Monday, January 30, 2006

What's your gear like?

This is probably the second most commonly asked question. And in some ways it's a weird question because in a lot of ways it doesn't really matter - it's kind of like asking a chef what kind of pots they use. Note that this post is a moving target and was last rewritten 10/09.

I shoot Canon (for SLRs anyway). Went digital in March, 2003 with a 10D and got a 20D in December 04 (I think) and a 40D and a 5D in January 08. For figure work I'd say the 17-40L and the 100 f/2.8 are the most useful lenses with the crop camera and with the 5D the 24-105L kit lens is a great choice. Speaking roughly, I use the 5D for studio work and landscapes, and the 40D for things that move around a lot and may not be close (sports, wildlife). I also have a 50 f/1.4 which is very useful for low light (as an example, nighttime urban nudes using just ambient light). And that leaves the 100-400L for wildlife, airshows, etc.

I've started shooting film again to a certain extent. I got my 35mm SLR working but haven't really used it that much. It's more a question of enjoying larger formats and totally different camera designs. In medium format I have a Mamiya TLR 330 and a Holga 120N and a Mamiya RB67 and an Agfa Isolette II. In large format I have a Crown Graphic. I also have a digital point and shoot which is featured here mostly in an underwater case.

The studio's very simple. The background is seamless paper (white or gray usually) or black cloth hung on a couple of lightstands with a bar across them (comes in a nice carring bag, made by Savage who also makes paper).

The lights are a moving target. As of now I have both Alien Bees units and White Lightning units which are made by two sister companies (owned by the same guy). So depending on which year a particular shot was taken it could be with any combination. A surprising amount of stuff I do requires a single light - don't think you need a ton of gear to produce some cool results. Right now I have White Lightning X800 and X1600 units (two each) for normal studio use and an AB800 as a beater/travel light. I used to have an AB400 which I've since sold.

I have a variety of modifiers - I use an octabox (don't like the square catchlights of a softbox) and I use honeycomb grids quite a bit and have some other odds and ends you'll see less frequently. I'm using the folding octoboxes with grids a lot right now and they're very useful. I use a beauty dish now and again which is kind of old fashioned but I like it. I use stripboxes too, but mostly in close to the ground (sitting poses).

I have a variety of light stands - mostly C stands of different sizes. I have a boom to get the light overhead when that seems like a good idea.

Having wireless receivers on every individual light is a big help - no cables, and with the directed light I use much more reliable than relying on the optical slaves on the lights. I use the AB/WL units so I have four receivers and two transmitters (if I use both digital and film it's great for each camera to have a transmitter). If you get the battery receivers you can also use them to trigger battery powered strobes off-camera which is useful if you want a lightweight set of gear.

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