Richard Bird Photography | Equipment and Settings


I was a long time Minolta/Sony use, but sadly Sony abandoned pentaprism viewfinders in their cameras. I tried the new electronic viewfinders, but found the EVF had limited ability to show the subtleties of light in the landscape. This prompted a switch to Nikon. Unfortunately the designers of Nikons ergonomics and I are from different planets. This is not to say Nikon's ergonomics will not work for others, but they didn't work for me. I finally settled on the Pentax K-5 which has the best  ergonomics of any SLR I have used - at the ergonomics that works best for me!

This is is my current equipment and the settings I tend to use. I make no claims to having the best photographic equipment. I use the Pentax K-5 IIs for its bright optical viewfinder for its excellent 16Mp sensor that allows for capture of a wide dynamic range. In additional to the basic IQ of the sensor, Pentax makes an excellent set of APS prime lenses. The contrast and resolution of these lenses complement the K-5 beautifully. 

My basic shooting kit:

  • Pentax K-5 IIs
  • Pentax 17-70 f4
  • Pentax 55-300mm F4-5.8
  • Spare batteries and memory

For a landscape shoot I use:

  • Pentax 15mm f4 Limited
  • Pentax 21mm f3.2 Limited
  • Pentax 40mm f2.8 Limited
  • Pentax 70mm f2.4 Limited
  • Pentax A 35-105mm f3.5
  • Manfrotto 190X tripod with the Manfrotto 322RC pistol grip head

I don’t frequently use filters frequently, but the table below shows some types of filters and their uses:

  • ND2, ND4, ND8 - slow shutter by one, two or three stops
  • Polarizing - Reduce reflections and deepen color
  • Graduated ND - Darken the sky



My setting are based my past experience of what has worked in different situations I have encountered on photo shoots.

  • My preferred settings for landscape work are raw at ISO 80 to maximize dynamic range, auto white balance and aperture priority mode in the f5.6 to f11 range. This f-stop range provides a fairly deep depth of field without incurring significant effects from diffraction.
  • I will push the aperture smaller if I need to smooth water. I prefer to shoot running water in the ⅕ - ½s range, others may prefer the effect from slower speeds still. If the light is bright, it can be difficult get the shutter speed slow enough. 
  • I will increase ISO or aperture if I need a faster shutter speed. This can be helpful in preserving leaf detail if conditions are windy. On the rare occasions I do shoot landscapes handheld, I typically start with ISO 400 and f5.6.
  • I use multi-segment metering. I have found the metering on the K-5 to be very reliable, with perhaps a slight tendency to under-expose.
  • I use single point auto focus, lock focus on the main subject in the landscape and the reframe to the desired composition.
  • Most of my landscapes are tripod mounted and taken with mirror lock up + 2s delay.



  • Make sure you have appropriate clothing and footwear. Warm clothing, hat and gloves in winter are a must. It can get pretty cold shooting a sunrise in sub-zero temperatures. Somewhere nearby for a hot breakfast does not hurt either!
  • If you are shooting near ponds, rivers or other areas where you find biting insects, take bug dope and cover as much exposed skin as you can. Also, be aware that mosquitos can bite through thin cotton clothing - I have first had experience experience of this.
  • If you are shooting in the heat and sun, a hat and sunscreen and plenty of water are highly recommended.