For those technical minded folks I thought I would share a little info on what I carry with me in the field. By nature I am very interested in technology, but for whatever reason when it comes to photography I like to do my research, pick the best, and then not have to worry about my equipment. My equipment list is short, and quite honestly hasn’t changed much in 10 years.
KB Canham DLC45
I purchased this camera around 1999 when it was first introduced, and I have used it to make every one of my photos since. Machined from aluminum, with a synthetic fabric bellows it has proven a great balance of lightweight, compactness and rigidity. In engineering there are always compromises, but I would highly recommend this camera for anyone that has to hike to their photo locations as I do.
Schneider 210mm Apo Symmar
This lens is a normal length (equivalent to ~60mm SLR lens) and has proven itself as a sharp lens with great coverage. My only complaint is that it is relatively heavy.
Schneider 90mm Super Angulon This lens is a wide angle landscape lens (~27mm SLR lens) and is the lens I shoot with the most. My main complaint here is the relatively dim maximum aperture of F8. This makes it a bit of a challenge to focus in dimly lit environments.
Schneider 90mm f5.6 Super Angulon XL
I just bought a new 90mm, and it’s a beast! Last shooting outing I missed some shots because my previous 90mm f8 was too dark to focus. I’m hoping the extra stop helps out there. Also the 5.6 has a huge image circle, so big I may need to get a bag bellows to take maximum advantage. The only downside I can see is how large it is (95mm filters are expensive!)
Schneider 58mm Super Angulon XL
This is my newest lens ( ~16mm SLR lens) and is a great choice for shooting cramped interiors as I have been lately. Shooting with a wide angle lens requires exacting care in positioning the camera to avoid unpleasant, non-vertical lines and other distortions. I’m still getting use to this, but on a recent trip I used this lens for approximately 75% of my shots.
Gitzo G1228 and Gitzo GT3541XLS Carbon Fibre Tripods
I choose which of these to use based on how far from the car I have to walk. I have a pet peeve of having to bend over to look through my viewfinder and the 3541 avoids that by extending well above my head. The G1228 is my goto tripod when backpacking as it is super light considering how stable it is. I use a Kirk Enterprises ballhead (original BH-1 or BH-3) on both of these. I don’t seem to have any problem using a ballhead with a view camera, and love the compact, lightweight of these heads.
Pentax Digital SpotMeter
The spotmeter is a staple for any Zone System photographer, but I don’t spend too much time over-analyzing my exposures. Following advice from Fred Picker I meter the shadows of a scene and place those 1 1/2 stops below middle gray. Lack of exposure is perhaps the worse sin in exposing black and white negative film, so I want to avoid that at all costs. In a direct sun scene the highlights may be considerably dense on the film, but my film holds separation well into Zone 12. I rarely do a development contraction (N-1 development) instead I use my darkroom tools to recover those highlights without having to suffer a decrease in mid-tone separation.
Zone VI Black and White Viewing Filter
This is nothing more than an amber tinted window in a plastic frame, but it is super useful for my photography. Worn on a lanyard around my neck, the frame is the same ratio as my film (4×5 inches) and is used to view the scene before me. Visualizing what a scene will look like when confined to a rectangular, 2 dimensional surface is one of the great tricks of photography. Composition is the number one creative tool, and having a viewing tool allows me to preview hundreds of different composition before I choose the one I want to expose to film. If you’ve seen a cinematographer making a little rectangle with their fingers, this is the same idea, slightly refined.
Kodak T-Max Film
I have shot only Kodak film for as long as I can remember. I started on Tri-X but moved to T-Max around 2000, primarily because of it’s fine grain. I wanted to make larger prints, and started to find the grain in Tri-X slightly objectionable. I shoot T-Max 100 primarily, only using T-Max 400 for very dim interiors.
What drew me to T-Max also was the availability of Readyloads, which is pre-loaded sheet film. This has been discontinued so I’m back to loading film holders just like Ansel used to! I usually carry 20 double-sided, Fidelity film holders with me, and use a Calumet changing bag to swap film at night.
Kodak has been in the news lately as they struggle with bankruptcy, and I have been tempted to change my film (which would require a fair amount of testing) but I will likely continue to shoot T-Max until the last sheet is available.
RPT Camera Cases
Probably the equipment I have fussed with the most is my camera backpack. I’ve tried all sorts of packs and have settled on a standard Kelty backpack, and camera and lens cases from Photobackpacker. These provided great protection without taking up too much space, and are LIGHT! They also are super flexible and modular which is cool
So all of the above, along with a basic first aid kit, an LED headlamp, and a water bottle, goes on my back as I explore for that next, great scene.