When I started my career in photography – like so many photographers before me – I began the search for the perfect photo bag. Sadly, after nearly 20 years in the field, I can definitively say that the perfect photo bag does not exist. The good news? Perfect bags do exist for specific tasks.
For many, many years my bag of choice for photojournalism and documentary work was the Domke F-2. It’s Zen-like minimalism allowed me to carry many lenses in an extremely compact space. It also looks cool – like a bag I could imagine Robert Capa hauling around the battlefields of World War II. I love the way the thick cotton canvas molds to my body over time. Sadly, my camera does not fit into the Domke with its 80-200mm f2.8 lens attached. This is the Domke’s Achilles heel.
The solution: A taller bag
Thank Tank Photo has solved this problem with Speed Racer V2.0. Contrary to what Think Tank advertises on their website — my camera fits in the V2.0 with either the 80-200mm f2.8, or the 80-400mm f4-5.6 attached! Throw in the luxury of a hip belt to take the weight off my shoulders, a top-access-zip for quick lens changes, a ingenious (optional) lens switch case, and it is no surprise that my Domke F-2 has been gathering dust.
A few moons ago I was riding in the bow of a small zodiac on my way to shore in the Galapagos when a wave of salt water washed over the bow – and over my bag. Thanks to the rain cover and the water repellent nylon on my Speed Racer, my camera stayed bone-dry. A feat my brave old Domke could not have accomplished.
The Domke F-2 will always hold a special place in my heart, but for photojournalism and documentary work that requires me to be quick on my feet, the Speed Racer V2.0 is my bag of choice.
When I began shooting video more regularly, it did not take me long to figure out that in order to get smooth shots I needed a fluid head for my tripod and a shoulder mount for ‘run ‘n’ gun’ situations. The fluid head I am currently using is the Manfrotto 502 (HERE) and my shoulder mount of choice is the Zacuto Marauder (HERE). Two things that slow me down when switching from video to stills (or vice versa) are changing the tripod heads (which I found a solution for HERE) and re-mounting the camera to the various base plates for every system. For still photography, I have been using Arca style base plates for over a decade, and figured there must be a way to adapt the Zacuto and Manfrotto camera mounts to the Arca-style plate on my camera.
I am a huge fan of Peak Design’s CapturePro camera clip. After my first trip using it to carry my Nikon D4 in various Alaskan conditions, I knew I could never go back to a using standard camera strap during extended assignments. The CapturePro saved both my neck and my wrist while carrying my heavy rig for days on end. One of the things I appreciated most about the system was the ingenious Leash safety strap that rapidly adjusted to any length and doubled as a bracing /stabilizing strap when running and gunning video on the fly. The width of the leash strap never bothered me because it never carried the full weight of my camera for any extended period of time thanks to the CapturePro system.
Fortunately or unfortunately – not all my assignments are extended affairs. For short shoots and grab shots where I didn’t bother putting on the CapturePro camera clip – I found that the leash strap was somewhat lacking in the comfort department. Shortly after this realization, I contacted Peak Design to beg them to design a wider strap that used their pioneering Anchor system. As if I had rubbed the proverbial genie bottle, the next day a note appeared in my inbox from Peak Design letting me know that a wider strap – called Slide – was already under development and that they would send one my way when it was finished.
Until a month ago, coming home with a sore neck from carrying my cameras during an assignment seemed as much a part of my business as waking up in the field for first light, or spending inordinate amounts of time away from home. For quite some time, I had been daydreaming about a camera mount system that could distribute the weight of my camera onto my belt rather than my shoulders and neck.