I, Swapnil Deshpande, am based in a sublime coastal town called Alibag in western India. The combination of lush green hills and the beaches around the town always kept me in the lap of nature, and it was from the very early days that I got interested in arts related to nature.
I pursued engineering and got a job in my hometown. My interest in nature got me into photography in 2011. Taking baby steps into the hobby, unknowingly, it became a more serious hobby and now a deep passion.
It first started with nature and landscapes, then wildlife, and now into travel photography. I enjoy the outcome in the form of good art. That is what keeps me on my toes when it comes to learning new things in photography.
I started off with a prosumer camera, through which I learnt a little about the basics. After 6 months, I invested in a Canon 50D, Canon 18-55mm kit lens, and Canon 70-200mm f/4 LIS. With that, I ventured out into the world of landscape and travel photography.
My sojourns in Indian forests made me realize I need a longer focal length, so I got a Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 OS lens.
Over time, the passion deepened, and I realized the importance of full-frame sensors. I got a Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 1D Mark IV and a specialised prime tele lens, the old Canon 600mm f/4 non-IS.
Over time, my style developed, and a deeper understanding of the art made me realize the importance of big aperture rather than big focal lengths. I decided to move into Nikon two years ago. I have the following gear now:
Nikon D850: A powerful, 45.7Mp, full-frame sensor, 7fps shooting, and impressive low-light performance which brings an all-round performance and gives total ease of mind while creating art.
Nikon D810: An older generation camera but still very powerful with 36mp full-frame and ideal for travel and landscape work.
D850 and D810 are my to-go bodies when it comes to landscape and wildlife and long exposure photography. The freedom that the sensor outputs is ideal for the editing style I have, and also the ability to create amazing quality square cropped files.
Nikon D750: A lightweight, full-frame camera with impressive low-light performance along with Wi-Fi features making it my day-to-day camera when I just walk around.
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8: Wide angle lens creating amazing perspectives with very little distortion. Compose an image with the subject close by and the effect you get is surreal. Also, an amazing lens for shooting the milky way!
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8: A general-purpose travel lens ideal for street and capturing action in day-to-day life with fast 2.8 aperture. Also, an ideal lens to shoot habitat shots of mammals and low-light and portrait work.
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8: A mid-range zoom lens. Very effective as a travel and portrait lens and extremely handy in wildlife scenes to compose images that give a sense of atmosphere along with the subject.
Nikon 400mm f/2.8: Beautiful is the word when it comes to describing this lens, as it’s an engineering marvel. I use it primarily in wildlife for birds and also mammals and its 2.8 aperture freezes action and gives great output in low-light as well.
It can be coupled with 1.4x, 1.7x, and 2x teleconverters to make it a 560mm f/4, 680mm f/4.8 and 800mm f/5.6 lens but it can be cumbersome to change in the field.
The great part about these lenses is optical rendering and amazing corner-to-corner sharpness and little vignetting that can be easily corrected in post-processing.
I use a third party Meike remote trigger for my long exposure work. It’s very easy to use and I can effortlessly time it to keep open in bulb mode.
I use a Think Tank Airport Takeoff bag that can accommodate all the gear and it comes with trolley wheels so I don’t have to lug it on my shoulders all the time. The amazing thing about the bag is it looks small from the outside, so airport authorities rarely complain and I can use it as a cabin luggage.
I use a BlackRapid strap so I can always keep two cams with different focal lengths handy, and straps also take most of the weight so shoulders can remain stress-free.
I use Sirui N-3204x tripod that is quite lightweight as it is made of carbon fibre and has an impressive load capacity of 39.7lbs – more than enough for my heaviest piece of gear, the 400mm.
I use the 400mm along with Sirui PH-20 gimbal head, which gives great freedom to manoeuvre the lens in the direction of the subject.
Hardware & Software
I use Lightroom and Photoshop CS6 for my editing and I also use Google Snapseed a lot to edit images on the go. I find editing on high res JPEG files a lot easier to do in Snapseed on my iPhone.
There is an interesting anecdote when it comes to gear selection. The funny part is we always look at what we are missing rather than what we have when we go around shooting. I see this from myself as I now have almost everything a photographer can dream about but still my mind craves for a Nikon D5 or a Sigma art lens.
So my advice would be just to enjoy the process of shooting and creating art rather than looking at your arsenal. To imagine, create, and to enjoy the process is the most important thing ever!!