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What’s in your bag?

Every so often we get asked what sort of equipment we use on our shoots.  A day before every event, regardless if we are traveling out of town or not I lay out and check all of our equipment to make sure we have what we need and it’s all in good working order.  For this particular trip Melissa and I are actually traveling light (I realize it may not quite seem like it).  Sometimes our lenses and lighting set up will fluctuate based on the type of events we are shooting.  In this particular case it’s a couple of destination weddings, one in Chicago and the other in Wilmington, NC.

The Inventory:

1 (2) Shootsacs We think the Shootsac is the best product out there for event photography.  I tried belt systems, and I inevitably looked like Batman.  The Shootsac isn’t perfect, but it’s relatively comfortable for a shoulder bag, and is fairly unobtrusive.  The covers are completely useless though.
2 15″ Apple Macbook Pro Melissa’s laptop.  Melissa has the newer model.  Neither one of us like working on the road since we are spoiled at home with 30″ monitors, but if we need to do something we can be a mobile studio.
3 17″ Apple Macbook Pro Josh’s laptop.
4 (2) Calumet lightstands I don’t feel like measuring them, but I am pretty sure they are the 8′ models.  We prefer to not use complex light setups if we don’t have to, but Chicago venues tend to be dark.  For group portraits we use a couple of speedlights with shoot-through umbrellas left & right, with a third speedlight with a jumbo flip-it camera mounted in the middle.
5 Manfrotto 190XPROB tripod w/Calumet 7042 ballhead
6 Wacom tablet  A small Intuos model that has since been discontinued.  Tablets are the way to go for retouching.
7 (2) LaCie Rugged hard drives we both have 320GB firewire 800 models, every shoot we do on the road gets copied to a laptop and both hard drives.
8 travel case (mostly this bag just has a bunch of random cables in it for computer stuff)
9 (4) Pearstone AA battery chargers we use four of these 8-bay AA chargers so we can rapidly re-charge all of our AA batteries for back to back shoots… saves a ton of time
10 Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 HSM Melissa’s main mid range zoom.  Don’t let Sigma’s suggested retail price fool you, this goes for about $900 new and it is on par with the Nikon version.
11 Nikon camera batteries and chargers.  Even though we’ve never drained a camera completely dry, we always have extra batteries.
12 (a lot) AA Sanyo Eneloop rechargeable batteries are our preferred batteries for our flashes.
13 Nikon 135mm f/2D Melissa’s long range lens mostly used during the ceremony.  Quite a bit lighter than the 70-200mm I use.
14 Nikon 50mm f/1.4D Melissa’s 50mm.  The 50mm lens is probably one of our absolute favorites for it’s speed and depth of field.  On a full frame camera it is the half way focal point between wide angle and telephoto.  While it’s definitely easier to have a wide range of focal lengths at your disposal, a good photographer can shoot an entire wedding with a 50mm.
15 Nikon 45mm f/2.8D PD-E ED Micro this an extremely specialized tilt/shift lens that’s actually designed with architectural photography in mind.  What I use it for is completely different, and in the coming days I plan on putting up a post about this lens.  It also is a fantastic macro lens.
16 Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G I have a love hate relationship with this lens.  As much as I love primes I think a mid range zoom is essential in weddings.  The image quality is good.  However this lens is beyond fragile… twice I’ve had it repaired over minor bumps a pro grade lens should be able to take.
17 Nikon 16mm f/2.8D Fisheye In mild doses a fisheye can be a lot of fun.  It’s a favorite of mine on the dance floor.
18 Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM Back in my DX sensor days I had Sigma’s 30mm f/1.4 digital lens that I loved, which was part of the reason why I got this when it came out.  Another was it’s size… something about a big lens really does something for me.  It’s 77mm filter size is kinda handy, as most pro lenses are 77.  Also it supposedly is slightly sharper than Nikon’s new G lens at the corners.  The silent AF motor is also a benefit.
19 Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR this is my go-to lens for long range portraits.  I use it a lot during ceremonies and somewhat during receptions.  The only complaint anyone could have about it is the weight.
20 Melissa’s misc bag (bandaids, ID, money, wet ones, kleenex for crying people, keys, breathmints… etc.  We both have one of these bags in our shootsacs that we keep small essentials in).
21 Josh’s misc bag
22 Nikon D300 Melissa’s back up camera.  She likes to be pretty lightweight during events so it rarely sees any action, but it’s good to have one there just in case.
23 Nikon D700 Melissa’s main camera.  The main reason why she uses this over the D3 has more to do with the vertical grip button placement than price (she has small hands).  All of Nikon’s FX sensor cameras are fantastic.
24 Nikon D700 I usually will shoot with two camera bodies throughout most events.  The D700 is also my backup.  My only D700 complaint… only one slot, and they need to get rid of the useless pop up flash.
25 Nikon D3 I have my eye on upgrading to a D3s, but currently this is my main camera and it’s a tremendous piece of equipment.
26 Hakuba CF card cases I put used CF cards in here for protection and storage.
27 Yong Nuo 33″ TTL cord (BJ got these off of eBay… Yong Nuo is a weird Hong Kong company that makes generic gear… this thing is extremely useful for outdoor flash if you want high sync speeds)
28 Giotto rocket blower the best way to clean sensors without using swabs.  Also great for perplexing TSA people at the airport.
29 (2) Nikon SB800 backup flashes
30 (3) Nikon SB900 main flashes
31 Cybersync wireless transmitters & LumoPro Universal Translators we used to have a lot of issues with our wireless system until we took the PC sync cord out of the equation.
32 Demb mini flip-its essentially a nicer looking than bounce card than a homemade version
33 Lumiquest Softbox3 this flash diffuser is pretty awesome for outdoor use
34 Nikon SC-29 TTL cord I mostly use this for off camera flash on the dance floor
35 Nikon SD-8A battery pack improves recycle time between flashes
36 Nikon SD-9 we had another SD-8A that died, and we replaced it with this unit that is supposedly a bit more efficient, but only works with the SD900s
37 Tamrac 5551 rolling bag Melissa’s rolling carry on. Both our Tamracs are carry-on compliant.
38 Tamrac 5552 rolling bag Josh’s rolling carry on
39 Calumet stand bag – no idea if Calumet still makes this bag or not, but it’s essentially a rolling stand case and having it on wheels makes life a lot easier.  The plastic snaps have since broken, but a little gaffers tape and a luggage strap still make it pretty secure.
40 Promaster System Pro 5-in-1 reflector
41 (2) power squids hotels rarely have enough receptacles for me to plug in everything to be recharged, so we quickly learned to bring a couple of squids with us when we travel

Oh and in case you are wondering those weird skull bags were found at Target for $1 each in the travel toiletries section.  They are perfect for keeping small cables and items together, and we have identifying tags on each them.  With so much money tied into a lot of small items it’s important to be able to be able to keep track of things.  We also have a few things not pictured, like our laptop powercords, our emergency items in our rolling bags (various wedding essentials), and a golf umbrella in the stand bag.  I’d total all of this up but I think I’d scare myself.

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Amy Nieto - May 30, 2010 - 10:45 pm

Woah all that equipment just made me dizzy

Annelie Adams - May 31, 2010 - 10:26 pm

This is a great post, thanks for sharing!

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