What Gear Do I Need? Packing and Prep
So I thought what I would do guys, is I, you know I'm assuming that this shoot that we're doing for the next two days, We're sort of light and fast, kinda one-man-band style. And I thought I would just kind of lay out some of the gear that I would use. And I'm gonna, I'll get into a little bit of detail and by all means, feel free to, if you guys want, if it's more comfortable you can sit down. But I'm just gonna dig through some bags. I'll tell you what I'm carrying, kind of explain why I'm, I might grab this apple box over here. Kind of explain why I'm doing it the way that I'm doing and then we can, by all means just throw questions out. So, you know, on my person, when I'm traveling, I try to carry the basic kit of equipment so that is everything else gets lost that is checked under the plane I can at least get off the plane and make pictures. And so that tends to be this Lowepro backpack. And inside of this backpack, I'm carrying one camera body, kind of a workhorse camera body, a...
Nikon D and a go-to lens, my 16-35 f4. So I'm ready to shoot no matter what. I always, by the way, I leave a memory card in the camera all the time and a battery so that something amazing happens, I can literally jump out of my car and start taking pictures. You know, I even take it to the level, I leave the camera in Aperture Priority so that no matter what I can start pressing the shutter and it's probably gonna work. So, kind of my go-to quiver of lenses. I have a 70-200 Nikkor f2.8. And you'll see some of the lenses I label the caps and I try to stay pretty organized about that so I know how to find it. I don't keep lens hoods for every camera, or every lens. It just depends. I find on a long lens I really need the lens hoods frequently. On wide lenses, I find that I rarely use lens hoods. So 70-200 2.8, a 16-35, 24-70. This is another lens hood that's actually valuable. And lens hoods are good for not just blocking sun, but also when you're outside and it's raining or its snowing, just keeping the lens dry, so that you're not actually getting it wet. I'll always carry a teleconverter. Now these are so sharp. Usually I'll have the 1.4 and a doubler with me so I can get a lot more leverage. I can leverage that 70-200. In the action sports world, the fisheye lens is pretty nice when you really wanna get close. So, 16 mil fisheye. I'll carry a blower. Just for cleaning stuff off the lens, just simple pocket blower. Lots of extra batteries. Now battery technology is incredible. The lithium-ions now last forever. It's pretty hard to burn through, in fact, I don't think I could burn through four batteries in a day. But nonetheless, occasionally batteries fail, or they get old. Lots of cleaning cloths. Actually they're tissues, so if I touch it, or there's a smudge, and some actual cleaning spray to clean up the lens occasionally. I carry, I always have tons of memory. Memory is cheap these days. And one of the things that I do is I always actually flip the cards upside down once I've shot it. So as soon as I put the card in the wallet, it's facing upright with the branding if it hasn't been shot. And as soon as I have shot the card, then I flip it over and I always keep them in sequence in the wallet. I like to keep the wallet in the bag, I don't keep it on my body. I keep it in the bag. Some other cleaning cloth solutions, microfiber style cloths. That's kind of the guts of what's inside the bag. Every backpack configuration's a little bit different. And so that's what I like to keep in here. What's in here? Oh, here we go, just another cleaning cloth. Here we have, I'll always carry a little bit of water. I always have this philosophy like you've gotta take care of yourself first. Otherwise as soon as you start getting wrecked, like you're hungry, you're thirsty, you're cold, you're hot, you're getting burned, you're not focused on the photography. So I'll throw a water bottle in there. I have headlamps everywhere. As I unpack, you're gonna see like nine headlamps. Because this is as you shoot, early in the morning, late at night, you've just gotta be able to operate. Like you don't wanna be tripping around trying to find your way to the location. So, headlamp in there. This goes back to taking care of yourself, sunblock, ChapStick. Wanna keep that with me. So taking care of yourself, some hand warmers. It's hard when you're trying to shoot and you can't feel your fingertips. You know, multi-tool. I can MacGyver something while I'm on location if necessary. Food, grab a Clif bar or two. I'll just have those with me at all times. I guess I pulled this out right at the beginning, we're gonna be using remote cameras. And so I'm carrying some Pocketwizard MultiMAX with me and some cabling so I can actually trigger cameras remotely. I have a hard wire for using the Pocketwizard system, I have foot pedal. And we'll get into more detail when we get into Woodward. But that's just in the little standalone pouch. This bag obviously was packed for doing this shoot. I have a Manfrotto tripod here just easily, you know and this goes back to the whole slow shutter speeds or if I'm trying to shoot remote cameras. Tripods are just the quick and simplest way to throw a camera someplace. So that's on me, that's on my person. So let's roll.
