Photo Gear - what I use and how I use it

If you take photography seriously, you eventualt end up with a bunch of gear. Much of it is heavy, all of it is expensive. The real trick for me has been figuring out what to take and what not to take on any given shoot. Here is a list of the gear I use as well as my standard shooting configurations.

Gear

Cameras

  • Nikon D3S: This is my "go to" camera. It shoots up to 11 frames per second, is usable up to ISO 3200, and it produces 14 bit files at 12 megapixels. All this adds up to great available light photographs and lots of versatility. Oh - and did I mention is shoots HD video!

    The downside is that the D3s is a beast. It's big, it's heavy, and it looks intmidating. Depending on the situation, this can be good or bad. If I am shooting in a market or crowded street, people often assume that a bigger camera means a professional photographer. Sometimes this means I get to take photographs that tourists don't get to take, sometimes this means I am waved away.

  • Nikon D3X: Even though it looks the same, this is a completely different camera from the D3. It is slow (4 fps at full resolution) and it is barely usable at ISO 1600. But when you shoot it at ISO 100 or 200, you get 24 megapixel images that rival the image quality of a medium format. I don't think of my D3X as an SLR, I think of it as a medium format camera - spectacular portraits and landscapes, not applicable for action or low light.

Lenses

  • Nikon 24-70 f2.8: If I can only take one lens, it is this one. It is very sharp at f4 and solid at f2.8.
  • Nikon 70-200 f2.8 AF-S VR: This is a classic photo journalism lens. With VR I can handhold down to 1/30th of a second even at 200 mm. Very sharp, even at f2.8.
  • Nikon 300 f2.8 AFS (non-VR): This is my wildlife lens. I only ever shoot it at f2.8 and the results are glorious.
  • Nikon TC 14E Teleconverter: Works acceptably with the 70-200 and very well with the 300.
  • Nikon TC 20E Teleconverter: Unisably soft with 70-200 and acceptable well with the 300.
  • Nikon 28 1.4 AF-S: This is an absolutely superb video lens.
  • Nikon 14 2.8: This is a pretty exotic lens that I use primarily for landscapes where I want to exagerate a foreground element such as a rock or flowers and still include background for context.
  • Nikon 85 3.5 PC-E Tilt & Shift: Very cool for landscapes. The tilt and shift functionality allows you to alter the focal plane and get a very large depth of field.
  • baLens White Balance Lens Cap: A nifty little gadget that allows you to set a custom white balance based on available light and also doubles as a lens cap. I have one for my 85 1.4 and my 50 1.4 (both of my "available light" lenses).

Flashes

  • Nikon SB-800: Good all-round flash. TTL-BL mode is very unpredictable. Set it to straight TTL mode and dial in an exposire compensation of negative 1 2/3 stops.
  • Nikon SB-600: always set to slave mode and used as fill when paired with the SB-800
  • Nikon SC-28 Flash Cable

Tripods & Supports

  • Gitzo GT-1550T Traveler 6X Carbon Fiber Tripod: A very sturdy compact tripod that folds down to about 12 inches.
  • Gitzo GT5541LS Systematic 6X Carbon Fiber Tripod: Lightweight and sturdy tripod that has no center column so you can put the camera close to ground level.
  • Acratech GV2 Ballhead: Very solid ballhead that does not get gummed up with dust or sand (unlike my old Arca Swiss B1-A that completely seized up).
  • Really Right Stuff plates and L-brackets: These seem more expensive than they should be but they are really well made anf have never let me down.

Bags

  • Think Tank Photo Airport Antidote V 2.0 Backpack: Fits in all plane carryons - even the small ones. Holds a laptop, 2 SLRs and a bunch of lenses.
  • Tenba Messenger: Great if I just want one camera, a flash and a couple of lenses.

Computers & Printers

  • 13 inch MacBook with 4GB RAM: Runs lightroom and photoshop like a dream
  • G-RAID 2 1TB RAID: External hard drive that automatically makes two copies of your data on two hard disks. That way if one drive fails (and all drives fail eventually) your data is still safe.
  • Seagate Free Agent 500GB Drives: I store off-site backups of my photographs on these. I have two and rotate them monthly.
  • Dell 2707 WFP 27 inch monitor: Not as good as a 30 inch Apple Cinema display but about half the price and still very good color.
  • X-Rite Color Munki Profiler: Good monitor and projector profiling. I have NOT been able to get it to work with my Canon 9500 printer due to driver incompatibility problems.
  • Canon PIXMA PRO 9500 Printer: Archival prints up to 13x19. Very wide color gammut. I pretty much always print on Ilford Gallerie Smooth Premium Pearl paper. Download the profile from Ilford and have Photoshop manage print colors.

Configurations

Travel

  • Think Tank Photo Airport Antidote Backpack
  • Nikon D3s with 70-200 f2.8 attached
  • Nikon D3X with 24-70 f2.8 attached
  • Nikon 28 f1.4
  • Nikon SB-800 Flash
  • Gitzo GT-1550T Traveler 6X Carbon Fiber Tripod
  • Macbook 13 inch Laptop

Landscape

  • Think Tank Photo Airport Antidote Backpack
  • Nikon D3X with 24-70 f2.8 attached
  • Nikon D3s as a backup camera
  • Nikon 70-200 f2.8
  • Nikon 85 f3.5 Tilt & Shift
  • Nikon 14 f2.8
  • Gitzo GT5541LS Systematic 6X Carbon Fiber Tripod
  • Macbook 13 inch Laptop

Events

  • Tenba Messenger
  • Nikon D3s with 24-70 f2.8 attached
  • Nikon 70-200 f2.8
  • Nikon SB-800 Flash