I’m a New York City based photographer and director with a heart full of wanderlust and I especially love capturing the passions of people who take the road less traveled. Having done personal documentary projects with musicians, artists, extreme athletes and adventuring spirits who live off the grid, I love being immersed in new situations that give me an opportunity to uncover the beauty of the human spirit.
Living in New York is great because I can rent anything a project requires. Much of my commissioned work is lifestyle imagery for clients like Smartwater, 7UP, Verizon, BlackBerry, MasterCard, Fruit of the Loom, Human Rights Campaign, OUT Magazine, Ironman and Under Armour. For gigs like this I’ll usually work with my husband and in-house producer on lighting and grip.
Staples include Profoto Pro-8a 1200 or 2400 if we are shooting indoors. They have wicked fast recycling, which I need for my moment-driven work. Location shoots I toggle between the Profoto Pro-B4 1000 Air or Profoto B1 500 Air kit. All strobes are usually paired with a 3’ or 5’ octa softbox and PocketWizard Plus III or Profoto Air Remote. I’ve been shooting with Profoto gear for years and the shit lasts and is always spot on consistent. Other light modifiers include California Sunbounce 4×6 and Westcott Scrim Jim kits of various sizes to diffuse the sun or strobe.
Video rental gear can really vary from project to project. When it comes to cinema glass I love the ARRI Master Primes in 35mm, 50mm, 75mm and 100mm. They are crazy expensive so yeah, I’ll stick to renting those beauties. On a video gig that doesn’t have the budget for that kind of glass I’ll use the Canon Cine prime lenses including the Canon CN-E 35mm T1.5, Canon CN-E 50mm T1.3, and Canon CN-E 85mm T1.3.
Cameras will vary based on the creative needs of a project but I’d like to share some info on another lover of mine, the ARRI AMIRA. What makes that such a fun camera to film with is the pick up/run-and-gun style. It has the same sensor as the ALEXA in a much lighter package. Combine that with built in ND and single operator ergonomics, it’s such a pretty lady.
Taking stock of my own gear bag, I have two base kits, one for stills and another for motion. These kits are packed in LowePro 450 bags that fit in overhead compartments. I fly with gear all the time and trust me, they do fit on domestic flights. Earlier this year I was in the market for a new camera bag and I tried everything that other manufacturers had to offer but ended up returning each and every one. From the inner materials, lining, zipper, layout, construction and interior color, nothing could beat all the things I adore about the 450. Sadly, this bag was discontinued. Why LowePro why?!? But you know, I’m a lucky girl because my husband tracked down the last two at Adorama and a floor model at B&H. Panic shopping complete.
My stills workhorse is the Canon 5D Mark III paired with a Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 II USM and Canon battery grip. I can shoot organic lifestyle moments all day with that lover. Then on a second body I’ll have prime glass, either the Canon 50mm f/1.2 or the Canon 85mm f/1.2. Another lens I really like is the Canon 70-200mm f2.8. I don’t use it too often because I prefer to get physically close to who I’m shooting and immerse the viewer in a moment. Regardless it is a beautiful piece of glass and deserves some love.
If I’m doing slower paced work, portraits for example, I’ll break out my Hasselblad H2 and Phase One digital back. For commercial work I’m usually tethered to a computer but when I’m running free I’ll shoot to SanDisk CF cards stored in an indestructible Pelican case.
When it comes to motion I use a 6k RED Epic Dragon. Yes, I’m the Mother of Dragons. Game of Thrones reference, sorry. Anyway, the compact nature of the body serves my visual aesthetic very well. Another cool thing about the Dragon is the ability to pull high-resolution still frames from the footage. And the Sekonic L-358 light meter is a must-have as it meters for both stills and motion.
I’ll pack an iPad for two reasons: First, it comes in handy for tethered shooting because it keeps the client involved but not confined to the digital tech station; Second, it houses a copy of my portfolio, reel and digital mood board/creative direction for the shoot. Custom-made iPad case courtesy of ridiculously talented Scott Mullenberg.
Steve Jobs, you are missed but I still heart Apple. That being said, I have a dedicated MacBook Pro 15” that is used for tethered shooting in the field and a MacPro for heavy duty post-processing and video editing. My husband and I edit motion work together and we utilize a Red RocketX card for the 6k Dragon footage, Lacie RAID hard drives and Wacom tablets.
The Sony A7s is primarily used as a behind the scenes camera for both stills and video. For fun I like to pack a couple of specialty cameras like a GoPro, Fuji Instax Mini and the vintage Polaroid SX-70.
Speaking of fun, MUSIC is key, as it sets the mood and can transform an environment. That’s why I have a Bose Bluetooth wireless speaker in my kit. It’s synced up with a playlist I’ll curate for the day, being mindful that not everyone shares my adoration of Kanye West’s early work. Personal necessities include Ray-Ban Polarized Clubmaster Aluminum sunglasses and Burt’s Bees lip balm.
Not pictured but worth a mention is the Bowery bag by ONA. The perfect union of style and functionality, it houses my everyday carry cameras (Sony A7s and Polaroid Instax Mini). I’ve biked all over the city with that bag and it still looks dope.
When it comes to camera, lens or lighting of choice, the most important thing in my toolkit is my creative voice as an artist.
Inside Brook Pifer’s Camera bag:
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