The photographer’s daypack – part 4: long(er) haul medium format
Hello again! We’re here with part four of our photographic daypack series and this time, we’re getting ready for a longer medium format trip with more gear and a much heavier pack.
Here’s the combined list:
- A pen/pencil and small notebook.
- A fine tip marker.
- A small lens/eyeglass cloth.
- Some spare film (fast, slow, color, black and white).
- A spare battery.
- A light meter, or alternative.
- A rubber band and some stiff card.
- A close-up lens.
- A red filter.
- A warming filter.
- A shutter release cable.
- A hotshoe spirit level.
The medium format daypack mk.2
The above gear is our take on what we feel to be the most suitable everyday pack (items 1-7) and an enhanced pack for a quick tromp through the urban sprawl, or a quick morning’s walk in the country (items 8-12).
That said, what about an extended shoot, trip, or holiday somewhere a bit further afield?
Well, if you have the space and broad enough shoulders, the additional items below should suffice:
- A good tripod (it doesn’t have to be carbon fibre but no cast iron either, please).
- A full filter set (color, ND, CPL).
- Some macro extension tubes.
- More lenses (in fact, why not all of them?)
- At lease one extra film back (if you have the facility).
- A decent camera strap (compression straps work best for us).
But it’s only wafffer thin!
All this added gear can get very large, very cumbersome and very heavy, very quickly, so be careful what you pack.
Whilst it’s incredibly tempting to cater for every possibility you may encounter, this isn’t a kitchen sink affair. The most important rule is to THINK AHEAD.
Try to limit yourself as much as you can and consider those around you before packing that extra “wafffer thin” item.
If you’re with others who won’t be as obsessed about “getting the shot” as you, then I’d suggest scratching the above entirely and just taking the lens you’re most comfortable with …and perhaps a single macro ring just to be sure.
If your travel mates are used to your “special peculiarities” then be nice and perhaps only take an extra lens and the tripod (in case you get time to yourself).
Finally, if you’re heading out with other tri (pod) geeks, then fill your boots and go crazy!
Take a couple of your fastest lenses for snaps of your significant others and the surrounds. If I know I’ll be in an urban environment, I’ll nearly always take an 80 and a 50. This would ensure that shots of the family and urban/historic surroundings are all catered for.
If I’m going somewhere a little more rural, or epic in its natural surrounds, I’d most likely opt for something wide and something with a little more throw – a 40 or 50mm and probably a 120/150mm in order to cover it all.
These folks are going to be used to taking their time and selecting both their shots and their gear. That said, it’s no real excuse to go too mad. Burden yourself with constraint and think about where you’ll be, it’ll help your photography.
For their weight, filters and macro tubes make the for best creative/flexible combination to my eye, and I’ll happily take just a single lens, a macro ring and single filter in order to save space for the really important stuff…FILM.
Speaking of which, don’t forget about film!
It’s not only about gear, as you’ll already know. I normally lean more towards black and white but as I’ve been “forcing” myself to shoot more and slide film this year, my (biased) film pack for 2015 would be:
- 4 rolls of black and white – 50, 100, 400
2xIlford Pan F, Fuji Acros 100 and 1xKodak Tri-X 400
- 2 rolls of color negative – 160 and 400
Kodak Portra 160 and Fuji Pro400H
- 4 rolls of slide film – 50 and 100
2xVelvia 50, 1xProvia 100F and 1xKodak E100VS
90% of the time I’ll load one film back with black and white and one with color film.
If I was going somewhere very special indeed, and I knew I had access to a controlled temperature environment (a refrigerator), I’d also take a roll of Aerochrome too. After all, why not?
Velvia can be pushed to ISO100 with wonderful results and if you’re feeling frisky, then Provia 100F and E100VS are both push and cross-process monsters, capable of two stop pushes AND cross processing at the same time.
Who ever said slide film needs ultimate respect?
Justifying the daypack
Being subjective, it would be incredibly easy to justify each and every item listed above. In fact, I have done so myself on several occasions but ultimately all that did was breed regret and a sore back.
