What's in Mike's bag


So this blog entry will be nothing but gear lust with the exception of me actually explaining "What's in my bag" a little bit deeper than other posts i've have seen. So just for you to keep in mind, I do not bring every little piece of equipment I own for each shoot. This would be very very hard because I have a lot of equipment.  I really love having lots of different lenses and equipment for every situation. I don't rent equipment usually, I would much rather purchase and own the equipment for the next time I have a similar shoot.

     The equipment i'm listing here is equipment that will come with me to a wedding. I do have different breakdowns of equipment for each type of shoot. I'm not going to give a breakdown for each shoot I do and what I would bring. It all depends on the client and what they're looking for. Sometimes I'll bring just a 50mm 1.2 lens and my backup body and no flash. 

     This should be interesting for brides, grooms and fellow photographers.  Feel free to post any questions below and I will make sure to follow up with the questions directly or by editing this post to include that information. 

Sorry for the low quality of this photo. With all my cameras in the photo i was forced to use my iphone and some harsh post processing on a random photo app.

Sorry for the low quality of this photo. With all my cameras in the photo i was forced to use my iphone and some harsh post processing on a random photo app.

Canon EOS M3

So this little camera is always with me. This is a backup camera to have with me in case my shutter box or mirror assembly fails on my main camera. Those are the two parts that will F up any photographer's day. Just means it's time to spend seven hundred dollars to have your camera rebuilt. This little mirrorless camera has an adapter so that I can attach any of my L (luxury oo la la) lenses with complete autofocus. This camera can also fit in my glovebox or pocket.

Canon 5D MKIV

This is my work horse, my main camera to shoot events and weddings. The picture quality and pedigree now surpass the top of the line Canon. This camera also incorporates two card slots which allow me to have redundant data or an overflow for data. I don't even use the battery grip attachment most times with this camera because it feels soo good in my hand as is. Excellent in low light and very reliable. 

Canon 50mm 1.2

I love this lens for the fact of it shooting at 1.2. Lots of beautiful bokeh and also the fact of being able to pull focus of subjects in a scene and the ability to shoot anywhere. Light will not affect where you shoot with this baby. One of the reasons I like using this lens is even when there is a scene that's not exciting to me, I know a bride will love the photo because of the bokeh (the blurriness in the background). Great for detail shots and portraits. This is also awesome for street photography.

Canon 85mm 1.2

 Still getting use to this bad boy. I've found this to be an excellent lens for portraits and details. Some photographers don't think this lens pairs well with flash and I don't really get that. The aspect ratio that it shows is so tight that it has a unique feel to it when you see it. It stands out is what i'm trying to say. This lens will break subjects from their backgrounds and performs admirably in low light conditions. 

Canon 16-35mm 2.8

Okay, this should be in every photographer's bag. Most times I only have two or three lenses in my bag but this is always a constant. This is a wide angle lens that is great for architecture, group photos and perspective. When i'm using this lens I always have it right at 16mm a hundred percent of the time. I'll use this in abandoned buildings as well as weddings. When you use this for dance floors it makes the room look amazingly huge. With a fixed 2.8 aperture you can also use this in a lot of low light conditions.

Canon 200mm 1.8

So you might be googling this by now, but yes a 1.8 aperture on a 200mm lens. This lens is a unicorn and I own it. I use this for portraits and also sneaky shots during receptions. The bokeh in the shots you'll get are buttery and smooth. I also love this lens because it lets bystanders know that a serious photographer is in the room and don't interrupt him. This isn't a lens you can pick up at Best Buy. 

Canon 90mm 2.8 TSE

Okay, what's a TSE? Tilt shift lens! This is basically a fifteen hundred dollar instagram filter ready to go. I can get magical photos during ceremonies and during the right conditions I can make everyone look miniature or odd. The way that everyone may look a little but odd is because this is a perspective control lens and it you can manually correct people, buildings into the correct aspect which your eye is not accustomed to see in photos. This piece of kit makes me stand out from other photographers because the only other way another photographer can compete is to photoshop an image. This is a manually focused lens and it tilts, shifts and you can also rotate these two functions for a variety of compositions. 