I have a question.
In that bag there, is there one specific go-to lens. And is that the camera body that's your go-to camera body that you like?
When you show up on a shoot, you have like one shot in mind. That you were talking earlier about getting that banger shot for the client right off the bat is there something you go to all the time.
It's probably safe to say that this configuration of equipment, and I'm gonna say three lenses, the 16-35, the 70-200, and the 24- have shot 90% of the pictures in my career on whatever that flagship fastest camera is. Right now it's the D5 body with a 70-200, 16-35, and 24-70. And then, so if I have that, I can do a lot of work. Now, if I have the privilege, if I have the luxury of bringing more equipment, this is the largest legal rolling bag that you can bring to an airline in the United States. And now one of the techniques that I have, it fits in the overhead bin if you're on a real jet. But I definitely break all of the weight limits. By the way, guys, this is Brett Wilhelm. Brett is going to be teaching segment three. Brett and I have traveled all over the world together. And I might occasionally throw it to Brett when I can't speak to the specific technical nature of something. He's a lot smarter than I am, so that's why he's here. But bottom line is this bag is very heavy, and so I play this game. It fits in the test slot to see if you can bring it on the plane, but it weighs like six times more than the limit. And so, I do this exercise where I try to make it look like it's super light when I lift it up to put it in the overhead bin, when in fact I'm herniating each time I lift it up. So you just need to practice keeping a poker face when the flight attendant sees you. Because inside there's a lot more equipment. So this is go-to kit, the backup kit. 50mm 1.4 probably my favorite single lens right now. The question if you have one go-to lens, it's probably this guy. But that's covered in the 24-70mm range. I just love shooting wide open and sexy clean backgrounds. 24 prime, that's a 24mm 1.4 lens. Also an amazing piece of glass. 14-24, 17-35, it's two-eights so it's one stop faster than the 16-35. 105 macro, awesome lens. Super clean. As I described for Red Bull, I better bring back lots of imagery. Diversity of imagery. Some of that is just lens selection. It's forcing yourself to use the lenses in interesting ways. Get in there and go to the minium focus distance on the lens. Come back and shoot in infinity. You know, do wide shots. Do tight shots. Really selective depth of field, change your aperture, change your shutter speed. But having a quiver of lenses is really helpful. So, 16mm macro lens. This is, for the longest time, I never carried filters. But now I'm carrying ND filters. And part of that is I just immersed myself in the video world and you need ND. But it turns out ND filters are really cool in still photography because it gives you freedom to shoot shallow depth of field and slow shutter speed at the same time. Or just slow your shutter speed down in bright environments. So now I carry clear filters and ND filters so that I have that opportunity. Here's again, lots of card wallets. Memory's cheap these days. I buy high capacity cards. And this is what I was describing. If I haven't shot the card, it's facing up. And as soon as I shoot the card, I flip it over. And I always put them in chronological order. So when we go to do the download I know I shot this card first, this card next, and that's really when we get into the workflow dialog in segment two, that saves a ton of time in the long run. And there's just zero confusion about have you shot or not shot. Let's see, what else do I have in here? Two backup bodies. Eventually this will be a D5, right now it's a D4S. And this is for speed. I'm a guy that I'm a minimalist. I want light and fast. I wanna move quickly. But there's no substitute for speed. You need these robust bodies that allow you in action sports to really do a burst, 36 frames at once. Because we're not sure which frame will be the best one. So anyhow, D4S. I'll oftentimes carry a D810 just if I don't need speed. You know, higher resolution, lighter if I'm gonna physically, if I need to hike myself to the peak. I'm going with the lighter body. Like it better be a special occasion if I'm exerting a lot of physical energy if I'm gonna carry a D4S or D5. So D810. Here we go, this is like number two of headlamps that's also in that bag. Another blower. Here we go, a 1.4 converter. This thing is razor sharp. You don't recognize that's it's actually on the lens. It's so sharp. Here's just some more remote kit. There's