I’m in the process of developing a YouTube video that’s focused on my gear. It’s not so much the gear per se as much is it why I have what I have and how I arrived at what I have. So, yes, there’ll be a bit of theory, opinion, perspective, philosophy and advice in the video. I’ve been wanting to do this for some time however I’ve also never really been a fan of the “what’s in YOUR bag” videos as most of them are sort of uber lame; right there beside the ever-disgusting and reasonably moronic “unboxing” videos.
So, let me be clear. This is my go to, basic, photography stuff. Honestly, I don’t own anything other than the three cameras I’m going to cover here. I am a big-ass fan of the Keep It Simple Stupid school of just about everything. I keep my gear simple. My processes simple. My art simple.
It makes as much sense as anything to start with the bag itself. I’m going to go on record and say that this is, without exception, the finest, best, most useful, most perfect camera bag I’ve ever used. The bag is by Filson and it’s part of the “magnum” collection of bags geared towards photographers. There were about 6 or 8 bags and a couple backpacks. I purchased this bag and also the photography backpack. The backpack was blindingly horrible. In fact, reviewer after reviewer poured on the slaying and crucifying all over the web. I sold my on eBay a little over two weeks after owning. This however, is incredibly perfect.
As with most things Filson, the build quality and materials are second to none. I’m going to stop short of calling it an organic experience when you carry it. Nothing I’ve ever owned has been so comfortable and fit so well. There is one caveat. The innards, and this was the case across all Filson photography bags. They suck. They suck so bad, when you first get the bag and consider them, you’re insulted, then you laugh, then you cuss, then you start looking for plan B because the bag itself is just so excellent. Plan B? Yeah, you simply buy an insert off of Amazon for a couple bucks and bang, you’re off.
The bag itself is oilskin with beautiful, yet reasonable, leather and the best strap I’ve ever encountered. Now, you might have noticed I’ve kept using the past tense when I talk about their photography bags. Well, last time I checked, their website was devoid of photography bags. Not sure if this is a forever situation or a strategic pause. I only know they sure received a TON of hate over the photography bags. When all is said and done, it’s really not the quality it’s the design and not all of the design, really just the design stuff around, well, the needs of the photographer that sucked.
Find this bag on eBay and buy it. Never sell it. Use it and love it. It’s second to none and worth every penny.
If you’ve read anything on my blog, looked at my website or watched any of my videos, you’ll know I shoot film. Period! I’m not going into why here, as that’s a completely other story. When all of the dust settled from my photographic gear explorations, I settled on three cameras which suit my efforts and interest to a tee and have stuck with these guys, and will forever.
Number One: 35mm Leica M6
Perfection. Find one, buy it, use it and NEVER sell it. You WILL love this camera more than your firstborn. I have a Summicron 50mm on it and it’s always on it because it’s the only lens I own and it works perfectly. Get yourself and M6 with a Leica Summicron 50mm. Drink the rangefinder koolaid! Trust me. Just do it. You’ll quickly understand why.
Number Two: 120mm Hasselblad 500C
Much like the Leica M6, this little puppy is utter perfection. The 500C or CM…your choice, doesn’t matter, get one, and never sell it. Use it. Use it a lot. Hand hold it. Slap it on a tripod. It’s light, small, fit’s perfectly in the camera bag, and produces sublime 6×6 photographs. Oh, the lens is the Zeiss 80mm Planar. This is nearly the 50mm equiv for medium format. It’s always on it and the only lens I have. I love it and its just an incredible piece of glass. I cannot express to you how superior this little camera is to every other medium format camera ever built. It’s fantastic to use. Get one off of eBay but make sure you discriminate and get the one in the best condition you can find and then care for it and you’ll have a masterpiece for life and legacy.
Number Three: 8×10 Folmer & Schwing
The Folmer & Schwing Main Battle Tank! Well, it’s not really called the Main Battle Tank, but it should be. This was a “division” established within Eastman Kodak through merger & acquisition channels. Compared to the cameras that Kodak was putting out at the time, these babies are, well, the Main Battle Tank. Incredibly stout and build quality second to none. A bit heavier? Sure, but it’s worth every single penny. I lug this bad boy all over the place from swamps and rivers up mountains. I shoot film (Ortho Litho) with it sometimes but primarily I’m shooting wet plate negatives. You can have this one when you pry it from my cold dead….well, you get the point.
This DOES NOT fit into the Filson Bag! This DOES NOT fit into the Filson Bag!
I have two, and that’s it. Simple. With these two lenses I do everything and I can do everything I want to do. The reality is that with a large format camera, and this should be the case with all of your cameras, you really have to move yourself and the camera around quite a bit to position yourself for your shot. So, regardless the lens that I happen to have on, I’m humping the camera into position anyway. Yes, yes, yes, there are aesthetics and unique qualities, and focal lengths, blah blah blah….I get it, you get it…but the point remains. You do not need an arsenal of lenses, ever, to make beautiful photos…just move around a bit….you know, sneaker zoom…walk closer. You get my point.
Lens numer uno. A beautiful Dallmeyer 4D. It’s more of a portrait lens, rather long. But, I use it for everything and it’s got a very curious and unique behavior which I understand, embrace and love. Superior optics.
Numero dos! Ye olde Goerz Dagor. It’s pretty straightforward and the optics are exceptional. This is just one standard tried-and-true excellent lens. It offers me a much wider field of view than the Dallmeyer and that’s just what I use it for.
The camera and these fantastic lenses ride upon what I believe to be the most incredibly useful and perfect tripod for large Large Format cameras, the Davis & Sanford Floating Action Tripod. It’s perfect in every way, just like Mary Poppins was. You’ll have to try and snag one off of eBay if you want one. Trust me though, you’ll never, ever ever ever ever regret it.
Honorable Mention: The Number Four: Sony a5100
Also known amongst my other cameras as THE WORKHORSE! This is my camera for all the pictures you’re looking at and all of my video activity. It’s just incredibly powerful and the precise tool for the job. It is compact, easy to use and loaded with high quality capability. I purchased it at B&H. In my opinion, for great quality video and digital images, you don’t really need more. Do yourself a favor and check it out. I love this little guy. Alas, it had to settle for an iPhone portrait!
I make no bones about it. Ilford FP4 is the finest film on the market. I locked into this film after experimenting and trying the entire Ilford line, Kodak line and a few others. When the dust cleared, FP4 stood atop the pile. I’ve never looked back and never will. For both 120 and 35mm it’s FP4. Now, keep in mind that I also have a very fixed development process as well. I use PMK Pyro & TF4; always have and always will. When all is said and done my process plus FP4 enable me to realize the vision in my mind and I honestly do not have to even think about the film/dev component when I’m creating. It’s cheapest at B&H but can be purchased at any number of places.
Yeah, there is one. I highly recommend the cameras I’ve covered above. However, more than that I highly recommend you consider film and alternative processes, slow down, and get some analog art into your life. Step back from the computer, iPhone, iPad, adobe and get out into the real world and then get your hands dirty making art. Even more than all this though, I recommend you find your camera(s), nail your processes and then forget about them and just focus on making art. That is what this is all about anyway. Don’t be drawn in by fashion, fad or gear-aholics. Go make YOUR art.