Chris Linder Photography - Science and Natural History Storytelling

Mini-pods can be very useful, like when you need to set up a timelapse in tight quarters on a ship. Photo © Helen Fields.

An Aquatech surf housing is ideal for half-in-half-outs. Photo © Max Wilbert.

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 dash of luck to get great shots. Whatever camera you choose, learn it. Know where every button by feel so that you can operate it in the dark.

Cameras and lenses

  • Nikon D810 camera: This is my primary camera in the field for stills and video.
  • Nikon D750 camera: Backup camera to my D810, or my primary camera when I travel light.
  • Nikkor 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5: I use this lightweight, small lens for environmental portraits. I like to get in close to the action, framing the scene to include both the subject and background for context.
  • Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8: Razor sharp wide-angle zoom; I use this for landscapes and environmental portraits.
  • 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 for multimedia shoots & aerials.
  • Nikkor 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR: When I'm working from boats and can't physically get closer, this lens gives me that extra reach. It is also easily hand-holdable for tracking moving subjects like birds in flight.
  • Nikkor 70-200mm f/4 VR: Lighter version of the classic 2.8 tele zoom for when I am traveling light.
  • Nikkor f/1.8 primes: I use Nikon's excellent primes (24/35/50/85) for ultralight shoots or when I need extra speed or shallow depth of field.
  • Nikkor 60 & 105mm f/2.8 micro lenses: for detail & closeup work.

Indispensible accessories

  • 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 Markins Q20i 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.
  • Olympus LS-10 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 D810 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 carry a polarizer and an assortment of neutral density filters, which allow me to use slower shutter speeds in daylight.
  • SB-910 and SB-700 speedlights: For a little pop of extra light, these speedlights do the trick.
  • Aquatech surf housing and 8" dome port: If a project requires me to get wet, I use this underwater housing for my D810 & 14-24mm or 18-35mm wide-angle zooms. This is an ideal setup for half-in-half-out shots.

Carrying systems

I use ThinkTank and MindShift bags exclusively. Their cases are designed for working photographers who need fast access to their equipment. Zippers are sturdy and the bags are trim. Little things, like mesh pouches on the outside of lens cases to hold lens caps, are thoughtful add-ons. Every assignment requires a slightly different set of tools. These are some examples of how I pack my bags depending on the job.

Special offers: if you spend $50 or more at ThinkTank or MindShift using the links provided below, you will qualify for a free accessory with every order, including:

ThinkTank: Cable Management 20, Pixel Pocket Rocket, Modular Pouch, or Security Tag from ThinkTank, or the House of Cards

MindShift: Card Again, Gear Pouch LCD and Backdoor Case, Gear Pouch 4 Batteries & Cards, Gear Pouch 2 Batteries & Cards, or Gear Pouch Cables & Power.

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For this shoot of an Evenki reindeer roundup in Russia, I'm using a ThinkTank Digital Holster, perfect for fast access to a telephoto zoom. Photo by Max Holmes.