Hugh Forte

It was on the final leg of a 100-day voyage around the world that I first experienced the nostalgic effect of the photograph. We were due to arrive back in San Diego in a few days and the photographer who’d been commissioned to document the voyage showcased a slideshow of some of his favorite images from the trip. I had seen most of the people, places and moments in person, but I was totally floored by these 2-dimensional projections. I decided at that moment that I wanted to make pictures like that.

Shortly after arriving home, I picked up a Canon Rebel XT kit and got lost in the talent and community of Flickr. My first upgrade was a Canon 10-22mm lens because I was all about extreme wide angle pictures of pretty much anything. I was amazed at how the different focal lengths that I had access to, from 10mm to 55mm, could make the same scene look entirely different, and how different pieces of equipment encouraged me to view what was in front of me in specific ways. I picked up and put down a few lenses before I made my way to my first prime lens, a Canon 35mm f/1.4L. It was around the same time I was starting to take wedding photography seriously, and had invested in a Canon 5D. The 5D/35L combo was a game changer for me. To this day, if I had to pick a single favorite setup, the original Canon 5D and a Canon 35mm f/1.4L would likely be my choice.

From there I started investing in high quality prime lenses. I’ve built out the kit pictured here over the last few years, with the most recent additions being the Canon 5D Mk III ‘s. They are incredible cameras – focus, speed, quality, consistency – they’re technically the best cameras I’ve ever used (although, in decent light, I still prefer the original Canon 5D files, which is why I hang on to one as a back up).

I’ve tried a grip of different straps, but I’ve found I prefer the standard over the more specialized. I scavenged a couple old-school Canon straps at a swap meet that I prefer to the stock issue for a couple reasons: they don’t have the rubberized grip surface which I’ve found to be more annoying than useful, and they’ve got a bit of that classic vibe to them which makes my pictures way more art, obviously.

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I’ll end up using most of my equipment throughout the course of a wedding day, but my workhorses are the Canon 5D Mk III ‘s, Canon 24mm f/1.4, Canon 35mm f/1.4 and Canon 50mm f/1.2. While I no longer own the 10-22mm, I think I’ll see things on the wider side and these lenses are what I mentally compose with most naturally.

For personal and everyday images, I’ve recently shifted my focus from my iPhone to 35mm point and shoots. They’re cheap, durable, easy to pocket, and they can turn out some amazing images to boot. I check in at local thrift stores from time to time and as much fun as they are to shoot with, they’re nearly as much fun to find. The simplicity of their controls (read: no control) makes for a refreshing and enjoyable shooting experience. My current favorites are a Canon AF35ML and a Nikon AF600.

Canon 5D Mk III (x2)
Canon 5D
Canon 24mm f/1.4L (workhorse 1)
Canon 28mm f/2.8 (photobooth lens)
Canon 35mm f/1.4L (workhorse 2)
Canon 40mm f/2.8 (killer travel lens)
Canon 45mm f/2.8 TS-E
Canon 50mm f/1.2L (workhorse 3)
Canon 85mm f/1.2L (for the bokeh)
Canon 135mm f/2.0L
Canon 580EX II (x3)
Pocket Wizard Plus II (x3)
Canon AF35ML (finicky and wonderful)
Nikon AF600 (tiny and surprisingly fun)
Cheap film
Leatherman Wave (always ends up useful)

www.hughforte.com

Inside Hugh’s camera bag:

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