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A Guide to Buying New Photography Gear by Ricardo Seah

A Guide to getting the right photography gear for you.

I've had several people ask me for advice over the years what camera or what lens or what  tripod they should get. So I’ve compiled some of my key thoughts on the subject and hopefully you'll find this guide useful.

Photography Gear

Ok, so you’ve saved up a good amount of money, you want to treat yourself and you’re considering getting a camera, a lens, or just photography gear in general. Well you’re at the right place!, so keep reading! 

Mindset

Buying new gear is a big decision and needs to be carefully considered and thought through (unless of course you are a baller and have lots of $$$… in which case consider hiring me for a photoshoot or giving me money to help you buy gear). But if you’re like everyone else its probably a big deal and I’d like for you to think of buying a camera as an investment (much like buying a car).

You are going to need to trust that the gear you are getting won’t fail on you and that it can be depended upon to capture the shots that you want. Can you imagine getting to a breath-taking viewpoint and not have the right gear to capture the beauty in front of you, or having your gear fail you just as you’re setting up to take a shot of the beautiful stars of the night sky? It’s terrifying!  

Like anything else in life, you get what you pay for (unless it’s a Starbucks coffee in which case you probably paid a little too much). Just as an example, my friend Yow and I went out to shoot the northern lights one night and his cheap tripod broke just as he was setting up. My tripod on the other hand has been with me for the 8 years and has survived the freezing cold and extreme desert heat.

Instead of talking about gear recommendations or what I use, this guide will walk you through key considerations and questions to ask yourself to help you make the right decisions :) Here we go!

These are the key questions to ask yourself:

What kind of photography am I doing/looking to get into?

If you’re in the market for a camera then you have to decide whether you want a compact, mirrorless, DSLR, or medium format. 

  • The list above is in ascending order or typical image sensor size.

  • Image sensor matters because the larger the sensor the "better" the quality of images you'll be able to capture especially in low light conditions. Larger sensors also typically mean that you get less of a "grainy look" to your images and allow you print really large pictures. But of course if you are just posting on social media or sharing images online then you won't need such a large sensor camera (ie. a full frame camera or medium format camera).

What are the limitations to the gear that I’m getting?

  • Sure its easy to see what the positives are, because they are always marketed to you. But you need to be critical and understand what the limitations are for that piece of gear. For example, you might find a really cheap lens online and buy it only to find out that it can’t auto-focus, or it isn’t weather sealed or it has a built in lens hood that makes it impossible to attach filters.

What conditions will I be shooting in? Can I trust my gear to hold up in the conditions I’ll be shooting in? And is the gear I’m getting weather sealed?

  • Although most modern cameras are weather sealed (i.e. protected against the elements), not all are. And so it’s a good idea to find out wether the specific product, be it the lens and/or the camera is weather sealed and can withstand the conditions you will be putting it through. If you’re going to a camera store the people there should be able to help you out with this.

Do I really need “X” number of mega-pixels?

  • Come on, let’s be honest, in a side by side comparison neither you nor I can tell the difference between a 10 megapixel image and a 30megapixel image printed out on a regular piece of paper or a laptop screen.

  • The truth is that unless you are shooting professionally and your client requires a large file to be printed to the size of a billboard or the side of a building , you don’t need a camera with an insanely high megapixel count. It’s really just a marketing draw for most camera manufacturers to say that their product has more megapixels than their competitors.

Will I need something else besides what I already have to achieve that shot I have in mind?

  • For example, you might think that for a night landscape all you’ll need is a DSLR and a wide angle lens… Well think again! You’re probably going to want a sturdy tripod because its most likely gonna take a longer shutter speed to capture the image.

Do I really need that to achieve what I have in mind?

  • This is a good question to ask if you’re on a tight budget. For example, you might read somewhere that getting a remote shutter release or a certain filter is a must! Is it really though??

  • Think about possible work-arounds that may help you save such as using the in-built timer function on your camera or applying filter effect on lightroom in post-processing.

If I’m thinking about upgrading my camera or switching brands anytime in the future, should I still get that lens I really want? 

  • This is a big consideration to keep in mind because not all lenses fit all cameras even within the same brand. You might spend lots of money on a lens now only to regret that decision a month or two later when you decide to upgrade to a full-frame camera body or switch to a different brand.

These are the key considerations to keep in mind:

Good glass is like gold. Sure, third party glass might be cheaper, but if you are ever thinking about reselling it down the road, it won’t retain its value as well.

Battery life performance. You might settle on a mirrorless camera only to find out that battery performance is terrible and to make up for that you end up spending more money buying spare batteries. Generally DSLRs have better battery performance than do mirrorless systems.

The possibility of upgrading in the future. Say for example you are just getting into photography and you decide to buy a beginner or regular DSLR. If you get good at photography you might consider upgrading your camera maybe to a full-frame DSLR down the road. 

You probably don’t need as many mega-pixels as you think. 

Not all camera reviews are made equal. Many might be sponsored reviews even when they say that they aren’t  


I hope you found this little guide of questions helpful in your search for new camera gear! Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions or type them in the comments below and share this post with friends who might be thinking of buying some new photography gear.

