Aug 28

What’s in T.J.’s bag

The right photo gear can either make or break you when it comes to capturing right moment. Great photos aren’t dependent on having the newest piece of gear on the market. However, having what works best for you make things a lot easier.

Back in college during the days when film ruled, I realized I had to abandon my beloved first camera, a Pentax K1000, and move to a system that would give me flexibility with different lenses that I would need.



My path to photojournalism would take me to newspapers that would have ‘pool’ lenses (long telephoto lenses) that were shared between staffers.

I chose Nikon at the time because that seemed to be the brand of choice with most newspapers. As in most things, there’s always the debate of brands. Nikon vs. Canon, PC vs. Mac, Ford vs. Chevy, etc.  I had multiple opportunities to switch away from Nikon, but chose to stick with the brand. It always amuses me when someone (usually an amateur) makes a snide comment about my brand of choice, but I see it as a tool in my toolbox that works for me – and the proof is in the prints.

Fast forward 30 years later. The kind of work I do depends on cameras that have the capability of combining the two worlds I work in now: shooting both digital stills and video. Although sometimes they use the same gear.

My current camera bodies I employ are the Nikon D500 and Nikon D7100. They do most of the heavy lifting with my photo documentary work, both on location and in the studio work. I usually get three to four years of heavy use out of a body before it’s replaced. The D500 has the ability to not only produce amazing photo files with an increased dynamic range, but can shoot video in 4K.

Lenses are another story. When you get a piece of sharp glass, you hang onto it. Some of my lenses are six to eight years old and have become trusted friends because I take great care of them.

These include:

  • AF-S Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8

It’s a huge workhorse for me; it usually is on one of my cameras most of the time because I use it every time I shoot. Although I prefer prime lenses, I like having this in my bag for most situations due to it’s flexibility and sharpness.

  • AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.8

I picked up this super sharp lens because it’s great in video, very fast in low light and provides a beautiful out-of-focus background (aka bokeh) for interviews.

  • AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4

I’ve had three 50mm lenses over my career and use them for everything from headshots to video interviews. It’s such an amazing piece of glass, so sharp and has great low-light capabilities along with great bokeh backgrounds.

  • AF-S Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8

This lens usually is on my other camera body. It’s also versatile and sharp. A really nice portrait lens that that isolates my subject. Great for sports action too.

  • AF-S Nikkor 300mm IF-ED f4

Usually will bring to the party when I’m working a situation to show those super tight shots from far away. I like to use it when I need to back off from a subject and capture     moments as they happen.

  • AF Fisheye Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8

It sits in the bottom of mybag, and I will use it occasionally while working on a photo gallery for an unusual look. It is amazing for night-time astronomical photography and has saved me more than once in a tight room with a very large group shot of individuals.

  • Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14EII f/1.4

Increases the length of my 80-200mm and 300mm lenses.


Working in video requires me to have a great way to gather good sound with usually two separate mics. I am currently using a Sony HXR-NX3 camcorder, which shoots in 1080p. It works great for most situations as my main sound camera, and I depend on the Nikon D500 to gather 4K visuals in combination with this Sony videocamera.

  • GoPro – A game changer. These little cameras are great due to being tough and waterproof. They have the ability to capture anything from video to stills to time lapses. With all the accessories and mounts, they can just about attach to anything to get that different perspective. I have three GoPro’s: Hero 2, Hero 4 Silver and a Hero 5 Session.


  • DJI Mavic Pro – Recently I’ve acquired this drone and already have my eyes on either a DJI Phantom Pro or a DJI Inspire 2 to add to my new fleet. Both are just stunning in the images they provide. I recently gained FAA certification to add aerials to the toolbox of visuals I provide. These both provide 4K video footage and photos comparable to my DSLRs. 










  • SachtlerCarbon-Fiber Tripod Carbon-Fiber Tripod

This is my workhorse tripod that I use every time I’m working in video. From general static shots to holding my slider, it’s lightweight but still features a rock platform that has a great fluid head.

  • Bogen 3021 tripod – I have two of these – one of which has been with my for my entire career. They are sturdy and convertible. One has a video fluid head; the other has a pistol grip for stills.

Along with lighting – featuring LED for video and Paul C. Buff strobes for my studio work –everything lives safely in a myriad of ThinkTank cases and bags. And lastly, my back has been saved by using a Rock-N-Roller equipment cart for every large production shoot that I do.


It’s taken me years of working with different combinations of lenses and cameras to find the right combination of what works best in my workflow. While shooting I’m constantly working to see which piece of the gear puzzle will provide the very best visuals for our clients.


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