Lets take a step back and try to take an objective view for a second.
This one is a simple call based on where you’ll be and who you’ll be with. Using a tripod means you’ll will probably want to use it and thus be limited to considering, mentally framing and then physically framing each shot.
All this means time
Depending on your surroundings, you may also not actually be able to use a tripod, so be mindful of where you are and what you want to shoot.
Get creative and think hard about taking one along. Whatever you do, please don’t take a monopod if your medium, format set-up is built around a waist level viewfinder! (unless you need a multi-purpose walking stick!)
#2 Full filter set
By a full set, I mean red, orange, yellow, green and ND or CPL. The color filters will really only be useful for black and white film, although I swear by a yellow filter on slide film during the day.
The ND filter (I favor the ND8), will give you an extra few stops of speed when you require finer DoF control in the burning sun, and the CPL will help you out with blocking reflections. They also work great with a red filter on black and white.
Whilst there’s space there for graduated filters, blue, green and warming filters, I’d suggest going with your gut based on your location and film stock.
#3 Macro extension tubes
After your lenses these are the second most useful objects in your arsenal.
There seems to be a stigma attached to using macro extension tubes or bellows. Something about they’re only the domain of full-time tripod users and those who have a tendency to glue insects to leaves.
You couldn’t be more wrong.
My favorite lens is a pin sharp Zeiss 80/2.8 which focuses down to about 50cm. My smallest macro ring will get me as close as about 10cm and only rob me of about half a stop of light, whilst making my DoF nice and shallow (see below).
If you’re like me and love shooting detail, then these will help you get close enough without going completely mad.
If you don’t have a macro ring, get one. They’re a lot of fun and won’t chain you to a tripod, or require you to have a truck full of lights following you everywhere you go.
#4 More lenses (why not all of them?)
I always try to take lenses which have focal lengths separate and distinct from one another, whilst still remaining useful. What I mean is that I wouldn’t consider taking a 40mm and 50mm with me at the same time. What’s the point?
That being the case, I wouldn’t go as far as to take a 30mm fisheye and 250mm telephoto lens either, that would be equally ridiculous for most situations.
I find the 80mm and 120mm combination work well for me, as does a 30mm and 80mm mix.
Considering the theme here is to “go with what you’re comfortable with”, on the whole I would suggest taking a couple of lenses you’re familiar with and know how to frame to get the shot you want.
#5 A decent camera strap (compression works best for me)
This really is a no-brainer and should be at the top of the list. No questions about it. I use the OpTech Pro strap system for all my medium format gear. It’s hardwearing, modular, inexpensive and comfortable gear.
Where are my prism finders?!
Do you need them/it? If your MF camera doesn’t have a prism finder built-in, or if your day-to-day shooting method doesn’t include one, then don’t worry about taking one. In fact, I’ll give you 30 cents on the dollar you won’t use it.
Using a medium format camera that is normally set-up for a Waist Level Finder with a 45/90 degree prism can be a chore if you’re not prepared for it. Use whatever works best for you and remember…
Take your best to shoot your best
I don’t mean your best camera and other accessories, I mean the gear you feel you are at your best with (apologies for the confusion, I was hoping for a snappy lead in to this final section).
Unless you’re going somewhere to specifically burn film, you need to remember that there are likely going to be people with you and that you should spend time with them and not just be thinking about getting the next frame.
As photographers we can often waste opportunities to unwind by focusing too much on using the gear we have with us. Just relax, take your finger off the shutter and put the light meter away. You don’t need to shoot everything.
Take the gear you’re most comfortable with so that when the time does arise, you can fire off a shot or two and go back to spending time with your family or friends as quickly as possible.
If you’re out with your tri-geek friends, then forget all that and tinker, tweak and shoot!
There’s a time and a place for everything, so once again I’ll urge you to be mindful of your surroundings and just once in a while, take the time to enjoy that spectacular sunset and not simply frame it up in your viewfinder.
With that, we’re done. Heavy on the words and light on the images this time.
Thanks for reading and please leave your thoughts below!