What’s in Art’s Bag?

This is a question I get asked all the time, “What sort of equipment do you use?” The answer is usually less than you would expect. In general I shoot with Canon’s 5D Mark III and 1Dx cameras. For my new Human Canvas photos I am using a Leica S. Digital technology has far surpassed what film was ever capable of and has completely changed the game for what one can shoot in the field.

Where ISO 50 was the norm with film, I am shooting into the 1000s without reservations now. The ability to confirm “you got it” immediately after the shot, zooming in to ensure critical focus, evaluating the histogram for exposure, means that today I shoot far less than I would have in the past. I can shoot half a dozen frames, know I got what I wanted and move on. With slides I may have shot a couple of roles of a single subject before I was satisfied that at least one of the images in the batch would satisfy me later – and later could be several months before I knew what I had.

I have shot the majority of my images with just two lenses over the last few years. Both are “L” series lenses, Canon’s professional designation, the 16-35 f/2.8 L II and the 70-200 f/4 L IS. I’ll use extension tubes for macro work with the 70-200 and add in a 1.4x extender for additional reach when I need it as well. These are my workhorses and they are always in my bag regardless of where I’m headed.

While I may have dismissed the middle range in the past, more and more I am finding myself reaching for a 24-105 f/4 L IS.  It is a great walk around lens for shooting in crowded markets, portraits, architecture

On occasion I’ll pack a long lens. Years ago I loved my Nikkor 200-400mm lens for wildlife work; now I use the Canon 200-400 1/4 L IS USM Extender 1/4x.

I’ll also bring a fish eye lens, the 15mm f2.8, for special effects, just to mix things up a bit – but it’s not a lens I would rely on daily by any means.

In addition, I carry a light weight, sturdy carbon fiber tripod. I like Gitzo’s GT3542XLS Carbon Fiber Tripod. They make a fine product and it is light enough that I won’t hesitate to bring it wherever I’m going. I am using a Kirk BH-1 ballhead mounted to a flat plate (no center column). Here is an important tip about tripods – purchase a tripod that is just a little too heavy and you won’t use it. Purchase one with a wobbly center column and you’re better off without it. So spend a little more money up front and you won’t have to do it again for many years. Mirror lock up and a cable release are also a part of the stabilization equation.

Then there are the miscellaneous bits and pieces. An intervelometer for shooting long exposures and stars, circular polarizers for all lenses, a couple of 2-stop, hard step graduated neutral density filters, extra batteries for the camera and intervelometer, hex wrenches, lens cleaning cloths, and of course, a couple of portable hard drives, extra memory cards, and a MacBook Pro. I pack all of this in a Gura Gear Bataflae bag- simple, lightweight, and effective for me to travel the world.

Here’s a handy page from B&H that includes most of these items in one place!

 

38 Responses to “What’s in Art’s Bag?”

  1. Mike Willis says:

    Art, what bag do you use for the equipment mentioned? I see you have a backpack in the photo, but don’t recognize the brand. Do you ever use a shoulder/waist bag?
    Thanks!
    Mike

  2. Mike Willis says:

    Art, what bag do you use for the equipment mentioned? I see you have a backpack in the photo, but don’t recognize the brand. Do you ever use a shoulder/waist bag?
    Thanks!
    Mike

  3. Peter Pauer says:

    Excellent lowdown on the gear you now carry!
    Yes what you are willing to carry does seem to reduce with the growing wisdom of age.

    From your blog photo looks like you are still using the great Lowepro Flipside 400AW, found it to be a terrific bag.

  4. Kelly says:

    Hi Art- I am enjoying reading your blog. What do you use for viewing images in the field? Do you use an ultrabook or tablet and then edit on a desktop?

    • Art Wolfe Art Wolfe says:

      Kelly-
      I rely on my viewfinder and the LCD screen for quick feedback on focus and exposure. It isn’t until I return to home base that I begin any editing. Technology continues to provide new lightweight and long-lasting battery reliant solutions that I will continue to explore, but for now less gear is better.

