ROB DURSTON PHOTOGRAPHY

What the Heck is in that Thing?

Besides my assistants, every now and then, someone random will pick up my camera bag. . . or should I say, try to.
I’ve had my LowePro Vertex 300AW backpack for a few years now and even after heavy heavy all weather use, it is only now showing some wear. The pack and all the gear inside comes in at a svelte 14kgs (30 pounds), add with it a Manfrotto 190XPROB lightweight tripod and an old style big knob ball head for counter balance and the whole kit isn’t too bad for hiking up the side of Slieve Donard.

Here is a photo of most of the gear.

an exploded view of my LowePro Vertex 300AW Back Pack.

an exploded view of my LowePro Vertex 300AW Back Pack.

Starting at the top left is a pack of AAA batteries, as well as those I also carry large supplies of AA’s, usually Duracells just for consistency sake but once in a while when I can’t find them I have to go to an off brand like these blue things. Luckily they are just AAA’s but I keep a plentiful supply since my crazy Chinese made radio slaves just eat them up. I have three sets of radio slaves; the “Chinese” brand that work pretty well and have male and female hot shoe mounts, a Pocket Wizard system for camera remote firing and a Profoto Air system for my Profoto gear.

Next up, to the right are the cables for the Pocket Wizard for camera, phono/Profoto sync and PC sync. The bottom cable is a Canon TTL cable for my Canon 580EX flash. . . . that someone borrowed from me almost, hmmm, two years ago . . Cef, you listening?

Beside the cables to the right are my media cards. I have a number of CF cards of different sizes and makes but lately I’ve been liking the Transcend. They are great for stills and fast enough to shoot video on the Canon 5D mk3.

Then we have a USB memory stick, business cards and a set of Lee ND grads. The grads along with the holder, under and to the right a bit, allow me to dodge an area of the frame from getting more light than another; its great for taking down overexposed skies to a closer ratio to the foreground.

Next up we have lens tissue, right beside the brightly coloured little colour checker (essential for quick and easy colour correction and calibration). Lens tissue always seems to be something I can’t do without considering I’m on location most of the time. However it never seems to fail that I just end up breathing on the glass and using the inside of my cotton t shirt to gently clean the surface. I then use a rocket blower (not pictured) to blow off any residuals and a little bottle of lens fluid, to say I have one.

The first of the camera bodies is a Canon 5D Mark III. I’ve had this body since September of 2012 and after about 60k images I really can’t fault it for too many things. Its a massive improvement over the Mark 2 (pictured below the Mark 3) with improved auto focus and low light capabilities. I do wish for more AF points but really I’d be just nitpicking. One nice feature is that it shares batteries with the Mark 2 (pictured to the right of both bodies), so I can keep one style of battery in my bag for both bodies. I use Canon and Energizer batteries; the Energizers being half the price of the Canon’s but sometimes being inconsistent with battery life. I therefore use them just as back ups after the Canon brand ones wear down.

The lens to the right of the batteries is a 50mm f 2.5 Macro lens that I use as a stop gap lens; when I need something in between my two main zooms and I can’t find my little nifty fifty 50mm f1.8 (Cef, I hope its still in one piece. . . ). The macro is a great little lens and I’ve had this lens since I bought it new in 1999 at Samys in Santa Barbara. I do wish Adobe had a lens profile for it in ACR but its not really a big thing and one day I’ll get around to doing up a custom profile myself for it.

To the right of the macro is a rectangular chunk of welder’s glass, framed up with think gaffers tape to avoid any cuts. I use this glass primarily on location shoots; I first use the glass myself, by looking up in the sky at the sun to determine cloud direction and coverage. This almost always garners interest from the client. At this point I show them what I’m doing and ask them if they want to be my “eyes on the sky”. Now I have a client who is more interested/concerned/obsessed with the local clouds than they are about what the back of my camera looks like. BINGO. Just keep that one between us would you.

Next is the Lee filter holder I mentioned earlier; a great little clip on/clip off system that allows for expansion; a must for anyone serious about controlling their final image in camera.

Next row under the lens tissue are a couple of fine and medium Sharpies. They are always good for marking things up, blacking out brand names etc. I usually buy them by the box and spread them around in different pockets and bags.

Then beside those is a Calumet brand 4x loupe/magnifier for clipping onto the back of the LCD screen on the camera. I use it mostly for fine LiveView focus and the small amount of BTS grab video I might do on a shoot. I have a few of these as they are made from very thin plastic and I never felt confident they would last; they have and I haven’t had any real issues bar one eyepiece element fell out just after purchase but the friendly folk at Calumet Belfast replaced it immediately.

