What’s In My Case… and Why

A lot of people ask me what’s in my case. I’d like to take a second to explain what I’m carting around with me and why. I use this stuff because it fits my style; there isn’t a right or wrong answer, just “better” ways to get things done. I share this information with you for your own benefit and critique, hoping you gain something from the years I’ve spent lugging this gear around…

Pelican 1510 Camera Case

Pelican 1510 Case- I wheel around most of my gear around in this with the optional cargo net built into the lid. It’s water tight, has a pressure release valve, floats in sea water (up to 60 lbs), and meets TSA carry on regulations. I do keep a TSA lock on it to keep honest hands out. The velcro inserts are mostly customizable, the wheels and slide out handle are fantastic for lugging it around, and it has heavy duty handles on the top and side for loading and unloading. Military grade, this thing takes a beating, acts as a chair in airport terminals and as a stand when you need a little added height.

Nikon D3 and D7000 Cameras- Two bodies. Minimum. If one goes down, your shoot doesn’t. A pro needs to be consistent in any situation, and this is key. I’ve watched many shutters error 99 and fly apart mid-shoot. Stay cool, reach for your backup on your other shoulder, and keep capturing as the bride walks down the isle. Both of these DSLRs can handle up to 11 and 6fps respectively, at ISO 6400, without any problem, which is great for for sports and wedding receptions. The D7000 is more compact, captures 1080 video @24p without looking like a video camera, and will trigger Speedlights wirelessly. The D3 is a pro body with a build in vertical grip, a full frame sensor and laser sharp focus in low light. Plus, if you sling one camera on each shoulder, mounting different focal lengths on each, you have instant options mid shoot. Sadly, the two use different memory cards, batteries, and chargers. The D7000 charger is easy to fit in the case. The D3 charger, is not.

Lenses- You can only use one at a time (without remotes), but variety is always helpful in a world of limitless situations. Each focal length and aperture is a different tool in your toolbox. I consider myself mostly a prime shooter, in that I prefer fixed focal length lenses with wider apertures. It changes all the time, but 35mm f/2 and 85mm f/1.4 are my favorite to work with on a full frame body, but should a prime go down for whatever reason, I still have the same focal lengths, and many more, in the form of zoom lenses. My 70-200 VRII is also a workhorse.

Spare Camera Batteries – No power means no photographs. These suckers can outlast me, and while it seems simple, but how often do you remember to charge?

Memory Cards in ThinkTank Pixel Pocket Rocket – No memory means no more photographs. Lost photographs means lawsuit. This system is tethered, very fast and easy to use in a variety of ways that suit preferential workflow.

2700 mAH PowerEx AA Rechargeable Batteries- Flashs, flash recycler, and vertical grips run off of these. If you run out, you can always stop at a gas station and buy some cheap disposables, but the recycle time will be near tragic. These are expensive but using the Maha charger, you can refresh, soft and quick charge the cells, extending battery life and maintaining power output.

1.4x II Extender – Let’s be real. I can’t afford a 300mm f/2.8 VRII right now, so an extender on a 70-200mm will do just fine. Sure, it takes the aperture down to f/4, but the versatility of having 280mm @ f/4 that is VRII while I still have full use of all focal points, and I can’t see any reduction in image quality. That fits in a can.

SB900 Recycler – At almost any ISO over 1600, with this puppy plugged into an SB-900 and loaded with PowerEx cells, the SB900 won’t miss a beat all night. Unless you overheat it.

Two SB-900 Speedlights – I can set off these flashes with my D7000 backup and create wireless studio lighting with ratios in the field. Plus, if one flash goes down when I’m shooting on camera, I have a backup. The more of these, the better.

Lens Cleaning Kit – Mud, rain drops, and bug splatter on your lens sucks. I keep this in a ziploc bag in case the cleaner leaks and to keep TSA happy.

Giottos Rocket – spotting out sensor dirt in files takes forever. Blowing dust off the camera’s sensor takes 30 seconds. You do the math.
Two Rain Covers. Most of my gear is weather sealed, but not all of it is. Plus, it’s $5 insurance that your gear will work even if there is a leak in the


500GB Lacie FireWire 800 7200RPM Hard Drive with Cable – Aperture 3 Vaults automatically back up to this drive when connected. It’s like Time Machine for your photos.

Lexar Firewire 800 Card Reader with the cable – I can daisy chain into the Lacie if I need to run both at the same time. I keep a backup USB 2.0 CF/SD Card reader, as well.

Swiss Army Knife- The first thing to come out of my Pelican case when I fly. It’s saved my tail many times, and includes a bottle opener. Gaff Tape- Doesn’t leave residue behind, saves the world. Between this and the Swiss Army, MacGyver can save the world.
Aleve- I’ve got aches and pains.
ChapStick – I don’t like having chapped lips.

Space Pen – compact, doesn’t leak, writes in every direction. Plus, it has the Apple logo on it for added sex appeal.
Waterproof Paper- Something I learned from working with the military. Most useful in drawing lighting situations or taking notes in the field.

Red Chem Lights- Also known as glow sticks. I had to use these when photographing snipers. They hate white light at night because it chemically causes photoreceptors in the eye become less light sensitive.

Lanyards and Press Pass Holders – some venues might not give you one of these, and it’s really annoying.

Model & Property Releases – Yeah, I have an app for that, but people feel safer usually signing paper.

Business Cards- I keep a few of these in my memory card holder, because you never know who you’ll run into.

Mini Photo Books – 3/$12 in iPhoto. They are a great take away for anyone you want to impress, and also work as a business card.

Nikon Flash Gels- Nikon has a world class, incredibly refined off camera lighting system that automatically adjusts white balances based on the Nikon gel that is put into the flash to change the color of the light it emits. They take up zero room and change the ballgame.

Gray Card – These cameras nail the color of light 95/100 times. But those few occasions where color is off can really bite. #timesaver.
Food – Occasionally I carry food. Altoids at weddings, Rice Krispy treats for queezy brides or tipsy bridesmaids, Starbucks Via packs for me. It’s worth the real estate.

What I’d like to (should) add:

A point and shoot camera. Why? It’s inconspicuous, unobtrusive, it fits in your pocket. You can take it places DSLR’s cannot go and is less likely to be stolen or seized at a hotel. You can also buy underwater housings for a lot less coin, and it would serve as yet another backup without the large investment of another DSLR body. Plus, I already have SD cards.