  5. Gail Spitler says:

    Thanks for this blog entry. It is refreshing and motivating to read about using the least amount of equipment effectively, rather than the all too common suggestion that we need to purchase more: another lens, another camera, another …..
    Thanks

  6. Art Wolfe Art Wolfe says:

    Kelly-
    I rely on my viewfinder and the LCD screen for quick feedback on focus and exposure. It isn’t until I return to home base that I begin any editing. Technology continues to provide new lightweight and long-lasting battery reliant solutions that I will continue to explore, but for now less gear is better.

  7. Simple, clean and to the point. Trying to pardown but always enjoy the smell of new gear. But simple is always better. Thanks Art, I’ve enjoyed your images for along time.

  8. Ken Kempf says:

    Thanks for your info. I have followed you for years and have found your extensive field experience very useful in guiding my equipment decisions.

  9. Steve C says:

    I forget which photographer said it, but they quoted an old western saying: “Beware the man with one gun.” ‘Cause he knows how to use it.
    It’s been interesting seeing your gear change over the past dozen years – I have a Pop Photo article that shows all your gear laid out, and it was your Art of Photographing Nature, with its 20mm shots, that inspired me to get an ultra-wide zoom for my EOS-1. (Lost that range when switched to digital, of course, but someday I’ll have a full frame camera again.)
    Anyway, I’ve been watching your show, and it’s good to catch up on your work and see you still enjoying it so much.

  10. Steve C says:

    I forget which photographer said it, but they quoted an old western saying: “Beware the man with one gun.” ‘Cause he knows how to use it.
    It’s been interesting seeing your gear change over the past dozen years – I have a Pop Photo article that shows all your gear laid out, and it was your Art of Photographing Nature, with its 20mm shots, that inspired me to get an ultra-wide zoom for my EOS-1. (Lost that range when switched to digital, of course, but someday I’ll have a full frame camera again.)
    Anyway, I’ve been watching your show, and it’s good to catch up on your work and see you still enjoying it so much.

  11. Sameer Gupta says:

    Great stuff Art, can you share which Gitzo tripod do you use the most?

  12. Paul says:

    Hello Art. Do you find the 5D Mark III’s metering system to be pretty accurate? Do you normally have to use exposure compensation or does the camera get it right? Thanks!

    • Art Wolfe Art Wolfe says:

      Overall though, the metering gets you right there. Metering on the new cameras is much improved. The shot will determine whether you need to preserve highlight or shadow detail.

  13. Art Wolfe Art Wolfe says:

    Overall though, the metering gets you right there. Metering on the new cameras is much improved. The shot will determine whether you need to preserve highlight or shadow detail.

  14. Paul says:

    Hello Art. Thank for your feedback on the metering. I want to make the switch to full-frame & I know you’ve used the 5D Mark II in the past. The price keeps going down. Would you say the Mark II stil holds it’s own as far as features goes or is it better to save for the Mark III? Trying to decide between the two. Thank you!

  15. Danylo says:

    Hey Art!
    I read that you got a new retina display MBP (I am guessing the 15″ perhaps like you had before). I just got the retina MBP 13″ and am thinking of exchanging it for the 15″. I travel on photo projects 2-3 months a year and use it for basic video editing also. The 15″ is much more powerfull but slightly bigger/heavier…
    MY QUESTION: would you recommend the 15″over e 13″ retinadisplay Macbook Pro for traveling photographers? What is your experience in general and with regards to the weight difference since I see you like to go as light as possible.
    PS: I love your work by the way! Thanks for your insight in advance

  16. Sanj says:

    Hey Art,
    I’m replicating your set up but using Nikon gear. They don’t do a 16-35 f2.8, their version is f4, or they have a 12-24 f2.8. Question is…would you sacrifice 24-35 mm of range for an extra stop of light? I’d be shooting landscape and the night sky.

