“Cameras don’t take great pictures, people do.”
It’s true. No amount of gear will ever replace a patient and considered approach. So, although this list exists, please don’t consider it a short-cut to compelling photographs. Practice, perseverance and patience will bring you greater rewards than new lenses. That said…
The list below exists, in part, because I’m frequently asked what gear I prefer and so this is an easy reference guide. I have no strong allegiance to brands, gear has to do a job. It’s got to be reliable, robust and able to withstand challenging environments. If the gear doesn’t work on one shoot then it doesn’t find its way onto the list for the next job.
Gear gets upgraded when the need arises so this list changes periodically but the core elements remain the same. Different jobs dictate the need for different gear so not every item comes on every shoot. I’ll sometimes hire additional gear on location to cut down on transportation costs but can work out of the bag you see here for the majority of the work that I do.
NB: Items listed in green are carried on location and all fit inside my F-stop Satori Expedition bag. Items in orange remain in the studio or only come on specific jobs.
Each item listed below will link to a full product description on the B&H web site. If you’re looking to buy any of these items online then I’ve always found B&H to be competitively priced, quick and efficient.
Camera bodies and lenses
I have always used Canon gear. That’s not to say that other camera manufacturers are not just as good, it’s simply that I’ve grown up with Canon camera. These are the 9th and 10th Canon bodies that I’ve owned and the selection of lenses below covers every focal length I need whilst giving me the wide apertures that give creative exposure opportunities and the ability to work in relatively low light.
- 2 x Canon EOS 5D Mark III bodies
- 2 x Canon vertical battery grips
- Canon remote cable release
- Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L II USM
- Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM
- Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM
- Canon EF 85mm f/1.2 L II USM
- Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II USM
- Lensbaby Composer Pro with various, interchangeable optics
- Optic Kit for Lensbaby Composer with pinhole, zone, plastic & single glass optics
I don’t often work with a flash but these sources of extra light always accompany me on location, when you need them, you really need them.
- Canon Speedlite 580EX II
- Pocket Wizard Flex TT5
- Pocket Wizard Mini TT1
- Canon ST-E2 Wireless Transmitter
- Lastolite 4-in-1 reflectors
- Various David Honl Light Modifiers
The Velbon tripod listed below is chunky but light due to its carbon fibre construction. Like the additional light sources, I rarely use it but when you need some stability then you’ll find that a robust tripod is essential.
- X-Rite ColorChecker Passport
- Velbon Sherpa Pro CF-640 Tripod with PH-157Q head
- Manfrotto 695CX Monopod
- The Pod: Lightweight beanbag support for DSLRs
- 6 x Lee NG Grad filters, holder and case: crucial for landscape work and definitely the best available
Supplementing my 5D MKII video capabilities with a top-quality audio recorder enables me to record ambient sounds and interviews.
Once you’ve got all that gear, you need something sturdy and reliable to transport it in. You need bags that you can depend upon to keep your gear safe. They’ve got to withstand harsh environments and yet be light enough not to carry for prolonged periods.
- F-Stop Satori Expedition Bag with large ICU for getting to locations
- F-stop Mala waist bag when on location
- F-stop computer sleeve for around town and for client meetings
As my friends will confirm, I’m no fashion guru but there are a couple of practical items that have made life on the road a little more comfortable. I can’t list everything I take but I rarely head off to the airport without these little gems.
- Buff headwear: wrap it around your wrist, cover your head, clean your lens. Multifunctional and essential
- Tilley: The finest hat in the world
- Dr. Marten’s Chelsea Boots: Airline security or temple entrance, these air-cushioned boots slide on and off easily
Digital Asset Management
- 15″ Apple MacBook Pro Retina
- Apple 27″ Cinema Display
- LaCie Rugged Triple Interface hard drives
- Wacom Bamboo Pen Tablet
- Adobe Lightroom
- HoudahGeo Geocoding Software for Mac
- Evernote for recording travel itineraries, journals, snapshots and memos
- Scrivener for compiling and editing written articles
Little things that can save your life
- A roll of Duct tape. Cut strips and stick to the inside of your camera bag for swift repairs
- Strong carabiners
- A Spork
- Insect repellant, Sunscreen, hand cleansing gel
- A small, air-tight can of your favourite, most refreshing tea.
This isn’t an exhaustive list but it covers the essentials. It’s taken me many years to fine-tune the gear I carry, weeding out the things that don’t pull their weight and seeking out clever solutions for irksome problems. The list changes as the process of fine-tuning continues but I hope that this will give you a good place to start if you’re looking to compare what gear a working travel photographer requires in order to get the job done.
Your list will inevitably be determined by your specific needs. If you’re a fashion or lifestyle photographer then your gear list will obviously be very different. However, if you’re a travel photographer or just somebody who likes to make the most of the opportunities that arise as you travel around then I hope there are some items on this list that will give you food for thought.