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Welcome REI Co-op Members!
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Do you need help with photography?

Hello REI members. 

My name is Stephen Morton and I have been a news photographer for over 40 years and an REI member since 2007. Love, love, love the idea of this forum, and I am here to offer any advice about shooting photos while hiking, camping, traveling, or just walking through your favorite town and gear. I was a Nikon shooter for 30 years, now a Canon guy, and I am quite fond of my iPhone 11 pro. I'm not much of a tech geek, but I have a working knowledge of all of the above. My clients are the major print news organizations around the country.

Work hard, stay humble. 


6 Replies


Welcome to the community!

Thanks for the intro, you've got an impressive photography resumé. We've had a couple of other posts about cameras/photography that you may want to weigh in on:

On a personal note, I have a question: which three lenses do you feel are the most important? In other words, if you were going to purchase lenses for a DSLR, which should be the first three?


At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

@REI-JohnJ As you will read in my reply to one of the links you sent, I use a 16-35mm f2.8 and a 70-200mm f2.8. 

My simple answer is zoom lenses. They save space in your pack. With those two, you'll pretty much cover most of what you need. Of course, they are expensive and heavy, but the payback is worth it. 

If you don't want to carry that much weight or spend the money, all manufacturers make less expensive wide zooms and telephoto zoom lenses. Keep this in mind; typically, you'll pay more for a "faster" lens. Fast meaning a low f-stop. For instance, you can buy a 50mm lens for either $1,400 or $125. One key difference is the f-stop. My Canon 50 f/1.2 USM is pushing $1,400. Or you can find a Canon 50mm f1.8 for $200. The optics matter, so buy good glass. You get what you pay for, my friend. 

But I think the question is, what do you want to shoot? If you don't need a "fast" lens, you'll save money. 


 That is some very sound advice, I carry a 28-70 f2.8 lens, but for landscape / nature photography   I have only opened it up to is maybe f5.6, mostly f8 to f16 so if you bought a good f4 lens you should be all set unless you want to shoot at night.


I just wrote this article about all the camera gear I bring on hikes. (hint, its just a tripod and I shoot on iphone) Glad you're here. Excited to see some of your work. 


Any advice for a newer DSLR user on how to break out from the safety of full auto mode? 

I have an Fuji XE2 and while playing around at home I'm (sort of) comfortable playing around with manual modes and adjusting whatever settings need adjusting to get the look I want, but when I'm out in real life I panic, get frustrated, say screw it, and set my camera to auto mode, telling myself I'll do it right next time. 

Or, should I just stay in auto mode and trust the camera to do the right thing? 

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Hey Sara,

To be honest, I use auto exposure and autofocus all the time. I know my gear, and I trust it. That said, I also check both all the time. Ninetynine percent of the time, it's spot on. In the long haul, it's important to know how to dial in the right exposure and absolutely tack-sharp focus without relying on technology. 

You're heading in the right direction by playing around with the setting at home without the pressure of fleeting light or a lost moment. I usually advise my photo colleagues to:

(a) Have a sense of how the light affects the subject you're framing. The light changes all the time, and with every step you take to the right, left, up, or down. 

(b) Watch your background. Move around until your background is "clean

(c) Know how your camera (and lens) sees the subject. Your eyes see things differently than your camera and lens.

Remember, you're shooting on a two-dimensional plane that captures a moment in time.  Your camera is simply the tool you use to achieve your goal. The better you know your camera and lenses, you'll become a better photographer. Don't be sucked into having the latest, greatest gear. Let's say, just because you have a great stove doesn't make you a great chef. The best camera is the one you have in your hands. The more you know it and how to manipulate it, the better photographer you'll be.

So to sum it up, take your time to know your camera and lenses in a friendly environment. Your backyard or neighborhood is a good place to start. Could you keep it simple with one lens? Learn how the lens sees and how you compose with that one lens. Learn to "see" through your camera and the one lens. If you can imagine how a photo will look in your mind's eye and then execute that vision, you're on the way.

I hope this helps.