To the right of the finder is ol’ faithful, a first series Canon 5D II that I purchased at Samys in September of 2008. Even though the camera was sold out and back ordered, I walked in off the street and managed to abscond with one (thanks Richard). This body has over 160k images taken with it and has never failed or given me an error code. That said the focus is horrible and the mode dial on the top left would always spin (non locking).

To the right of it is a little Lens Baby 35mm Composer, mostly for playing around with in video on the Mark 3.

Next is a Canon 12mm extension tube for decreasing the minimum focusing distance on most of my lenses.

Beside that, the white lens, is a trusty 70-200mm f4 Non IS lens. Why did you ever get this lens you might be asking? Well as photographer who doesn’t always end up in the best, cleanest, safest locations, I don’t see the sense in spending £1800 on a 2.8 IS lens when this will do me 90% of the time; the other times I do need a lens or two I always use LensPimp. Yes I have used the new 70-200 f2.8 IS II and it is an incredible lens but for me to tie up that kind of money in a lens, taking it into the locations I go, its just not worth it. On a tripod, at the same apertures, you would never be able to tell these two apart.

I carry an array of filters; start on the right and at the top, we have a step down ring 77-67mm, a 77mm skylight (for protecting the front element in very unsafe conditions only), a couple of close up filters, then right to left across the bottom area couple of polarizers and a couple of neutral density filters.

Starting on the next row are some simple tools, a screwdriver set and a couple of special ones.

Then we have a set of Pocket Wizard Transceivers that as I said previously I mostly use as camera remote triggers. They can also be used to trigger all my Profoto gear as well.

The next big item is another Canon body, a EOS 5 (or EOS A2e in North America). Its a kind of odd ball Canon film body they made back in the ’90’s with an eye controlled auto focus (when I get the time to set it up and try it, I’ll let you know how it works). Its nice to blow off a few frames on a job every now and then.

Now up, the big lens with the red stripe on it. My trustworthy and faithful 17-40mm f4. Again you are probably muttering under your breath,”Rob, why would you buy that when you could get the 16-35mm f2.8 II?”. Well to be quite honest and besides the same reasons I have the f4 Non IS 70-200, I use the long end of the lens A LOT. I find a 50mm lens too long for most portraits and the 40 just feels right there. Also seeing as how I rarely use the lens wide open, I don’t need the f2.8 end of things either. I’m in love with the 17mm length for most of my “blue collar” themed portraits as it gives me a great sense of environment and surrounding; it also doesn’t hurt that is it really close to the feel of a 40mm on a Hasselblad when cropped 1:1. Some of my friends might tease me about this lens but for me, its a real workhorse and regularly gets a check up and cleanings at Canon.

Beside that is the last of my regular “carry along” lenses, the gold striped 85mm f1.8 US lens; nice sharp lens and very compact. I can see the veins in people’s eyes that I photograph with this.

Last but not least on the bottom, under the Pocket Wizard and Canon 5 body, sits my Sekonic 358 light meter. Now don’t get me wrong here, everyone should have a light meter and know how to properly use it. . . . just not this one. I’ve owned Minolta FM3 and 4’s, Gossens and even a little trusty Sekonic 328F but this meter is a true lemon right off the drawing board. I’m not sure who designed it but it definitely was NOT a photographer. Simple things like being able to use it with one hand while changing modes or iso settings, or even trying to read the impossibly illegible type on the face of the meter; I actually had to write all of the modes and buttons out in Sharpie so that I could use it. This isn’t just the case for using it in a darkened studio, even in bright sunlight the white on grey background text just cannot be read.

Well, there you have it, all the stuff in my regular camera bag that I use for my work. Stay tuned and check back for more in the series of “What the Heck is in that Thing?”

Thanks

One Response to “What the Heck is in that Thing?”

  1. […] I received a call a few months ago from an agency back in the US. They were looking to produce some photography for an upcoming “book” for Hewlett-Packard. I’ve always liked HP; I thought their ads and marketing was bang on for most of the past 20 years and can still remember some of the campaigns. I always wanted to have the chance to do something with them. Granted it wasn’t showgirls, explosions and car chases but I think we produced some really nice images for the cover of the “book”. I keep saying the “book” because the agency called it that. I’m guessing it is a corporate piece meant for HP IT Systems dealers or something along those lines. The idea was to photograph a local “hero” who will be singled out in the publication as well as being on the cover. Seeing as how with 99% of these jobs I don’t get to scout the location, this one was no different. I was to go to the location/office and set up a clean white background (meaning easy for close cutting) and get some interactive portraits of our hero. Hmmmmmmm, just a small challenge. Not really knowing how large of a room you will be given, we usually pack a 9′ white seamless paper that we can cut down to whatever size will fit in the room. Along with that we have a couple of lights for the background and a couple for the foreground/subject. This is what all that looks like, less cameras. […]

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