My kit bag
An introduction to what Gary Holpin Photography has in his camera bag
II remember when I started out as a photographer, I had a trusty Sony A6000 camera and one small kit lens; easy to pop into a pocket or a small rucksack and walk 20 miles on the coast without noticing it. These days as a professional photographer my kit needs have grown and so has the size of my kit bag! Although what I take with me will depend on what sort of photo shoot I'm doing, my kit bag will often way upwards of 13Kg. That's fine if your just walking from the car to an office for a commercial photography shoot, but it's another matter if you're hiking up to the top of Dartmoor in deep snow!
Photography is NOT all about equipment, but if you do it professionally, and especially if you shoot different photo genres, you do tend to end up needing quite a variety of equipment. So, for interest, below is a quick summary of some of the main contents of my camera bag on a standard shoot.
I started learning photography with an entry level Canon DSLR., but soon discovered that it was a big, heavy and not great to carry around your neck for a 20 mile hike on the coast path!
So, a few years ago I was an early adopter of Sony mirrorless cameras, which were smaller and lighter than SLR cameras. I started with a Sony A6000, eventually upgrading to a full frame Sony A7RIII. A few years ago I added a second camera body with the Sony A7RV; a stunning 62MP camera for all types of photography.
Tripods are an essential piece of kit for landscape photography. As soon as the light gets low (around sunrise and sunset or after dark), or you want to do artistic long exposures shots, you have to use a tripod to avoid blurred photos.
There are a huge variety of tripods available; cheaper ones tend to be made of aluminium (sturdy but can be heavy) or carbon fibre (lighter, but more expensive).
Popular brands tend to sell for a premium price, so my choice is a lesser-known brand called Rollei, who produce a range of excellent quality carbon fibre tripods at reasonable prices. I currently have the Rollei Rock Solid Gamma mark II tripod; an excellent carbon fibre tripod with a good balance between weight, size and stability. It's light enough to carry on a hike, yet stable enough to hold the camera steady, even on a windy day. Better still, it's less than £200; a great price for a professional quality carbon fibre tripod.
Although I consistently tell my students that you should always buy the best lenses you can afford, initially I didn't follow my own advice and bought some mediocre mid-market lenses. I soon realised the error of my ways, traded them in, and now have a fabulous set of high-quality lenses which take me all the way from ultra-wide at 14mm focal length, to moderate zoom at 200mm.
My main, every day lens is the one that spans the focal length (field of view) of human eyesight (around 50mm); It's the brilliant Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM (Grand Master series) lens. This is the one that stays on my camera for most of the time, and only changes if I need to go wider or tighter on a scene.
For when I want to go to an ultra wide field of view (much wider than human eye sight) I reach for my Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 DG DN Art lens, perfect for wide open landscapes and expanding perspective.
I would have liked to have completed my Sony G Master series with the equivalent Sony ultra wide lens, but at more than twice the price of this Sigma lens, I just couldn't justify it, and didn't need to with the fantastic quality of images that this Sigma lens produces.
At the other end of the focal length spectrum, is my 70-200mm zoom lens, the amazing Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM (another in the Sony G Master series). This lens goes well beyond the human eye field of view (around 50mm) and allows me to zoom into details in the landscape or give people and wildlife shots a beautiful soft bokeh. A lens at this range also allows me as a photographer to compress perspective; effectively making things appear closer together.
LOW LIGHT PRIME
Most of my key lenses are zoom lenses, covering a range of focal lengths. However, this so called 'prime' lens covers a single focal length (24mm) and is significantly smaller and lighter than my other lenses. However, the main reason that I bought the Sony FE 24mm F1.4 GM (yes, another G Master lens) was its large maximum aperture (f1.4) which makes it perfect for allowing in lots of light in low light conditions. Specifically, I bought this lens for night sky photography at which it excels.
Circular Polarising (CPL) filters allow you to reduce glare on water and wet leaves, which is particularly important for photographing waterfalls and allowing you to see rocks below the water on photos of still water. Although I have several, I make sure that I don't keep them on my lenses, as using them with wide open blue skies (by accident) can cause unsightly colour banding in the sky.
CPL filters either screw into the front of the lens, or can be used as part of a square filter holder system.
Neutral Density (ND) filters are like sunglasses for your camera and allow you to achieve slower shutter speeds.
How much they block light is described by the number of stops; 1 stop is a reduction by a factor of 2 (half); 2 stops reduces light by a factor of 2x2 (=4).
The standard set of ND filters that I use are 3, 6 and 10 stop filters (also described as ND 8, ND64, and ND1000 respectively). This allows you to achieve shutter speeds of anything between a second to several minutes even in the daytime. They can even be stacked to achieve even higher light reduction.
ND filters can be circular and screwed into the front of any lens with a lens thread, but this is rather limiting as you will need a different filter set for each lens diameter. The better option is to use square filters with a filter holder, which can be attached to any lens, using an appropriate adapter ring.
Cheaper filters are often Perspex, which work fine, but can produce a colour cast on images. Glass filters generally have better optical quality but are more expensive.
There are many filter systems available, but in my opinion, the best (optically and practically) are produced by NiSi. They provide high quality filters and are used by professional photographers globally.
One of the key unique features that attracted me to NiSi was that the CPL filter can be easily used at the same time as square filters are used; the CPL sits behind the square filters and can be rotated by a small wheel at the back of the filter holder. On most other filter systems, the square filters have to be removed in order to adjust the CPL.
In my experience, the cheapest prices on NiSi filter holders and filter sets are generally directly from the NiSi website. They often offer a discount for new customer too.