What tripod do I buy? How should I carry my gear when I travel? What computer programs do I need? Hopefully this page helps to answer some of these questions! Picking the right gear is hard- there are lots of options to research at just about any price point you can imagine (and some you can’t). Have a look below for what gear we are using- More details will eventually show up in blog posts!
Isn’t all this stuff really expensive? Yes. And when you do it wrong (like I did), that just makes it worse. Thom Hogan has a great article about how being too frugal when buying your first kit only adds cost later on. He (correctly) assumes, that after buying the cheap “stepping stone” stuff, you’ll need to upgrade to the better stuff, only further inflating the total cost. Better go big right from the start. Thom’s Article
B&H: 14mm Wide
B&H: 70-300 Zoom
Wide Prime: Nikon 24mm f/2.8. Another so-so lens, but it’s easy to carry and its very light! Both in terms of weight and speed, its great (ok decent…meh) for night time street photography.
B&H: 24 Prime
B&H: Travel Tripod
B&H: Gitzo Carbon
Manfrotto 494RC2 & RRS BH40 with Quick Release and L bracket
The Manfrotto is a great starter head- light weight and simple. For a bit more stability Really Right Stuff is the way to go. I hemmed and hawed about spending so much on a tripod head and after talking to numerous people, RRS is really the right stuff to go with. It’s very stable, which is important for shooting at night with a heavy body and lens. The QR plate and L bracket is equally important. This keeps things stable and easy to position.
I spent a long time looking at how to better carry a heavy full frame camera. I really liked the Custom SLR strap which enabled a better side carry position, but didn’t want to give up the bottom mount, and couldn’t trust it. My search took me to the Vulture strap- the carabineers allow me to attach it to anything and do all sorts of creative carry methods with lots of security. Sadly, the Vulture kit is crazy expensive. Luckily, they sell their bottom straps for twenty bucks! Pick these up, and get a custom strap made for another $15 at strapworks.com! let me know what you think. I know, it’s awesome. You are welcome.
Somewhat of a DIY kit, I chose this because I’m too cheap to buy the full RRS panoramic kit. This is technically the RRS slide rail for macro shooting, but the slider kit enables you to take single row panoramics without messy parallax issues. Definitely worth the money. As a side note- Sunway Photo, a Chinese company, makes a very similar kit for roughly 60% of the cost. Great quality and same results.
When traveling it’s a good idea not to flaunt all of your expensive toys. I prefer non-descript bags for my camera, and also because I can repurpose them when I don’t need the camera. Packing light is key. For trips with only one lens, I start with a PacSafe day pack. The really cool thing about this bag is the PacSafe is obsessed with being anti-theft so there are all these cool zipper and sling locks. As it’s not a camera bag, so I had to add in the case. The Tenba top load case fits perfectly and has room for a D800 with an attached 5 inch lends, and room for a small prime. The pouches on the sides do a great job of holding a small tripod as well.
Gear Travel Bag:
As with Really Right Stuff, FStop Gear is the best of the best. When I needed to start carrying more than one lens this was recommended. Pros like Elia Locardi and Ken Kiemenski use F-Stop as well. Aside from a customizable inside, one of the big selling points on this bag was its size. It fits perfectly under the seat of an airplane AND in addition to a camera, it fits a 13inch laptop (!). This and an overhead carry on (with tripod and head) is all you need for a week+ photo vacation. The shape is unassuming and F-stop has all sorts of cool add-ons to hold tripods and stuff.
Unfortunately for us travelers, with image files of this size, a tablet or netbook won’t cut it. Being a staunch opponent of Apple products (sorry- Ill buy their stock, but not their products), I needed a beast Windows machine. To travel, the best combination of lightness and power was a Sony Vaio Z. 13 inches, less than 2.5 pounds, and can be fitted with an i7 and 8 GB of ram and SSDs. This is great for travel and some processing but doesn’t cut it for bigger projects.
For processing at home and the big projects, we have a desktop. Prepare for nerdyness: i7 4770k Haswell @4ghz, 16 GB Ram, Corsair water cooling, NVidia 770GT graphics, and multiple (small) SSDs for storage of programs and for use as PS6 Scratch Disks. For editing and blending, a Wacom tablet is the way to go, it’s best do it by hand!!!
Memory and Storage:
D800 pictures are BIG- 45MB plus for a single RAW. When processing these in PS, they get even bigger, some panoramic projects I have are 4-5 GB. In camera I use 16 GB Lexar SD cards- usually carrying 4 of them and rotating through them so all of my eggs aren’t in the same basket. For extra back up, I also simultaneously shoot JPEGS to a 32 GB compact flash card. Sure it’s probably better to shoot the Raws onto the CF card, but multiple cards is WAY too expensive!
When travelling I bring two 1 TB WD passport external drives to back up shots and store ongoing projects. At home, even 1 TB presents storage issues. In my 2.5 years of constant travel, I accumulated nearly 1.5 TB of data before counting the larger project files and north of 45k pictures. For back up, and to be able to access that data from anywhere I chose to go with my own server. The Synology DS412+ gives me 4 bays, which support up to 3 TB each in various RAID formats. This is the way to do back up (or music and media streaming!)
I hate light room. Yup, I said it. I don’t use it. Let’s move on. Raw processing is done in Adobe Camera Raw and main processing is done in PS6. I originally heavily used Photomatix (as Trey Ratcliff does), but recently I’ve moved more towards hand blending and luminosity masks (this will have to be a blog post how-to, eventually), in PS with the Wacom tablet. After attending a Ken Kaminsky and Elia Locardi Photowalk in NYC, I got a free copy of Google’s NIK Collection. This does sharpening, color correction, HDR, and lots of other cool effects. Noise is also managed via the Noiseaware PS plug in. Finally, for panoramics, Kolor’s AutoPanoGiga used to be the weapon of choice, but now PS is used in conjunction to edit the individual files.
Want more information on the gear above? Check out the “gear” tagged blog posts here for more in-depth reviews and information.