Firstly, tell us about your katana? I imagine this is something that gets you in trouble at airports.
Hahaha. I have been studying a Japanese martial art both here and in Canada for about 15 years now. By studying the martial arts, I am able to keep both my body and mind in balance and it helps me keep centered during stressful photo jobs. Also, by knowing how to fall and roll properly I have actually been able to save my gear after tripping up on one thing or another on a shoot. The sword is one I had made to my body size, so it is a little bigger and heavier than ones made for Japanese people, but unfortunately, as you mention, I would get in way too much trouble at the airport if I took it with me. But it is always in my heart.
Tell us about the Dark Forest book. Do you always takes books with you?
During shoots and traveling there is lots of down/waiting time and I really don't want to be looking at my phone's screen the whole time, so I like to try and always have a book to read. These days I have been enjoying various science fiction books. This book, "The Dark Forest" is by a Chinese author and is about how the world reacts to an alien civilisation coming to the earth. Not much to do with photography, but I like how these kinds of books really get me thinking in different ways, which hopefully helps with my creativity.
What about the gloves? Looks like you ride MTB...
I don't actually ride MTB very much. However, I shoot a lot of FMX, and many times when shooting the guys let me ride their 50cc pit bikes or even a larger bike, and these gloves are perfect for that. Also, then shooting in the winter (and its not too super cold) I like to use these gloves as well. Taking big gloves on and off a lot can be a pain, so I would rather have thin gloves like these that keep my hands a little warm but allow me to operate the camera with them on.
Take us through your gear. What are some of your go-to items that you always carry?
I like to use a variety of lenses while shooting, so I will always take all my lenses on any job I do. I don't have a lot of lenses, just 5 Nikon and 4 FujiFilm, but they each have their own use and special attributes that I utilise depending on the situation. Like my Nikon 1.4mm lens is perfect for DJ events, where I love using my Nikon 24-70mm lens for Red Bull BCONE and other events that are held on a large dance floor.
My main workhorse camera is the Nikon D5, but I also make sure to always have a backup camera body, which is the Nikon D4s at the moment, on me at every job. If I break a lens I can still work, but if I break my camera and don't have a back up I would be forced to finish the job using my iPhone, hahaha.
I also like to keep a smaller mirrorless camera with me when I can. At the moment I'm using the FujiFilm X-Pro2 and love it with the prime lenses I have for it. Compact, yet it has a great sensor so I really enjoy using it for site checking and street photography, and even use it as a second camera for bigger jobs like the Red Bull Air Race in Japan that I shot this year.
What’s been your biggest challenge choosing gear for different projects?
I would say the only problem I come by is weather I should take all my flash gear or not on shoots. I like using my Elinchrom quadra when I can, but there are many times I will drag the extra bag of flash gear and flash stands with me on the train/plane (I don't drive a car here) and not even open it once. It is always good to have on site, but when you don't have your own vehicle it can be a bit troublesome to drag everything around with you and not use it.
Any items you wish you could add to your bag?
I think I would love to get a macro lens and try to do some photos of all the different insects I come across here in Japan. Lots of freaky little buggers, haha. I have also had my eye on a tilt-shift lens for a long time but that is more of a "hey I have more money than I know what to do with so lets buy a tilt-shift lens!" kind of lens, haha. Also, drones seem to be all the rage at the moment, so getting into that would be pretty cool. Always been a fan of remote controlled cars/helicopters so it would be super cool to get into that and get some different angles and shots that I have not gotten in the past.
Make sure to check out Jason Halayko's semifinalist image in the Gallery as well as the entire Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2016 Top 275 and vote for your favorite image as part of the Public Choice Award, which will be announced at the end of the Red Bull Illume Exhibit Tour!