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Lesson 25 from: Create Powerful Photo Essays & Personal Projects

David H Wells

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Lesson Info

25. Gear

Next Lesson: Shooting Approach

Lesson Info


What is camera gear do? We're talking about camera here yesterday when we were it solves a problem right? There's something in front of you want to record share make a video of a still of that's what that's what year does so I'm going to take you through what I carry in what I use when I'm on location and this is a little movie time laughs showing my bag the role of the rolling bag that I use on the airplane being unpacked and you'll notice I don't use dividers some camera bags have those dividers I found a more efficient to actually use individual cases but that's just me I'm gonna walk you through what I use and at some point in time you should say, well that's nice but why? Okay, so let me talk for a bit about why use what I used many many years ago when I started out with film that other technology I used cannons when I first started and then I briefly used actually olympus film cameras and then I use an icon for a very long time and as I'm going through these each different kind o...

f year I have a different set of problems I'm trying to solve and then they used my cons for many years I was force enough to get a grant from nikon, so that made it a little better att the time in the eighties and then in the nineties, I switched to contacts range finders when doing which are like like us, but they're auto focus and my eyes being what they are. The idea of having auto focused to do better than what I could do was great like us, and contacts is both do not have the mirror box that the sellers of all kinds have the mirror flaps up and down, which can shake the camera, but they're much smaller. They have really beautiful lenses. They're very small. They're very good for travelling there, much less threatening. So from about ninety three two, two thousand three, when I went digital, I was using contacts, range finders and making slides, and I was a happy camper because color slides were perfect when you made a good color slide, nobody could mess it up. Digital came along and ruined that whole thing, unfortunately. And so I did not have what are called legacy linds. His most people who pick cannons or night cons have candid zorn icons from before mike legacy lenses were contacts, contacts did not go digital, so I looked around and I was trying to find the thing that was closest to what I had before, and it turned out actually, to be olympus cameras. Because they were made to create right for digital rather than retrofitting with older film lances, and so I started using the olympus dslr and then about four years ago I started formally working with olympus and I am sponsored by olympus, but I used the year because it solves my problem that's the reason I use it so let me show you what I use and then I'm going to chase and videos of the year and used and I'm going to bring out a camera, talk a little bit more about the problem solving thing and then ideally get some questions so I use the limp is michael for third systems camera, they are mirror this we're talking about this guy when yesterday it's a big part of the right there not just because of the lack of mirror because the mirror, when it goes up and down, does in fact shake your camera it's smaller it's lighter all that stuff goes in that bag that you saw, I looked much less threatening than some of you you all do, you'll have like that eighty two, two hundred with a gigantic lens hood you know? You turn too fast and you just killed three kids I have this little little tiny stuff so what's in the bag what's in the the kid that I'm usually using when I'm shooting most of the time I start with olympus o m g m one camera, which is the top of the line camera that olympus makes in the micro for third line I'll show that camera later when we bring it out I use a siri's of mostly fixed focal length lenses I have some zooms in my bed in my bag but most the time I'm trying to use the fixed focal length lenses as I said before our jobs photographers tell the viewer look at this don't look at that and focus is probably the best way of telling the viewer don't look at that look at this and so most of my stuff and increasingly I'm doing more and more video and most video stuff is almost always done with a fixed focal length limbs at the maximum aperture so I can control that focus so this is the twenty four millimeter f two after the conversion factor. This is a thirty four millimeter one point after the conversion factor I do have is a backup in my bag pretty much all the time and I must say I don't use it often but I like to have it a twenty to three hundred zoom because it covers a whole range but it is not particularly fast in terms of maximum aperture but when you're a professional and when people start paying you for these jobs that we're talking about, you can't say them ah, my years right? So I always have a back of everything in digital is backup double back upon the storage, which we'll talk about later and double options on the lenses and cameras, because I have two cameras at all times. Um, another zoom that I have is a backup is an eighteen to thirty six after the conversion factor. So in theory, I can go from eighteen to three hundred and two lenses. If everything else falls apart, don't use that much. I tend to use when's like this is a single fixed focal length. Uh, ninety millimeter. One point eight after the conversion factor, my current favorite land would have been working with for about six months. It's one hundred and fifty millimeter, one point eight after the conversion factor. So it's, sort of short to medium telephoto. But at one point eight the subject's eyes and focus and the ear in the back is already going out. Really concentrates the viewer's attention. I use this a little bit in the pre shoot, uh, demo that we made the video off andi, my starting point lens is actually of common lands that most people use, which is after the conversion is twenty four to eighty. But it's two point eight throughout so I oftentimes we use that teo very the focal length kind of think through what my photographs