About » What's in the bag?
Probably one of the most common questions I receive is "what kind of camera do you use?" I will say right up front that fancy cameras and a bandolier of lenses don't do much good on their own. It takes vision, perseverance, and a little dash of luck to get great shots. So why do I carry a big professional camera like a Nikon D3s? Mainly because I put my gear (and myself) into some punishing conditions to get photographs. There isn't a camera store within a thousand miles of whatever hellish swamp or stormy ocean I'm stuck in. So whatever is in my hands had better work, and with a minimum of fuss.
Cameras and lenses
- Nikon D3s camera: This is my primary camera in the field. Fast, responsive autofocus and 10 frames per second are critical when I'm following fast action. Plus it can shoot very clean files at high ISOs (I don't hesitate to shoot at 1600) and 720p videos. And, in a pinch I think I could use this beefy piece of metal to defend myself from thugs or bears. Nice.
- Nikon D300s camera: When I want to travel light or need a little extra reach, I'll choose this Nikon APS-C sized body instead. Paired with the 70-200mm f/2.8, you get a 105-300mm image stabilized f/2.8--perfect for birds in flight. I also use it with a 10-24mm lens for underwater shots and time lapses.
- Nikkor 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5: Since this is a DX lens, it is only used on the D300s, and is my choice for a fast-and-light wide angle. I also use it as my primary underwater lens and for time lapses.
- Nikkor 16-35mm f/4 VR: I use this lens for environmental portraits. I like to get in close to the action and this lens allows me to frame the scene and include a the background for context. The VR (vibration reduction) is helpful since I'm usually hand-holding. Most of my photographs are taken with this wide-angle zoom.
- Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8: This standard-range zoom is built like a tank and sharp as a tack. It is my primary lens, on a D3s body, for aerials. I also use it when I need a shallower depth-of-field than the 16-35mm f/4 gives me.
- Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VR: This workhorse telephoto zoom is a great lens for birds in flight, reclusive scientists, and intimate landscapes.
- Nikkor 35mm f/1.4: This lens is so small that it's easy to carry everywhere. I use it when I need that extremely shallow depth-of-field look.
- Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 micro VR: This macro lens is indispensible for capturing small details. I always have it with me on any multimedia or nature shoot.
- Nikkor 300mm f/2.8 VR II: I bring this along when I anticipate needing a little extra reach for birds or mammals.
- Gitzo tripods & Really Right Stuff ballheads: For landscapes and video interviews, a solid tripod is essential. If I'm expecting to use heavier gear, I will carry the Gitzo 3540LS legs with Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead; if I'm traveling light, a Gitzo 2541 and Really Right Stuff BH-40 ballhead. If I expect to do video work or time lapses, I bring both, plus a couple of small desktop tripods!
- Zoom H4N audio recorder: This high-quality linear PCM audio recorder is my tool of choice for multimedia work. I use it for both interviews and ambient sounds. It is *always* with me.
- GoPro HD video camera: This tiny camera weighs a mere 6 ounces, comes with a waterproof housing, can shoot full HD video and has a built-in intervalometer for time-lapse photography. It's so light, I can put this camera places where I wouldn't dream of putting a DSLR.
- DawnTech GPS: This tiny device works with my D3s and D300s to record the latitude and longitude right into my camera metadata. I can't tell you how many times scientists have asked me for this very useful bit of information, and I'm always glad I have it.
- Cable release: I always use a cable release for landscape work.
- Filters: I only carry a polarizer and a 3-stop soft split-graduated neutral density filters, that's it.
- SB-700 speedlight: For a little pop of extra light, this speedlight does the trick.
- Aquatech surf housing and 8" dome port: If a project requires me to get wet, I use this underwater housing for my D300s & 10-24mm wide-angle zoom. This is an ideal setup for half-in-half-out shots.
- 15" MacBook Pro & Lacie Rugged hard drives: For any assignment longer than a few days, I bring my laptop and an assortment of Lacie Rugged hard drives.
To read more about how I carry this equipment for various types of shoots, check out my "Carry the gear" page.