About Aagaard Photography
My passion is nature photography. Most of my personal projects are outdoor in nature, from Texas wildflowers to Colorado aspens. I am very pleased to have been published in Outdoor Photographer and Texas Highways magazines, as well as having works purchased for personal and corporate art collections.
I got my first taste of photography from my uncle, a professional wildlife photographer in Kenya. I spent a couple of weeks with him and a friend on safari in the Masai Mara. They were both generous with their equipment, letting me adopt a Nikon F3 body for the trip and sharing any lens they weren't using at the moment. I learned about exposure, depth of field, the effects of shutter speed, etc. in the field.
More, I became hooked on photography. Seeing an isolated piece of the world through the viewfinder allowed me to simplify - to emphasize what caught my eye. Some feel limited by the camera's view, but it has allowed me to recreate the world as I saw it.
My wife, Posie, and I are a team. Posie is simultaneously my voice of reason and the one who has most encouraged me to follow my passion for photography. She is my biggest fan and my most honest critic. She is the best editor and organizer I know, and she is a master of making decent images "sing" while remaining true to their original vision. She is the love of my life, and I simply can't imagine this adventure without her.
I believe many photographers are too obsessed about having the elusive “best” equipment possible. At some point, you simply need to get out there and shoot!
Any modern camera system, used properly, is capable of producing tack-sharp, perfectly exposed, technically outstanding photographs. The hardware is not the limiting factor - the vision and skill of the photographer is. This is especially true of landscape or still-life photography, where autofocus speed and frames per second are not major issues.
That said, here’s what I currently use. I am not sentimental about my equipment; my cameras are tools I use to translate what I see into photographs. So this list will undoubtedly change in the future.
- Canon EOS 5D Mark III digital camera. This 22 megapixel, full-frame successor to the 5D Mark II is better than its predecessor in two important ways. First, it has an incredibly fast and accurate new autofocus sensor that it shares with the top-of-the-line EOS 1DX. Second, its high-ISO image quality is improved. Both of these features make the 5D Mark III an incredibly versatile camera, equally as capable of excelling in low-light, high-speed gymnastics meets as it is of capturing the subtle details and nuances of a beautiful nature scene. This has quickly become my favorite camera.
- Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera. This 21 megapixel full-frame digital camera body is an amazingly capable nature photographer's camera. As with the 5D Mark III, image quality is truly limited by one's lenses, not the digital sensor. In addition, this camera is capable of amazingly good high-ISO captures, opening a whole new world of after-dark possibilities. The main weakness of this camera is its autofocus, which is merely average compared to the 5D Mark III.
- Canon EOS 5D digital body converted to infrared. Digital sensors actually "see" a wide spectrum of light, not just visible light. We have converted our first full-frame digital camera into a dedicated infrared-only platform. Since Kodak discontinued its infrared film years ago, this is the best alternative we have found.
- Canon 70-200 f/2.8L lens and 1.4x teleconverter. This lens is my leap into the real telephoto realm. I find it just as useful for isolating small areas of a landscape as for wildlife photography. The lens is built like a tank and is very sharp.
- Canon 24-105 f/4L IS lens. This provides a good wide-angle to moderate telephoto view all in one lens. The lens also comes with image stabilization, allowing hand-holding even in lower light in a pinch.
- Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens. This is a sharp, fast, inexpensive lens on either 35mm or digital bodies. It is a little wide for portraits in either format for my taste, although others find it perfect for that use on a digital body. Build quality leaves something to be desired, but at its price I guess one can't ask for too much. I just make sure I don't drop it!
- Canon 24mm f/2.8 lens. This is a sharp, wide-angle lens on a full-frame body and a moderately wide lens on crop sensor bodies.
- Tokina 100mm f/2.8 macro lens for EOS. This is a nice sharp macro / portrait / medium telephoto lens. Purchased used a number of years ago, its autofocus ability leaves something to be desired.
- Gitzo tripod with Kirk ballhead This is the best photographic investment I've ever made -- and it is a substantial investment! Designed for heavy medium-format gear, it's probably overkill for 35mm-sized digital bodies - but camera movement is never an issue.
- Nikon Coolpix 8000 film scanner For scanning a substantial catalog of film-based 35mm and medium format images.
- Canon ImagePROGRAF 1000 large-format printer. This printer allows me to make stunning, archival prints up to 17 inches wide. When coupled with a fiber-based paper, I can produce beautiful color or black and white prints that both match my vision when I took the photo and that far exceed the life expectancy of traditional processes. Unlike our previous Epson printers, this printer virtually never experiences clogs.
I believe there are fresh and creative photographs to be made no matter where you are, if you are just prepared to slow down and observe your surroundings. I got a lot of practice doing this in Lubbock, Texas, which despite the stereotype has some wonderful photographic opportunities. That being said, I do have favorite haunts that I return to over and over. Here are some of them:
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, Texas. This incredible pink granite basolith rises out of the Central Texas Hill Country like a mythical sea creature out of the depths. It's some of the oldest exposed rock in the world. I have spent many hours at this park, both as a child (when I lived next practically next door) and later as an adult escaping the stresses of the big city. My favorite time to visit is late evening to sunset. This park gets pretty crowded on weekends, but incredibly, most people leave well before sunset.
Lost Maples State Natural Area, Texas. While this rugged park is most spectacular in the fall, when the maples turn a flaming orange, I actually like it just as well in the spring, when the delicate new leaves spring pale-green from the gnarled old branches of the maples. The Sabinal River flows through the park and provides numerous photographic opportunities and kid- and pet-friendly splash sites.
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, San Antonio The old Spanish missions of San Antonio represent a fascinating piece of living history spanning four centuries of Spanish and Indian influence in South Texas. All have undergone massive restoration projects and have active congregations. Each of the four has its own distinctive character and presents unique photographic opportunities.