Interestingly enough, photography actually has to do with lugging gear around at least 50% of the time.
In this post, I give you an insight on what I’m normally carrying around when heading for an assignment or shooting my educational stuff for my BLOG+.
I Am Nikon: Preface
I’m a Nikon shooter ever since. This actually came into being by coincidence. It was no conscious decision of mine at the time I started out – and that was over 20 years ago…
It happened during my time at the “Professional School for Fine Arts and Design” in Switzerland where I received my photography education.
Before that, as a teenager, I started to play with a Praktika, then later a Chinon with the first Autofocus. Useless.
But then, yes then, I fell in love with a black manual-focus Nikon FA (I could afford it that time). And shortly thereafter, the first ever useable AF: Nikon 801.
Over the years and decades I bought everything from manual lenses to autofocus to newer ones – and they always fitted to the newest Nikon bodies. That’s the big difference and advantage to Canon.
Sure some of my older lenses only work manually – but who cares. These are my special lenses like the 18mm that I now use for video recording with manual focus anyway.
The good thing is, I can buy specialized vintage lenses (30 years and older) and they are still usable with my newest DSLR. So I am happy with my clueless choice.
The Lugging Around At A Glance
Things shown here are in my bag for real, meaning all of them are stuffed in at once.
The only things that switched out every now and then are the long lens zooms, but basically that’s the gear that travels with me.
I also have additional equipment for creating my videos along with a bunch of small accessories, but these parts are selected on a case by case basis and therefore those have no place here.
The Bodies: Fullframe Nikons
Both, the Nikon D700 and D800 are greatly constructed, sealed and crafted. They are robust, flexible and reliable for my everyday jobs.
When producing educational material (e.g. for my BLOG+), I shoot stills with the D700 while the D800 is recording BTS footage (together with a GoPro Hero 3+).
When there is no need for video, I regularly use the D800 as the resolution (and AF) is just stunningly fantastic.
I really need to invest in a D610 body for video recording soon because using the D800 is simply a great and almost unforgivable waste of this high quality equipment.
- Nikon D700 FX & MB-D10 Grip
- Nikon D800 FX (Grip not yet bought…)
Lenses: Zooms & Primes
High quality zoom lenses are the ones I use for my productions most of the time. They are simply convenient when shooting models for there is no need of changing lenses and this in turn ensures that the production flow does not get interrupted. If I have a planned portrait sequence within a set, I change to my 85mm prime – other than that I keep shooting with my Sigma 24-70/2.8 or Nikon 80-200/2.8.
I would love to be the owner of a Nikkor AF 135mm/2.0 or a Nikkor AF 180mm/2.8. However, I still don’t have the necessary budget allocated for them just as of yet 🙂
As mentioned, the priority for my next investment is set on a D610 body so I’ll finally have a permanent video recording solution…
- Nikkor 18mm / 3.5
- Nikkor 50mm / 1.8
- Sigma IF EX DG HSM 24-70mm / 2.8
- Nikkor AF-ED S 24-85mm / 3.5-45.G
- Nikkor AF 85mm / 1.8D
- Nikkor AF-ED 80-200mm / 2.8
- Nikkor AF-ED VR ID 80-400mm / 45.-5.6D
- Filters: Hoya UV & ND
Speedlighting – My Weak Point
The hot shoe flash is one of my most neglected accessories because I probably only use this thing about 4 times a year.
I mainly use them at family gatherings or other non-job related events. I am no expert at all when it comes to working with these things, neither am I a big fan of these apparatuses. But maybe my negative attitude towards this equipment is simply based on fear because I do not precisely know how to handle them in a more effective and professional manner…
I definitely need to educate myself more in this field – yeah, I totally know it and I have been telling myself these exact words for a minimum of about 8 years by now…
(I know, I know…: Cousin Michael Zelbel with Boudoir & Speedlights explaining in depth these topics etc…)
- Metz 50 AF1
- old, foldable Lumiquest Promax Softbox
- Light meter: Sekonic Flashmate L-308B
- Gray Card (generic)
- Xrite Color Checker Passport
Metering & White Balancing
A simple small light meter is accompanying me at all times. You never know… – but in 80% of the shoots I do not use it, lol.
