Hey, y’all, I’m Stacy Pearsall, a retired U.S. Air Force combat photojournalist. Although I’m “retired” from military service, I’m still working as a photographer, author, educator, motivational speaker, television producer and host, Nikon Ambassador, and Founder of the Veterans Portrait Project.
Just as my career path has been a journey, so too has the gear I’ve used along the way. It’s crazy to think that the first camera I ever picked up was a Nikon N90 camera I used during my high school photography class back in Canton, South Dakota.
I learned basic camera functions, film processing, and print production. Those were the days of darkrooms, timers, and fixer baths.
Shortly after I joined the Air Force in February 1998 and attended the Defense Information School at Fort Meade in Maryland, Nikon introduced their first DSLR – the Nikon D1. It was such a leap forward from using film.
I remember those initial memory cards boasting 2MB of storage and thinking that was pretty whiz-bang! Of course, gear evolved and improved as I bounced from my first duty station in Omaha, Nebraska, to my second in the United Kingdom.
By the time I arrived at Combat Camera in Charleston, South Carolina, in January 2001, Nikon dropped the D1X.
Along with my freshly unboxed cameras, I was provided 128MB memory cards, which blew my mind. Throughout my time in the unit, technology advanced, and gear was upgraded.
I was fortunate to have the latest and greatest in my camera bag while deployed around the world. I lived out of a rucksack for two-thirds of a year, so my gear saw some serious miles, not to mention wear and tear.
When I transitioned out of military service in 2008 and struck out on my own to open a professional studio in historic Charleston, South Carolina, I had to start from scratch.
My camera bag held a Nikon D3 and D3s and two lenses
NIKKOR 28-70mm f/2.8 lens – NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8 VR G lens.
Over time, I squirrelled away a percentage of my earnings to acquire more gear and upgrade my old stuff. It took some time, I assure you.
By the time I founded the Veterans Portrait Project in 2013 and hit to road full time, I had;
Two Nikon D800 cameras and three lenses
NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8 – NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8 – NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II
I’m positive I also had an 85mm and some prime lenses as well.
When the Nikon D850 hit the shelves in 2017, I was one of the first to jump at upgrading my gear. The Nikon D850 was and remains a tremendous camera. It traversed all fifty States of the union with me and captured over 8,500 veterans’ portraits.
An archive I treasure and a legacy of these incredible men and women’s service.
Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, Nikon introduced their mirrorless Z series. I got my hands on a Nikon Z 7 and took it on the road alongside my Nikon D850. I was impressed but not ready to relinquish my DSLRs.
That is until Nikon unveiled the Nikon Z 9. That was a real game changer! From the moment I picked up the Nikon Z 9, I knew there was no going back. I strategized my transition to all mirrorless in 2022 and began finding homes for my beloved FX cameras and lenses.
They are bound to make another photographer’s creative dreams come true, I’m sure of it!
In the meantime, I am acquiring Z series gear and filling my bag with the future of photography.
• Nikon Z9 x2
• Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8
• Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8
• Nikon Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S
• Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S
• Nikon Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S
• Nikon Z Teleconverter TC-2.0x
• Nikon Z Teleconverter TC-1.4x
• Nikon Mount Adapter FTZ II
• NIKKOR 105 mm f/1.4
Good gear matters, and having the right tool to achieve the job matters. With that said I believe the most important thing any photographer can bring to a shoot is themselves!
veteransportraitproject.com | @slpearsall
Check out these 8 essential tools to help you succeed as a professional photographer.
Includes limited-time discounts.