I see the posts on various sites and social media and have scoffed at it for quite a while. A lot of people want to know what a photographer carries in their kit. It is a legitimate curiosity and especially for beginner photographers it can provide a little guidance to capturing moments with the high quality. I’ll dive into my bag and give some opinions of various equipment choices, and perhaps some comparisons and examples. As with anything in art, mileage may vary but this is my perspective on things.
There is a saying out there that I see once in a while that is attributed to Chase Jarvis that I absolutely love and believe in. “The best camera is the one with you.” He wrote a whole book about it around iPhone photography. It is true if you have a $50,000 kit, but leave it home all the time it is not your best camera if all your shots then come from your phone. The moral of that tidbit is not “carry 50 pounds of camera equipment all the time” but quite the opposite. Take what you need with you. But more on that later.
The first item I would like to address in the bag. I know what you are saying, “But wait, I thought we were talking about photography equipment?” Yes, as a matter of fact I am. Think about it. If you invite your future in laws over for dinner, you aren’t going to make them a gourmet meal and then serve it on a paper plate, right? Your photography bag or box is one of the most important piece of your kit. For years I used a hard case with wheels on it and partitions and padding on the inside. Was perfect for protecting my equipment while it would be in the back seat of my car, or if I was traveling with it on another form of transportation. Most recently, I moved to a softer backpack with more partitions and pockets than I know what to do with. When you are starting out, or even just expanding what you have available to, just consider your carrying options. Are you packing to hike the Appalachian Trail? Or are you taking a quick jaunt into town to do a photo walk? My current pack is a Mindshift Backlight 26L. This pack holds most of my day to day kit, and has plenty of pockets and a waist belt to do some light to moderate hiking with the camera gear and what you need for that hike. The 26L is a fairly large pack, so consider what it is that you would most likely have with you and determine the size from there. I also use a regular Camelback backpack to strap a tripod to and throw a filter kit in and clip my camera onto one of the straps for easy access.
Now, the camera kit itself. I have kept to a general configuration throughout my life in photography that is fairly simple. Beyond the camera body, I try to keep a wide angle zoom, and a tele zoom at minimum. If weight and space are not a concern I’ll throw a wide angle prime and a macro prime for good measure. This blog is not going to be about “you need to buy this” but more of maybe a little guidance.
For years I used a Tamron 18-200 on a crop sensor body and had obtained a plethora of fantastic images. From there I started upgrading to better quality glass for better quality in my images. From that Tamron I graduated to a Canon L series 24-105 f4 that I still have and use today. In the last year I began the transition to mirrorless and picked up the Canon 24-70 f2.8 matched with the R series body. I have used these lenses for a majority of my landscape and portraits.
For a longer tele zoom my most recent lens is a Canon 100-400. This lens is fantastic and gets the most use when I am shooting wildlife and birds. 90% of the images of birds and wildlife you see on my site and social media are from that lens. Reason for using this lens for wildlife and birds is that you don’t want to disturb the wildlife and their environment. It is always best to let wildlife remain wild. Plus, if you want shots of animals like bear, moose, and raptors keeping your distance is not just for them, but your safety as well.
When choosing your lenses make sure that you get the best quality glass that you can afford. I have spent years saving for and collecting equipment. You can do the same, and don’t look down on what you have either. If you take care of your equipment and practice the fundamentals with what you have, you will come away with images that will evoke the emotions and responses that you hope for. The rest of the kit is just filters. Having a polarizer is probably one of the more important filters to have to darken your skies and manage glare and reflections. After that I have an assortment of neutral density filters. Those filters will help you with longer shutter speeds, especially during the day, when wanting to obtain images with motion in them. Think of the silky smooth waterfalls, neutral density will help you accomplish that.
I hope this was helpful, please make sure to follow me on Instagram and Facebook. And also check out the rest of my website and my ViewBug page. Check in next time for more of what is in the bag. I’ll go over accessories and other tools that I use. And as always, happy shooting!