Sunday, June 18, 2017

My "Justin Case" - Just In Case

The first two weeks in June presented me with a major revelation: I carry too much equipment in my main bag, and not enough on my person. I am a strong subscriber to the adage "It's better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it". Sure, I usually have three speedlights at the ready, but they are useless to me if they are in my camera bag beside my assistant on the other side of the venue. And it isn't just speedlights. I actually started photographing with an empty (no SD card inside) camera, not realizing my mistake until I started to review my morning's take. Luckily, I was able to duplicate most of the shots I lost, but some priceless expressions, along with a potential Pulitzer Prize Winner, were lost forever. Just kidding about the Pulitzer. And since I started using Fuji mirrorless cameras on assignment, I've been caught with dead or dying batteries on several occasions.

The Mission: My mission was to see how many essentials I could cram into a Think Tank Speed Changer 200 pack. After some thought, my list of must carries grew longer and longer, but so far, I've included the following:

  • 1 (or 2) Nikon SB-80 DX Speedlight/s: I prefer to use SB-80s when shooting Fujis. While there is no TTL automation, they do offer the older, non TTL flash exposure automation, which has worked reasonably well outdoors as fill lighting. In a pinch, I could exchange one speedlight for a SD-8A battery pack. By installing two padded dividers in the Think Tank bag, I was able to position the two SB-80s at either end of the bag, leaving room in the middle compartment for:
  • 1 Neutered Nikon SC-17 Flash Cable: Cables are a quick way to achieve an improved, off-camera look to one's photos. The neutered cable eliminates any possible conflicts when attaching a Nikon speedlight to any camera that has an ISO standard hot shoe and will tolerate a flash triggering voltage of approximately 8 volts.
  •  1 Nikon Diffusion Dome: One SW-10H Wide Angle Flash Adapter fits neatly at the bottom.
  •  1 12-Pack of AA Batteries: This inexpensive plastic box holds enough batteries to completely change out three speedlights, or one plus a Nikon SD-8a Battery Pack. 
In the outer compartment, you'll find: 
  • 1 Lumiquest Pocket Bouncer: Just in case I need to soften my key light a bit. I include a LumiQuest UltraStrap to attach it. For the moment, I've given up on putting Velcro directly on my speedlights. I wrap the Ultra Strap around the Bouncer to keep things neat.
  • 1 Geppe Card Safe with 2 SD and 2 CF cards.
  • Pre-cut Gels: I carry CTO gels cut to the size required by the SB-80s.
  • 1 strip Gaffer Tape. I cut a 6" strip to a width of 1 1/4" and stick it to the waxed paper backing from sheets of adhesive mailing labels. By "notching" the tape at 1/2" intervals, I can tear off "stitches" of tape for attaching loose CC gels to a speedlight.
  •  Nikon AS-19 Stand: These stands come with with the higher-end Nikon Speedlights. May not work with the SB-900.
  • 2 Fuji Batteries: I carry one for the X100 cameras and one for the X-E and X-T bodies.
  • Microfiber Lens Wiping Cloth. 
  • 1 Cardboard Snoot: Made from a spaghetti box, a la David Hobby.
Among the various and sundry items you'll find:
  • 2 pens (I might lose one).
  • 1 Moleskine (mini) Journal: Hey, it was a gift. Seriously, any paper will do to record the names of my subjects when in the field.
  • Business Cards/Contact Cards: I never seem to have them on me, so now there is no excuse.
  • 1 Swiss Army Knife: Any variant will do,as long as it has a pair of scissors.
  • Anti Bacterial Hand Wipes (Wet Ones). Just a few. I have plenty in my car's glove box.
  • Mini-Maglight Flashlight: These were all the rage when they first came out, and I literally have a dozen of them floating about the house. I modified mine to take a push button switch for one-hand operation, and a Krypton bulb for brightness.

Irving Penn (1917-2009) Theatre Accident, 1947
Irving Penn: The photo "Theatre Accident" has always been one of my favorite still life photos. It incorporates a feeling of how a handbag's contents might spill at the feet of an opera (or ballet) patron's feet. My photo is a humble homage to the photo. All that's missing is the patent leather pump.

Fully packed, this bag weighs about thee pounds and is difficult to attach to a dress belt. My next problem is how to simplify attaching the bundle without the appearance of a struggle. I may wind up attaching the bag to a wide, load bearing web belt, thus converting my original concept of a quick backup bag into a superhero's utility belt. In time, I may trim back on the bag's contents, but in the mean time, I'll have more than enough great stuff securely attached to my waist.