just more Pocketwizards, more connections, triggers, the ability to rig things that I might need. Oh, I forgot to -- Oftentimes, depending on what I'm shooting I'll carry a few Speedlites. I just finally got my hands on the new SB-5000. Which is really cool, because now in the Nikon system it's wireless versus infrared. So awesome. Usually I'll have a couple of these, but it's brand new. And then I'll also have some redundancy. This goes back to weight, but here's the 70-200 f/4. Way less expensive. But sometimes, if I break that lens, I don't have a replacement unless I have this with me. A lot of the other focal lengths, there's sort of overlap and you can get by without it. This is one lens that I bought a long time ago and it stays in my bag all the time. And it's valuable, one if I break that lens, or two to sometimes I want another remote camera and it's still a long lens shot, the f/4 is awesome. Or if I'm trying to move fast and light, f/4 is great. I mean, this thing is so much lighter than carrying the 70-200 2.8. Inside the bag, more batteries. I've got some D4 batteries, D810 batteries, more cleaning equipment. You know, keeping that lens clean is a big deal especially as you shoot video. Less critical when you're shooting stills, more critical. So I like this little tool. Just this lens pen. Let's see, there's kind of a, for scrubbing. And then, a little brush for cleaning. More cleaning equipment. More tissue. Then I have, of course, I don't wanna use it but I have a set of micro screwdrivers if something's really unraveling in the field. I have some sensor cleaners and I avoid cleaning my sensor like the plague. I try to wait until I'm back in the office and then I give it to Bly, so if he screws it up then I can blame him. But we actually frequently will send these cameras to Nikon and let them professionally clean the sensor. But if I'm in a situation where I'm just seeing it, two different sensor cleaning kits. I carry a little bit of gaffe tape. This is kind of like photographer's duct tape, just to get through situations if I need to in the field. Let's see here. Alright, so those are kind of my two mission critical bags. So all of this gear is with me while traveling. What's in here? Oh yeah, here's some more stuff that's worth showing. And just feel free, guys, just shoot questions if you have any questions.
I've got one.
Sure, go for it.
Okay, so this is a lot of expensive equipment, can you talk a little bit about how you insure it?
Yeah, that's a great question. So there's a lot of, there's two answers to that. One, if you're not doing this professionally, you can do this with your homeowner's or your rental policy. If you're not making money with your photography you let your insurance agent know that, "Hey, I own two camera bodies and six lenses, some flashes, and Pocketwizards, and you list them on your homeowner's or on your rental insurance. If you're making money and don't play games with this, because it will come back to bite you. Then you need to get a professional policy. A production policy or a photography policy. And it's a little more money, but it's that idea of full disclosure. Let your insurance agent know that in fact you are making a living or a portion of your living with photography and you take out a policy. We use Tom Pickard and Company, they're an LA-based company and I started years ago and it was a relatively affordable policy. As my career has grown and the amount of equipment that we bring on production has grown, so has the expense of insurance but there's a real peace of mind knowing that you actually have insurance. And in a worse case scenario something breaks -- Just a couple of years ago, driving to a shoot and old classic Jeep and we had a bunch of pro photo gear, and cameras in the back of the Jeep an the door of the Jeep just flipped open and at 50 miles an hour, a $100,000 worth of gear just rolled down the highway. And it's painful in the moment, because you still need to deliver and what's your backup plan. How are you going to shoot right now? But in the long run, that's why you pay for insurance. And so, highly advised. Also, I want to reiterate, I'm showing you a lot of equipment, relatively speaking. But remember, two lenses and one camera body shot 90% of the pictures that I've shot in my career. So, sure, create a Christmas wishlist. There's a lot of tools here that will up your game, but at the end of the day, it's still what you do in your brain and it's how much time and energy and waiting it out and being there in the right moments. That's what makes great pictures. But we're still gonna keep on geeking out on gear here.
