What’s In My Bag?

[10 min read]

I got a recent request to do a “what’s in your bag?” post, so I figured now is as good of a time as any to get this thing posted. I’m in the works of getting videos together regarding taking better images (and its not about the gear), so it’s kind of ironic for me to start off with a gear post. But, oh well! :)

My first camera when I jumped into photography in 2007 was the Canon 30D, which is what these images are taken with. It’s probably the first time I touched this camera in a couple of years! (Anyone looking to buy a solid dSLR? Hit me up!) The lens I used to take these was a Sigma 24-70 f/2.8, and I have another Sigma 17-35 f/2.8-4 as well. This set (30D and 2 lenses), have sat in a backup bag for years. This is my “oh-crap-somebody-stole-all-my-other-gear-and-ive-got-a-shoot-tonight” gear. Worst case scenario, I would have still been able to shoot. :)

Now onto the the gear that I use much more regularly. I don’t bring all of this along to weddings (definitely not on portraits), but it’s normally a decision I make beforehand as to what I’m planning on shooting. Every lens is purposeful, and so the vision/idea dictates what I use. On to the gear!

Zoom Lenses
Canon 16-35L f/2.8 [link]
  When I finally started buying Canon lenses, I started with two zooms, this and the 24-70 (up next).  At 16mm, this is the widest lens I have at my disposal.  I love using this lens on the wide side for more scene/room settings.  It allows me to show the vastness of a reception hall or church.  Although very few of my images are made using this lens, I still find a time at every shoot to use it. This lens is especially important when I’m stuck in some tight quarters, and helps me still tell a story.
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Canon 24-70L f/2.8 [link]
  This used to be my workhorse- the ability to go from 24mm to 70mm in an instant was extremely vital for me, especially early on, when capturing all the details and activities going on at most of the Indian weddings that I cover.  The more I’ve shot, though, the more I’ve become much more picky with my captures.  I’m better aware of what’s coming next and make a lens choice well in advance.  This still serves its purpose when I’m in need of fast-change of wide/tight shots, and its pretty much my main lens for the formal family portraits, when I’m given 10 minutes to capture 50 groups, ranging from 4 people to 70 people. :)
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Canon 70-200L f/2.8 [link]
  This lens is a beast!  I fell in love with this one when I first got it, and haven’t been able to put it down.   It’s a necessity in churches where I’m limited as to where I’m allowed to move around or how close to the alter I can get.  While perspective-wise I can’t get the same images as when I get the freedom to roam, I’m still able to pull off great images from a distance.  This is also my ‘fly-on-the-wall’ lens when I start with portraits.  So that a couple doesn’t get scared with me all up in their faces to start, I can back off of them and allow them to get comfortable, and slowly move in. It’s quite a heavy lens to carry around, but the beauty of the images makes it total worth it.
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Prime Lenses
Canon 24L f/1.4 [link]
  This is the newest member to the NMP family :)  For awhile, the widest prime I had was the 35mm, which isn’t wide enough for my style.  The 24 gives me the added space I was looking for, and makes me feel fully confident in shooting 100% prime (well…99% prime, if we count the family formals ;)).  This isn’t a perspective that I take a huge amount of images from, but I hate when I see a shot I want, and realize that I’m not able to get wide enough with my framing.  So while it might not be a huge percentage of my images, its still a vital range for me, especially as a scene-setter.
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Canon 35 f/2.0 [link]
  I love this little lens.  This has become my go-to personal lens when I’m trying to pack light, and it’s become one of a my favorite pieces of gear at weddings too!  This lens probably stays on my camera throughout the wedding day the most, especially during the prep and ceremony. It’s such a unique perspective for me, and forces me out of my comfort zone (and into my subject’s personal space, a bit) to really bring a different dimension to my images.
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Canon 50 f/1.4 [link]
  When I first decided I wanted to make the move from zooms to primes, I did the obvious one and got the 50.  A 50mm prime is lightweight and fast, so it’s a great lens for shallow depth of field and low-light situations.  Since I wasn’t completely sure what I wanted, I bought it used, and it’s…seasoned.  The AF is a bit messed up, so it’s pretty much fully manual focus with this lens.  The 50 on a full-frame (35mm) body is pretty much what the human eye’s perspective is, so it gives the most natural look/composition.  While it’s not my favorite lens, I still keep it for some reason.
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Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro [link]
  Rarely does this lens see the light of day.  I always bring it with me for high hopes of getting some great macro ring shots and such, but that’s just not my style.  If I get a lot of time I’ll pull it out to do details during prep, but it’s not a major focus in my body of work. It’s a good gadget lens for every now and then.
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Canon 135L f/2.0 [link]
If there was ever a lens to make me put down my 70-200, this is it.  It’s much lighter than the white beast, and the f/2 makes a huge difference.  I LOVE the compression and bokeh I get with this lens, too, so it’s become a staple on portraits for me.  Generally at receptions, I’ve started to shoot with 2 bodies, and I keep the 135 on one with the 35 on the other.
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Camera Bodies
Canon 5D Mark II | 5D | 30D | G10 | iPhone4 [link]
As I said in the intro, I started out with the Canon 30D, a quality crop camera at the time that still takes great images.  But then I jumped to full-frame and never looked back.  I upgraded to the 5D and fell in love.  Since then, my two primary cameras are now the 5D Mark II, with a 5D falling to a distant backup along with the 30D. I’ve also got a Canon G10 for a P&S (which is basically my wife’s camera), and my always-on camera of choice is my iPhone4.
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Canon 430EX | 430ERX II | 580EX II | LumoPro LP160 [link]
  My main use of flash comes during the reception, where I generally have a 2 or 3-light setup.  I have 2 bare strobes up on lightstands highlighting the dancefloor, with a 3rd possibly on camera if needed.  When shooting the church formals, I normally have the 2 strobes bounced into umbrellas.  This is one area where I have absolutely no consistency with the gear itself – I have a Canon 430 EX, Canon 430 EX II, Canon 580 EX II, and 2 LumoPro LP160s. :)  At home, I just picked up 2 500watt softboxes and a 100watt rim light…but I don’t bring that anywhere.  I love playing with light all the time, but generally being a solo shooter at weddings with limited time, it doesn’t lend itself to having too much fun with lights.
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PocketWizard Plus II Transceiver [link]
To fire my off camera strobes, I’ve got 4 PocketWizard Plus II Transceivers.   I used to use the CyberSyncs but I was occasionally getting misfires, so I upgraded to the PWs and haven’t had much issues since then.  Oh, and my new battery of choice for my flashes and PWs are Eneloops.
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So there you have it.  This is what’s in my bag.  Do you need all of this stuff to take great images?  Of course not.  a Canon XSi and a 50mm 1.8 lens is more than enough to pull off cool stuff.  But since people trust me to capture great images with consistency at the most important events of their lives, it’d be a disservice for me to come unprepared.  While I might not touch half the lenses or only shoot with one body throughout the day, The safety of backup gear gives me piece of mind that if anything were to go wrong (lens drops, mirror falls out of camera, someone steals something), that I still would be able to provide quality images and full coverage without any questions asked.

As I said before, what’s more important is not having all the gear, but knowing how to use the gear that you have to the fullest.