Just over 4 years ago, I fell in love with photography. I, much like many new photographers, fell into the gear-pit. More gear equals better images right? Not quite. One thing that exacerbated this situation is that I had a good job with good pay. For many new photographers, money is what prevents them from going out and stocking up on gear that they want. Instead, they are forced to intimately learn their existing equipment and make it work.
Now I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I’m upset that I had the ability to purchase a lot of gear in the beginning, however, I feel it stunted my growth as a photographer. Instead of really learning how to use my gear, I would quickly move onto the next thing, the next lens. Now four years later, I have learned how to control gear-lust and how to appreciated my equipment. I’ve learned how to massage my current equipment to do what I want instead of going out and buying something that could do it better. So now that I’m older and wiser (photography-wise), what is the equipment that made the cut and constantly resides in my bag?
Lowepro Pack 350 AW – I’ve owned a handful of bags over the years. My big bag is a Tamrac Expedition series bag. That was actually my first bag purchase (holy cow was that more bag than I needed back then, even now). Today, this bag basically holds all the gear that I don’t keep in my regular bag. I’m super lucky in the fact that I get to review gear here at The Phoblographer and that has led me to my current bag that I actually decided to use after reviewing. It happens to be one of Lowepro’s newest bags.
You can read my full review of it here.
Canon EOS 5D Mark II – I went through a Canon Rebel XTI and a Canon 40D before landing on one of the most popular current cameras, the 5DmkII. Full frame sensor, 21 megapixels, HD video, amazing noise control. This camera has been my major work horse since I bought it early 2009.
I own 6 lenses and carry with me whatever I think will suit my needs for the shooting I’ll be doing for that day. There is however lens combination that I consider general purpose and stay in my bag.
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L II IS USM – This has been one of my favorite lenses from day one of purchasing it. Although the price can be a big pill to swallow, the images you can create with it keep your mind off of that. I originally owned a 70-300 non-L lens and after selling that, I needed a lens to give me the longer focal length. After much debate with myself over which version to get (f/4, f/4 IS, f/2.8, and f/2.8 IS), I decided that in the end I might as well shell out up front and not have to think, “what if I’d gotten the higher one…”. *Note, the link points to the II version although mine is the first version.
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM – Can there be a better walk-around lens? Well, I suppose there is some debate over this vs. the 24-105mm f/4 IS. This is the lens that spends the most time on my camera. This lens perfectly satisfies the zoom range for an everyday lens. Wide enough to get the whole scene while giving you enough zoom to grab the close-up.
Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM – I love creating landscapes. The biggest key to landscapes is having a wide lens. This is my landscape lens. I like to have this lens in my bag just in case there is an amazing scene or sunset while I’m out and about. Seems like the best sunsets you see is when you don’t have your equipment with you. Although I generally use this lens for landscapes, it can create some very creative portraits as well. You can see my full review of this lens here.
*Special Note* – Even though I talk about not buyer gear constantly in my intro, just this last week I purchased a Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM lens. This was my first lens purchase in about a year and a half though. I used it just this past weekend for a (albeit, quite late) senior portrait session but it might be my new favorite lens. It has me questioning keeping my 50mm f/1.2L. I’m thinking the 85 might be a new default lens for my camera bag.
My Lowepro bag has a sectioned off area specifically put there to store some speedlites. It’s a nice little addition to this bag that most don’t have. The section has enough room to jam up to three speedlites in there.
Canon Speedlite 580EX II – This is my main flash that I typically take places. It’s Canon’s current flagship flash. I use this flash mainly when using on-camera flash or in situations when I need high speed sync for using flash with higher than 1/250 shutter speeds.
2x Nikon SB-28 Speedlight – It feels kind of weird purchasing and using Nikon gear with my all Canon setup but these flashes are cheap and give you great performance. They are commonly referred to as the “strobist flash” as they are very popular in the strobist community. I can’t use E-TTL with them but they will fire from the hotshoe of my Canon although I generally stick this on a light stand, set the power manually and trigger them wirelessly.
3x Pocket Wizard PLUS II Transceiver – Nowadays there are several options for wireless flash triggering but Pocket Wizard is still the reigning champ and has been for some time. The downside is that they are more expensive than the competition, but the upside is they are proven many times over. These are what most pros use for reliability and performance.
Black Rapid RS-7 Camera Strap – Black Rapid has been making quite the splash in the camera strap department lately. People are actually getting excited for these straps. Personally I love mine. I even did a personal review of it on my own blog. You can view that here if you’d like.
3x Sandisk 8GB Extreme CF memory card – I’m a semi subscriber to the theory of not putting all of your eggs in one basket. What I mean by that is you don’t want to have just one massive memory card to store all your images on. Say you shoot an event (let’s say a wedding), and you can fit almost the whole wedding on one card, what happens if that card dies? Oh man, you’ll be in some hot water, that’s what. 8GB gets me about 250-300 images for the 21 megapixels my camera shoots.
If you shoot landscapes, you’ve probably read about using filters to your advantage. In fact, my first article I ever wrote on here was all about using filters to up your landscape photography game. Check out the post here if you missed it. Here are a couple of filters I carry with me at all times just in case that sun is amazing today.
Lee Big Stopper – 10 stops of light reduction, need I say more. 10 times slower shutter speeds, 10 times the awesome.
Lee 3 Stop Hard Edge Graduated Neutral Density Filter – This is what I use to get the sky and foreground correctly exposed in one shot. No merging of images or HDR for this guy.
Gaffers Tape – You’d actually be surprised how much these stuff gets used during a shoot. It can do anything from making sure your flash sync cords stay in, taping flash filters in place, to helping a prop stay on the model. A must accessory if you ask me.
Speaking of flash filters – Get yourself a pack of these guys, make sure to have a couple different colors in your bag and let your strobist creativity come out next shoot.
Moo Cards – Business cards are a must. There’s nothing worse than when a total stranger [read: potential client] asks for your card and you have nothing to give them.
Extra AA batteries, Eneloop’s to be exact. Best batteries I’ve found so far. These things go and go. See you on down the road Energizer Bunny. Lens cleaning cloth Various flash sync cords.
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