What's In Adam's Camera Bag?
Whether I’m standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon, or rafting on the Colorado River, everyone always seems to be curious about what is in my camera bag. Over the years I’ve owned a lot of equipment and I’ve hauled it with me into the wilderness, but nowadays I tend to shoot with one camera body and a few lenses.
Below is a list of the gear that I own, and, no, I don’t carry it all with me at the same time. In my opinion carrying too much photo gear leads to too many choices typically resulting in the photographer spending too much time trying to decide what lens he or she is going to shoot with; the end result is that you miss the shot.
For the past couple of years, I have been shooting with Sony's excellent Alpha series of mirrorless cameras. My primary camera is the a7R III which has 42 megapixels of resolution, a fantastic autofocus system, good battery life, In Body Image Stabilization (IBIS), and a wide dynamic range. This last point is important for landscape photographers, the wide dynamic range abilities of the camera allow me to expose for a wide range of light and shadow values in a scene from the dark shadows to bright highlights.
I also carry a Sony Cyber-shot RX100 V point & shoot camera for candid opportunities where a larger camera may attract too much attention. The RX100 V has a 24-70mm (35mm equivalent) lens with a fast f/1.8-2.8 aperture. I've even used this camera in Sony's underwater housing strapped to a dory via a Platypod Ultra to capture video as the boat went through the rapids of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.
When it comes to photography equipment, there’s one thing that can truly make a significant difference in image quality and achieving your artistic vision, and that’s a lens. What lenses a photographer uses are a very personal choice that reflects who they are as an artist.
The first three lenses in the list below are my primary lenses. I use the 12-24mm f/4G and 24-105mm f/4G when I need to go very light.
- Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8GM
- Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8GM
- Sony FE 100-400 f/4.5-5.6GM OSS
- Sony FE 12-24mm f/4G
- Sony FE 24-105mm f/4G OSS
I'm often asked "why are you still using filters?" The answer is simple, I like to get the photo as ‘right’ as possible in the camera. To do this I use both circular polarizer filters and graduated neutral density filters. The polarizer is used to remove unwanted glare and reflections from the surface of foliage or water. It has the added benefit of saturating the colors as well.
If you’re not familiar with them, graduated neutral density (GND) filters are rectangular pieces of glass or polycarbonate that are dark on top and clear on the bottom, They come in different strengths and are used to balance the light in the scene. An example of this would be a brilliant sunset over the Grand Canyon where the sky is very bright but the canyon is much darker. Our eyes are amazing instruments and they are capable of seeing the details in the bright highlights in the sky and the dark shadows of the canyon, but the same cannot be said of the camera. I use GND filters to overcome this limitation of the camera.
- 2-Stop, Soft-Edge GND
- 3-Stop, Soft-Edge GND
- 3-Stop, Medium Edge GND
- 4-Stop, Medium Edge GND
- B+W Circular Polarizer in various sizes
I’ve used lots of different camera packs over the years, but for a few years now I’ve been using those made by F-Stop Gear.
What makes F-stop’s packs so special? First, most of their packs open from the side that faces your back. This is important because it means that you are never setting your straps down in the snow or mud to open the pack. Second, their Internal Camera Unit (ICU) system of storage system rocks! I could explain the function of the ICU system, but they cover the F-stop system pretty well on their own website. Third, their packs are very light-weight compared to other photo backpacks in the market today. Weight matters, especially when you are hiking with the pack all day.
I have three packs, the F-Stop Gear Ajna is my primary pack and has 40 liters of storage and it’s airline carry-on compatible. If I could only own one pack, this would be it. The Ajna is the best compromise of space, weight, and durability.
During the extremes of winter when I want to carry a couple extra layers of clothing with me, or during the monsoon when I want to carry an extra camera plus lightning trigger I may switch over to the 50 liter F-Stop Gear Tilopa just to have plenty of extra space.
Weighing in at just 2.65 lbs, the F-Stop Gear Loka UL serves as my light & fast setup for long hikes. This pack isn't designed to carry much weight, but it does have plenty of room with 37 liters of storage. I tend to stick with just one camera and one or two lenses when using this pack.
Tripods & Ballheads
The internet is full of information and opinions about tripods, and it's difficult to weed through all of it, but I will say this, the old adage of "buy once, cry once" holds true when purchasing a tripod and head. You can save a lot of money and frustration by getting yourself a good tripod and head early in your photography journey, and thus save all the money you would have spent upgrading tripods every few years only to end up with the good stuff in the end.
For this reason, I recommend the Really Right Stuff (RRS) tripods, ballheads, and accessories. No one, in my opinion, does it better than RRS. Their designs are excellent, the equipment is very well made, and their customer service is top notch. Period.
I am a brand ambassador for Really Right Stuff. They listen to what their photographers have to say when we provide feedback about the products, and share what we like and what we think could be improved. I won’t represent a brand unless I believe in their products and use them myself.
I occasionally need to mount a ballhead somewhere where it's not possible to use a tripod, and for that I use the Platypod Ultra. I mentioned in the camera section above that I have mounted a camera to a wooden dory to shoot video as the boat went through rapids on the Colorado River. For this, I strapped the Platypod Ultra to the gunnels (the upper edge of the side of the boat) with the camera in an underwater housing.
My Tripods, Ballheads, and other support systems
- Really Right Stuff TVC-24 Mk2
- Really Right Stuff TVC-24L Mk2
- Really Right Stuff BH-40PCLR
- Really Right Stuff BH-40LR
- Really Right Stuff LCF-101 Replacement Tripod Foot for Sony 100-400mm lens
- Platypod Ultra Plate Camera Support with Multi-Accessory Kit
A Few More Thoughts on Camera Gear
I’m privileged that I get to share my passion for the art of photography with many workshop students every year. Many of them are looking for the next piece of gear that will make them a better photographer. The reality is that the most we can ask of any new piece of gear are that it encourages us to try something new. It won’t necessarily make you a better photographer.
Remember, the best camera is the one you have with you.