ENELOOP AA batteries

I highly suggest these batteries. They are low discharge which means the last forever in your bag and also don't pull too much battery when you're firing your flash non-stop. I can get almost a complete wedding on one set of batteries if i'm being careful with my usage. But usually i'm bringing around fifty batteries with special battery holders that allow me to designate empty or full batteries. These batteries are recognizable by their white exterior. I use rechargeable because I don't like throwing away batteries constantly and they work well with my Titanium 16 bay battery charger which will drain and refill all my batteries.  I have close to a hundred AA Eneloop batteries at home in the event that I have three weddings on a weekend which does happen a few times a year. 

Canon 5D MKIII

This is my secondary camera on a shoot. It still holds up despite it's age. This is a full frame camera which means lots and lots of data and pixels captured. This will also perform in a rain storm (at least for awhile as i've found out). 

Canon 70-200mm 2.8 II

A photographer's must have. This lens is a tele-photo which means I can get in nice and tight for portraits. This allows lots of different options for composition and also sneaking those special moments that unfold at weddings. The built in stabilization on this lens means I can get to twentieth of a second and still get some sharpness two out of three shots. This is built tough and made to last a lot longer than the camera bodies that will trade kisses with it over time. I do suggest buying top of the line when it comes to purchasing a 70-200 as there is a version I and also optional variants without stabilization and an f4 version which won't let in as much light and additionally won't have that sweet bokeh. 

Canon 35mm 1.4

 This is a new addition to my gear closet. Similar to my Canon 50 but it allows for even closer focus with the same level of sharpness and close to the same aperture. I like this lens for detail shots, food photography and the occasional group photo. I prefer this lens to my Canon 16-35mm when shooting at 35. Wonderful for low light as you might imagine. This lens is usually on my camera because I shoot such a variety of subjects throughout the week and this is a good walk around lens. 

Canon 100mm 2.8

This lens is soo much fun that it feels like a toy. This lens can double as a portrait lens and macro. Most time's i'm using this lens which does have built in stabilization for detail shots like wedding bands, flowers and anything else miniature that is within reach. Paired with a flash you can get tack sharp images. This is an ultimate lens for food photography. 

Canon 8-15 f4

Okay, this lens is a toy. The only reason I have this lens is because i've always wanted a fisheye and a cheap Rokinon fisheye lens wouldn't cut it for me. So here I am with a twelve hundred dollar fisheye lens. This lens also has a correction in Lightroom where you can correct it to a non circular or warped image. I have this lens because I have some brides and grooms that go nuts over how this looks in their photos. It's great for when you have unique architecture and also when you have too many people in a group. I also love using this for dancing photos at the reception because I can hold the camera in someone's face and no one can get in-between the lens and that person.  I also have this lens because it does attract new customers because everyone seems to love a fisheye for it's distortion. It's a fun lens to let people play around with. It's also great for dance photos because of how close you have to get it to your subject, no one can get in-between you. 

Canon 135mm f2

This is the king of the red rings. Amazing portrait lens with aspirations to be a marco lens. I throw this on during wedding ceremonies sometimes because of it's low light capabilities. I'm pleased with the bokeh on this and sharpness although I need to spend a little bit more time with this lens. I bought this because soo many photographers rave about this lens. This is a relativity inexpensive lens as well. 

Canon 600EX-RT

I'm no natural light photographer, i'm pushing my boundaries and adding flash to my photography. I want to create the most amazing photos and sometime's that takes a little bit of flare. The reason I love this flash is how powerful it is and also the ability to control other flashes by radio signal. In the past you could control another flash by infrared, optically slave or using triggers like Pocket Wizards and CyberSyncs.  I have two of these flashes and they are on top of both cameras during my wedding seasons. 