I've got a quick question. How important do you think it is to switch your equipment around or try new things, try different bodies, understand how those work and try different lenses, and try to get new perspectives. How often do you switch that even though those two things have kind of made up 90%.
Yeah, I think lensing is huge. You know I think bodies on one hand, you're embracing new body technology because it allows you to do something new. I just got two new frames per second. The auto-focus is faster. The way that the camera communicates with flashes is more efficient that allows me a higher speed sync. Absolutely. Lensing, it was a breakthrough moment when I finally bought my first prime lens and I realized, wow, it looks really sexy when you shoot at f2 or f1.8 or 1.4. So the answer is yes, but never use that as a crutch for, oh, I could be making much better pictures if I just had these lenses. The truth is that you can do a lot. What you want your audience to do is be shocked by which lens you used, right? I wanna show you a picture that I shot on my 70- and I want you to ask me, "Was that a 400 2.8?" And then I got ya. Right, that's the goal. You wanna leverage the equipment you have. I always carry a notepad, couple Sharpies, pens, just for making notes. My iPhone's a pretty key part of my kit. In addition to using the Sun Seeker app, I always have a Model Release app so that when I need to legally get someone's permission, they know that I shot the picture. I use the Model Release app. Let me show you one other bag, and then we'll get into some other stuff. So I love these Lowepro bags are also pretty cool in that they allow you to take the guts of the bag out. So, sometimes you get on regional jets where they see this bag and they're like, "I'm sorry, sir, you're gonna have to check that under the plane." And of course, we all say the same thing. "I can't check this bag under the plane. This is worth $25,000. This is my livelihood." And usually the flight attendants don't care. And so the cool thing about these bags is you can actually zip out just the guts and so, this is the guts, it comes out and you can leave the whole frame and wheels. You check that and this, the guts fit even in the regional jets or under the seat in front of you. So I've never actually had to put the expensive gear under the plane. This is my favorite telephoto lens, the 200-400 f/4. This was a big investment when I bought it. But it's my go-to long lens. I'll still stack converters on it. Razor sharp. Incredibly diverse in terms of focal lengths. This is, you know, again, you talk about specialty lenses. This thing is super sexy. It's a 200 f2. It's a lot of weight. You can't use it all the time, but when it works, it is just beautiful. So again, specialty. This is the stuff I don't bring on every shoot. But we're gonna be at Woodward, I want super shallow depth of field in the background. And I will say because of the internet, even for a guy like me that lives in a town like Tahoe where there's no rental house. We live in a day and age where it's easier than ever to get your hands on stuff briefly. There's online companies where you borrow it, rent it for two or three days. They're super competitively priced. And that just wasn't possible five years ago, ten years ago. Unless you lived in New York City or LA, you weren't getting your hands on gear unless you could drive to the shop and rent it. I make that point only to say, don't feel like you need to buy gear. You can also just rent it when you need it. Experiment with it, rent it. If I'm doing a lot of computer work, I'll travel with a mouse. Just pop it out so I can actually work, and a keyboard. I travel, you know, I buy a lot of hard drives, G-Tech hard drives, now we're going into solid state drives. Everything is redundant, so I'll always travel with two drives. And I try to if I can convince my clients to pay for it, we'll buy two drives, one of which goes to them, one of which stays in our office so it's always archived. Brett will kind of lead us through that dialog later. And you know, another camera body. So, that's kind of camera gear. Big picture.
So all of these camera bodies have mirrors in them, what are your thoughts on shooting mirrorless?