Till next time, take care, keep smiling and keep shooting! :)  

An Aerial Photography Adventure by Ricardo Seah

An Aerial Photography Experience Over Vancouver

Shot above downtown Vancouver from a Harbour Air Seaplane 

Shot above downtown Vancouver from a Harbour Air Seaplane 

Back story 

A couple of Fridays ago I attended the Vancouver Tourism Awards Gala at Canada Place at 6.45am (yes that's right in the morning!!! Who holds a gala that early!?!?! Ok ok calm down Ricardo, I'm sure they have their reasons..). Anyways the Gala ended at about 9am and so I decided I'd walk around the waterfront area to soak in the views of the snowcapped mountains as it had snowed the night before.

View of North Vancouver

I mean look at that view! It was gorgeous!! So I continued to walk around the convention centre and of course I'm greeted by the seaplanes by the waterfront as they took off and landed. It was not raining (a mega plus for this time of year in Vancouver) and the thought of capturing the snowcapped mountains and the city from one of those seaplanes raced through my brains.

Vancouver seaplane harbour air

It was so so tempting.. But of course I had to act rationally and so I put up a poll on my Instagram story asking if you guys thought I should go or not. I waited awhile at the lounge of the Seaplane airport and let the results come in.. needless to say, I let the results (96% said "Yes, do it!") guide my decision. 

Ready for an adventure
harbour air

I ran up to the counter to get myself on the next scenic flight tour around Vancouver, and in 15 minutes I was boarding my first ever seaplane flight. Woohoo!!! I was so excited! 

Thankfully it wasn't a full flight and I rushed to the front to be the third person to board, and was able to pick out a good seat at the back with an unobstructed view (window seat goodness).

Sat through a little flight safety video and a welcome by the friendly captain and off we went taxiing the runway (or water-way.. not sure what it's called) and up into the air with a fanatic view of North Vancouver from my side.

We went up north and checked out the mountains that had been covered in snow from the night before which was just breathtaking.

From there we circled around and made our way to Vancouver and got a good view of Kits Beach and downtown Vancouver before going over Stanley park and landing back at the waterfront.

It was definitely a great experience and I highly recommend it! The views are just amazing and the pilot really knew where to take us for good shots. Also, it will be one of the softest airplane landings you'll experience.

Check out the HarbourAir website if you're interested. I did the extended panorama tour and it was definitely worth it. They apparently also do flights to Bowen Island, Whistler and Victoria. Definitely not paid by them to say this (but of course if you work for Harbour Air please consider hiring me for a shoot). It's fantastic way to see Vancouver!


A mix of some of the shots I took with my phone and cameras 


Aerial Photography Tips:

  • Have the right lens attached to the body of your camera before the flight.

    • Trust me, you DO NOT want to be changing lenses while flying. It can get quite bumpy, space is confined, you're gear might roll all over the cabin and you are going to miss shots.
    • What I did was shoot with my phone and two camera bodies with two different lenses on each so that I was able to get a range of shots. Now of course not everyone will have two camera bodies in which case having one camera body with a zoom and your camera phone with you to capture wide shots will suffice. 
  • Sit either right at the back or right at the front of the aircraft. 

    • Unless you want to get the wing in all your shots (not necessarily a bad thing but just my preference)
  • Don't attempt to manual focus, just let the camera work its auto-focus magic.

    • Do yourself a favour and just let the camera handle the focusing. As long as the window is clear and clean there shouldn't be a problem.
  • Use a fast shutter speed. 
    • The plane is going to be moving fast and its going to be a little bumpy. I found myself fighting hard to stabilise my camera for shots while trying to fight the G-forces as the pilot pulled and rolled to steady the aircraft.
  • Shoot on continuous high setting or the highest continuous shooting mode your camera will allow.

    • This will maximise the chance of getting that awesome shot.
  • Make sure you have your gear strapped to you. 

    • The last thing you want is to lose grip of your camera or your phone mid-flight and have it roll around the cabin. 

  • DO NOT just look through your camera viewfinder the entire flight.

    • Trust me I got super nauseous looking through 3 different cameras constantly throughout the flight. And this is coming from someone who usually doesn't get nauseous on flights (I've been on everything from small planes, to commercial and military aircraft) but it's something about constantly looking through different zooms that messes with your orientation. 

    • I recommend taking breaks in-between shooting to live in the moment and enjoy the experience. 

As always thank you for coming on this journey with me! I hope you enjoyed this little adventure in the air and that it inspires you to get out there and capture some awesome shots!

Till next time, stay tuned on my instagram for the latest shots and and news on my insta stories. 

 

Of course, if you liked this or have any questions please leave me a like and or a comment below :) Take care, keep warm, keep exploring, and get those amazing shots!

How to: Spontaneous Photography Adventures by Ricardo Seah

Spontaneous Photography Adventures 101

Here's a silly little guide not to be taken too seriously for you my fellow explorers and adventurers. Enjoy, have fun, get out there and never stop exploring (just don't forget to stay safe). 


