My Gear – And How I Use It

This is a post I made for Matt Granger’s Reader’s Gear (formerly  ThatNikonGuy)

Introduction

First off, there are two things that I almost always have with me:

Lenspen:  Because, you’re a filthy oily animal who will eventually touch the glass and worry about it later.

Cut-proof Sunsniper Steel sling: Because other people are filthy oily animals who will eventually try to steal your camera.

Otherwise, my gear is split into basically four load-outs:

– Street
– Vacation
– Events/Photojournalist Style
– Sports/Wildlife

Street:
My ever-present D800 and a prime in my Tamrac Rally 5 bag.  The 50mm f1.8 has basically been supplanted by the new Sigma 35mm f1.4.  Not only is the Sigma awesome, but somehow, when I put the camera to my eye after seeing a potential shot, the 35mm frame fits better to what I had in my head.

Usually, that’s it, but maybe I’ll throw a flash or more likely a convenience zoom in there too just in case, especially if on vacation.

Vacation:
A subset of ‘street’ for me is ‘vacation’ where I always add a superzoom.  My recommendation: get one that zooms to around 300mm because when you’re shooting in bright daylight at f8, all lenses are sharp enough. I use the 28-300.

Sometimes I use an SB-700 with an orange gel, for that ten-millionth sunrise shot of my girlfriend or kids – but if you do that on vacation, you’re really obsessive.  Like me.

Events:
Light/PJ: Pack the D800 and 24-70 f2.8 in the Tamrac with an SB-900 and PocketWizards, or take the Nikon 70-200 f2.8 VRII and leave the PocketWizards at home.

Heavy: Alternatively, I pack it all in my Case Logic SLR Camera/Laptop Backpack with PocketWizards and stuff some SB-700s in the free space.

If you don’t have an assistant, and no space for light stands, some justin clamps (not shown) can clamp to almost anything in a pinch.  I’ll sometimes tape a napkin over the flash head for a field-expedient softbox in an emergency, but I prefer to bounce the flash off a wall in those cases.  I seldom bother with tupperware unless the flash is on-camera and the walls/ceiling aren’t dark, then its fine.  Use the gels that come with the flash to match your white balance or you’ll be converting everything to black and white.  You’ll notice that the gels aren’t in this shot.  I forget my gels so often that black and white is almost “Tim’s style”.  Doh!

Sports/Wildlife:
Light: Nikon 300 f2.8 and 70-200 f2.8 VRII and TC-20eIII which works on both, though on the zoom, not so much.  Usually both my D800 and D7000 kitted out with the telephotos or 24-70 f2.8 as needed.  I take the D7000 for crop factor and fast-ish FPS.  I find the files shot side-by-side are similar enough that post-processing isn’t a problem.

When shooting outside, I almost always have circular polariser mounted on each of the smaller lenses.  Unfortunately, my main camera doesn’t fit in the Tamrac with all this, so it rides on the sling.

Extreme: When I need to take some other gear and some water, I’ll pack it all in the Lowepro DryZone Rover (not shown).  I wrap the 300/2.8 in a jacket  or light sleeping bag because there is no padding in the main compartment – which is usually meant for light camping stuff.

Additional and Oddball Items:
Tripod and Lee filters: Gitzo 2 series in carbon fiber.  It’s only borderline stable enough for long-lensing, but I haven’t really shot anything with a telephoto that stays still long enough to clamp the ball head down tight anyway.

Otherwise, I use the tripod mostly for long-exposure shots like when using filters.

For filters, I have a starter set from Lee for when I’m shooting landscape to darken or add interest to the sky and a Lee Bigstopper for when I want to smooth out water with long exposure.

I also do light painting with a flashlight when shooting still life and I can’t be assed to drag out speedlights.  Or sometimes I’ll use black-card photography if the exposure is long enough.  Those techniques are a fun diversion.

I only have three unusual items:

A space blanket.  First of all, if you’re “getting your gear out” and you’re interested at all in wildlife, you’ll sometimes be off the beaten path.  With a space blanket, you can signal help, wrap it around your body to stay warm or throw it over a log to build a shelter against rain and snow.

For actual photography, it makes the biggest damn reflector you’ve ever seen, and it takes up less space in your bag than a deck of cards.  Besides that it can act as a handy gear-separator in your bag that is actually useful as opposed to those foam things.

Otherwise, in the outdoors I always take a tube of sunscreen and a tiny spray bottle full of water that I recycled from a travel hairspray container.

What?  Why? All those boring flower and leaf photos all we amateurs make!  Shade it with your body and add a spritz of ‘dew’ and you suddenly have something interesting.

What I use only rarely:
Sigma 16mm diagonal fisheye.  I only have one favourite shot with this.  It’s great, but opportunities to use it are rare.

Nikon 14-24 f2.8 is the best lens I almost never use, although conversely, its the lens I used to take this gear shot.  I wish it took filters.

Nikon 85mm f1.8.  Great lens, but I only occasionally do portraits and when I do the 70-200 is so convenient.

What I use every day:
The delete button on my keyboard when reviewing images.
It’s not about the gear:
Lastly, I feel obligated to say that when I started, I had only a fast 35mm and a superzoom on a DX camera.  With that I got images >90% as good as I do today in most situations.  So everyone should “get your gear out” and stop worrying too much about stuff.

I hope you enjoyed!

Tim H.

flicker.com/inthemist

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One thought on “My Gear – And How I Use It”

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