I really try and tailor the gear I bring to a shoot based on the specific shoot. I have a constant fight between simplifying everything and being very minimal or bringing everything but the kitchen sink so I am prepared for any situation or problem.
I am shooting a lot of different things at this point so my kit changes constantly. I wouldn’t bring the same gear to an architectural/interior shoot as I would to a portrait shoot. I also still shoot with a 4×5 camera that has its own bag that is a whole different beast. That being said I present to you my “go kit.” This is what I would use for light editorial assignments, portraits, and kind of my kit for personal work.
I decided not to show my camera bag because sometimes I use a very old and beat up shoulder bag but more often than not if I’m traveling I’ll just wrap everything in hoodies, beanies, or a jacket and throw it in a regular backpack. Camera bags have a very specific design and look and this way it doesn’t look like you are carrying around thousands of dollars worth of camera gear. I also find that subjects intimidated by lots of gear, the more low key you keep it the more accessible they are.
The main cameras here are a Canon 5D MkIII and a Mamiya 7. The 5D MkIII is the first digital camera that I’ve actually really liked shooting. It has me second guessing shooting film. The main lens I use on this is the old Canon 24-70 f/2.8. It’s wide enough to capture an environment but if you push it to 70mm it’s a decent portrait lens. I also use the Canon 85mm f/1.8 lens. I feel like this lens is an unsung hero of the Canon line…a great portrait lens for the price. It’s not too contrasty and gives good skin tones. I also have a Canon 580EX II with a TTL cord in case I need to add some fill or decide to get a little more creative with the lighting.
The Mamiya 7 might be my favorite camera ever. It has its limitations but the lens quality is fantastic and the leaf shutter is dead silent. You can also pull off sharp shots at 1/15th or 1/8th handheld. It also isn’t as big and bulky as a RZ67 (which I also use from time to time). I keep the Mamiya 80mm f/4 lens on there and also have the Mamiya 43mm f/4.5 in case I need to go wider.
I shoot Kodak Portra 160 and 400. I shoot 120 because I like the options of switching ISO if I go inside or lighting changes. This isn’t a problem with the RZ because I just have two backs and can switch back and forth but there is nothing worse than being 5 frames into a roll of 220 and realizing you need an extra stop of ISO for the next series. You don’t have to burn as much film this way. If there was a way to put the 5D MkIII image sensor in the Mamiya 7 I would be so happy….get on this engineers!
Besides the camera, I carry around a handful of accessories that make life much easier. First of all is comfortable straps for both cameras. Spending the $30 on a nice wide cushioned neoprene Optitech strap is well worth it and will save your neck/back at the end of a long day.
I carry around a pen and Field Notes notebook so I can keep notes on a subject, lighting at a specific location, a certain exposure that I’m not too certain about but want to have data on when I get my film back. I also carry a lens cloth. Living in the Pacific Northwest means you are shooting in rain half the year. Keeping the water off the front element is a good thing.
I keep all my memory cards in a Think Tank card wallet. I won this in an ASMP raffle but it’s really handy and It can hold 12 cards. All my cards are 8GB. That way I don’t have a ton of work on one card in case it gets corrupted or lost.
I try and always have some spare batteries for the 580 or for pocket wizards. A small roll of Gaff tape, I also have some wrapped around the leg of my tripod. I’ve used it to tape my flash to a wall when I needed it off camera but didnt have a stand. The stuff is just handy.
Business cards because you never know when you are going to need to network! Color Checker Passport, this little thing is amazing for an on location grey card. It just really helps later in post when I need to do color corrections. A tripod is a good thing to have I have an old Calumet tripod with the Manfrotto 410 Geared Head. The best thing about this tripod is it has foam around all three legs. This is extra handy when shooting in the cold and you will not freeze your fingers off when you are carrying around cold metal legs.