What’s in OUR Bag? SXSW lets us use all of it!

Now, let’s take a look at an event shooting bag.

One of the best things for a shooter at SXSW is the fact that it is a 10 day event filled with opportunities:
From the music,

Simon LeBon of Duran Duran © Damon Webster

to the keynote speakers on stage,

Seth Priebatsch of SCVNGR © Damon Webster

to panelists,

Paul Reubens © Damon Webster


and of course, the night time street fair,

We’ll break it down in these parts: The main gear, alt gear, bags to carry it in, support tools, the software.

Let’s start with the main gear we carry and the bag(s) we carry it in:
First off:
We took a ThinkTank StreetWalker @ Hard Drive filled with the main gear:
Nikon D700
24-70 2.8
70-200 2.8
20 mm 2.8
SB800 w/ Gary Fong Collapsible Lightsphere
Newton Bracket with SB-29 Cable
Nikon P7000
2 Pee Wee Pixel Rocket Media Card Holders
X-Right Passport Color Checker
Extra Batteries (although we wish the brand new ThinkTank batt holder was around: our plastic 8 batt holder broke for the last time while transporting).
Business cards, lens cloth, aspirin, protein bar, cinnamon gum
Earplugs (only used for Filter and Puddle of Mudd)

All on the list is in the bag.

This became our main bag. After daily wear on the back, we are thankfully reporting complete comfort and no back pain!! Seriously outstanding design. Thick, breathable padding on the back and the straps were just the right thickness. Plus there were other straps to make it more secure to the body, which we never use since it impedes access. Perhaps on a hike.

As a bonus, this bag also sat upright on it’s own so, while in the pit shooting, it stayed conveniently out of the way and the top handle made it easy for a quick move after our “3 songs to shoot” rule was enacted. Sometimes there were metal benches, but mostly it was a plywood floor that had so many cables and boxes at the stage, you were lucky to get a clear spot. The stand-up feature really helped us stay tight and small.

The bag also has a sweet slot for a15” MacBook Pro which we needed on one day, where we downloaded/uploaded as we went. Even had a 500 GB G-Tech hard drive with us.
When the laptop was not being added to the load, we always had an iPad: notes, sketches, research, display.

Now some other features on the Backpack: built for comfort AND speed.

Getting into it was a breeze and once the gear was set for a shoot, even changing lenses on the fly was easy.

There are 2 compartmentalized, side pockets that were used mainly to throw stuff into like flyers, CD’S paper, and small swag.

There is a pretty cool feature on both sides, and that is the bottle holder.
At least we think that is what it is for. It’s what WE used it for. Longs days call for hydration.

There is one hidden element we did NOT get a chance to explore and that is the tripod holder. Cleverly hidden on the bottom of the pack, you pull it out and rest 2 legs of the tripod on it and secure the main body to the pack.
Will try it with a monopod next time.

OK, That was the gear we carried:

Here’s why:

For your daily walkaround, or B-Roll, the 24-70 has the perfect range to capture people and the environment while getting close to the subject.
The addition of the lens hood, made it a formidable tool, even just from an appearance standpoint so you always looked a tad more official than the rest of the shooters.
Sorry, but true.

In a panel or keynote situation, you were able to get a sense of the entire stage, but you never really want a ton of that anyway.

Shooting the music: with a pass for the pit (the area directly in front of the stage) you can use your full compliment of lenses.

Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top © Damon Webster 70mm lens

FreeSol © Damon Webster 24mm

Or when the singer get’s right in your face. Had to go on the ground for this one. (shoulda had the 20mm on.)

Richard Patrick of Filter © Damon Webster 24mm

When you want a good full body, guitar slamming show with some bits of the other performers, 24-70 is the way to go. The range is perfect for singles or groups.

Datarock © Damon Webster 200mm

To move in for a more dramatic single or detail shot, the 70-200 will be the one. Watch your f/stop and depth, as it gets pretty shallow at 2.8 on the 200mm end.

Bob Geldof © Damon Webster 200mm

This situation always called for some snappage with the 20mm.

Bob Geldof © Damon Webster 20mm

It was the first time in a while, bringing out a prime but it gave the right sense of space for the event. And if we were still up close, nothing like a low wide shot of rock and roll!

The flash, Newton Flash Frame, and lightsphere were best for the fast portraits, or event coverage. We did a favor for one of our favorite writers who had a book signing, Guy Kawasaki, and the event was perfect for this rig.

The same rig did come out now and again, set on manual to just kiss the subject with some slight fill.
Honestly, we love the Adobe Lightroom Fill Light function and will go there first.

The Passport Color Checker would come out in general environments where the light got kinda funky, temperature wise: Panels, hallways (skylight and fluorescent),
And outdoor concerts.
Past that, trying to match the indoor smallish concert venues was nearly pointless on site.
There were places we were lucky to squeeze a lens through, much less a color chart.

The low light capabilities of the D700 coupled with the noise reduction in Lightroom were our friends throughout the festival.

Sure the bigger venues had better lighting and made our choices easier, but the small clubs, were killing us.
Rule of thumb though:
Always shoot manual and always shoot RAW. You’ll be glad you did in post.

Next up?
The alt cameras. What we also carried to Austin.

How we made lemonade out of lemons with this performance by the Bangles:

The combo of a new Nikon camera and lens, saved the day.
Coming tomorrow.

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