Do you have a go-to body and lens combo?
“I’m not sure – I tailor the cameras I take to each assignment and shoot a wide variety of adventure sports. If I’m shooting fast-moving action, then I go for the Nikon D4 and a 24-70mm or 70-200mm Nikkor. If it’s a slower adventure sport like rock climbing or ice climbing then I would take the Nikon D810 and the 24-70mm or the 14-24mm Nikkor.
For portraits, lifestyle and predictable adventure sports I will also add the Hasselblad kit and a few lenses. If I’m shooting portraits, the Hasselblad is my main camera with the ridiculously sharp Hasselblad HC 100mm f/2.2 lens, which is the equivalent to an 80mm f/1.0 lens in 35mm terms. The Nikons are still my go-to kits for 70% of what I shoot. At a bare minimum, I’ll take a Nikon camera body and the big three zoom lenses – the 14-24mm, 24-70mm and 70-200mm.”
Tell us about more about that Hasselblad…
“I purchased the Hasselblad H5D 50c WiFi and four lenses in December last year. In the film days I shot a fair bit with medium format cameras and loved the look and feel of the images. These days it’s getting tougher and tougher to set your work apart from the pack. To that end, I opted to get a digital medium format camera for several reasons, including the high shutter speed flash syncs, the shallow depth of field and the insanely amazing 50 MP 16-bit image files.
Making the decision to buy a camera system that costs way more than my car was a tough decision and there were many factors that went into this purchase. The image quality out of the Hasselblad is stunning. No 35mm DSLR can touch it and the 16-bit files allow me to really work over the image files if I need to with no banding or degradation.
As for lenses, I have the 24mm, 100mm 150mm and 50-110mm Hasselblad lenses. These lenses are wicked sharp from corner to corner. As far as sharpness goes, these lenses are very nearly just as sharp in the corners as they are in the center. I work with the Hasselblad for everything from portraits to lifestyle images and even action photography – if I can accurately predict the movement of the athlete.
The Hasselblad certainly isn’t as versatile as my Nikon DSLRs, especially when it comes to adventure sports, but when it works it is a phenomenal tool. It also really slows you down and forces you to get creative in a way that I have not found with DSLRs, so the images end up looking more crafted. For a full explanation of why I added such an expensive camera system to my already extensive DSLR kit, check out this post on my blog.”
Any other items you wish you could add to your bag?
“For still photography I have more gear than I can deal with. The gear images here are only a fraction of all the photo equipment that I own and use. You can see my complete gear list on my blog. I have a ton of lighting gear and work with strobes on just about every shoot. I suppose it would be awesome to add a Red Digital Cinema camera (like an Epic or the Scarlet) and flush out my video gear a bit more.”
Do you carry anything that no one else has?
“I almost always carry a Lastolite EzyBalance White Balance disc and a Sekonic L-478DR light meter. These may not be super unique but I rarely ever see my peers carrying a light meter or a white balance disc. I learned long ago that setting in-camera custom white balance settings results in better color out of my Nikons and also speeds up my workflow considerably. Using the white balance disc assures that I am capturing accurate ski tones when shooting portraits.
When using Strobes, I always use a light meter to dial in the lighting perfectly. The Sekonic also has quite a few advanced functions that allow you to control all of your lighting and even tells you if the lighting falls within the dynamic range of your camera. Another item I always take with me is the Sensor Gel Stick to clean my camera sensors. I clean my sensors before (and sometimes during) each and every assignment to avoid dust spots and especially when shooting video.”
Where was the most challenging location you had to shoot?
“Oddly enough, the most challenging location I have ever had to work in was not on an adventure sports assignment but in the Vale do Javari in the Amazon while documenting indigenous tribes in an extremely remote area of Brazil. I do well in the cold, and even in extreme cold, but heat and humidity are really hard for me. In the Amazon, it was 113°F (45°C) and very nearly 100% humidity. That put us all on the edge of heat stroke. Then add in the mosquitos and no-see-ums eating you alive — it was pretty miserable.
There were also way more objective hazards including: jaguars, anacondas, pit vipers, giant spiders, caimans, uncontacted indigenous tribes, malaria, diseases etc. With skiing, climbing or most other adventure sports there are objective hazards but at least you can predict them to some degree and make decisions about when and where to go. In the Amazon there were 50 ways to die and you hadn’t even gotten out of your hammock yet. There are still 60ft (18m) long Anacondas in that region of the Amazon that can swallow an adult human in the blink of an eye.
I don’t really feel the need to ever go back to the Amazon. It was a beautiful and amazing place to see, especially such a remote area, but it was really tough. It took me a month or so to recover and at least six weeks before all of the bug bites went away. I also brought home a parasite on the last trip and it took six months to get rid of that.”
Check out a selection of Michael’s images in the gallery below and find out more about the man on his website, Facebook and Instagram.
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Michael Clark: What’s in the bag?
Red Bull Illume’s exploration into the bags of action and adventure sports photographers continue, as we take a look at what outdoor photographer and former physicist Michael Clark has stashed in his bag.
Do you have a go-to body and lens combo?