Ay’up! I’m Pete… from Manchester UK :) I’m a creative Wedding Photojournalist and shoot alongside my trusty assistant (and wife) Sara… together we are Pixies in the Cellar Wedding Photography.
I’ve ALWAYS worked in the creative industries; graphic and web design, commercial and portrait photography and for the past ten years been totally committed to the genre of wedding photography.
The area of wedding photography that absolutely resonates with me are the portraits. This is total creative freedom whilst enduring colossal amounts of moment-driven pressure! But I LOVE it!
Without this pressure my mind would be filled with fluff and technical quandaries. This pressure fixes me in absolute terms in the moment and well outside my comfort zone… the magic is buried deep inside your unconscious, so let it fly!
I’ve only recently got re-preoccupied with equipment (Nikon Z6s). Your gear should be as transparent as possible, so it becomes a tool of expression. Thinking about gear or ‘f’ stops etc is a barrier, so my advice is learn the tools and move on!
However, I’m on the cusp of moving over to mirrorless as the advantages are beginning to shine through (more to follow).
This is my monster workhorse machine. Totally gets out of the way and has never restricted me. The resolution is ideal, as is the dynamic range. Focus is solid and snappy and if I drop it it’ll bounce back.
There’s something quite magical about the finished look of the files from this beast, something not many other Nikon bodies seem to have … the D750 maybe. Anyway, I use the D4 for 95% of the wedding day, it captures all my documentary work.
This got me very excited when released. I’ve used this as a pretty solid performing documentary camera and it functions eloquently. However, I purchased the Nikon D850 primarily for portraits due to the huge image files and incredible dynamic range at base ISO (TBH, I prefer shooting at ISO32 as this increases shadow detail recovery even more).
I still find the Nikon D4 to have snappier focusing but the Nikon D850 seems more accurate, especially in low light which suits my portrait work perfectly. The flip screen is a nice added touch as this enables easier shooting at ground level.
Sigma Art Series
Razor sharp images wide open and stunning bokeh coupled with rich colours and bang-on contrast.
Sigma 20mm f1.4 DG HSM Art
I use this for tight situations, dramatic portraits and moments where wide is essential.
Sigma 35mm f1.4 DG HSM Art
This is the first of my go-to lenses. 35mm is the most difficult focal range to drive as it pretty-much views the world as we do, so you need to dig deep to make situations or scenes look compelling.
There’s a perfect balance of scene setting and isolation with the Sigma 35, where bokeh is just as vital as focus resolution.
Sigma 50mm f1.4 DG HSM Art
I use this for group shots. 50mm keeps me at reasonable distance for interacting with the wedding party and creates almost perfect portrait quality and separation.
Sigma 85mm f1.4 DG HSM Art
My second go-to lens. This is used equally to my 35mm for capturing intimate moments or situations where my presence would cause interruption. There’s a buttery quality to the Sigma 85mm bokeh, yet it can still do a stunning job at storytelling.
Sigma 135mm f1.8 DG HSM Art
This is my ceremony and speeches life-saver. I use this when getting close isn’t an option. The rendering of this lens has to be the best Sigma lens out there… the bokeh leaves the 85mm in its tracks, the sharpness is the best I’ve experienced with any Sigma lens. Love it!
Just as essential to my portrait work is the flash …
Nikon SB-910 AF Speedlight
The Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS) works incredibly well and has never let me down. Like I mentioned earlier, I need kit that’s as transparent as possible, kit that just works, does its job etc. Nikon’s CLS does this perfectly.
Phottix Odin II TTL Flash Trigger Transmitter and Receiver
These transmitters and receivers have been the most accurate and, more importantly, the most reliable I’ve used.
Pocket Wizard Flex TTL’s come a definite second. Radio transmitters/receivers are a hugely important part of my setup, as you can no-doubt see from my images, OCF is extensively used.
Used to assist focusing whilst shooting nighttime portraits, or rarely used for long distant lit portraits where radio triggers have failed.
MagMod Light Modifiers
Having remotely controlled light is almost useless without controlling its spread or colour temperature… especially in a fast moving situation. MagMods have become as essential as the flashguns.
Think Tank Speedbelt and Lens Pouches
I only shoot with one camera at a time, the Nikon D4 for 95% of the wedding day (documentary) and the Nikon D850 for the portraits. I find changing lenses faster than switching cameras in a bag.
This is where the Think Tank belt system helps massively. I don’t use any lens caps so switching becomes fast and efficient, just got to keep an eye out for hairs and bugs!
You may have noticed my assistant, Sara, in the photo :) This is my most prized piece of equipment. Absolutely indispensable when it comes to portraits, carrying extra gear, keeping me motivated and driving a good percentage of the portrait concepts. Plus, I totally love her :)
2019 and beyond
There are two cameras in my ShotKit photo I’ve not mentioned yet… the Nikon Z6’s. I’m still in test/familiarisation mode with these stunning little boxes of fun and delight. I’ll be rolling these out slowly over the next couple of months.
They might become my new ShotKit or they might just become my ceremony ‘quiet’ cameras. I’m loving the size and weight, the new functionality and features, but they need to be more transparent before I commit.
However, I am optimistic and really looking forward to the year ahead with these little beasts. 2019 is certainly getting exciting…
Inside Pete’s camera bag:
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