What's your go-to gear setup?
First of all, we need to divide shoots into two types; Active Reporting and Staged Photography.
During Active Reporting, what really matters is mobility, accessibility of gear and a quick response time. This is why I carry all my gear to the shoot in a backpack or rolling bag, and at the site I put it on a harness I attach to my belt (Photos of this are below).
To summarize the gear: I carry two cameras, two powerful flashes and some fast lenses - all of these are crucial to this kind of reporting.
Fast lenses, wide open, allow blurring the background when it's impossible to beautifully link foreground and background because of so-called "rubbish".
Usually, I carry two Sony A99II, two flashes and four to five lenses; a 24mm 2.0, a 50mm 1.4, a 70-200mm 2.8 a 16-35mm 2.8 and (to be safe) a 15mm 2.8 fisheye.
Staged Photography is much simpler in terms of gear. I try to use one lens: 24–70 mm 2.8.First of all, in some cases it allows you not to distort space (70 mm), and in some cases it adds an effect of viewer's presence in the photo (35 mm). Availability of a large number of intermediate focal distances is an undeniable advantage.
Secondly, I work mostly with fixed aperture, and it is easier for me to zoom on a photo rather than to go forward and back. Contrary to reporting, staged photography makes it possible to work on the scene for a much longer time and to use and elaborate backgrounds for my own purposes. All the above mainly relates to wide-shot scenes. Of course, when I shoot portraits, still life, big details, I use different optics, including prime lenses.
In both cases, I use two cameras. During reporting, they are equipped with different lenses to have a possibility to quickly change the focal distance, simply by changing camera. This takes no more than a second while changing optics on one camera may take up to 15 seconds, which is inadmissible in some cases. The second camera is also a spare one for the case of possible malfunction. During staged photography, it is used as a reserve camera. It would be very hurtful if, due to a camera malfunction, the long hours spent on preparation on arranging the shooting goes down the drain.
What never leaves your bag/what goes with you to every shoot?
My brain! Everything depends on the type of shoot. I always have my Sony A99II in my bag, regardless of what I'm shooting on that given day or during that assignment.
How do you choose gear for different projects?
Surely, it depends on the specifics or, in case of staged photography, on the idea of the project. In case of events, the site size is of importance. It is necessary to understand whether a usual "report" set is sufficient for work, whether focal distances are sufficient. Then, if upper points are available, it is possible to use such lens as tilt-shift. Another important parameter for selection of additional gear is duration. The duration of the event determines availability of time to experiment with filters, lenses and any methods used in photography (long exposure, unusual shooting angles, etc.). Depending on the time of holding the event (day or night), a decision is made to use additional studio flashlights.
And it is possible to use any type of equipment at staged photography: from smartphone camera to a full-fledged analog camera. Everything depends on the creative task.
How different is packing for an event like the Trans-Siberian Extreme and for the Flugtag?
Red Bull Flugtag in comparison with Red Bull Trans-Siberian Extreme bicycle racing is a rather short, bright, and emotional event, just manage to shoot. Creativity involves usage of unusual points for shooting, that is why I try to get in such places where shooting is not obvious. All the rest is classical reporting: it is important to quickly see the moment and push the button. And the main thing here is that the gear does not fail. So, I rely on autofocus, especially when I shoot with open aperture.
It is simultaneously simpler and more complicated for Red Bull Trans-Siberian Extreme. The event is time-stretched, and action is the same day after day, so there is a chance to reshoot if something doesn't work. Lifestyle scenes are also quite long, you have time to take in the situation and compose the photo.
The tricky thing is that during 23 days a spectator watching the race is not bored when looking at your photos. You have to use all the potential of your brain and look for not only interesting creative solutions but use different technical means and special effects to create something new, non-standard, and unusual for such race. Here, your photographer's talent is not only fully manifested, but seriously improved due to the tasks solved.
Studio, artificial light, smoke cartridges, water sprays – all this gave the possibility to diversify photos. And at night I had to use additional flashlight.
In comparison with Flugtag kit, Trans-Siberian Extreme kit was upgraded with another camera — a mirrorless system Sony A9 and almost the same set of lenses (not available in the photo). This is the newest camera that came into the market this summer, and we decided to test it in the field. There are also two tripods in the kit, mainly to use at night or to install a remote camera with the possibility to run it at a distance.
Also, in the picture we can see a 220V car voltage converter for continuous charging of batteries of different devices. An Internet router is required to promptly send photos directly from car to web-site. Both kits have a laptop, which is necessary for quickly processing and transferring photographic materials for publications.
The used lighting gear is worth discussing separately.
In the picture, we can see impulse light with a possibility of high-speed synchronization, a LED lamp, smoke cartridges for generating fog and other effects, two types of light stands, light generating heads, etc.
LED lamp was used for night lifestyle shootings at stops during rest and for shooting cyclists from car while they are on road. Constant light is more convenient in such cases:
it enables the autofocus to work better, and the final picture does not feature "frozen" parts of moving parts of bicycle and driver, as with impulse light. And such light is just convenient to form a light-and shadow picture, so to speak, online.
At the top of Photo 4, there is overwrap: it was used to protect the lighting gear from rain.
During the race, I used two types of light stands because each one has its advantages: Black stands are light-weighted and compact, and chrome plated C-stands are convenient for use on uneven surfaces which are typical for races.
Smoke cartridges made it possible to diversify boring night photos. They added volume to the photo and made the light more visible and tangible.
Sometimes, in search of an unusual shooting angle I have to climb different piles and trees. To climb trees, I typically use usual climbing irons.
If there’s only one body + lens setup you could use for an assignment, what would you use?
Sony A99II + 24-70 2.8
Do you carry anything with you that no one else has?
I think I have nothing special in my bag.
Any items you would like to add to your gear bag?
It would be nice to have additional pockets and sections.
Any tips for starting photographers?
Start small and gradually complicate and increase the number of your gear. Do not think that if you buy all types of lenses and studio light you will get genius shots. You have to know how to use this equipment, I mean not only to study manuals but to understand experimentally how this gear affects the final result. Years may pass... Everything must be gradual. Good luck!
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