It’s no secret that photographers love camera gear. Many of us can list off pros and cons of not just the lenses in our backpacks but also nearly every lens that will fit on our camera mounts. Unfortunately, camera gear, particularly professional quality lenses, is incredibly expensive. They’re also hard to test, as many small-town camera shops simply don’t stock a vast array of lenses; many of us simply order online from BHPhoto or Adorama.
My usual kit consists of three Nikon zoom lenses. I carry the 16-35 f/4 24-70 f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8 for practically every assignment. I also own a 20mm prime for astrophotography. And like every photographer on the planet, I long to add a few more lenses to my kit.
When I first signed up for the workshop, I was excited to learn that it was possible to borrow mentor series equipment thanks to key sponsorship Nikon USA. The lengthy kit came in a giant black pelican box was like waterproof gift box. Camera bodies ranged from a D810 down to a D7200, while the lenses included everything from 14-24 wide angles to 80-400 telephotos.
The equipment was in hot demand, but over the weekend I used two new lenses.
Borrow Mentor Series Equipment
Nikon Nikkor 10.5 mm Fisheye
I started out with a 10.5 mm fisheye that is designed for a DX camera. Since I was shooting a D800, I had to set the camera to DX mode. I expected this to diminish the fisheye effect, but was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t truly affected.
Although I attempted a few different images with this lens, I only nailed one of the compositions:
Chapel of the Transfiguration, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.
In the workshop’s digital review session, mentor Bob Smith liked the image. He was also quick to point out something I felt was worth mentioning:
“Nobody likes a steady diet of fisheye, but it looks great as long as you use the lens sparingly.”
Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/1.4
As soon as I heard we were going to the rodeo, I knew I wanted to work on my portrait photography. Aside from a handful of weddings, I rarely photograph simple portraits. I also feared the rodeo grounds could be dimly lit, which Layne seemed to confirm when he suggested to expect “it to be lit like a high school game rather than a professional match.”
I always struggle to hand hold my 70-200mm lens, even during the day, so I wanted something lighter, sharper, and with the same depth of field control. Naturally, I opted for the nifty-fifty, because the 50mm f/1.4 lens meets both my criteria for low apertures and limited depth of field.
The lens worked wonderfully and I managed to capture a portrait at the rodeo that I truly love:
Recently bucked off his horse, this cowboy takes a moment straighten his hat before saddling up his next mustang.
How to Borrow Mentor Series Equipment
For workshops in the US, the organizers bring a large selection of equipment to each destination. At the introduction meeting, it’s possible to sign up for whatever piece of gear you’d like and you can keep it for at least a day. If nobody signs up for a subsequent day, it’s possible to simply keep in for the duration of the trek.
For international destinations (outside the USA), it’s a little different process. Weeks before the trip, you must select what gear you’d like to borrow. The items are then shipped to your home address and it’s up to you to make room for it in your own camera bag. Since you’re carrying it to and from the destination, you get to use the image throughout the entire mentor series workshop.