I don’t sit still very well. It’s genetic for sure, my dad and uncles all have the same gene. By the time I was 13 our family had traveled to 49 of the 50 states, most of them by car. My folks grew up in big families and even though we were middle class we were frugal. We camped out under the stars rather than stay in hotels. And we ate out once in a blue moon. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I really was born into a life of adventure. I thought everyone was a climber, skier, or hiker – and had seen Yellowstone, Mt Rushmore, and Yosemite.
So maybe it’s no surprise that I first picked up a camera in high school at about the same time that I got my driver’s license. My old N90 became a way for me to document cross-country adventures – with friends and by myself. The story was what was most important, and capturing my life on the road in a way that looked badass to my friends and family was my creative direction.
I shot on expired slide film at first because it was all that I could afford and the guys at the outdoor store I worked at let me borrow the shops 35-70mm lens. The rest is history I suppose. Not much has changed… the litmus test of my best work is still my friends (who are world class athletes these days) and my family (who continue to be the most supportive people in my life).
I’m actually writing this from an airport lounge half-way across the world as I venture towards a month long shoot in Nepal and the kit you see pictured is packed just for this project. My hope is to document the high Himalaya in a way I haven’t seen before… stay tuned.
I like to tinker so over the years I’ve shot with a ton of cameras. From that early N90, then a F100, and finally a F5 as my last still camera. Then digital came around and there have been a lot of those: Nikon D1x, Nikon D70, Nikon D2x, Nikon D70s, Sony A900, Canon 5D, Canon 1DS, Canon 1D, H4D, Nikon D800, Nikon D4, Nikon D4s, Nex7, Phase One IQ180, Phase One IQ250, Sony A7r, Nikon D810, and some more I can’t remember.
Cameras have always just been tools for me and they get beat on….hard. Rain. Snow. Dangling over cliff edges. The image is what’s important to me as an artist. Dynamic range and resolution is what I look for in cameras and with lenses its mostly primes for their narrow depth of field and sharpness.
Right now on my commercial projects I’m shooting with the Phase One 645 DF+ with IQ250 Back with a kit of Phase One glass.: the Phase One 28mm f/4.5, Phase One 35mm f/3.5, Phase One 55mm f/2.8, Phase One 75-150mm f/4.5 and Phase One 80mm f/2.8.
The two biggest reasons for this are not what you’d first expect. The first is that I can send images to an IPad easily so the client can review on location (yes I know other systems are available but they all suck compared to the built in PhaseOne solution in my opinion). We’ve used this all over the world. In the rain. On the side of mountains. In the ocean. It just works. The second is the ridiculously fast flash syncs – All of the leaf shutter lenses sync at 1/1600 of a second every time and without loss of power form my flash heads.
Speaking of flashes… I use off camera lighting in most of my shots, using Profoto Wireless Transmitters Sometimes you notice it, other times its subtle enough that it looks like natural light. Right now I’ve been digging on the Profoto B1’s. Again they just work. Consistently and reliably. If they could figure out how to get a bit more juice out of them…. wow.
For Nepal I’ve also packed my 35mm kit which is a Nikon D810 and Nikon D800. I’ve been in love with this sensor for the past couple years (it’s essentially the same one that’s in the IQ250 actually). The dynamic range is in a league of its own and the resolution is so crisp. And if you told me that I could only bring one lens it would be the Nikon 24mm f/1.4 — though the new Sigma Art lenses have been pretty beautiful as well. I use the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art and Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art. I also have a Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8.
Last but not least, I think the camera I’m most psyched to play with in Nepal is the new Alpa Camera with Phase One IQ280 Back. With the Rodenstock glass on the front, this collaboration is a dream come true. It’s the pinnacle of resolution right now and it’s so compact. I have my fingers crossed that it will shoot as well from the helicopter as it does from land.
I guess I should also mention that I just carried all of this gear on the plane in two bags (less the Profotos). I use FStop Camera bags. Right now everything is packed away in a F-stop Tilopa Backpack and a F-stop Lightroom Roller. I’ve helped F-Stop refine these bags over the years and they kick butt anytime you need to carry your gear beyond the comfort of your studio. Seriously badass. I carry my cards in an F-Stop Card Wallet.
Oh, looks like they are boarding my flight to Kathmandu – feel free to ask me any questions. I’m happy to answer here or via email. Just give me a few days as I might be in a tent under the stars J
Inside Tim Kemple’s camera bag:
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