Camera Gear and Workflow

Camera Gear

Acquisition of the Canon D30 digital camera in October 2000 initiated a steady accumulation of camera gear, such that carrying it all is often no longer a simple matter of stuffing a shoulder bag with the camera and one or two additional lenses.  What I describe here is the complete set; on some occasions I may only carry what I call my "walk-around kit"; those items are marked below by "*".

For candid photos, I carry the walk-around kit in a simple shoulder bag.   For more extended or crucial shoots, however, such as my work with the American National Ballet, I carry a more complete set of lenses and accessories in  the Tamrac Model 759 Photo/Computer Backpack that carries not only all the necessary photo gear, but also has a dedicated slot to accommodate my laptop (and I may carry the shoulder bag as well).

Finally, since May 2006 I have been using the Canon 5D, Canon's new top-of-the-prosumer-line 12 megapixel digital SLR.  The 5D replaces the 20D, which is now my backup camera.  The 20D served me well.  With the 5D, I expect to make superb enlargements 20"x30" and larger.

On our 2007 trip to India I took both the 28-300mm "L" and the 70-300mm DO.  Much of the time I used the 5D with the 28-300mm, since the optics are better and it eliminates need for a middle-range lens.  When doing more "pure" street photography, however, the lighter, more compact and less conspicuous 70-300mm lens serves better. 

The gear:

Canon 5D digital SLR camera body*
Canon 20D digital SLR camera body
17-35mm f/2.8 "L" USM zoom lens*
28-70mm f/2.8 "L" USM zoom lens*
70-200mm f/2.8 "L" USM zoom lens

70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 DO USM zoom lens with image stabilization (my primary "street" lens)*
28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 "L" USM zoom lens with image stablization
50mm f/1.8 lens (for low light)
50mm f/2.5 macro lens (closeups)

60GB Video iPod.  I can download directly from the 5D to the iPod for backup and archiving while traveling.

Two 550EX Speedlite external flashes*
ST-E2 Speedlite Transmitter
Sekonic L-358 FlashMaster light meter

Dual flash stands w/ a choice of reflector umbrellas

Multiple filters

Extra batteries

Three 2 GB Sandisk "Ultra II" CF cards.

Bogen carbon tripod w/ Manfrotto ballhead
Monopod (like a tripod, but only one leg) & ballhead attachment


And a bunch of other stuff.

One negative:  although the Tamrac 759 backpack is good for transporting the combination camera/computer gear that is key to today's serious digital photography, it is a lousy backpack.  I cannot recommend taking it in the field where carrying for long periods of time over rough terrain is important.  From a backpack ergonomic standpoint, quite simply, it sucks!


(I have substantially revised this workflow description as of 6/06 in light of acquisition of the Canon 5D and use of Photoshop CS2.)

Under normal conditions, my workflow consists of recording images on a 2 GB Sandisk Ultra CF card, then transferring them to my desktop computer via a Lexar CF card reader connected via firewire.  Before doing anything else, I also burn the original images onto inexpensive CDs. 

Once on my desktop the images are managed using ThumbsPlus, which I have used for years and find to be an excellent tool.  I never change the original images (RAW format images), and unless an image is somehow defective (e.g., out of focus), it is never deleted.  I archive original images to both external hard drive and CD-Rs.  My archival technology for PSD files, however, are two external fire-wire-connected hard drives to which I mirror PSD files on a nightly basis; they are never deleted, and as the hard drives fill I will just purchase a new one.

With the 5D, I photograph in RAW + Small/Coarse JPEG mode, which for each image stores not only the .CR2 file but also a roughly 1664x2496 low-res JPEG image, which I use for review and selection of final images to process.  (It is also easy to supply those JPEGs to clients or models who wish to review the photographs.)  Thumbs also permits review of the RAW images, but having the separate JPEGs is more efficient.  From that review I can determine which files to convert -- those are converted in Photoshop CS2's Camera Raw plugin (I used to convert raw images to TIFF format in Canon's FileViewer utility, but the Photoshop plugin is so good that I no longer take that step).  Any work in Photoshop is saved in PSD format.  I always save a PSD file before resizing or sharpening; in that way I save alterations in layers using levels, curves, color balance, hue/saturation, etc., but before physically changing image size or applying the unsharp mask.  Those latter changes are applied before printing or saving as a JPEG for web presentation.  Working with 16-bit (RAW) color images in Photoshop CS2 is now a breeze, since Adobe has extended layers functionality to 16-bit images.

On an important photo shoot, I will often carry the video iPod with me and immediately upon finishing the shoot, changing CF cards, or at day's end, I will archive a redundant copy of all the images on the Digital Wallet, keeping them there until I've burned my CDs or backed up my desktop's harddrive.

On long trips when I don't take my laptop, my principal concern is managing the 2 GB Sandisk CF cards and the video iPod so as to achieve maximum redundancy as we go along. Thus, for those trips my workflow is to 1) take photos on only one card at a time, until full; and 2) when a card fills, replace it with the next and upload the full card to the video iPod, formatting the card at the last moment before using it again (this latter step is not only the most efficient way of removing the uploaded images, but it also creates a new volume date for the card).

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