What's Inside my Camera Bag
One of the questions I get asked most often is in regards to the camera equipment I shoot with. Over the years I have owned many different brands of cameras. I started photography with a Minolta film camera, then moved on to own other brands including Pentax, Olympus, Mamiya, Canon & Nikon. When I was shooting as a beginner and amateur, I constantly sought the guidance of those established pro photographers whom inspired me. I wanted to know what camera gear they used to capture their amazing images. I have put this page together to provide info and answers to frequent questions I get from people. In this blog post, you will get a chance to take a peek inside my camera bag to see what I carry with me.
Cameras & Lenses
I have used Nikon cameras since 1980 after switching from a Canon system. At the time, I was using Nikon pro-film cameras such as the Nikon F4. Today, my current gear bag includes two camera bodies, a Nikon D3s and D4, both full-frame digital SLRs or DSLR. Among some of the lenses that I own, I have a Nikon 16mm f/2.8 fisheye which can be a fun lens to work with and one that sometimes use for northern lights photography.
My choice of lenses covers a versatile focal length. My telephoto Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8 is my 'go to' lens. It is a very nice lens, somewhat heavy but the image quality and ability to diffuse backgrounds make it an essential for my kit list. I absolutely love this lens! I keep this lens on my D3s camera body most of the time while shooting in Alaska. For me, the 80-200mm f/2.8 is a great all-round lens and covers many situations such as shooting from our vehicle to people portraits. I often use this telephoto zoom for scenics as you can isolate distant compositions, essential for landscapes and seascapes from a sightseeing vessel in the fjords. Sometimes I use my Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8 if I want a wider angle when working from vessels. This lens is capable of capturing pin-sharp images at very low shutter speeds, even when handheld.
Lastly, I have a huge 300mm f/2.8 monster telephoto lens! This lens is amazing and the clarity is phenomenal. This is a hefty lens which requires a lot of respect, therefore I always use this with a tripod. I have used it handheld along with a Nikon 1.4 Teleconverter but you need to make sure you have high shutter speeds to maintain sharpness. I use this lens for most of my wildlife photography. With the teleconverter on, it gives me a total of 420mm without loosing any image quality. This converter is amazing and I have yet to see any image quality issues!
How I carry along two cameras
I am convinced that sling straps are the way to go for me. They are easy to use, comfortable to wear, and are safer if you are climbing around to get a shot because the camera is less in the way. If you need to carry two cameras like I do, the Black Rapid Double is an excellent choice. From a purely material perspective, it is expensive for what it is, but it is not unreasonable for what it does which is make shooting faster, easier, and more effective while reducing muscle stress and physical fatigue. It kind of depends on your perspective, but for me it rates as one of my better gear buys. There is no better way to carry and shoot with two cameras in my opinion.
The Black Rapid Double is great for shooting with two cameras using hand holdable lenses. For example, I put a 80-200mm on my Nikon D3s on one side and a 300mm F2.8 on my Nikon D4 on the other and loved the ease with which I could change cameras. Lower one and pick up the other; I can’t imagine anything quicker.
For those days when you want to catch a sunset or the northern lights, you won’t want to be without your tripod. Traveling with a heavy, bulky tripod is no longer painful. I own a carbon fiber Manfrotto tripod with a Giotto ball head. My tripod has travelled thousands of miles and has seen all types of weather conditions. All my lenses and camera bodies are fitted with Kirk Enterprises quick-release plates. I've replaced the lens foot on my Nikkor 300mm and installed Kirk L-Brackets on both cameras which make it very easy to put on and take off the tripod and adds ease switching from horizontal to vertical mounting positions.
Remote Camera Release
I've recently invested in a Hahnel Giga T Pro II remote release which operates wired or wireless. This set up works well for northern lights photography or long exposure shots. This is a very handy addition to my gear. Very reliable.
Memory Cards, Storage and Image Processing
When away from the office, I use an Apple MacBook Pro 15" to review and edit images, storing them on LaCie 1TB Rugged firewire drives. I use a LaCie RAID hard drives to store my images. For image storage for my Nikon cameras while shooting, I use SanDisk 64Gb memory cards for the simple reason that I have never had an issue with them. Each of my Nikon cameras have dual memory card slots for a combined storage total of 128Gb each!
When I get done for the day, I will edit all of the photos using Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop. Post image processing is part 2 of making a great photograph.
For lighting, I use Nikon SB800 Speedlights and I also carry a Photoflex 20" reflector disc. For cleaning, I use lens cloths which are critical for dust, sand, and dirt that appear on your lenses. A “puffer style” blower will keep your mirrors and sensor spotless. I also carry several sizes of zip lock bags especially if I am heading off to a wet or rainy location. I like to keep a couple spare gallon sized zip lock bags to hold lenses and camera when you need to keep shooting in spite of the weather. I also use them to put my camera inside the bags to avoid condensation caused by moving camera from very cold temperatures to room temperature. I also carry a few filters with me such a ND 9-stop filter which I use for waterfalls or other cool effects; Circular polarzer filters and a few graduated filters.
Traveling with all that gear
No tourist bags here. When you are traveling on a photographic journey, you need to protect your gear with something durable, water resistant, and maintain accessibility. After many years trying to find the right bag to carry all of my stuff, I found the F-stop bags. This is my bag of choice to transport my gear around when traveling and I have their Tilopa backpack. The main compartment has enough space for my Nikon D3s & D4 camera bodies, 80-200mm 2.8 lens, 24-70mm 2.8 lens, 16mm 2.8 lens, 300mm 2.8 lens, two Nikon Speedlights, and a 1Tb external hard drive. In the zipper top inside, I can keep my lens cloths and cleaner, my card reader, my extra CF cards and any other small items I may need. There are other pockets and webbing on the outside of this bag to carry a tripod, rain jacket or parka, etc. Finally, the there is a zipper compartment on the front of the bag where I can keep my iPad. I love this backpack not only because it holds all of my camera gear pictured here but the fact that it also fits perfectly in the overhead compartments of airplanes.