How 'bout a "What's in my bag" post?

As I photographer, I love visiting other photographer's blogs.  Sometimes they inspire me, sometimes they educate me, sometimes they just amuse me and sometimes they want to make me give up because I will NEVER be that amazing!  LOL! But one of my favorite posts to read are the ones where the photographer shares a peek at their "behind the scenes" stuff.  You know, what's in their bag, what programs they use for editing etc etc.  I like getting a glimpse into their secret stash, and hear why they use what they use and why they love what they love.

So here's my STUFF!

Camera - Nikon D700 (with D90 backup)

Yes, I am a Nikon girl.  But honestly, the only reason is that my first DSLR camera was a Nikon D40 that I found at a great price.  And since I knew Nikon, and I was getting an arsenal of Nikon lenses,  I just stayed with the Nikon line.  I think Canon's are amazing cameras too.  I loved my D40, but quickly upgraded to a D80 and then a D90.  When I started doing weddings, I finally took the plunge and upgraded to the D700.

And what can I say about the D700?  Simply amazing.

The D700 has a full frame sensor.  There are so many reasons why I love it, but the main reason I upgraded was that its performance in low light is beautiful.  I have been at many weddings where flash during the ceremony is prohibited.  And many churches can be quite dark even on the brightest day.  My D700 lets me crank up that ISO and still only see negligible noise.

(ISO 3200 baby!!)

I also just find the D700's overall image quality to be amazing.   And my images have a more three dimensional look to them.  I am no techie, so I can't give you any educated explanation as to what exactly is different and why, but just suffice it to say I am a very happy D700 owner and I have no plans to upgrade any time soon.

Lenses

As I mentioned, my first DSLR was the D40.  I had the 18 - 55 kit lens and quickly added the 55 - 200 telephoto lens.  These lenses are great if you are just using the camera for personal use.  But they aren't considered professional lenses, and they definitely have serious limitations in regards to image quality in low light situations.  However, these lenses were wonderful starter lenses.  I used them for many of my favorite photos of my kiddos.  And I absolutely think they are perfect for anyone starting out in photography.  But when you are ready to call yourself a professional, it is time to invest in professional quality lenses.

Sigma 50 1.4: This is my baby - my [by far] most used - most loved lens. As you will see, I am a prime girl.  Prime lenses have a fixed focal length. If you want to zoom in - you walk closer.  If you want to zoom out, you walk further away.  Prime lenses are known to be a higher quality than a zoom lens (one that you can zoom in and out without moving your feet).  And that is one reason why I invested in prime lenses.

The other reason is that a prime lens (usually) has a much larger aperture.  Without going into a long and technical explanation, the larger your aperture (in this case, the Sigma can open to 1.4 (small number = big aperture), the more light your lens will let onto the sensor and the better quality your images will be in low light situations.  And take my Sigma 1.4 and attach it to my D700 and you have a pretty amazing set up for the most challenging lighting situation.

The 50 mm focal length is considered a "normal" lens, which really just means it sees things the way we see them in real life.  Which just makes it a great all-purpose lens for so many situations.

Nikon 35. 2.0: This is a great lens.  It is a wider angle lens and works great for indoor shoots when I don't have a lot of room to back up - such as newborns.  The aperture isn't as large as my 50mm, but it usually is just fine for my application.

Nikon 85 1.8: This lens is a wonderful portrait lens.  It has a longer focal length, and is often hard to use indoors when you are in tight quarters.  The aperture isn't as large as my 50mm, but at 1.8 it is pretty darn close.  This is a wonderful lens when you actually want to be a bit further away.  I often use it during engagement sessions.  I like to let couples to interact between themselves like I am not there.  With the 85, I can add some physical distance to me subject.  And this often is great way to make subjects feel a little more comfortable and, therefore, be a little more themselves.  Although I love the 85 1.8, I have rented the 85 1.4 and have to say it is simply incredible.   If I ever decide to upgrade to this lens, I most likely will be using this focal length a lot more than I do now.

Tokina 100 2.8: This is my macro lens.  It is just a fun lens to play with.  It works great for ring shots or shooting teeny tiny newborn toes.  And the 100mm focal length is great for a little more reach when needed.   It does have some trouble focusing sometimes, but it is quite sharp and beautiful when it does!

I use this lens the least.  It is "fun", but not as practical as I had hoped.  I have been considering selling it to get a wider angle lens.  We'll see, the jury is still out on this one......

