Kit talk

I’m often asked what camera I use, what lenses and lighting I use.

It depends on who asks as to what answer I give !  If it’s someone on the street I tend to play down my kit for obvious reasons (although touchwood, I’ve never had a theft on location). I use a Canon 5ds which is a 5o megapixel camera, not all my customers want that big, but that amount of resolution and detail is always beneficial. I also have a Canon 6d which is great for video and a smaller, lighter version of the 5ds. Plus a Canon powershot compact camera.

My ‘go to’ lens is a Canon 24mm tilt shift, it’s a must for architectural photographers to stop buildings looking like they’re falling over and still get enough sky in shot. I also use a Canon 70-200 zoom, a 24-70 zoom both are L series (L stands for professional, some say it stands for expensive) plus a Sigma 20mm f/1.8 and a 50mm macro.

So yes, I’m a Canon fan. Pro photographers are either Canon or Nikon (or Hasselbald or Leica). I’m Canon because they were the first to manufacture tilt shift lenses for digital cameras back in 2000.

My favourite bit of kit is my tripod ; a Gitzo 3540xls. It’s made of basalt which makes it light but strong and it goes very very tall. Why do I love it so much ? Apart from it’s massive height it feels heavenly, the basalt is silky smooth and doesn’t cool with the air temperature – that may sound unnecessary but when you’re handling kit in winter, you don’t want you fingertips to stick to it or the workings to freeze up. The mechanism to extend the legs is Italian engineering at it’s best, it can go from folded to full height in a matter of seconds, and can be minutely adjusted with ease. Yes I have been seen stroking my tripod….

My second favourite bit of kit is associated with the tripod – a quick release Kirk plate. A simple piece of metal (not just any metal, are you getting the picture ?!), which is permanently attached to the camera and glides in and out of the tripod mount. When you’re mounting a camera on a tripod up to 50 times a day, it pays to have a mount that’s quick and effective and beautifully engineered so you can work effectively and quickly. Another bonus is that it has a slot for attaching a hand strap – one of my other favourite pieces of kit. My camera and lens weigh in at 3-4kg and I’m 5’4″ so the last thing I want is that weight dangling round my neck. A hand strap takes the weight when I’m hand held shooting and keeps the camera safe and in your hand. When you’re working at height this is very important (touch wood I haven’t dropped a camera yet). I also use a Black Rapid crossover strap – the camera attaches by the tripod mount to the bottom of the camera rather than the neck strap loops and it slings over the body. The camera hangs at my side rather than my front so I can use my hands for other things like moving furniture etc without the camera crashing into things.

Bags are important to me. A bit like handbags, you can’t have enough of them, one for each type of shoot. I’ve got a big roller case, a small roller case, various rucksacks of different sizes, shoulder bags and flight cases. On a building site I want a little bag that’s compact and can fit through ladder gaps, in an office I want a roller that’s permanently open, in public spaces I want a mixture of the two.

Last but not least is my step ladder (not my real ladder !). Having a range of heights is important when finding the right viewpoint, so on just about every shoot, I carry a ladder over my shoulder. It’s also a handy seat and can be used to shove brambles and undergrowth out of the way.

Cameras are a bit like cars – you can get something that does the job, but money really does buy quality.

Lighting is dependant on the commission, I use flash with a variety of deflectors and diffusers, continuous Hedler lighting and a new bit of kit which I’m wondering how I managed without – a small battery operated adjustable LED light. Lastolite reflectors are a must, especially for portraits and product shots and I also sometimes use white sheets – you’d be amazed how much light you can reflect back into an interior with a white sheet on the floor….


About sallyannnorman

architectural and location photographer in the North East of England

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