Yeah. I think we're gonna see in our lifetime, and I don't know anything that you guys don't know, but I think there will be a moment in our life where we switch even as still photographers, for action photography, to using mirrorless cameras. And I'll also go one step further and say that the time will come in our lives where we're shooting on mirrorless cameras, primarily video and pulling our stills right out of those files. I think we're seeing that evolution. I've done a lot of experimenting with mirrorless cameras and with really high-end action where you want precise auto-focus, razor-sharp files, incredible auto-focus tracking. Mirrorless cameras aren't there right now. They're great for big landscapes, small figures. Incredible in low light. But not quite for what we're doing in the next two days. Oftentimes, I'll pack extra bags. So here's an empty backpack. If I have the room and I can have extra checked bags. Lots of extra bags, bottom line. Extra backpack. I'm always about light and fast. Carry a monopod almost all the time, holding that 2 to 400 it's still pretty heavy. But I will say I almost never shoot on sticks or monopod unless I absolutely have to. Most of, 99% of what I do is handheld. And I'm not afraid to push the limits of shutter speed and what I can hand hold in order to get through it. This is kind of my favorite style of case, just a big Pelican case. And I'll load anything that doesn't belong in my main camera bag into one of these cases. I do a lot of work with Speedlites and larger flash systems. I also carry little LED lights. These are Litepanel Cromas with rechargeable double-A's. Sometimes it's so fast to walk into an environment and I need to shoot a portrait. I hold it or my assistant, or I put it on a stand, boom, catch light. I put a rim light. There's two lights in this pack. And the crossover into video, pretty nice these little light panels. More Pocketwizard kits and I love these little Lowepro bags, I use these a lot for just packing more stuff. And you'll see it's all labeled so I can quickly get to it. Because sometimes it's not me, it's actually I'm asking an assistant. More Pocketwizard stuff. I love zip ties. Zip ties are great. It's kind of again, MacGyvering stuff to stay where you want it to stay at the right time or for safety. It's also a deterrent for people taking your stuff. You know, it's harder to grab something when it's zip-tied to the fence. Lots of tools. I love just having tape measures, not that I love it, it's just that you need it. You need to be able to solve problems in the field. This might seem excessive but I carry a lot of walkie-talkies. You know, these are cheap, these are like 30 bucks each. And they just save the day when you need to communicate. Bottom line, buy some radios. Always have them in your bag. Just little walkie-talkies, you can certainly up your game if you want. Trash bags, clear trash bags are huge when it starts raining just for covering lights and cameras and protecting gear. I never thought I would own this thing, but boy, does it make a difference. All it takes is you're doing a shoot where there's a lot of people and it's loud, and after an hour of yelling, you start losing your voice. Not to mention it's fun. You can make fun of each other over a bullhorn. Underneath is just a packing blanket for a U-Haul truck. I love black ones. It's black on one side and white on the other. And you can use it as a backdrop, you can use for sound insulation if you're shooting video. This guy is a Scrim Jim, this is a 6 x 6' Scrim Jim. These are awesome. They're super lightweight. You can change out fabrics, you can put silks on it. You can put Duvetyne black, you can put silver reflectors, you can put white reflectors, gold reflectors. I pack all of the fabrics in these bags. I always have one of these, if I have a bag that's long enough, the 6 x 6 travels with me. If I'm traveling and I have to be super light, I bring these sand bags that I can fill with dirt when I get to the location. If I'm driving to the location, this is like 15-pounds, believe it or not. And it's shot bags, so there's just metal inside of this thing. I'm gonna do a speed unpack of my bag. This all helps me perform, but it's not photo equipment but it's really valuable stuff. I'm that goofy guy with the big floppy hat so I don't get sunburned. I always have the warm hat. I have zip ties, more trash bags. I bring lots of different gloves depending on the environment. Sometimes fleece wind stoppers, sometimes waterproof gloves. I always have a book so that I can take notes, write stuff down. Lots of layers. As photographers, we're athletes, there's down jacket, synthetic layer that I can put on underneath. Here's a six-in-one reflector kit that goes out two or three feet. Everything from silk to black, to silver, to gold. This is really key. I always have a foam pad. Because we