brought to you by RRS founder & former owner Bryan Geyer
I’m “semi-serious” when I shoot travel. To me, this means toting stuff that’s got more capability than some top-tier point-and-shoot (e.g. Canon G10), but not so much that my gear impedes walking miles of city streets or sliding into an intimate bar or eatery. And my trips today (I’m retired) are always with my wife, so I shoot “on-the-fly”—no tripod except a tabletop—and my load is limited to a small (LowePro D100 AW) shoulder bag.
My preference is three fast “prime” (fixed focal length) AF lenses—generally 24mm/f2.8, 35mm/f2, and 85mm/f1.8—on a “full frame” (135 format) SLR body. My media of choice remains ’chrome film (90% Fuji Provia 100), but it’s the optics that matter most. The 24mm wide covers urban architecture and interiors, and can close focus to 1 foot. The 35mm lens handles my environmental portraits, twilight/neon street scenes, and does my polarized vistas; focuses to 9 inches. And the fast 85mm tele works great for tight half-torso isolation at f2 – f2.8, with nice perspective compression at f8, and makes detailed closeups to 1:3 with a Nikon 6T dual-element, screw-on (62mm) diopter. No zoom can replicate the capability of this combo, and if such arrived tomorrow it wouldn’t fit in my LowePro D100 anyway.
More reach makes it easier to grab candid portraits, so I sometimes pack a AF 135mm/f2 in a separate sack (Kinesis E105). I leave my 85mm lens behind—use the hole for a polarizer and a top quality 1.4X teleconverter. This gets me to 189mm/f2.8, and “tack sharp” by f4.
Some unique accessories help me wring the best from my kit—you may find these of interest. They include…
A pygmy strobe: No, a full-size flash won’t fit in my D100 shoulder bag, but Nikon’s tiny (see pic) SB-30 sure does—and it will work with any film or digital camera body, of any make, if it’s applied as I use it. It’s not a TTL “smart flash”, but it does offer a very versatile four stop “automatic” (non-TTL) range, with a separate ± 0.5 stop trim option, that’s ideal for fill flash. It can hot shoe mount on any Nikon body (film or digital), and it can be used off-shoe (via special PC sync. connector cord—see below) with other camera bodies. Want some minus 1.5 stop fill for a front lit ambient portrait? Set the SB-30 for “auto” mode at one stop wider than your shooting aperture, set the half-stop switch to - 0.5, and shoot. The SB-30 will cut off when it senses (by reflection) that the subject got 1.5 stop less flash than ambient light exposure. Want a tad more fill? Simply zero the SB-30’s half-stop switch. And you can apply the SB-30 for full (not fill) flash in “auto mode” by matching the lens’ shooting aperture, but do increase shutter speed to reduce the ambient exposure, and be mindful of your sync. limit—there’s no auto-override when you flash via the PC path.
You can also operate SB-30 in standard TTL flash mode when it’s on a Nikon (film body) hot shoe. However, all “total flash” exposure is best done with SB-30 off-camera, so you don’t get that dreaded on-camera-flash look. To do this, use the PC sync. cord noted below. (A dedicated, full function off-camera flash cord is way too bulky for this snug little kit.) Hold the camera in your right hand, hold SB-30 in your left hand—somewhat higher—and shoot a short burst at low speed frame advance. If you use f2.8 – f5.6 (EI 100), and you’re within about six feet, the strobe will recycle sufficiently (it won’t approach full dump on the initial shot), and the flash duration will be too brief to register your camera shake.
“Auto mode” is not as sophisticated as TTL smart flash (or related digital variants), but it works quite well when the subject is dominant in the frame, of midtone reflectance (you can easily compensate if not), and when the flash’s receptor can see the subject. Nikon’s SB-30 speedlight is now a discontinued product; however, you can readily obtain such flash on the used equipment market; try KEH, they’re a reliable source with dependable ratings.
- That “PC” (as in Prontor/Compur—not “push connector”!) sync. cord: Buy it directly from Paramount Cords, Bronx, NY. You want a short 3 to 5 foot straight (not coiled—too bulky) wire cord with a “hot shoe female” connector (#33) at one end (for SB-30), and the appropriate PC termination tip for your camera body at the other end. I shoot Nikon’s F100 body in my travel bag, so I wanted a “Nikon screwlock” PC tip (#11). Total: $54 + shipping. Coil it up, slip into some little drawstring bag, and stow it in the bottom of your shoulder bag, underneath your camera-mounted lens—it’s gone.
- A 3 inch high, lightweight extender post with ¼–20 male stud at one end, and ¼–20 female socket at the other end. This post is extremely helpful for several purposes—
—use it on your camera’s quick release “L-plate” to enhance stability when hand-holding the camera at slow shutter speeds. Especially helpful when shooting in vertical aspect—far more stable than conventional grip.
—use it atop your tabletop tripod (see pic) to gain camera height; it allows you to see through the viewfinder more easily when seated.
—use it screwed underneath the hot shoe block on your Paramount PC cord (has integral ¼–20 socket). This makes it easier to hold and aim your corded SB-30; also easier for an assistant (your waiter?) to hold the flash without blocking anything.
Lumedyne makes this lightweight (it weighs just 2 ounces) extender post (#ATP3). It’s so vital to me that I keep mine on the outside of my D100 shoulder bag, for quicker grab access, in a Tamrac “baby point-and-shoot” pouch that “slip-lock” mates to one end of my D100 bag. Note: The post’s stock ¼–20 male end is too long, so cut to 7mm with a hacksaw; dress with file.
- Last, I like to carry a small tabletop tripod. I use Bogen’s old #3008 (it was #3007 legs plus #3009 head), and I use it “as is”, without adding any quick-release clamp. This cuts bulk, and it’s still mount-compatible with my L-plate (my RRS “B50L” plate for F100 has ¼–20 sockets on both faces), and with the 3 inch extender post. This tabletop tripod goes into a little fanny pack (the size that’s generally used to stow sunglasses) that’s easy to wear without encumbrance. There’s still space left for your glasses—or for another SB-30 strobe that you can use as a slave to fire and cutoff in TTL sync. with your master. (Nikon’s SB-30 has a built-in slave sensor that functions like their SU-4 wireless controller; very nice!)
What's in the Bag:
Article written by
RRS Founder & former Owner
About the Author: Bryan Geyer is the founder (October 1990) and former owner of Really Righty Stuff. He—with wife Kathy, and daughter Carla—ran RRS for its initial 12 years, selling (at age 71) the company to Joe and Joan Johnson in July of 2002. Bryan says that he will be happy to answer (by mail only) any technical inquiries, but they must be made in writing, and they must include a postal (no e-mail!) address for his response. You can send such inquires to RRS, and we will periodically relay them to Bryan as they arrive.
* The Really Right Stuff BH-25 Pro ballhead (designed by Joe Johnson, current owner of RRS) is a terrific replacement for the Bogen head!