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What's In My Bag?

My daily camera kit

My daily camera kit

Every now and then I get asked what camera I use for my travel photos, what camera I take with when on vacation, when shooting street photography, or whatever. In last week's edition I wrote that I carry my camera everywhere, so here is the kit I take with me. The key is to carry only what you need, and remember, there is creative power in limitations. So don't take every bit of camera gear you own. You'll regret it.

The reason I bring my camera everywhere is that you never know when a picture will happen, so I want to be ready to capture it when I see it. Plus, it doubles as a "man bag". I get tired of filling my pockets with junk, and this bag is perfect for carrying my camera and all the other things I need to have with me.

So what's in my bag? Well, I'm glad you asked.

The bag itself is a Domke F-5XB Rugged Wear Bag. It's a small weather proof canvas bag that is solidly constructed in the USA with lots of room and comfortable for all day use. It's balanced, and holds weight well. I carried it everyday for more than two weeks on our European trip this past summer. 

Next is the most important item in the bag... the camera. I shoot with a Lumix GX8 using an Olympus 17mm f/1.8 lens. I moved away from carrying my Nikon DSLR, and started shooting with a micro 4:3 system for its smaller form and less weight. My whole bag, when combat ready, is lighter than my Nikon D7200 with the Sigma 17-50mm F/2.8.

The downside of small mirrorless cameras is they're power hunger. I can only get about 350 shots from one battery compared to roughly 1100 from my DSLR, so as a result, I carry three extra batteries with the charger.

The rest of my photo gear takes on a supporting role. Along with the batteries and charger, I have an extra 64GB SanDisk SD card, and a basic cleaning kit. The cleaning kit is a Rocket Air to blow dust, a Nikon Lens Pen/Brush, and a lens cloth. 

One thing to note about lens cloths, never use it for anything other than wiping your camera lens. If you wipe your eyeglasses, for example, you will transfer oils from the glasses to your lens smearing it all around. I use old lens cloths for my glasses or to wipe the back screen only after they get a bit funky. Lens cloths are cheap, and you can get them a lot of places for free.

Last on the list are my personal artifacts. I carry my cell (Nexus 5), wallet, car keys with bottle opener, Visine, Tums, facial tissue, an ink pen, and yes, an old cloth for my eyeglasses.

One thing I plan to get are personal 'business' cards to hand to people when shooting on the street. I love street photography, but sometimes I feel uncomfortable photographing people even when I ask permission because I have nothing to offer them.

But if I have a business card to offer then I can snap a photo and hand them a card with my email address offering to send them the picture when they email me. I enjoy meeting and talking with new people, and this is a great way to market your photography.

Finally, I do have other micro 4:3 lenses, but lately I've been leaving them at home. I want to get proficient with seeing photographs through one focal length, and right now that is the 17mm, which is a 34mm full frame equivalent. The human eye is roughly a 50mm focal length, so a 34mm is a little wider, yet still considered a "normal" lens. 

As I said earlier, there's creative power in limitations, and using only one focal length sets limits on what I can capture. As a result, I need to think creatively to make the pictures I see even if the lens isn't wide or long enough. It forces me to move and not be lazy.

Since I started carrying this kit my DSLR has seen the outside of the house once. Just remember, the best camera is the one you have with you.

Macro

I love candids and the journalistic style of photography. When you are out on a photo walk making pictures you sometimes just get what you get. If there's not much happening, then you don't get much. But if you are lucky you can capture some great images. I also love capturing my boys' true emotions while playing, eating, or doing just about anything.

That is the essence of street photography, but photography is also art as the image above suggests, and much of photography is staged. Some examples of staged photographs are wedding ceremonies, studio portraits, landscapes, telling kids to look at the camera and say, "cheese", flowers like the one above, and many other things to name a few. 

The dahlia above was taken with my Lumix GX8 using an 'antique' Nikkor 50mm f/2 manual lens attached to a tripod sitting on the kitchen table. The lens is attached to the camera with a Nikon to micro 4:3 adapter using a Fotodiox reverse ring.

When you turn a lens around it magnifies whatever it's pointed at, and becomes a macro lens. Buying a reverse ring for a few dollars is way cheaper than buying a macro lens, and I can get really close macro images when using it.

Micro 4:3 cameras increase the macro, too. The sensor is half the size of a full frame sensor creating a 2x crop factor, which makes this 50mm lens a 100mm getting me right down into the center of the flower.

The off center framing is what makes this photo. I offset the flower just enough that it draws your eye into the center of it. The outside of the flower has enough bokeh placing the focal point right where you would expect it. If everything were in focus your eye wouldn't be drawn to the center of the flower, and it would take you second to figure it out.

And that right there is the rub. Most photographs on the Internet have a few second lifespan. People just click through quickly looking at them and moving on, so you want to quickly draw the viewer's eye to the subject with proper framing hoping that they stay just a little longer to enjoy your picture.

The below image is how I setup this photograph. My wife recently had a birthday - Happy Birthday! - which is the reason for the flowers. I used the tripod to avoid movement and to aid with focussing. When "zoomed" in this close the slightest movement bounces the subject all over, and it's enough to make you dizzy. 

I set the ISO to the camera's lowest native setting of 200. The aperture was set to f/8, and the shutter was set at 1/10 of a second to give the proper exposure. I snapped the shutter using the timer to avoid motion blur from physically pushing the button. 

I hope you enjoy this one as much as I do.