were going to be and then frequently I'll go actually the single focal length limbs to control the depth of field war I like it because it's two point eight throughout it covers that range that we most commonly used twenty four to eighty and it's very compact and pretty easy use. The second camera I use is olympus pan epi five it does not have that electronic viewfinder it's the one where you have to typically viewed on the back, which, as you saw from when I did a little shooting demo I don't really care I do a lot of stuff on the back of the camera. One of the nice things that I like about the p five is it has a little built in electronic flash that you can pop up and you would be surprised how often I use that little flash to just put a little bit of light under people's chan's in their eyes and stuff like that and typically I'll turn the flash output way down so it's just a little bit of light going into them um I do typically carry a larger electronic flash is well, this is the olympus it's ah f l six hundred and our which basically tells you that it works wirelessly without a cable to the flash, and then it also has a little light on the front for video, so you can just turn it on, turn it on and project a little bit of, uh, constant light under the subject. When you're doing video, I will talk about this a great length and just a little bit. This is my table top tripod and the tripod that I use is a mix of two pieces the company called really write stuff, which is actually in california makes a really fabulous set of legs, and then I use the jo b ball head, and I've tested every ball head out there, it's the best one that gives me the ability to do slow panning smoothly without buying a gigantic panning head. I also used on olympus audio recorder, increasingly for the multimedia pieces in the interviews and the video projects that I'm doing, and then I carry a flashlight, which is just general safety thing, but also post foreclosure, getting because I actually did a lot of light paying the first couple foreclosures with my iphone, believe it or not, which worked out fine, but you're sucking down batteries really fast, so now I just carry a flashlight sort of automatically so that's everything that's in my when I'm out shooting, if you saw the video, actually typically used two cameras all that stuff is on either in pouches on my belt or a belt bag and the idea behind that is I can get to the reason I carry two cameras is I can get to if I need to change flash cards is faster to change cameras I need change lenses typically faster to just grab another camera than it is to actually go through all the problems of doing that if I need to change batteries same thing I have it all there, so I got used to doing two cameras back when I was shooting color slides and now I just do it by default in terms of double back up on the other. The nice thing is all those lenses are so small that they fit on the camera we're into the bags on my belt to get the kind of shallow focus limited depth of field that is a really important part of the work I'm doing these days the other things that are in my they're also in that bag that I don't necessarily carry around every day but I have with me another olympus lens after the conversion factor this is a twenty four to one hundred it's not a fixed aperture lands which is unfortunate but it was called electronic zoom so when you turned to zoom unlike with your raider zooms whereas you turn it kind of goes like thiss one if you turn the electronic switch on you, turn it and there's a motor inside and slowly isms in or slowly assumes out which were videos really, really helpful? Um, this is the big lens one fifty two, six hundred don't use it that much, but it's very nice to have that one handy um one twenty macro lens, which, again, this is another one of those things which I don't use a whole lot, but when I choose to use it to great actually very nice portrait lens, very nice with a shallow depth of field, especially for getting close, um and because it's so small it's another one of those things that fits into the bag really easily, and now I'm going to go into a hole siri's of accessories that I have in my bag, this is not a go out and buy these kind of things, but what other problems? I'm trying to solve big problems. I gotta carry all that stuff and I'm used to working is a one person or one man band, so I got to carry all that stuff most of it's said on my belt here, the secondary lands, they just show you have to be handy for backup here, for example, this is the microphone adaptor on the far left and the microphone either in the middle or an external microphone then goes into the top of the camera and sense the sound into it matches the video perfectly this's another product by that company called really write stuff it's tripod leveling plate so if I'm going to put my tripod somewhere even if it's my table top tripod and I want to do some kind panorama left to right with video or with the still I want to have my tripod level and this is the most efficient way I found to get my tripod level I have a very nice little gps tracker this um turn it on in the morning, get the signal I usually wear it around my neck frankly, and this is my shirt pocket when I'm doing jobs and then I get home at night and then I download the gps information it crossed connects the locations and all that and they're embedded in the photos and then I would never have to look him up later at the client's increasingly clients want stuff geo tagged for travel work like I'm doing I'm not so sure specific that's yours though I will say it one point time cindy with yours, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if you start getting clients say, well, we're interested in this one of the other things is where is all this stuff so you might want to at some point time and to pile of things to learn is geo tagging your photos? Um that same company really write stuff which is based in central valley, california really love a lot of their gear they make this very groovy little thing the red piece of the top fits inside the peace of the bottom and it does two things it can serve as an extender for your tripod but it's also a screwdriver hex ranch phillips head flathead twenty two different bits and so I can