Nowadays, I’m a little more sophisticated. I converted to digital SLRs around 2005, when I first started doing art festivals. I’d had a couple of consumer-grade digital cameras before, but this one used good glass, and shot an 8MP image. Since then, I’ve had three full-frame Canon bodies: a 5d, and 5dMkiii, and a 5dSR. I still have the last two. When I wanted a smaller lighter camera, I jumped on the Sony bandwagon with the Nex-7. That little camera shoots an APS-C frame at 25MP, almost four times the size of my original 20D, and the entire package weights a bit over 4 pounds, with two zoom lenses, batteries and cards. The Sony proved to be an excellent backpacking camera, which I’ll cover in another post. This past fall, I upgraded to the Sony 6400, which is a beautiful little camera. Still APS-C, still lightweight, still brilliant for going light.
For lenses, I mostly stick to Canon L glass. I do have a Sigma 35mm f1.4 lens that’s a beauty. My workhorse lens is still my 24-105L that I got with my first 5D kit. For waterfalls and slowing down water, I use a Canon 16-35 f2.8 L-series. Since I don’t do a lot of wildlife, my tele kit is restricted to an older 100-400 Canon zoom, and a faster 70-200 2.8 L-series. The latter is a heavy beast though, and if I don’t need the speed, I’ll carry its little brother, the 70-200 f4 L-series. I have an older 100mm macro lens that works very well in my slide duplicator, and for shooting flower close-ups.
I have a number of different kits, depending on the assignment. In the studio, I favor the old Mole-Richardson hot lights. They’re heavy, they are very controllable, with fresnel lenses that go from spot to flood with the flip of a lever, and they give a light that isn’t easily duplicated with strobes or LED lights. I also have an older set of Lowell Lights — 2 Tota-Lights and 2 Omni-Lights. This kit is great for location work in an office or factory environment where continuous lighting is needed, but portability is key. And I have a couple modern Dracast LED panel lights that make great fill or bounce sources for video. B&H Photo often has the Dracast lights on special, so if that’s something you are interested in, keep an eye for them. For still life and product shots, I have a Calumet/Bowens monolight kit. This lets me set up a big soft key light and a smaller strip light for fill. With a couple of Canon Speedlights, this is a great strobe setup.
Grip and support
No photographer should be without a good tripod. My trusty Gitzo has been with me for fifteen years, and while the rubber around the leg locks is getting a bit worn, this carbon-fiber tripod is as good as it was when it was new. It’s paired with a Really RIght Stuff ball head. For travel, I carry a 3-Legged Thing that folds up to fit into a carry-on bag. The TLT went to New Zealand with me, and was perfect for general stability. It has a little ball head that can support the heavy Canon bodies as well as the lighter Sony kit. Video requires more support generally, and for that I have a twenty-five year old Manfrotto with a video head. I also have a Manfrotto video remote that allows me to trigger the camera from the pan/tilt lever, and focus the camera. For more complex production, either of the Canon bodies can be fitted with an iKan follow-focus.
My audio needs in the field are pretty spartan. A Rode VideoMic and a Zoom H4N are used to capture audio, along with a cheap pair of headphones. Back in the studio, it gets fed through a Focusrite Scarlett audio interface into a MacPro. Most of my old outboard equipment doesn’t see much use anymore: a 12 channel Mackie mixer, various sound-processing modules, and my trusty old friend, the Teac 3440 4-track reel to reel recorder.