Gear & gadget reviews Reviews

the right kit for the job

At this very moment I’m heading away for just over a week on location on a film called Vivid. I already shot some days on it last weekend in London but the bulk of the action takes place in a country house in Dorset, which is where we’ll be based.

When it comes to packing for a trip or a holiday I’m a big fan of lists, and lots of ’em! So, I knew what I’d have to take for the shoot but for one reason or another I only got round to actually putting it all in bags last night. I thought someone might be interested in what I’m taking and how I’ve packed it, so I’ve put together a ‘short’ essay on the topic…

Most of my photography bags are Crumplers. I’ve not got much experience of the Lowe photography bags which seem standard to many photographers but I love Crumpler for the comfortable sturdy designs and the fact that for the most part it doesn’t look like a camerabag. I tend to use public transport a lot when travelling to a job so that’s a handy factor although when I accessorise them with a silver flight case to carry my blimp it sort of gives the game away! Also, it’s worth noting that with Crumpler at least you should either make an effort to see a bag in person first, or if buying online always go one size bigger than you think you’ll need based on their measurements and description, because the padding does take up a lot of space!

By the way, I usually would never take a flash and umbrella kit to a unit stills shoot as the whole point is to use the existing lights, but I figure we are there for so long it might be nice to be able
to shoot some nicely lit portraits in a quiet moment, assuming there are any…

So, here’s what’s in each bag:

Crumpler, Four Ninety Daily (L)

A great shoulder bag with removeable dividers and lots of padding that can take my D200 with a short zoom or prime attached, the 70-200mm unattached, another small lens or flash, a laptop and loads of miscellaneous cables, batteries, related gibbons. As such it’s my most used bag as I can fit my mainstay body, lenses and a flash in there (with lighting stands etc in a Manfrotto tripod bag if required) and have access to the camera or kit easily without taking it off. The main internal padded compartment can actually be removed, turning it into a sizeable ‘man bag’ to hold more day to day items, if necessary. Love it to pieces!

In the main bag section:

– D200 with grip and 17-55mm attached
– 70-200mm f/2.8
– 50mm f/1.8
– Edge magazine in the laptop pocket (got to keep up with all the latest gaming news!)
– cardboard flash mask – a made up name for a square piece of cardboard covered in black gaffer tape with a hole in the centre the same diameter as my pro lenses. I pull it over the lens when I’m shooting flash-lit portraits up close because I use the Nikon CLS system to trigger my remote flashes from the popup flash on the D200. If I’m up close to the subject the popup flash can contaminate the light hitting them so I use the mask to block the trigger light hitting them but still allow it to get to the remote flash. Got me?
– notebook – good for making more lists!

In the front pocket:

– lens cloth
– some bungie cords which i’ve never had cause to use but they’re so small I keep some in every bag at all times, just in case!
– two sets of four rechargeable AA batteries
– a chinagraph pencil (never used it since I acquired it, but I needed one once previously and didn’t have one)
– box of CF cards (1x4GB, 2x2GB, 1x1GB, with another 4GB already in the camera, all SanDisk Extreme IIIs)
– 4GB SanDisk Titanium Cruzer USB drive, for no other reason than because I’ve got one and “you never know”
– spare D200 battery
– box of business cards

This is less than I’d usually fit in here if it was the main or only bag I was taking to a shoot, and there’s plenty room to fit a Nikon battery charger and other cables in there. However, I have the luxury of taking several bags with me so all the cables are in my other bag…

Crumpler Farmers Double

This is a backpack style camera bag. The well padded back (with contours to accomodate your spine, helpfully) zips open around top and sides to reveal first a laptop pocket inside the back, and also the main compartment, a removeable padded shell protected with a zipped mesh to stop any kit falling out every time you open the back to get the laptop out (for example). The compartment has fully removeable and adjustable dividers as usual, and I can usually fit the D200 with grip and 70-200mm attached, the 17-55mm, two more small lenses, a flash (or two if I remove them from their own padded bags) and numerous cables, all into this compartment alone. The front compartments can take more cabling, plugs, etc.

Here’s what I packed in:

– SB800 flash
– Nikon D70 body
– two Nikon battery chargers
– iPhone charger
– 15″ Powerbook G4, which fits inside a special sleeve that comes with the bag, which itself is secured by velcro inside the laptop pocket inside the back panel of the bag
– Powerbook power supply
– mouse – I bought a hideous, basic but functional Microsoft mouse because spending £50 on a spare Apple Mighty Mouse just for the laptop was out of the question because their scrollballs are awful – the one for my iMac hasn’t scrolled up in months, despite many variations on the cleaning guides online. Bad, Apple, bad!
– CF card reader and cable
– AA battery charger
– Lacie 160GB external drive, power supply and FireWire cable, as backup for the images (the Porsche desktop design, which i’ve had for a few years – I’d considered getting a USB powered rugged portable drive but as this will remain in situ once I arrive decided it would do)
– Giotto Rocket Blower for cleaning the sensor if necessary
– homemade cardboard snoots for the flash
– a White balance card that came with Scott Kelby’s Photoshop For Digital Photographers but which I’ve never really used

Then I’ve got my dead giveaway bag, a silver ‘flight case’. It’s just not as sturdy as a proper metal flight case, bit does the job brilliantly. I got a couple of these in a Maplins sale a while back. They come with customizeable foam inserts and I use the other one for storing lenses etc that aren’t regularly in use. This case has the foam removed to accomodate:

– Jacobson sound blimp
– lens tubes for the 17-55mm and the 70-200mm lenses

And finally a huuuge Animal brand soft suitcase bag, which is packed with more than enough clothes for 9 days (famous last words!), my wellies, dressing gown, Lastolite shoot through/ reflective umbrella and a Manfrotto lightweight lighting stand. Oh, and a SuperDuper! cloned bootable backup of my iMac on a 750GB Lacie Quadra drive just in case something unimaginable happens back home – I don’t have an off-site backup location so easier to take it with me and leave it wrapped in a thick woolly jumper in the bag for the duration.

Oh, and a book and a couple of DVDs courtesy of my mate Duncan for my
birthday which was last Friday – did you send me a card, hmmm?

And that’s yer lot!

By Owen

I'm a Glasgow-born stills photographer and camera operator living and working in London, UK. As well as cameras I'm into writing, gaming, general geekery and beers by Brew Dog.

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