end up in these environments where you need to lay down in the mud or sit on the snow, and you're just freezing, or you're cold, or you're miserable. So I always have that with me. This power inverter is pretty valuable. We all find ourselves in these situations your battery's dying on your computer, you're trying to process an image, these are like ten bucks and Walmart, but they just save your life. I come from a climbing background, but I find slings and carabiners are super valuable just for securing things, using for safety. You know, we're shooting in snow, we're not going to get into avalanche situations in the park, I hope. But it turns out, this is a pretty valuable tool when you need to dig out a platform. So I always keep that kit. Even though we're gonna be on skis, I'll always have a real lightweight pair of mountaineering boots so I can be more comfortable, and not be sliding around. I always have, of course, a helmet with me. Here's another layer, I have another jacket packed in there. And I'll wear a helmet a lot, even if it's not that I'm gonna fall. As photographers, we're oftentimes in harm's way. I don't wanna get hit by an athlete or their board. So you gotta protect your head, so I've always frequently have a helmet. Short piece of rope. Sometimes if I wanna secure myself or make sure I'm not gonna fall or protect the camera. Sleeping bag. Even if I'm going to a hotel, I'll frequently bring a sleeping bag for two reasons. The bed is gross. Or I'm just gonna be stuck outside shooting. I'm sitting there monitoring camera waiting for sunset, sunrise. It's like keeping your legs warm, keeping yourself comfortable is valuable. I wear glasses, so I always have extra glasses with me. If I'm sitting in my sleeping bag, I like coffee and so a little stove to brew if I need to. I even bring a coffee press, some people would say that's excessive. But pretty valuable. Another layer, a windshell, rainshell. What's in here? Oh yeah, and if you're gonna drink coffee, it needs to stay hot. So just a little mug. More headlamps just to make sure that I'm always -- These are good, ski straps are valuable. You can do a lot of fixing stuff with ski straps. So I'll always have a couple of ski straps. You know, at sunset, you need to keep that beverage cold so I have a little koozie with me. And a couple more radios. I'll also bring with me, we're gonna be in the park, and I think we're gonna have summer conditions, but I have two different styles of crampons. These are just super lightweight aluminum crampons that you can put on your running shoes if you want to. But it allows you to not slip around. Or on your ski boots. And more technical environments, I have real metal crampons so that I can not slide around. Sometimes even ice screws in a park, or if you're shooting ski racing. It's bulletproof. You're standing on ice, I'll put in an ice screw and clip my bag to it or even myself to it so I don't go flying down. I don't wanna be that guy that flies across the run on TV and then you're on Jerry of the Day Instagram feed. Ice tool. Couple of other things, little harness. This is called the Glacier Harness. These are really cheap. I would suggest everyone have them in their bag. This and a few carabiners and a piece of rope allow you to be safe when you're on the hill. Or even on a park where you're leaving over a feature and you don't wanna fall into the feature. Really valuable. Small tripod, I always have a few different options. This is super lightweight for remote cameras. Of course, goggles with multiple lenses. This is the most important tool in your kit next to the extra batteries. You can solve almost any problem with duct tape. I'll bring some knee pads if I know I'm just gonna be squatting all day long. And in the park, that's a really common reality. You're sort of right on the edge of a feature. You're kneeling down, it feels fine for about the first 10 minutes and then the next seven hours it's really painful. Avalanche transceiver. Another monopod. And then I'll always bring a real backpack that's not a photo backpack. There are situations where photo backpacks are fine, but there are also situations where you actually need to be an athlete. And bringing the camera, you know, I stuff that on top of all of the other gear I need to be safe and comfortable. So I'll bring a Black Diamond backpack in many cases. These are Aquatech rain covers. So if it's really gonna be crappy outside. I think this is for a 200 and this is for a 24-70. And these are glorified trash bags and these are like several hundred dollar trash bags but they allow you to keep on working in really inclement weather. Some probes. Some skins for skiing. Staying hydrated, a water bottle. Like I said, I have an issue with coffee. A lot of coffee. Some hand sanitizer. Some hand warmers. More sunblock. And Red Bull or alcohol or some combination of the two.