Air 13″ – I take this everywhere. It’s great to load images onto and do a little pre-workflow sorting and editing. It’s old but still manages to keep up with the basics.
Apple iMac – My workhorse when I’m doing serious editing.
X-Rite ColorChecker Passport – Essential for colour accuracy and white balance measurement.
I really love low-light images, so a remote trigger is essential. Spare batteries and cloths to wipe the lens. Model release forms and a pen.
I was taking in the sights of Kathmandu, taking photos of everything. In the distance there was a building, mid-construction – it was all scaffolding and looked incredible in the thick mix of dust and pollution – so I took a picture. It just happened to be on the far side of a military compound. Before I knew it, an armed officer escorted me to the gate and had me delete all my pictures from around the area. I honestly thought I was going to lose my camera.
I usually buy equipment with a specific use in mind. It helps me to justify a purchase to myself and each time it has paid off. The Pentax K-1 Mark II was bought to take a time-lapse of the sunrise over Annapurna; The 70-200mm lens for a gymnastics comp; the lights for an awards dinner. If you honestly believe you’ll get the use out of an item, don’t hesitate – it will pay for itself before you know it.