take apart and fix almost anything which again, when you're in the field somebody's depending on you, you can't really call him up and say something broke emergency whistle, which I don't have to use very often but it's a good thing to have handy flashcard wallet every interesting flashcard wallop but there's a logic to my flash card waller and again the only thing that ever matters when somebody stands up and says buy this buy that asking just say why, why? And if they say well, because they pay me that's not a good answer if they say and I'm gonna explain why I used this particular flashcard wall on the second they give you a logical reason you might consider or which almost guaranteed should do is you should say okay, I'm gonna take that strategy and build it into my price this I do not use big cars I think cards are up sixty four gigs now I use force an eighth I never ever want to put one entire job on sixty four gigs and loser crash card um, so I typically use four gigs increasing I'm using eight because of video I used sd cards and, um that way the job is spread out among multiple flash cards, so I can't do anything stupid in a crash card. Did you crash one? Remember how I've put it in the camera a little wrong run? Well, I've been to pin or even just, you know, transferring files on my computer. I mean, those with typical is the most common waves that most people crashed cars I've actually crashed three cards in last ten years. I know this the hard way you're in the middle of shooting something really exciting it's really going really want and you get down the end if there's no almost no pictures left, they say you gotta change the card because the guy just took a breather so you're looking at the camera, you turn it off the little like little red light goes and it goes one, two, three and if you wait till one, two, three or maybe five, but you wait to all of that and take a deep breath then you open the door and take it out you'll be fine, which you did or what I did in all three cases one to go and you crash the card okay? And sometimes you and you should actually have on your laptop card recovery programs I have three card recovery programs from this usually fixes it this is getting to be a pain oh my god, I got to do something or else I'm stuck and I worked my way up there because I've unfortunately had to recover cards of mine three times and I've had to recover cars from other people I've worked with a number of times so the way you crash a card or you don't does this idol came to change the card? You turn the camera off it's like oh okay, I'll be patient then you change the card, everything will be fine and also the pins khun b a problem not getting it in there right? I actually don't like as d cards I find them fragile I prefer the old cf cards they were bulletproof but everything is going to sd cards to go back again to the logic of my particular flashcard wallet is that that red belt there is clipped on my milk because we've all done this we open a flashcard wallet, we put it on the table and you take a card out and then you walk away mine's actually attached so I look like an idiot with this thing waving in the wind but it's attached to me so I don't lose flashcard wallets anymore which means uh what else is in the bag my gerber brand multiplier which I can't take on the carry on on airplanes anymore sadly so it has to go in the checked bags uh my sennheiser noise canceling headphones so when I go in the airplane's my head doesn't rattle and there's a case for that as well as extra batteries in an ipod shuffle I do a lot of time lapse animations these days for the video projects that I'm doing and so I use what's called a digital shutter timer controller there also basically called interval ah mater's are basically the same thing it's a little something either freestanding piece of gear or increasingly you khun by an app and then a cable that go into camera basically tells the camera take a picture every ten seconds every thirty seconds every one minute and started an hour starting five hours and so I'm doing more and more time lapse animation so this is my shutter controller timer the cable little raincoat cover and all this other stuff which fits in that one pouch on my belt um I really liked the kalyan matt one calumet sadly just went out of business a camera streak element if you didn't know they just went into business in the us there are other companies that make the same thing what it is I like about this one and I would encourage you to look at is that the controller and the cable are separate if you brand if you tend to buy the brand specific one you buy one from one camera manufacturer only works on one camera and you can't interchange when you buy the next model this way I've bought the control reunite once and every time I get to get a new camera I may have to buy a new six dollars cable so that's why I prefer this particular model and there are the companies out there that make it tell you it is not the only one also in my bag are, um spare batteries that's the twenty two, three hundred zoom I talked about before there's the elektronik viewfinder that I can slide into the camera that did not have a viewfinder so I can use it like a regular viewfinder if I want another plastic bag for rain very paranoid about rain because I work in india a lot um this is what usually is right around my waist here, which is why I'm doing this gesture and if you'll notice it's camping here it's not actually photography gear and they're a lot of good photography's stuff out there what happens have you made by a company called mountain smith and to the right and the left of center are those net things which of course made for water bottles but they work really well for lenses it's exactly right so when I'm on a serious job there's this big thing here some lenses they're the flash tabletop tripod is actually in the front with the yellow cords and then there's the two cameras down there and I can I can do anything um other stuff again, this is mostly in the checked bag of some pin adaptor so I could work around the globe battery charger it all fits in one case cords, cords, cords and then I typically carry a siri's of portable hard drives to do the backup depending on my level of paranoia and my level of