Most important for me is (at least) the grey card as I do a lot of post-production for my glam/nude photography. To create top results one needs to work quite excessive in post to reach a great level. Everybody who abandons Photoshop and tells you it can be done right out of the camera (and then get straight into a magazine) is actually lying. I always do skin retouching, liquifying, color separations/corrections and more.
So, as already said, I use at least the grey card. However, a couple of years ago I started using a color checker as well which gives me many extra references for a more precise post production. Meanwhile it even evolved to my “must-have-tool” for an accurate color balance reference.
Staying Organized & Protected
Each one of my accessories is individually and neatly packed in normal food boxes. First of all because I like to have my things sorted and organized (helps me during hectic shoots) and secondly those little containers provide a great protection against moisture whenever I am working in the humid regions of this world, for example during my exciting time in the Philippines.
Power: Needs a Lot…
Especially the D800 consumes a lot of power in video-recording-mode! Unbelievable! But it is truly the reason why I had to buy a bunch of additional batteries. Yet not all of them are Nikon originals – they are just way too expensive. So I purchased a few 3rd party pieces and I’ve found them very reliable. However, you always want to stick to the original chargers! I once before made a bad experience with cheap Chinese junk used for another camera.
- Nikon Battery Charger MH-18a for D700 & 5 Nikon EN-EL3e original batteries
- Nikon Battery Charger MH-25 for D800 & 2 Nikon EN-EL15 original batteries and 4 Patona for EN-EL15
The Storage Cards
Not much to say about the cards I use: Solid but nothing spectacular. The 8GB CF’s for the D700, the SD 32s for video recording with D800.
Backups on set: Sometimes on my Toshiba Satellite Notebook or a borrowed MacBook Pro. Until now I never ever had any trouble with any card from any manufacturer. Knock on wood…
- CF: Silicon Power, 8GB only
- SD: SanDisk & NoName, 32GB
Triggering (and Optical Slaves)
I am triggering any kind of flashes with my good old, extremely reliable and robust PocketWizard Plus II. I just love that piece because of its big buttons and solid workmanship. Simplicity is key once again! The PocketWizard basically is a workhorse that’s perfect for turbulent productions.
Of course there are newer, smaller and cheaper brands out there that I once even used myself, but most of them are tiny fumbling pieces. My Wizards are on duty for about 10 years and I would not want to miss them one single day.
Additionally, there are some (high sensitive) optical slaves ready because sometimes the photo-detectors in my monoblocs are not sensitive enough to catch the initial flash.
Yes, I know, I should buy a few more Wizards – need to think about the Plus X series.
Other Tools & Helpers
And then there are all the small things that come in handy all the time (not necessarily in this order):
- flashlight (in abandoned buildings ‘on location’)
- ultra mini tripod (by Cullmann)
- Leatherman Multi-Tool
- generic card reader
- any USB stick
- adhesive plasters (when the flashlight breaks in an abandoned building ‘on location’…)
- my beloved Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition – the production tool as such
- …and a lens cleaning towel
Last But Not Least: The Camera Bag Itself
Well, the bag is a backpack. And it’s a Manfrotto. Wait, a Manfrotto? Yes.
Manfrotto is famous for tripods – but bags? Yes, I can confirm they have some decent ones too.
I had (and have) Tamrac, Lowepro etc. but for the last three years I have used and traveled with my Manfrotto.
On flights it exactly fits into the overhead compartments of all carriers I fly with, yet I always receive complaints and have discussions about its actual weight with the crew onboard 😉
It’s durable, stable – and the most important feature for me: The zips for accessing the interior are on the back, not outside. That means no one can access (steal) my stuff when I carry my equipment on my back. That was one of the priority aspects when choosing my new companion.
- Manfrotto Veloce VII Backpack Black
How I Shot My Gear
Last but not least just a quick insight on how I shot my stuff. Done at home in the living room….