What I use to photograph nature, architecture and people

I am a geologist by profession, but during almost the entire 2010s, between field trips, I worked part-time as a photographer.

I worked as a photographer in the press service of Moscow State University. Lomonosov, freelanced and consulted for one company, a competitor of Adobe. I photograph nature, cities and people.

Now I have moved away from commercial photography, I do it for pleasure and for fans – I don’t have them, but I take pictures as if I do. At the same time, I put my observations into the telegram channel “Until the plant is repaired” and express them in the podcast “It seems that I’m a photographer.” For the last year, neither one nor the other has been monetized anymore. Now I don’t make any money from photography at all.

I’ll tell you how I came to the current setup and where I plan to roll it out next. I’ll ruin the mood for some readers right away: I shoot on Nikon.


Nikon Z6

Over 13 years of practice, I have changed four cameras. They were all of the same system, because I never had a reason to change anything . I saw growth points in upgrading my processing skills and reading offensive comments about my creativity on social networks. Most of my photographer friends also shot on Nikon, and that also kept them in the system. It was always possible to exchange experiences or techniques.

Nikon Z6 is a mirrorless camera. The closest analogue is Sony a7 3. I bought it during the first lockdown, when I urgently needed something to cheer myself up. Together with an adapter for lenses for SLR cameras, it cost me 129,480 rubles.

I used to shoot with  the Nikon D850 , which came out in 2017, but it is still one of the best DSLR cameras. When I bought it, it cost 190,000 rubles. DSLR cameras differ from mirrorless cameras at the hardware level only in the way they focus. But this one difference makes a big difference in how the photographer uses the camera.

The advantages of the DSLR Nikon D850 compared to the mirrorless Nikon Z6 for me are:

  • it turned on instantly – mirrorless cameras take a second or two;
  • it began to focus faster – with mirrorless cameras you can feel a millisecond lag;
  • All Nikon lenses released after 1959 fit it. They fit onto mirrorless cameras only through an adapter; autofocus does not work on many.

Mirrorless Nikon Z6 is better as follows:

  • Focused equally quickly through the small pinhole viewfinder and through the display. I no longer had to press the camera to my face to take photos;
  • stabilized the matrix well enough for me to shoot at a shutter speed of 1 s without blurring;
  • clicked 12 frames per second versus seven on the D850. When I was doing reportage photography, this was important;
  • focused throughout the frame and tracked the eyes. Autofocus on the DSLR was more tenacious, but in fact I missed it more often, because the focus points were only in the center and the eyes were not tracked;
  • was one and a half times smaller than the D850. If you put them side by side, it seems that one is about to devour the other.

The advantages of mirrorless cameras outweighed them. I whined in photo chats and got used to the new camera for six months, but in the end I don’t regret the transition. Now I’m looking at  the Nikon Z7 Mark 2 for  150,000-170,000 rubles , because I’m done with reportage photography and my requirements have changed.

The Nikon Z7 has  twice as many megapixels, which is the only difference from the Z6. When there are too many megapixels, photos weigh more and appear earlier with chaotic white and colored dots when there is little light. Photographers call this noise. During conferences or children’s parties, it is more convenient to shoot with a camera that makes less noise and the photos from which weigh less.

Nowadays I often shoot bears and mountains tens of kilometers away, so I need high resolution. This way I can cut out a meaningful part from the frame with more detail.


Nikon F80

When I’m in a romantic mood or want to waste money on  some whim, I shoot on film.

The Nikon F80 was the ideal film camera for me because it cost RUB 5,000 and supported all the optics I had. When I switched to mirrorless cameras, the optics stopped working. I left for him one of the cheapest lenses with a focal length of 50 mm; I pick it up once every couple of months.

Such cameras are now sold only on the secondary market.

DJI Mini 3 Pro quadcopter

I used to shoot with quadcopters that they bought for me at work. These were Mavic series drones. When I had to buy my own, I chose Mini 3:

  • it is relatively inexpensive – I found it for 60,000 rubles;
  • small and light – more options to take it with you;
  • removes acceptably – I can get out of it everything I need;
  • flies for several kilometers without losing the signal. This is usually enough for me.

Other options are designed more for videographers, but I don’t shoot videos. I took my most famous photograph with a drone.

I use quadcopters to photograph on expeditions and regular tourist trips all the time. If I don’t have enough space in my bag, I’ll probably pack a lens rather than a drone. A quadcopter gives you access to scenes that cannot be achieved in any other way, and different lenses simply capture the same  thing differently.


Lenses are divided into wide and telephoto. The wide ones fit more, the telephotos zoom in closer. Lenses with an angle of view more or less similar to that of a human are called mid-focus.

Lenses are also divided into light and dark. Light colors blur the background more and project more light into the camera. Because of this, photographs are less noisy.

There are also lenses with variable and fixed focal lengths – zooms and primes. Zooms can zoom in and out, primes cannot. But all other things being equal, primes are either cheaper or lighter than zooms.

Nikon 20 mm 1.8s

Nikon 20 mm f/1.8  is a light wide lens with a fixed focal length.

On DSLRs I used Nikon 14-24 mm f/2.8  , a darker wide lens that could zoom from wide to ultra-wide. The lower the f number, the brighter the lens.

I really loved this lens for its design, but I didn’t buy the same one for mirrorless cameras for two reasons:

  • Nikon 20 mm f1.8s costs 80,000 ₽, Nikon 14-24 mm f/2.8 for mirrorless cameras — 145,000 ₽;
  • Nikon 20 mm f/1.8s is lighter than Nikon 14-24 mm f/2.8 – it washes the background more and is less noisy.

I abandoned the idea of ​​hanging the old Nikon 14-24 mm f/2.8 through an adapter, because it is much larger and heavier than the 20 mm f/1.8s . On the secondary side they cost comparable.

