Don Kates

Automobile | Last Updated: November 26, 2020

I shoot primarily in the motorcycle industry and have recently begun shooting in the automotive industry. Most of my work is for magazines and ads/catalogs but occasionally do editorial work for features. I shoot features/covers for all the national, major motorcycle magazines and provide images for many of the product ads that appear in related magazines/catalogs. Our company is the official photographer for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota. We have 3 studios located in Chicago, Bismarck ND, and Sturgis SD and our Sturgis studio is set up for shooting motorcycles and cars. Since my wife is also a photographer (weddings and portraits) and since we both travel extensively, we also have mobile equipment that allows us to set up a complete studio on location for shooting bikes, cars, and people.

I have several “kits” that I use depending on the kind of shoot I’m doing, but it always includes my Hasselblad H4D-50. Most shoots involve lighting the subject in new and often difficult settings, so I also carry many different stands, booms, lights, and modifiers to make sure I have what I need for that particular location. This also includes a 24” iMac for tethered shooting. I believe in coming prepared so I tend to carry a lot more equipment than I use – just in case. Many locations I shoot in don’t allow a quick trip to a camera store to pick up something I left back in the studio.

Our gear is important to us. It’s the tools of our trade and we believe in making sure that our gear is reliable, consistent, and capable of giving us the results we need. We don’t quibble over a few extra ounces of weight here and there. If it’s what we need, then we deal with it.

The kit shown here is a sample of the gear I normally use. Hasselblad H4D-50 medium format camera, Canon 1DX, Elinchrom Rangers and packs, Pocket Wizard Plus III, Pocket Wizard FlexTT5, and Pocket Wizard Power ST-4 along with an Elinchrom Skyport System.

Lenses here include Hasselblad 300mm f/4.5, Hasselblad 120mm macro f/4, Hasselblad 100mm f2.2, Hasselblad 35mm f/3.5, Canon 200mm f/2, Zeiss 100mm f/2 Makro Planar, Zeiss Distagon T* f/2.8 21mm ZE. I carry everything in Pelican and Think Tank cases. The Pelican 1610 with padded dividers carries my medium format gear while the Think Tank Logistics Manager and Think Tank Airport Security 2.0 carries my DSLR gear.

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