Travel light, Gear Down
Every artist has an instrument. An instrument through which every artist channels his or her creativity—be it the musician and the physical instrument, to the more metaphorical instance with painters who use canvas and brush, or dancers who channel their creative voice through the use of their bodies.
For a photographer it is camera and lens. The lens is the brush, the camera sensor is the canvas, the file is the sheet music, and the final image is the symphony.
If I had to pick the one element that has most defined the signature look of my photographs, it is the lenses that I use. I own more lenses than a small camera store. Of all the things I get asked, the single most-asked question is not why I chose to shoot something the way I did, but what camera, lens and f/stop did I use? The answer is this: my go-to camera is a Nikon D750 (replacing the Nikon D610, which replaced the D600, which replaced the D3X) and my go-to lens is the AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR.
That’s my reply, to the question asked, but it is not really a helpful answer. The more precise question is why I have come to rely on one lens over all the others. Each lens has its own qualities which make it unique. I favour the 28-300mm for the way it bends light differently than other lenses. It is the right choice for me based on my needs for the image at that moment. Every decision about an image—all the way to the final print—must be made at the moment the image takes you and when you click the shutter.
When I am not in the studio I bring into the field four camera bodies and nine lenses; I choose the 28-300mm most of the time for one reason: it's the street sweeper lens. I can go from wide—28mm is about the base angle of view for human vision—to 300mm, the extended distance, which is generally close enough to count the pores in someone's skin, yet be out of proximity range of awareness. This is the distance when you can "feel" someone looking at you.
Over the course of four camera system upgrades I have kept one lens as my “primary” lens of choice. What caused this determination is a perfect storm of events. First, it was the development of a 24MP sensor in a 35mm camera body, the Nikon D3X. 24MP is the magic number; it provides enough resolution to make a fine art quality 44” x 36” (112 cm x 92 cm) print. Second, it was the development of a 24MP sensor that yields virtually noiseless image files at high ISO rates. Starting with the Nikon D600, then the Nikon D610, and now the D750, I have come to trust shooting with the Auto ISO setting turned on. I have superb, very low noise-level images that have been captured at very high ISO. This high image quality is the result of the company’s continuous improvements to the sensor, plus the EXPEED 4 image processor, plus NIKKOR dedication to incredible quality glass.