Yongnuo 600EX-RT

This name looks a little familiar to the Canon 600EX-RT because it is exactly the same thing Maybe minus a few internal components which make it a little less expensive. This flash unit also works with radio signals and will communicate with the Canon 600EX-RT. These are a little nicer for me to put in various  places at weddings without the worry of having them break, tip over or any overuse.  I have six of these flashes and they are my work horses at wedding receptions and anytime a flash needs to be placed in harms way. 

Yongnuo YN-E3-RT

This is a controller or trigger for the Canon & Yongnuo 600's. The reason why I use the knock off brand of Yongnuo vs the Canon brand is because this particular unit has a infrared assist beam allowing focus in dark areas. Basically an invisible beam shoots out, hits it's target and relays the distance back to the camera and focus achieved. I use this during some shoots where I'm using more controlled light.

Spyder holster

So this is a holster for your camera. You attach a small ball to the bottom of your camera and this allows your camera to be placed into a holster either on an incorporated belt system or a belt add on for your own personal belt. I like this because my camera sits a bit closer to my body than the R Strap would typically. There is a bigger margin of error if you're busy, tired or careless  when putting your camera into this. I highly suggest picking up one of these. This allows me to look suave at weddings and always draws a little bit of attention to my new fangled toys. 

Memory cards

So this may go without saying but memory cards. Every wedding season I purchase new cards because I am so worried about card failure. I have procedures that prevent this like multiple cards in my camera to record redundant data, backing up photos asap and additionally new cards every season. I take the old cards and retire them and use them for personal use or sell them outright. Every card also has a custom label on it in the event that it gets dropped. The label has my phone number, name, website. 

Business cards 

I always have business cards for future brides and grooms. When i'm at a wedding i'm not only taking photos, i'm also performing for the guests. Part of getting your photos taken is not just someone slinking around the background, it's someone who will take charge and get you the best photos. When you're taking charge and organizing people for photos or spending time with a little person to get a cute photo of them, people notice. So I always have around fifty or so business cards with me. I use ninety nine cent clear plastic business card holders from the Container store. I put multiple packs of business cards in each bag because I never want to be without these.  Please put some thought into your business cards, make them memorable. Here's a little bit about mine.

R Strap

You really need free hands at a wedding and for this reason I use an R Strap. The main reason I need my hands free is usually organizing people and that's with big hand movements, kidding. But I regularly will do mirror posing to show a bride how to stand or i'll need my hands free to move things. The R Strap also allows me the freedom of letting my hands take a break from holding the camera. You do have to make sure that your mounting screw is tight in the bottom of your camera and that the carabiner is locked in place. Myself and friends have had a drop before of our gear, nothing serious, but it happens. 


So all this gear is fun to own but getting it from place to place requires a bag, a padded bag, a padded bag with locks on it, a padded bag with locks and wheels on the bottom with a luggage handle, a hiking bag for rougher terrain, a shoulder bag for more low key events, a bag that hugs my back for urban locations or exploration.  I'm not going to include all of my bags, only my most used. 

Thinktank International V2 Airport security - This will hold most of my gear and also has zippers that will lock into a special area on the bag with a combination. This bag also has a metal leash which I can wrap around posts to lock my bag into an area. Wheels on the bottom of the bag and a retractable handle for dragging it through airports. This is great for weddings as a base station for my gear.

ThinkTANK Airport Commuter - Basically this is the same as the Airport security minus the extra security options. This is my main bag, black and low key and able to hold most of my gear. Fits my fifteen inch MacBook Pro as well. So two bodies, two flashes, five lenses and a few accessories. 

ThinkTANK Retrospective 7 shoulder bag - I love this bag for planes because I can put all my gear in another carry on and use this as my personal bag. Once at my location this can be used as my bag for venturing around the city. I usually will only put three lenses and a body in here but also comfortably fits my 15 inch MacBook pro. The front flap can be adjusted to lock with velcro or without velcro for more stealthy removal. The side pockets fit a water bottle but are better sized for smaller accessible items like a flash light. In the middle my camera and a lens such as the 70-200 and the orbiting interior pockets will hold a 16-35mm and maybe a 50mm.