how far off I'm going to be basically off the grid I'll take two or sometimes three portable hard drives they are bus powered they get the power right from the computer so I don't have to get power from the wall you'll notice I have two cables there most of the failings in your hard drives if you're nice to them if you're nice, you're hard drives are typically in the cable and where the cable plugs into your hard drive do you know how to ruin a hard life like I was talking about this yet straight butt just to reiterate it hard drive are really, really fragile when they're hot so if you've used it and you kick in the case of the max you kick it out of the windows you unplug it and then you let it sit for half a now when it cools down and is very happy you shouldn't be throwing it but it's not a sensitive but and this is my twenty one year old daughter I'm making a joke about their generation is maurin prone to take them when they're still hot and throw them into their backpacks? That is actually what most typically harms hard hard drives because they're very sensitive when they're hot so let it cool down that's why I was saying to treat it gently put it away gently it should live a nice happy life I also I actually do label my with contents I know that changes but it tells me what I'm looking at inside again two chords um if I'm in a high level of paranoia again I'll carry multiple ones of five hundred one and maybe three hundred won this is the sanitizer shotgun microphone that I use increasingly for the audio to get it into the camera you'll notice that there's another one of those adapters in the middle another one of the small microphones to get the sound from the microphone into the camera same thing that there's a potential failure point there okay, all this stuff increasingly is the other thing is I can now use an iphone as a backup audio recorder as well, if I have the correct aps and the correct cables so my iphone actually serves increasing is my backup recorder because everything everything I do is gonna have to, um another one of my backup lenses a fourteen to forty that I don't use very much it's the kid lands what it called straight brackets these air from the old days of flash photography where you actually put the flashlight off the camera it's actually out to the side and that's actually increasing where my microphone coast pen adapters to work with wall plugs around the globe the dust blower slash mucus extractor every member of that from that's the one I actually used to pull the snot out of my twenty one year old daughter's nose they're actually really good because they're much cheaper than the ones you get in a camera store you could get him like in the drugstore cvs, walgreens for life four dollars and the really nice thing if you saw the front there's a clear tips so you can take it out and you can actually get the dust out so actually prefer these over the photo the photo based ones um I haven't unlocked sim card nokia phone I can use anywhere in the world I bought it in india a few years ago was forty dollars and so every time I go to a new country I can get a new sim card so I can stay in touch post it notes the debt powered after more cores in this case for the digital projectors. When I'm doing presentations, there's my hat, my paper, fashion item, water bottle tissues and then I carry around a polaroid pogo increasingly probably it's, usually right over here on my belt it's the actual piece of gear right there in the middle, that rectangular printer on the left is the power charger, and then on the right are the paper that are going to make the prince and when we're out photographing anywhere but especially in the third world, we always said we should give them print we should do something nice, I actually give them prints, I'll have a shoot and then also okay, these people I spent enough time with him, I'm going to give a friend so I reach over, pull the pogo out, plug it in and talk about we're going to show you a movie here in just a second about this exact idea of giving something back to people to soothe. Can you wait? Wait, wait a minute. Ah, so that's a polaroid pogo poggio the it's, a dye sub printer that thie is technically built on paper, so there's not a lot of parts to change they're like seventy or eighty bucks the sheets of paper depending how you buy them could be cheap is about twelve cents each they are target marketed a teenage girls and cell phones they're not aimed a photographer I have no idea why nobody of polaroid never thought this but it sits right there and the only thing you probably saw it is you have to decide so I want to have what we call a pogo party because everybody's going to come out and they all want to be photographed and it's a great time but has contended beating two hours you could run through a pack of paper or two but those people in guatemala they got prints out of this interaction and we always say that but I actually do that and I'm a really big proponent of pogo it's real simple thing to use besides just being a nice human thing it's kind of right you know they've given us something something back further stuff I carry an inverter so I can charge my batteries in a car if I have to flash card readers um a battery charger for my camera I am all about size and weight and how little can I carry? So I used these batteries which by a company called us b cell it's a british company there double a's and the top pops off and sew it plugs into a little usb hub this is another image of it and so I can carry four double a's and the usb hub which I have to have with me anyway and not carry one more battery charger so always about how little can I carry because I have to carry so much stuff anyway um thes air the adapters for the digital projectors which I sometimes carry maur adaptors the little the light blue and dark blue thing in the upper left hand corner those are pin plates when you're in a hotel in singapore you push them in there and it opens the safety locked so you can actually get your power adapters in there there's usb drives there's more power adapters for different places in the world is the syria stereo splitter and there's hair bands because my wife and my daughter freaking they look to me and say you have a hair band I just it's just