What you will need :

  • A bag that will fit everything (preferably a backpack not a hand bag or messenger bag because it's more comfortable for those extended adventures)

  • A camera! (one where you can adjust settings manually like a DSLR) 

  • A tripod (preferably a light weight one or even a Gorillapod)

  • A torchlight or headlamp with a red-light setting (because you might just get lost in the dark)

  • No more than two lenses (because you don't want to break your back carrying too much gear) 

  • Adventure buddies (friends who will go out/call you out for an adventure at a moments notice) 

  • Some snacks and water in the bag (you might be out for some time and far from civilisation)

  • Music & the aux cable (chances are you will be going on a road-trip as part of your adventure and good music = good vibes, and while most cars now have a bluetooth audio system bring an aux cord just incase)

  • A weekend/holiday/day-off (I advise against just leaving the office/class for a spontaneous adventure)

  • An open mind and an adventurous spirit! 

Note: All my recommendations for the gear can be found on my gear page.

What to do?

Now that you have a load-out kit ready to go at a moments notice, all you need is an itch to get out there.. Here's a guideline for those who don't know where to start.

  • Find a friend/group of friends who will be your adventure buddies

    • Close friends, old friend, new friends, people who share that spirit of adventure. Just gotta make sure everyones on the same page for that specific adventure (i.e. not a good idea to bring a friend who's afraid of heights on a climbing related adventure)

    • Also important is to trust these peeps because they're gonna be your first responders should anything go wrong. I recommend having someone amongst your adventure buddies who's a survivalist incase you get lost in the woods or something like that.

    • Here are some group-shots with some of my adventure buddies! 

  • Have a go-to list of locations (optional)

    • It's good to have a list of locations you want to hit up so that you can just wake up and decide ok here's where we're going today! 

    • Instagram can be very helpful with this research bit to help you look for locations you might want to go to. Just click on the geotagged location on the post.

    • I save my list by saving instagram posts of places I'd like to go to into a collection.

  • Spontaneously decide to go on an adventure! Wait for an adventure buddy to message you saying "hey get your bag, we're leaving in an hour.." or "meet at 7am tomorrow for a road trip to somewhere.." OR You can be the one sending that message out!

    • Just get out with your friends. It doesn't have to be totally planned out!

    • Be open and prepared for anything to happen and expect that not everything will play out the way you have it in mind. You might have to take risks and you might not get a good shot at the end of the day but you most certainly have to make the most of it. You might end up doing something dangerous and sometimes not completely legal to get the perfect shot but thats all part of the adventure! 

      • I've gone off beaten routes, climbed fences and stood on the edge of cliffs several times just to get the shot but I've always made sure that it was safe and that I trusted myself and the environment. ie. test the ground you stand on and make sure there's some form of support incase you slip or the earth falls beneath you. (might be funny to you but people have lost their lives because they went overboard just take the shot and didn't take safety into consideration)

    • Many of my astrophotography adventures are actually spontaneous photography-adventures where my friend Guang Yow (@guangyow) just goes: "Clear skies tonight, lets go!" and an hour later we are off in pursuit of the milky way galaxy or the northern lights!

    • Example 1: Just last week my friend Anas (@a.geb) and I spontaneously decided to catch the sunset at Golden Ears just hours before we left. We made it to Golden ears just as the sun was setting only to realise that to get to the perfect sot with the waterfalls required a hike to get to (which according to the park person would only take like 15mins) so we proceeded for a fast hike in hopes to get to the falls before the sun had completely set.

      30mins into the hike and without cell phone service we realised we took the wrong/long route that would instead take us to the summit (which explains all the uphill) so we had to find a way to cut back and to the side of the stream which would lead us to the waterfall. Totally unprepared haha but it was definitely an adventure. We found a route which we could cut into but by the time we cut into the downhill side route, it was completely dark. Fortunately I always have my headlamp in my bag so that was super helpful and highly recommended! We got to the falls 50mins later and it was dark and the sunset we had intended to shoot was long gone.. BUT it was an adventure and we made the most out of it and got some cool shots in the end (one of which is the cover photo for this post).

    • Example 2: Over the weekend my friend Brian (@lifeofbrianwong) decides we should go somewhere and we got Anas (@a.geb)  to join us on this spontaneous adventure which was supposed to be a trip to the sea to sky gondola to get view from the top. But ended up including a trip to Brandywine Falls and a tiring hike/climb to the base of the waterfalls which although was not part of the initial plan was extremely rewarding. 

      Of course after Brandywine falls we did make it to the sea to sky gondola and went to the top to catch the amazing sunset as the sun's rays pierced through the mountain tops. 

Here are some shots from my recent adventures that I hope will inspire you to get out and go on your very own spontaneous photography adventures! 
  • Just go out and go shoot! 

    • You miss 100% of the shots you don't take (someone smart said that but #sotrue)

    • Be open and spread good vibes (chances are you will meet fellow adventurers along the way and make some new friends!)

    • Just don't forget: safety first! Don't do anything too risky as to put your life in danger. 

I hope you enjoyed this silly little guide and that you found it useful to some extent. Like and share this post as always to spread the love :) Comment below on some adventure locations you have in mind!

Till next time, keep snapping, go adventuring and never stop exploring! Safe, spontaneous photography adventures everyone!!