More Than "What's In My Bag?"
I'm often asked about what I shot an image with or what I think of a particular piece of equipment. As I've mentioned in some of my blog posts, I'm not looking to pump out review after review of gear that I don't really care about. I am however more than happy to tell people about the equipment I've come to trust and rely on both in the field and at home. So, this will definitely be part what's in my bag, but there's a lot more to making an image than what comes along in the field. As of now, I don't use any affiliate links in my blog posts, but I do have a few in the links here. You don't have to click them, but they might help me out a small bit if you do.
So, let's get in to it:
Sony A7RII - My primary camera body - It produces a great quality image at 42 megapixels even when pushing the ISO at night. It's not quite as impressive as the A7S line when it comes to how far you can push the ISO without introducing noise, but it goes a great job. The 42 megapixels are more than enough for pretty much any need. Battery life leaves a bit to be desired, but that's easily dealt with.
Nikon D800E - I've had this camera for a good number of years now and no matter what I've put this thing through it manages to keep shooting...loudly. Sadly, I believe it's due to be replaced in the coming months. Just what it will be replaced with is still up for debate. I'm up in the air between the D850 and the A7RIII.
I decided to break this down in two sections. Being fortunate enough to work with Sigma, I have an incredible array of lenses at my arsenal. I also try my best to pack light, so I'll make the call to bring certain lenses depending on where I'm going. Here are just a few different scenarios and what I might start with in my bag.
The Always In My Bag - New Moon - Timelapse Shoot
The Always In My Bag - New Moon - Milky Way Shoot
These lenses will get swapped in depending on location and the type of landscape I'm going to be shooting
Sigma 85mm f1.4 ART - (Sigma)
Sigma 135mm f1.8 ART - (Sigma)
Other Items in My Bag
iOptron Sky Tracker Pro - You can read a little more about this below, but this device allows for longer exposures of the sky to be taken while keeping the stars looking sharp. It does this by compensating for the rotation of the Earth! I don't always bring this if I'm shooting timelapse, but if I know I'm heading out to shoot stills or if one of my cameras will be free, I'll bring it along.
Memory Cards + Hardshell Case - About 12 different SD cards ranging from 32GB to 128GB. As of now, I don't have a real preference for brand on these and they vary a decent bit. The hardshell case is one I bought at a local camera shop, but to be honest, it's kind of worthless. It protects them, but I'd say about half of the time they all fall out when I open it up.
Extra Batteries - Approximately 7 Sony batteries and 4 Nikon batteries
Small Camera Cleaning Kit - Just a standard kit. Sensor swabs, lens cloth, blower. No special brand. I bought a kit off of Amazon and it comes with a few extra items you may or may not use.
Black Diamond Headlamps + Extra Batteries - I normally carry two headlamps with me. One that I'm wearing and one that stay in my bag. I probably own 4 different black diamond headlamps and I've been pretty happy with all of them.
Anker 20,000 mAh Battery Pack - This is nice and small and doesn't always get used, but is a life saver when I need it. I can either hook it up to my Sony A7RII when I'm shooting an extra long timelapse, charge up the StarTracker or recharge my cellphone. I strongly recommend having something like this is in your bag.
The image to the right shows what one of the Milky Way shots taken with the iOptron Sky Tracker Pro combined with an untracked foreground image looks like as it's being worked on. The longer exposure for the sky allows more detail to be brought out of the fainter parts of the Milky Way while keeping the image cleaner by shooting at a lower ISO.
There's definitely a bit more work involved when creating an image this way, but it can produce really exciting results. More detail and cleaner images will not only look better on your computer, but also look great when printed large!
You can click this link here to view a few more images taken using the star tracker
I've been through a good number of tripods throughout my photography adventures. The ocean has taken many tripod legs to their last days.
I've more recently been using a tripod from Induro and Benro tripods, but am still in search of something that I feel will stay with me long term.
Benro FTA28CV1 - The newest addition to my loadout! I took this tripod to the Jasper Dark Sky Festival and have been pretty happy with it so far. It supports up to 22 pounds, has a max height of 66.9 inches and weighs in under 4 pounds.
Induro GTT104M2 - Knowing that I don't want to carry much extra weight, but I need my tripod to hold a good deal (my camera and a full sized timelapse slider), this tripod made the most sense. Although it folds down to a small size of 18 inches, it's max height it a bit of 53 inches and it will support around 20 pounds.
LowePro ProTactic 450AW - For the past two years or so this bag has been with me on most of my travels. It will hold both camera bodies, a decent number of lenses and fits in the overhead or under the seat in front of you (at the expense of even less room for your feet!)
I generally will end up bringing a second bag to transport all of my timelapse equipment when needed.
I've used a few different timelapse rigs over the last couple of years. I've jumped between Dynamic Perception and Rhino Camera Gear products. The Rhino Camera slider was very easy to use and super quick to set up, but didn't have a 3rd axis available. The support at Rhino was top notch and helped resolve and issue I had very quickly. You can check out more about the Rhino slider here - (Amazon | Rhino)
Currently, I'm using the Sapphire Pro from Dynamic Perception. It definitely jumps up a little bit on the price point, but also adds a number of additional features. You can read fully about the different options here (Dynamic Perception)
Overall, I've been happy with the Sapphire. The unit is controlled via a bluetooth app, which I had a number of issues with at first, but seemed to have been resolved through updates.
DJI Mavic Pro - I held off buying a drone for a long time. I loved the photos I saw, but didn't want to carry around the extra bag since it wasn't my primary focus. Then DJI announced the Mavic. I can easily strap the small bag it comes in to my camera bag or fit it where I normally put a larger lens. It's incredibly useful for scouting and capturing very unique vantages while not being a disturbance due to it's small size. The Mavic has been more of a fun thing for my personal use, but I can definitely see it working in to my day to day use as I travel.
You can check out some of my aerial photography here - From The Sky
PhotoPills - Hands down one of the best planning apps for shooting the night sky. There's a little bit of a learning curve, but it's worth putting in the time. You can check out a photo of me using it just to the right. Thanks to Mark Jacobs for the pic!
StarWalk - A nice and easy, hold up to the sky and see what you're looking at app. You can also change the time to see what the sky will look like or when something will line up.
Photographer's Ephemeris - A classic app for sorting out angles and planning. Not quite as structured toward night sky shooting as PhotoPills.
My Aurora Forecast - The best app I've found for when you're in Northern Lights territory. It can give location based forecasts and alerts to give you a heads up when you're head should be looking up!