easier to have it so that's that's in there as well my electronic flash which the big thing about electronic for flash from me is it has to have um the tilting flash head because I do a lot of bounce with electronic flash I try not to do on camera direct flash if I can um and then I have a folding flash diffuser there are millions of diffusers out there I just like this one causes folds flat it's all about size for me and wait and then I had these two different gels that I made up because ninety percent of the flash work I do is either typically in daylight. We don't have to worry about the color quality of the light or the bottom one is orange, so that I put it over the flash light comes out orange, I set my white balance for tungsten and the background in the flash, then match or the top is for fluorescent, so put it over. The flash light comes out green and in the background is corrected when you set the white balance camera for fluorescent and they're complementary colors and they cancel each other out, and those are the two that I use the most, and this is not a class on flash on a class on flash jails, but I'm just trying to show you all the stuff that typically goes in that role on bag right there and it's not going to go back in there and so that's the problem I have to say about problems I have to try to solve the weight the size is enormously important. The lack of a mirror toe work in lower light to give me more camera stability, the ability to have a lot of different focal length so I can have a large, maximum aperture. To have two cameras and to have that all fit in one bag so that solves my problem don't go out by him but next time anybody sells anything, just ask him why so someone saw this presentation recently they asked me important question during this presentation they saw me talk about the micro four thirds camera the olympus is and they said you's a funny little camera you call yourself a professional so I went in I dug out this picture which was made in india about a year and a half ago. Yeah, maybe about a graphical. This is the original that's the magazine cover it became and then I actually put him over each other and I realized that the publisher actually made some fake sky but that image is about two thirds of the original capture and it was a magazine cover another image for the same client different shoot over two pages. So this is the final usage which came from that photo which you'll notice is cropped from that photo. So we were discussing this yesterday about because you're thinking of migrating to amir liss from one of the other brands of cameras. And so, yes, I use that funny little camera and I do consider myself a professional and ninety percent of, well eighty five percent what I've been showing you from india was all done digitally and basically also done on some of the different olympus cameras, maybe some of the earlier dslr but for the last five or six years it's all been the micro four thirds and so yes, I am a professional. Um actually, let me back up a second. Are there any questions out there? It was you there a lot, okay? And you're answering a lot of them as well. So kathy wanted to know and we're right on topic with this. Do you ever feel of this at anything you can't do with the micro? Four thirds? Well, this particular one with the o m b e m one they've really gotten the high so up to the quality that it isn't there's no longer a problem, the very cup first couple, generation of micro, four thirds and the mere lees cameras on, not unique to olympus, the refugee wasn't that old, but the old sony's and some of the other panasonic the first generations were not so great it high. This one is really very good at high I so? So I've found that opened up a whole new set of opportunities, and then the fixed focal length lenses his large max after I can go farther into low light than I used to be able to, I'm sure the really, really high end, full frame cameras we'll go to a high rise, so I haven't encountered that high, so problem, but I'm guessing it won't go as far as some of the other ones with all my video projects, and I have a video page, which is video, the wells point and all sure so little all my video's done with those cameras and I have had no problems in terms of video give me both vagabond and claire of our a like to know how large of a print can you get for exhibitions with the camera? I am having an exhibition at monmouth university in one with new jersey in september, october november of some twenty by twenty force from the foreclosure project, and I when it was working with my my friend abigail, this printer and she was putting him up, and she said, you know, we can go at least two sizes bigger, and then I was thinking of the logistics of getting him from california, where she lives, so we stopped at twenty by twenty four, but I could do twenty by twenty four without breaking a sweat. I'm going to do work flow a little later, and the other part of that work flow is getting your exposure right, making good, raw file going through this whole really disciplined thing about getting just the right file quality. To the camera, but I'm very good at that, so making twenty by twenty four from those cameras is pretty easy because you know, it's the garbage in garbage out or good material in good material out any easy would like to know, do you do your own cleaning? I am incredibly fortunate. The olympus is our self cleaning when you turn them on there's a little blue light that flashes, apparently it vibrates the sensor, they tell me thirty thousand times, and so it shakes the dust off, and I know this because I very briefly when I was going digital rented a big set of stuff from another manufacturer, and I went and did the whole shooting. I was changing lenses like I used to do in the old days, just like I was comfortable doing the film, my first big digital shoot and I came back and it's just dust everywhere because this particular brand, if you don't have to diss, did not have self cleaning ship, and so when I bet about olympus having the self cleaning shit because I work someone in the third world and on the road, I said that's for me and I tried it out, and so I actually don't have to clean I actually know nothing about cleaning, so I'm very fortunate there.