    Thanks! Been inspired since you spoke at the royal geographic society in London.
    Sanj

  17. Art Wolfe Art Wolfe says:

    Sanj-
    I’d say sacrifice the 24-35mm range for the extra light if your intention is to shoot landscapes and the night sky.

  18. Chuck Coyne says:

    Art,

    I’ve been a big fan of your art over the years. It has fueled my passion for photography. I was on a business trip to Seattle this past April and stopped by your Gallery. Fantastic! It was so great to see your work displayed in large prints. While there I purchased an autographed copy of The New Art of Photographing Nature book. I’ve been admiring your work in books, magazines, websites and through the Travels to The Edge Videos but seeing them in large prints really was outstanding.

    I also switched from the f/2.8 IS II version to the f/4 IS version of the Canon 70-200 lens. I was wondering do you use the lens tripod collar with the f/4 IS lens that needs to be ordered separately or do you go without it?

    Thanks,
    Chuck

  19. Art Wolfe Art Wolfe says:

    Chuck,
    Thank you for the kind words about my gallery- I’m glad you enjoyed your visit. I do use a collar with my 70-200.

  20. Art Wolfe Art Wolfe says:

    Chuck,
    Thank you for the kind words about my gallery- I’m glad you enjoyed your visit. I do use a collar with my 70-200.

  21. Stephen Richardson says:

    Hi, Art~
    To view your images after a shot do you have your LCD screen slightly darker, lighter, or at a “normal” setting? Still watching your TTE dvd’s almost every day. God bless you for all your continued, beautiful work to bring awareness of nature and the wild to the world.

  22. Art Wolfe Art Wolfe says:

    Hi Stephen-
    Thanks for being a fan of the show! I have my LCD set to normal.

  23. Eddie Haynes says:

    Hi Art,

    I’ve been a huge fan for years. I really enjoy the Travels to the Edge series. In reviewing your gear, I notice that you use the 70-200mm f4 instead of the f2.8. Is the f4 a better lens? I use the 2.8 all the time as I am a sports photographer (in general). I’m not going to switch to the f4, but I just ask out of curiosity. Keep up the great work!

  24. Kevin says:

    Hi Art, Are you still using the 24-105mm f/4L IS USM AF Lens as your “walk around lense or a different or newer model? Thanks, Kevin

  25. Tom says:

    Hey Art – Im going to Nepal for the EBC trek – would you recommend sizing down or taking my full frame D700 with 17-35, 50, 28-300? Ive hiked often in the Alps but Nepal will be much higher! What do you take for these kind of trips?
    PS – always a fan and looking forward to your trip to my LosAngeles area and lecture next month!
    THANKS! TOM

    • Art Wolfe Art Wolfe says:

      Hi Tom,
      You’ll definitely want a wide angle and a telephoto. Not sure how heavy your 28-300 is, but if it is on the heavier end, you may consider renting a lighter one for the trip.
      See you in LA!
      -Art

  26. Nic Doak says:

    Thanks for taking the time to share this info Art. While we all should know it’s not the gear that makes or breaks the shot (usually)- it’s great that someone of your experience let’s on to what the have evolved to use. Just the necessities, and less than many amateurs carry!

  27. Hi Art,

    I have a very similar kit. Regarding cable release + intervalometer, I personally use the 2-second timer mode in-place of the former, and for the latter I installed Magic Lantern on both my 5Ds (II + III) and use their built-in intervalometer. I love not having to carry around the extra stuff and setting up for shots is easier, meaning I’m more likely to take more shots requiring these things.

    Aside: Your work and ability to make a career doing what you love is inspiring. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and vision.

    Best,

    Luke

  28. Brian Waddell says:

    Is there a reason you went from Nikon to Canon?

    • Art Wolfe Art Wolfe says:

      Hi Brian,
      Some years ago, when I was shooting Nikon, all of my equipment was stolen out of a car (and even more heartbreaking a bunch of undeveloped film as well). At the time I was intrigued with the new AF features Canon was coming out with, and they made me an offer of support I couldn’t refuse.
      Regards,
      Art

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