In the camera bag of… Jon Bryant!
In our special “In the camera bag of…” Panasonic LUMIX Ambassadors tell about their camera bag and what items they bring to a shoot. They also share their memories of their best or worst photo trip en are very blunt about their mistakes. This time wildlife photographer Jon Bryant shows us what’s in his bag.
What type of camera bag do you use and why?
“I actually have three different camera bags. Depending on the shoot I have different amounts of kit to take with me, so I have three different bags; large, medium and small.
My favourite camera bag is a Click Elite Pro Express, which is the medium size bag. It is a backpack. I absolutely love this bag for several reasons. The first is its size. For international travel it isn’t too big and conspicuous and it fits perfectly in most of the overhead compartments of airplanes. The second reason is that is intuitively designed. It can easily hold two camera bodies, all my lenses and I still have space left over for accessories. It is also self configurable with velcro inserts allowing me to customize the lay out. In the outer pockets of the bag there’s room for both a laptop and iPad without the bag becoming too bulky. So that’s reason three. In some backpacks the laptop compartment is inside the bag, what is uncomfortable when it is on your back.”
What do you take with you on a shoot?
“I shoot both stills and video: my bag pretty much represents this. My main body is the Panasonic GH4. I also carry a Panasonic LX100 with me as ‘B-cam’ mainly for video and timelapse work. I have a small pouch that I use to store my memory cards. Thanks to this pouch I always know where they are.
In terms of lenses I have 20mm f1.7, 7-14mm f4, 12-35mm f2.8, 35-100mm f2.8 and 100-400mm f4.5-6.3 lenses. I don’t normally take all my lenses with me, again it depends on what type of shoot I am going on. As I mainly shoot wildlife, landscapes and nature, the 100-400mm f4.5-6.3 lens never really leaves my bag, and I have the 12-35mm and 35-100mm lenses as other options for closer subject work or landscapes.
For landscape work I have a set of Lee ND grad filters, a Lee Circular Polariser and the Lee 6 stop (Little Stopper) and 10 stop (Big Stopper) filters. I have some accessories which are very video specific, for example a Light Craft Workshop variable ND filter which helps me control the intensity of light and shoot at 1/50th of a second for video. I have a couple of these filters to cover different lens filter ring sizes. They really are essential for shooting video.
In addition for video work I have a Rode Video Microphone which helps me capture background audio. I also have a Zacuto Z-Finder Loupe and mountain bracket. This allows me to get critical focus when shooting video and additional handheld stability with the loupe having an additional point of contact with my eye. It is also an essential accessory when shooting in bright sunlight, which is often the case when I shoot video on location. I also have a small L-bracket that I use to mount a small Manfrotto video light in case I need some additional lighting for videoing subjects.
I also bring my Benro travel tripod/monopod combo with a Manfrotto 701 fluid video head. Shooting both stills and video whilst travelling, the tripod/monopod combination is a very versatile piece of kit.”
Is that one of the advantages of a compact camera, that you can travel light(er)?
“It is definitely an advantage having a compact camera system such as the Panasonic Micro Four Thirds system. I often travel to Africa to shoot wildlife. Airlines continue to reduce the hand luggage allowance not just on international flights but also on internal flights where the airplanes are much smaller with limited or nonexistent overhead luggage space! So being able to fit two bodies and at least 3 to 4 lenses as a minimum in my camera bag and make it easily under 10 kilos makes travelling a lot easier and stress free. I always pack the essentials I need for any given shoot. Having the smaller sized camera system means I can easily make room for delicate accessories such as my filters, and put the more bulky grip items like tripods and brackets in my luggage.”
Did you ever forget your bag, camera or something important you really needed with a shoot?
“Most photographers I know tend to have quite an obsessive side when it comes to the preparation of their gear before they go on a shoot! If I have a planned shoot I spend a lot of time preparing. This can involve location scouting, and looking at example images online to understand what kit I would need. I often prepare my camera bag days in advanced, based on a shooting plan/shotlist and a checklist of kit I’ve prepared. But sometimes you discover the unexpected when you visit new locations. It happened to me a few times on safari game drives in Africa when I took only my longer lenses with me, for example the 100-400mm or the 35-100mm. I’ve then been presented with an incredible landscape photographic opportunity and had no wide angle lens in my bag. I think this is where camera craft and knowledge of how to create imagery comes into play. Knowing that I could stitch images together in post processing meant I basically shot a panoramic wide angle with a telephoto lens. By stitching the images together in Lightroom I didn’t miss the shot. I think photographic challenges like this push us to greater levels of creativity and problem solving that make us better photographers.”
Can you think of a moment everything went wrong or the opposite: everything came together during a photo trip?
“I have had both good and bad experiences on the same trip. It was one of my first visits to Africa on safari. I was just starting out in Wildlife Photography and shooting both video and stills on the Panasonic GH3 at the time. We came across a cheetah and two cubs which was an incredibly rare sighting. I started shooting video first before switching to stills. But I’d made a mistake. I had turned the image stabilisation off whilst shooting video as my camera was on a monopod. But when I started shooting stills handheld I forgot to put the image stabilisation back on. As it was an evening drive in fading light, my shutter speeds were quite low, which isn’t a good situation to be in to avoid camera shake and get sharp shots. It wasn’t until I returned to Europe that I found out I hadn’t got one sharp shot of the cheetahs. I was really upset with myself at the time. Despite this first safari experience being a life changing moment, I was so disappointed that I’d blown my cheetah shots. However I did come back with other amazing photographs, and the video I made of that trip was a huge success that opened many doors for me later. I’ve reflected on that experience and learnt a great deal from it. Most of all I’ve learnt that you will always miss some shots. It’s important to not beat yourself up about it, but take the positives and learn from it, and ask yourself what you’ll do differently next time.”
Do you have tips/pointers for our readers for items they shouldn’t forget on a shoot/ photo trip? And more in general, any advice for our readers?
“The most important thing is just don’t forget the basics; have your camera battery fully charged and take a spare (charged) battery with you. Make sure you have plenty of memory cards with you. There is nothing worse than having a flat battery or full cards in the field and your shooting day is cut short as a result. The other thing many photographers forget is a lens cloth. It’s much easier to give your lens a wipe than trying to eliminate those dust spots in post processing. A quick lens wipe when you remove the lens cap is a great habit to build into your shooting. The final piece of advice I would give is to make sure you fill your camera bag with kit that works for you. Most shoots will go well if you have cameras, lenses and accessories you feel comfortable using. If you’ve bought things you just don’t get on with, it will only create frustration and probably distract you from getting the shot. It’s always worthwhile finding a good camera shop with knowledgeable staff that will allow you to get a hands on experience on the kit before you buy it. A good camera shop won’t have any issue with allowing you to try the equipment before you buy it. They will also give you good advice on kit and the alternatives available for your needs.”
Think of the basics and check your camera equipment. Write a checklist and pack everything you need. More important don’t forget to charge your camera and pack plenty of memory cards.
It takes time to find the perfect camera equipment that fits you. You have to feel comfortable with your kit. The first step is to find a good camera shop where you can get all the advice you need and important tips for your trip. A bag filled with camera equipment you love is very important and necessary. Good luck!