What's in the bag?

Now that the last wedding of 2010 has been photographed, it’s that time of the year again where I go through all of my gear…

I send the camera bodies and lenses in for cleaning and calibration and make sure my State Farm camera insurance policy is up to date.

I was taking snapshots of my gear with the point and shoot (so yes, I’m very aware these are not the prettiest of pictures…) and remembered that I often get asked what gear I have… So, here you are

In the 11 years as a professional photographer, I have been lucky enough to travel to over 20 different U.S. States and 9 different countries!  So my goal has always been to stay compact and efficent (ie- only one bag of gear to travel with).

I have an ‘Airport International’ rolling camera bag from Think Tank Photo. I’ve had it for about 5 years now and it has fit on every plane I’ve ever traveled on (with one exception…but when I started taking out my lenses to put in my lap, the flight attendant graciously offered the coat closet for the bag and gear).

On the outside of the bag is my business card (top), luggage tag (side), and inside the sliding pocket, the itinerary/schedule for that trip and the wedding invitation to photograph (if it’s a wedding).  Also, in the zippered pocket just under the ‘think tank’ logo  I keep extra business cards, brochures, blank paper and a pen.

Opening the bag, you can see that not only is there a lot of gear, but that there is a bottom portion (where the lenses and bodies are) and the top flap with zippered compartments.  Let’s start with the flap:

In the top two pockets I store the Compact Flash cards.  With one exception (a 4gb Lexar card), all the rest of my cards are SanDisk cards (and I have a SanDisk card reader to connect to my computer).  The largest cards I purchase are 8 GB and the smallest I’grve got is a 2 GB.  I’ve heard that it’s a good idea to use the same brand, and to have that brands’ card reader as well… Also, to replace them after a few years… Luckily, I haven’t experienced any card problems in the past.

In the second zippered compartment I have camera batteries for each of my camera bodies.  Also, there are safety pins and ‘Hollywood Fashion Tape’.  It seems like the safety pins are a requested item at every other wedding, and the double sided fashion tape is very helpful in preventing wardrobe malfunctions…

In the bottom pocket there are pens, sharpie markers, lens cleaning tissue, Advil, a sewing kit, the camera manual (pocket guide), cough drops, ‘cleaning wands’ to clean the digital sensor and cords to connect wireless transmitters to a studio flash…. That’s a lot of items just in that flap!

On to the gear:

Let’s start in the top left corner…This is where the 3 camera bodies are:Currently, my main camera is the Canon 5d Mark II digital SLR body.  I’m not one to think that Canon or Nikon is better than the other, because it seems to be that whichever company releases the LATEST camera body has the best, and they continually take turns releasing newer versions… I have always had Canon cameras and lenses and really am happy with this camera…especially for it’s low noise at high ISO’s, the file size, speed that I can capture images, large viewing screen on the back and that it automatically cleans the sensor each time I turn it on and off.

In case anything were to happen to my main camera (5d Mark II), my backup camera body is the Canon 5d.   In addition, for every wedding I hire AT LEAST one second photographer with their set of gear and backup gear as well.

The third camera body is my ‘artsy’ camera.  It is a Canon 20d that I sent in to the company Life Pixel to have converted to capture Infra Red images.  It’s a different wavelength of light than what the human eye sees and can make for a dreamy, ethereal image…Especially in bright sunlight on a day with blue skies and big clouds! Here’s a recent wedding image taken with this camera:The lenses take up a good portion of the rest of the bag.  I have five:

1) Canon 15 mm f/2.8 fisheye lens – This lens is a very wide angle distorting lens.  I only use it for a few shots at a wedding…typically one or two showing the ‘getting ready’ area, ceremony site and reception site.

2) Canon 28-70mm f/2.8 L lens – This is considered a pretty standard zoom lens.  I only use this lens for larger group shots at a wedding.

3) Canon 70-200 mm  f/2.8 L lens – This is my favorite lens.  I use it for 90% of the photographs I ever take!

4) Canon 100 mm f/2.8 macro lens – I use this lens to capture details up close.  For example the rings at a wedding or a close up portrait with only the eye lashes in focus.

5)  Canon 24 mm f/2.8 wide angle lens – I use this lens to capture architecture images (buildings and houses) and to capture a wide angle without the distortion from the fisheye lens.

Here’s an image taken with the fisheye lens.  I was able to hold the camera over the table and with the super wide angle capture the entire table setting:

With the 28-70 lens, it’s a pretty ‘standard’ looking image…pretty similar to the range most people would have on their compact cameras:

The 70-200 lens allows me to be further away from the subject (in this case across a field!) and still keep a shallow depth of field:

The 100 mm macro is great for getting close to objects like this:

And here’s an image using the 24 mm lens.  It’s a wide angle shot, but without any distortion on the sides of the image:

There is room underneath and next to the lenses.  You can see there is still a lot of gear in the bag even after the five lenses were removedt:

Other items in the bag:

Canon Speedlight Transmitter – so I can fire the flash off-camera

Canon Speedlight 550EX on-camera flashes (Canon replaced this model with the 580)

AA charger for rechargeable batteries

Chargers for Canon 5d and 5d mark II batteries (separate batteries and separate chargers 🙁

Waterproof cover for the entire camera bag

Expodisc – to accurately custom set a white balance in a tricky lighting environment

Filters – I carry a polarizing filter (reduces reflections and darkens sky) and a warm/soft filter (great for portraits)

AA battery insert for the 5d Mark II

Quantum Turbo battery (I take a Q-flash and a stand in my checked bag with my clothes) and charger

2 PocketWizard Plus II wireless tranceivers (with the cords to attach to the Q-flash)

Canon Remote switch (shutter release on a cable, helpful for long exposures!)

There is also a travel sized deodorant and bayer back and body painkiller in the bottom compartment

And that’s what’s in my camera bag!

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