I am an independent action photographer with a penchant for sports events like the Paralympic Games. Two years ago I was presented with the opportunity to work with the Paris National Opera and have since developed a specialty in dance and ballet too.
I’d been working with Nikon cameras for almost 15 years until I added some Sony mirrorless cameras to my kit. Photographing stage arts has made the use of silent cameras a necessity. So I have two parallel sets of equipment now. I use a Nikon D5 for sports and a Sony a9 and a7III for dance and any other gigs where I can take advantage of their compact size and lightness.
The a9 is a necessity for stage photography as its stacked sensor is the only mirrorless one that can shoot silently under artificial light without causing banding issues.
As for lenses, I’ve decided to experiment with brands as Tamron, Sigma and others have really stepped up their game lately. F/2.8 apertures (and bigger) remain super important as I’m often between 3200 and 12800 ISO anyway.
The lenses I own are:
• Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8
• Sony SEL 85mm f/1.8 FE
• Sony SEL 16-35mm FE f/4 OSS ZA that I like for its compact size
• Nikon 24mm f /2.8
(No doubt the Sony-Zeiss SEL 55mm f/1.8 should be making its way into my kit soon too.)
Being a member of the Nikon Professional Services and Sony Imaging Pro Services allow me to borrow lenses, especially for the stadium events I’ll shoot. The ones I borrow most often are:
• Nikon 180-400mm f/4
• Nikon 600mm f/4
• Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8
• Sony 400mm f/2.8
• Sony 100-400 GM OSS f/4-5.6, a surprisingly sharp lens I’ll use for day events
Other important gear is:
• A pair of Pocket Wizard transmitters/receivers to remote control the 3rd camera
• A 3-Legged-Thing monopod + Sirui L10 tilt head (not enough sports photographers use tilt heads!!!)
• A Manfrotto Tripod that rarely comes out of its bag
• Nikon SB-900 and Godox V860IIS flashes with Godox transmitters/receivers
When shooting dance, the Sony 70-200 remains my workhorse, for rehearsals and shows. I’ll put the Tamron 28-75 on the a7III or switch to the Sony 85mm if in very low light or the Sony 16-35mm if shooting under the large domes of the Opera’s studios.
For sports, the Nikon 180-400mm on the D5 is my go-to lens. I keep the Sony 16-35mm on the Sony camera to get those wide-angle stadium portraits when the athletes come up close. Sometimes I’ll borrow a Nikon 14-24mm or Samyang 14mm f/2 fisheye for those, but I admit not using the fisheyes as much as I should…
I’ll need a 600mm lens if shooting swimming or wheelchair sports where the athletes are shorter in the frame.
I keep my old tiny Nikon 24mm to put on a camera that I remotely trigger with Pocket Wizards for field events. Or I use them for a second point-of-view that I can shoot simultaneously without having to be behind the viewfinder.
Not visible on my list is the timesaving software from Camera Bits called Photo Mechanic that helps me edit thousands of shots lightning fast after an event before I churn them through Lightroom.
I’ve recently started directing videos for the Paris Opera, where I found the a7III and the Sony 70-200 GM to be a killer combination with an autofocus that almost makes me forget that I need a focus puller.
It’s an exciting time for photography. I’ll always trust Nikon for its extremely reliable and robust cameras. You always know what to expect with them. In saying that, Sony has really changed the game with its hybrid mirrorless and it’s making us realize that our equipment doesn’t always need to weigh a ton.
Being light frees us and makes us more receptive to what’s going on around us. What I love about Tamron and Sigma is that spending a bit less on basics like 24-70mm lenses, which usually put a hole in your budget, frees it up to buy some nifty primes like the Sony-Zeiss 55mm that some photographers now swear by.