For those of you who are interested I'll give a brief rundown of the equipment I've used in the past and what I'm currently carting about.
When I first decided to try to photograph my fell walking exploits I hit a bit of a problem. I hadn't a clue about cameras. The only thing to do was to put myself in the hands of the local camera shop.
Fortunately, instead of suggesting a point and shoot compact, I was steered down the route of a 35mm SLR. That meant I had to learn about mysterious things called apertures, shutter speeds and something called depth of field (which I mistakenly thought must be something to do with the size of a paddock)!
In the early stages I was quite happy with my Pentax ME Super but all of the photo mags were saying that if you were serious about quality images (as I was becoming) there was no substitute for medium format equipment.
As anyone who has researched the subject will know this sort of gear ain't cheap, but I eventually managed to get hold of an old, well used, Mamiya C3. These are the twin lens reflex cameras you see being wielded by the press pack in the old black and white movies the BBC used to show on Sunday afternoons. Compared to the Pentax it had a brilliant 6x6cm viewfinder but it took a while to get used to seeing things 'the wrong way round' and composing in a square format.
By that time I was supplying images to Picture Libraries. After returning from a long trip around John O'Groats, Cape Wrath and North West Scotland I realised from the results that the Mamiya lens coatings were beginning to pick up stray light and ruin exposures. Time to move on.
Being used to 'thinking square' the obvious way to go was Hasselblad, but to be honest I couldn't justify the expense. A much more affordable option was a Bronica SQA-i with wide angle, standard and short telephoto lenses. After the Mamiya it was just so convenient to be able to look down into the viewfinder and at the same time see the aperture and shutter speed settings laid out on display. Filtration was a piece of cake; no more having to rotate the polariser on the viewing lens and try to keep it in the same position while transferring it to the taking lens by which time the sun had gone in and it was starting to rain!
The Bronnie and I were best mates for years, despite it taking a dip in the sea after being blown off rocks at Embleton Bay. Then digital appeared. In the early days I was not at all impressed but rather than pretend it wasn't happening I decided to test the water with a Nikon D70.
I immediately realised how it must feel to be made redundant. Not only did the camera focus itself, it took spot meter readings from various parts of the frame and gave a balanced exposure reading in a fraction of the time it would have taken with my hand held meter. As if that wasn't enough, it recorded all the technical data including date and time of exposure, focal length used etc etc etc. In fact the only thing it didn't do was make the tea. Why did it need me?
What it did do though was to put a bit of fun back into photography. Once you've got your camera and memory card you can mess around to your heart's content at no cost. Try things for their own sake. Experiment. If the shot doesn't work, delete it. Simple as that.
On the down side what it can also do is make you lazy. If you're not careful you can soon get into bad habits and gradually lose all the skills you've so painfully acquired over time. But the over-riding concern was image size. A processed file of 17MB just wouldn't do.
Seduced by it's greater resolution I upgraded to a Nikon D80 and introduced myself to the delights of shooting raw images - the digital equivalent of film negatives. Rather than allow the camera to make crucial processing decisions about everything from white balance to sharpening it was now all down to me. After much deliberation I opted for Phase One's Capture One Pro for raw processing and Media Pro for catalogue and archiving purposes. They work well together, give lots of options, and really do reduce the amount of time spent in front of a computer.
The last camera upgrade was to a Nikon D300 and because of it's specifications it's really the first bit of digital kit I've treated with the same kind of respect as the Bronnie.
Not that I've abandoned the Bronnie altogether. Despite the quality of current digital imaging, to me a digital file never quite sings in the same way as a well exposed transparency sitting on a lightbox. The trouble with continuing to shoot film is a) I have to buy it, b) I have to wait for it to be processed before I can be sure of what I've got, and c) it's going to end up as a digital image anyway once it's been scanned.
So that's the story so far. The current working method when shooting digitally is to aim to produce in-camera an image which has maximum processing potential. Oh yes. I've also recently upgraded to Lee filters. I didn't know what I'd been missing.