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David H Wells - Business
David H Wells - Literary Journals List.pdf
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David Wells - Keynote Day 2.pdf
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Ratings and Reviews


First off, I was a photo assistant for a few years to a photographer who did numerous multi-day workshops. This was my first time as a student sitting in on a webinar that actually kept me interested. Sometimes I'm turned off by the pace of the teacher, his or her voice, or the manner in which they disseminate the information. But this was truly fantastic. David showed lots of his work in a way that was NOT egotistical in any sense (something that does happen quite often). I was utterly impressed by the quality of his work, the wealth of knowledge he has on the world, culture and politics, and how he shoots "on the go". All of those qualities are essential parts to creating a great photo essay/story. I came into this seminar needing inspiration and in the end I have more ideas than I know what to do with. David's work is truly magnificent; his photo stories pertain to people and their struggles, which really could be something any one of us could go through at any point, but he shows it in a way that is beautiful - either beautifully desperate or beautifully destructive - instead of in an exploitative way. On a side note, he also offered up a lot of great information having to do with funding, exposure, workflow, time efficiency, income streams, releases... you won't find this a lot with other photographers. You will find the "go find the info yourself" attitude. This has been my problem as of late with photography - we don't work together as artists, we work against each other competing for what, I'm not sure. David's seminar seemed to embrace photography as the art form it is, and shared with us the tools that we as artists need to really understand and utilize in order to get our story out there. A story it seems he really wants to see/hear. Just an amazing "Thank You"!!!!

a Creativelive Student

I have purchased a number of classes on Creative Live. This class taught by David Wells is one of the best. David is a thorough teacher, personal and connects with his students. Along with his superb and inspiring imagery David talked about his experiences in getting funding, his workflow, developing his stories and distributing his work. David is talented, generous and an excellent teacher. Highly recommended class.

Anjani Millet

Just completed the course. Fantastic, practical information on everything from grant writing, finding foundations, proposal development, even how to shake hands overseas. I am not sure where else I would have found this information for photographers. So appreciate it. One friend asked if this would be worth watching for anyone outside the US and the answer is a definitive yes. Very happy I purchased, and already starting to implement.

Student Work