Lighting -

SB 900: I use an SB900 flash when necessary.  I do not do a lot of off-camera flash, I usually use this lens for indoor sessions when necessary.  I try to bounce it to the side to give some more natural directional light.

Reflector: I also have a 42" 5 in 1 reflector that I use ALL THE TIME.  I almost always use the white side.  It is wonderful for creating those gorgeous catchlights or just for bouncing a little extra light onto the subject so you can actually SEE the subject's eyes (no more black holes where the eyes should be!).  It works great in backlighting situations!

Bags

I use a Domke F2 to carry all my stuff - all my lenses, flash, batteries, CF cards even a snack or two and a bottle of water.  It isn't huge, but it works for me and is easy to get stuff in and out of.   However, I don't usually carry this bag with me AS I am shooting.  It is just too cumbersome.  I usually leave it in the car and put the essentials in my Shootsac.

Software/Computer

I do all my importing/culling and initial editing with Lightroom 3.  It is a program designed for photographers.  I have been using it for a couple years now and I still have so much to learn but I love it and definitely recommend it.

I do my final editing with Photoshop CS5.  This program was just a TAD overwhelming at first....but somehow I muddled through and now feel quite proficient.  As with Lightroom, I know I also have much to learn.

I recently upgraded my computer to a 27" iMac.  Yeah baby!!!  The iMac is amazing.  I did a LOT of research before taking the plunge, but from everything I have read, the Mac is just a better system for photographers.  And it IS!!!  It runs LR and CS5 like a charm.  I can open multiple images in a snap.  I have never gotten a "not responding" warning (which happened ALL. THE. TIME with my pc).  I am still have a hitch here and there as I try to muddle through some of differences between it and a pc, but I think I am a convert.

And then there are back-ups.  I learned this one the HARD way when my pc AND my external hard drive died on me 2 years ago smack dab in the middle of senior portrait season!  The pc was a goner.  LUCKILY, the external hard drive was able to be fixed and I recovered my lost data.  I did lose lots of edited jpegs, but THANK GOD, I still had the original RAW files.  I also had all my past sessions backed up on DVDs so I never lost everything.  But it was a huge pain to re-edit sessions over and I had [just a few] tearful moments of frustration. :(

Now I have my 1 TB iMac with two 1TB external hard drives.  I still back up completed sessions onto DVD.  I also have a subscription to Backblaze.  Backblaze is an online backup service that continually backs up my data to their storage site.  Should I have a catastrophe and lose my files here, I can just contact them and they will restore EVERYTHING!  Definitely wonderful for the peace of mind.  And at $50/yr it really is a great bargain.

Education

Lastly, I wanted to just give some great places to go if you want to learn or improve on your own photography:

Digital Photography School:  This is probably where I learned the most when I started out.  There is a plethora of articles about everything and anything related to photography - from understanding the basics of the exposure triangle, to tips on how to handle different types of photo shoots.

Flickr:  There are forums on Flickr for pretty much anything you can possible imagine - from gear, to business, to flowers, to water drops.

My favorite forum probably is "Starting a Wedding Photography Business".  There are photographers in this group that that are some of the most amazing photographers you can imagine.  Although it is technically called "Starting" a wedding photography business, it actually has become geared towards more established photographers.  I am not kidding when I say this group is definitely a "who's who" in wedding photography.  Some of the active participants are literally the most sought after wedding photographers in the WORLD.  It is a closed group, so you need to apply and show you are an actual working wedding photographer, to be accepted, but it is definitely worth your time.

I Love Photography:  When you really want to improve the quality of your children/family/newborn images, THIS is the site to visit.  It is also a "who's who", but in child/family/newborn photography as it has some of the most amazing photographers in the world actively participating.  And if you take the time to not only read the volumes of information available in their archives, but also start posting your own images for honest critique, you will definitely be on the road to taking your images from a standard "snapshot" to a true professional portrait.

I also love that this forum prohibits any business discussions unless you have applied, and been accepted, into their pro forums.  The group strongly believes you should not be charging for your work until you can turn out professional quality work.  The pro standards are high, but once you are accepted, you know you have access to a community of amazing and experienced photographers.

Understanding Exposure:  This is a book that I recommend to anyone who says - I want to learn how to use my camera!  It does a wonderful job of explaining the basics of the exposure triangle.  And before you know it, you will have your camera off your auto settings and into full manual!

Phew!!!  Well, I think that is about it.  Hope you found this interesting and/or helpful!  Any questions please don't hesitate to ask!!!  I LOVE talking photography!!!!!

Until next time! XOXO!