What’s in my gear bag?

What’s in my gear bag?

I get asked a lot about the equipment I use and why.

Photo Equipment for Heritage and Museum Photography

Firstly I have to say that its not about the camera you use… any camera can produce images that you can be proud of and which will do the job you need them to do.    Please don’t write to me and try to justify Nikon D850 over a Canon 5D mk IV due to dynamic range and signal to noise ratios; I don’t care and you’re wasting your time!  What matters are the end results, their usability and your client’s satisfaction not the gear you used and what you consider to be “professional” or not (which usually comes down to how big your camera is – not so coincidentally like sports cars!).

That said, I use a mixture of different gear – For my day to day shooting I like to use Fujifilm cameras… the lenses are superb, the files and image quality outstanding and they achieve everything I need a camera to do. Fuji cameras are light weight, small and can be used for long periods of time without muscles like Arnie. They also take advantage of highly accurate colour reproduction – something very valuable in object and museum photography. Why don’t I use Nikon or Canon??? Well, I used to. But I prefer the Fuji files for their quality and sharpness. Fuji don’t use a moiré filter so that improves sharpness to a point that out weighs the weight and bulk of the DSLRs. By the way, I am not a Fuji X photographer or employed or paid by Fuji to promote their gear… although if they would like to start sending me their new cameras and lenses for free I’d be more than happy to (are you listening Fuji??)!  I also have to consider file sizes, as many clients don’t have the IT requirements to deal with lots, sometimes thousands, of photographs of massive size.

8mm, 18mm, 23mm, 50mm, 60mm Macro Prime and 16-55mm, 100 – 400mm zoom lenses. The Fujinon lenses are amazing. Edge to edge sharpness in a light weight body. Excellent glass! I love them. I have a number of wide angle lenses in order to do the kind of documentation work and redevelopment photography I often get employed for. The prime lens is very handy when planning before and after images to avoid any accidental differences in focal length that might occur with a zoom. And keeping wide allows a broader view of rooms and buildings while preserving detail. I work mainly with the 8mm, 18mm and the 16-55mm zoom for these jobs.

I also use Hasselblad cameras and lenses for times when reproduction size is a consideration, using specialist film for documentation work such as Infra Red, or when I just feel like the image would benefit from that medium format aesthetic!    It’s not usually necessary unless it’s for commercial work but it is always available.  

I prefer Manfrotto tripods for their light weight and stability. And they give excellent flexibility to shoot form overhead or in awkward angles while remaining rooted to the spot so my expensive cameras aren’t in danger.

I use a mixture of high powered flash and lighting units – Canon and Godox speedlights for portability and my favourite studio flashes the Bowens 500 Gemini strobes (although they often come out of the studio for location work too), plus some daylight balanced Falcon Eyes Continuous lights for object photography work and training and for wet plate collodion studio work where flash can not provide enough power.

I use a variety of film – Velvia 50 for high colour saturation, Portra 400, and am looking forward to using Ektachrome again after its reintroduction.   I also use Kodak Tri-X, ILfrod FP4, Fuji Acros, and Ilford SFX infrared film.

I’m not going to detail all my darkroom work or my Wet plate Collodion chemistry, simply because it will take too long and I doubt you’d be interested.

So that is the basic gear list I bring to a job. As you can see I tailor my equipment to the job in hand and the goals my clients have for their imagery.