With music festival season already beginning, I thought I would share this post from my blog a few years ago, when I got the call to photograph Bonnaroo for the first time. In preparation for the event, I researched and asked other photographers what to expect. Here’s the gear I ended up bringing, why I chose it, and how I used it. If a festival is in your near future, I hope this helps!
CAMERA GEAR OVERVIEW
Here’s a breakdown of the gear I used at the festival:
- (2) Canon 1DX Mark II Bodies
- 70-200mm f/2.8
- 24-70mm f/2.8
- 11-24mm f/4
- (4) SanDisk Extreme Pro 160 MB/s 64GB CF Cards (along with other backup cards)
- Spider Holster Dual Belt System
- (2) SpiderPro Hand Straps
- ThinkTank CityWalker Bag
- (4) Lexar Professional USB 3.0 UDMA 7 Card Readers
- (2) G-Technology 1TB Thunderbolt G-Drives
- Photo Mechanic
- Adobe Lightroom
- Etytomic Research Ear Plugs
- Frogg Togg Cooling Towel
- Wrist Brace
- Sun Block Spray
I wanted to make sure I captured the best, highest quality images I could, so I got a couple of the blazing fast 1DX Mark II bodies from Canon. These, coupled with the “lens trinity,” set me up for success in the photo pits while photographing sets and around the festival grounds capturing lifestyle images. I used the 24-70mm f/2.8 a little here and there, but for the most part I stuck to the 70-200mm f/2.8 and 11-24mm f/4.
Over the past few years, I’ve had a certain brand of memory cards fail on me pretty reliably, so I made sure I had at least a couple of fast, sizable SanDisk cards to primarily use. At one point, I stuck the other brand of card in my camera (I had some as backups) and it immediately gave me a “card not readable” error, so I tossed it and put the SanDisk back in. Still had to use the other brand of card readers though as they’re the most available and affordable ones, but I had four of them just in case any of them failed. Since then, I’ve switched over to faster USB-C readers.
I also mentioned making sure that the CF cards were fast. This is vital in an environment where turnaround time is a high priority. If you’re working in an area where you need to have images going up online as soon as possible, you don’t want to be the person who is holding everything up because you cheaped out on memory cards to save $30. When you’re purchasing memory cards, always look at BOTH the read and write speeds. Just because they say 120 MB/s or 800x instead of 160 MB/s or 1066x on them doesn’t mean that applies to both speeds. You may not see a noticeable difference when you’re shooting, but when you’re waiting an extra 10 minutes or more for your card to download and everyone else is done editing and uploading their photos, you’ll know why that card was so much cheaper.
After reading this guest blog from Adam Elmakias about wrist and back injuries, I sought out a SpiderHolster dual camera belt. This took all the weight of the cameras and lenses off my shoulders and put it on my hips and legs. It took a little getting used to, but I eventually started getting the pins that attach to the bottom of the camera into the holster pretty quickly. If you haven’t used this before and want to give it a shot, just make sure your shirt stays tucked into the belt and doesn’t get in the way of the holsters! I also used the SpiderPro Hand Straps, which helped me keep a good grip on the cameras and alleviate some of the weight on my wrist when shooting.
Also, not knowing how many batteries I would be going through each day, I rented four extra Canon LP-E4N batteries from BorrowLenses.com to make sure I was covered. Thankfully, the LP-E19 batteries that came with the 1DX Mark II bodies lasted all day every day. There was a day where one was down to two notches with one set left to shoot, so I put a fresh one in to be safe. But, it probably would’ve lasted through that last set without any problems. So, while I could look at the rented batteries as wasted money, I still feel like I did the right (and professional) thing by making sure I showed up with all the tools I needed to get the job done.
The hard drives worked out great, but now that SSD technology is more affordable, I would highly recommend getting a couple of 1 TB, or 2 TB if you can swing it, SSD drives for primary and backup storage. You don’t want to run out of space, and these days are long with lots of images being captured. You can’t stop photographing the event just because you’re out of space! The SSD drives coupled with fast cards and readers will save you valuable time so you can either get back to making photos or get some extra sleep.
The City Walker bag was a great size for keeping the extra cards, batteries, water, snacks, sun block, and all the other random stuff I needed throughout the event.
So that’s the gear, but come back next week for my festival workflow setup!