Over the years I’ve found that the quality of the photos I’ve brought home after a trip is inversely proportional to the amount of equipment I carry. I used to carry a Lowepro Mini Trekker with me everywhere that was full of cameras and lenses. Most of the gear never gets used and the heavy backpack reduces mobility. Adding to that is the difficulty in swapping lenses that are in the backpack.
Now, if I know I will be on my feet all day, I only carry the 16-35 F4 and 85mm F1.4D, with an un-gripped D700. One lens on the camera and one lens in a pouch at my side. Portraits and other people shots make for an easy choice, the 85mm is on the camera and all my other photos are covered by the wide angle zoom. Since I purchased the 24mm F1.4G this lens often replaces the zoom in my light pack. I rarely need anything longer than 85mm, unless I’m shooting sports, then the 70-200mm swaps spots with the 85mm. When the 70-200mm lens is on the camera, I usually take the liberty of adding the MB-D10 grip for the faster frame rate. I use Sanyo Eneloops in the grip.
I use a small Lowepro slingshot for carrying the wide angle and the 85mm if I know I will be doing a lot of walking and not so much shooting, otherwise the camera is around my neck on a sling strap and hidden from view at my side by a cotton shoulder bag that I picked up in Thailand. It’s a simple cotton bag that hangs across my body and covers the camera and it’s strap perfectly. The camera is within easy reach for a fast draw whenever I see a photo opportunity coming together. The lens that is not on the body is in a Safrotto E21 padded lens pouch. This pouch attaches to my belt with velcro and a small carabiner guarantees I don’t lose a lens.
When I first travelled in Thailand, my lens setup was slightly different. I carried the Tamron 28-75mm and Nikon 20mm AF-D with me all the time on that trip. Essentially the same range I have now, but since most of my photos are either a wide or ultrawide view, I found myself changing lenses way too frequently. Looking at my metadata when I returned home showed me that most of my photos were taken between 20 and 35mm. There was another peak in usage at 75mm, which was usually associated with taking photos of people. Swapping these two lenses for the 16-35mm and 85mm has minimised my lens changing and given me a faster aperture at 85mm, which is often helpful when taking portraits. Another advantage of my present kit is that all my lenses share the 77mm filter thread. I was constantly stuffing around with step-up rings to adapt the Tamron 28-75 and the 20mm Nikon to a 77mm filter (Which I found was the smallest that would work without vignetting on the 20mm).
I have a small filter pouch that holds a CPL, ND8 and ND400, all in 77mm. They come with me whenever I take out the Feisol carbon fiber tripod. I’ll always use a generic remote release when the camera is on the tripod. Combined with mirror lock up this ensures a sharp image. When I have the tripod with me, a 180mm F2.8D is usually in the bag too.
Photographing events such as weddings or parties will have me pack a completely different kit. The Nikon 24-70mm F2.8 and 70-200mm F2.8 VR are bread and butter lenses for this kind of shoot. Teamed up with an SB-800 flash, most bases are covered. A second body is really beneficial and eliminates lens swapping and missed shots.
The sling strap I use on my camera is a Q-Strap. Very cheap off Ebay, and once the clip and adjuster have been changed for quality stainless steel ones, this strap is every bit as good as the expensive name brands. I use a D-Ring screwed into the tripod mount on the body through an L-plate. This arrangement allows me to mount the camera to a tripod without removing the lug for the sling strap. The L-plate also offers some protection to the left hand side of the body, which is usually the side that is facing down when the camera is put down. My 70-200mm lens also has a quick release plate and a D-Ring to allow the camera to be carried by the lens rather than the body.
I scoured the internet for pictures of all the different L-Plates available for the D700 to see which ones would accomodate the D-Ring in the base plate. I eventually chose the Mestos ND-D700L. This L-Plate is well made and only required minimal modification to put it to use. I had to remove a small amount of metal in the base plate of this bracket to allow enough clearance for the D-Ring, and I also had to file a notch in the end of the base plate to enable the locking function of the clamp on my ball head. You can see both these modifications in the above photo. I initially covered up the bare aluminium with black permanent marker, but this has now partly worn off. A relief for the ball head clamp lock has also been filed into the vertical section of the bracket allowing it to be used in portrait orientation as well.