I most need wide-angle lenses when I’m photographing mountains during helicopter flights or stars if I’m lucky enough to stand somewhere on top of a mountain. In the city I shoot with it when there is little light and space. Most often on the street.

I’m happy with this lens. Occasionally I just want it wider when I shoot from a helicopter. Although I fly more often than the average photographer, I also do not fly every day. That’s why I chose it and not the old 14-24.

Nikon 24—70 f/4s

Nikon 24-70 f/4s  is a dark zoom lens with an angle range that is more or less similar to human vision.

When I was doing reportage photography, I shot on  the same 24-70 , but brighter – it was f/2.8 . I decided to get rid of it because of the size. With the adapter it was twice the size and weight of the new 24-70 mm f/4s . Since the need for professional glass had disappeared, there was no reason to put up with it. There was no point in overpaying for a new f/2.8 either.

I carry the Nikon 24-70 mm f/4 as a go-to lens when I’m not going to go all out, but I still want to take the camera. The phone will fail somewhere , and this will allow you to photograph people, the city, and landscapes without any problems. Even though it’s not always top-notch. Ordinary people still can’t tell the difference between photos from a $1,000 lens and a $3,000 lens. Yes, and photographers are not always there. I checked.

Nikon 40/2s

Nikon 40/2  is an inexpensive, light medium-focus lens that cannot be zoomed.

I love shooting with these lenses outdoors. I get used to a specific angle of view and look for subjects that will look best in it. I don’t even need to look into the camera with them – thanks to the constant focus, I already know what will be there. Useful when you’re shooting on the sly.

On DSLRs I had 35/1.8  – a little wider and lighter. I liked him better. The frame width at 40/2 is often not enough, so sometimes I take 20/1.8 outdoors instead .

In  a sense , 20/1.8 even replaced it; I would have made do with only the “twenty”. But I still haven’t sold 40/2 only because it cost 25,000 rubles and takes up little space. There are no complaints about the picture, now all optics take pictures normally.

Nikon 70—200/2.8

The only lens I used to replace the same mirror one. I could have continued to attach the old optics through the adapter, but the previous lens began to fall apart. I got tired of repairing it, and I sold it to a photographer I knew for half the price. The fragility did not bother him.

I didn’t save money and buy another version for DSLRs. I freaked out and paid 165,000 rubles for it, based on the idea that the household should have at least one professional glass. Fast, light and with a top picture. When I open photos from it on a  27-inch monitor, they suck me in.

Despite the weight, size and price, I take it with me for walks a little less often than other lenses. As a rule, when you are in the mood to tense up and shoot something funnier. On  expeditions, I use this lens all the time – from deer to moonrises. About half of my photos from my last trip to Chukotka were taken by him. It was also indispensable for reportage photography, as it is a bright zoom lens with f/2.8.

Now I often need a stronger zoom than a large amount of light, so I will take a 2x teleconverter. He will turn the 70-200/2.8 into  a lens with a focal length of 140-400 and an f/5.6 aperture . With a multi-pixel camera it will be very long-range.

Nikon 85/1.4G is planned

In photography, “one last” lens is always missing for complete happiness. Now this is Nikon 85/1.2s for me . A light fix that greatly blurs the background. So much so that if you photograph a budgerigar, only its eye will be in focus. This is a cool special effect that most photographers and viewers like. Because of this, “portrait mode” has been added to smartphones everywhere.

The lens costs $2600⁣ ( 245,661  ₽). If I earned 700,000 rubles a month, I would probably buy it for myself. But since I earn less at my job, and now I don’t make any money from photography at all, I want to buy a Nikon 85/1.4 for 60,000 rubles. This is a darker analogue for DSLR cameras. I will use it through an adapter.

Three years ago I had a Nikon 85/1.4D. I really liked it, but had to sell it when switching to mirrorless cameras. Autofocus did not work on the new system. And it was already old and was breaking down.

For photographers who haven’t had 85/1.4 and  70-200/2.8 at the same time, it sometimes seems like they will conflict with each other. But in reality, I have never had a dilemma about which lens I want to take right now.

They vary greatly in size and the amount of light they let through. Background 85/1.4 also washes more strongly. When my wife somehow sat down beautifully at home, when I wanted to photograph evening streets without a pronounced perspective, when I photographed parrots, I took a small 85 , not a healthy 70-200 . They are for different tasks.


Tripod  – Benro for 6000 ₽. I didn’t need a professional one, because I rarely shoot with a tripod. I took the cheapest one with a ball head. When I set up tripods with handles, I feel like I’m trying to land a Boeing. The ball head is one ball and one retainer.

Also important to me was the Arca Swiss mount. I use the Peak Design Camera Clip – this is a thing that hangs on a strap and into which the camera is inserted. It also has Arca Swiss. This way I can remove the camera from the strap and immediately attach it to the tripod.

The strap  is a loop ordered from a leatherworker on social networks, which attaches to the camera through a Peak Design mount. I hang the supplied strap with  the same fastening on my shoulder. It is a regular clip that can withstand 90 kg of weight. I don’t wear a camera around my neck: it’s harmful and looks stupid.

Backpacks  – Wandrd Prvke 31 l and Moment MTW Backpack 17 l.

I wear Wandrd Prvke on expeditions. It is made of waterproof fabric and consists of a photo compartment and a collapsible top compartment. A copter, a camera with a telephoto, and geological samples fit in. It opens on the side so I can take the camera out without removing it.

I took the Moment MTW Backpack 17 l to carry it in the city. Wandrd is big and rough and looks weird with a coat. Moment also opens from the side. It has a separate section with a zipper for the laptop. I take it when I want to shoot something on the way to work.