April 27, 2023
Every four years, we get the honour and excitement to print a book for the Association of Texas Photography Instructors. We were on hand in February for the launch of Volume V of the Best of Texas Scholastic Photography and managed to catch up with one of their Senior Consultants.
Dr. Bradley Wilson is currently an Associate Professor at Midwestern State University, and has worked in a variety of roles in the past, from a photojournalist in Austin to Executive Director of the National Press Photographers Association. We’ve had the pleasure of working with him for multiple projects, and he was happy to give us some insight regarding one of the burning questions we’ve had: just what does he keep in his camera bag?
“My camera bag is heavy. I carry more than I should. However, there’s nothing worse than getting to a scene only to find that I don’t have the right equipment.
Often, it’s the little things.
Perhaps the most essential thing I carry is extra batteries. Extra charged batteries. Before I go out on assignment, I make sure all my batteries are charged. And I bring the charger with me too. Batteries die. They go bad. It never hurts to have an extra set. And that extra set is useless if it isn’t charged.
Because we’re not quite to the point of transmitting images as we shoot routinely from a DSLR, I bring extra memory cards, all freshly formatted and labeled with my name and phone number.
Then I bring more than one lens.
I almost always carry a 16-35mm f/2.8 wide-angle lens, and that’s what’s on my camera when it’s in the bag. I find that lens one of the most versatile lenses around, good for almost anything but field sports.
And a 70-200mm f/2.8 telephoto zoom, a lens every photojournalist should own. Again, it’s very versatile and good for everything from classroom shots to speaker shots to mid-range sports action. While it won’t fit in my camera bag, I have a monopod and 300mm f/2.8 lens for sports like football and soccer. It’s possible to shoot football and soccer with a 200mm lens, but with a 200mm lens, photographers have to be patient, waiting for the action to come to them.
Finally, tucked away in a corner of my bag is a nifty-fifty, a 50mm f/1.8 lens. It’s great for really low-light situations when I can get in close or when I need really low depth of field. They’re not expensive and can save the day from time to time.
All of my lenses have a UV filter on the front of them to protect that front element.
My camera bag is like a good, old desk. It has lots of compartments. It’s worth paying for a high-quality bag that isn’t too big and won’t fall apart on the first assignment. Indeed, I’ve had the bag I’m using now for about 20 years. Like good glass, a good camera bag is an investment.
I used to carry a flash, the expensive, dedicated kind. It broke. That was three years ago. Given how sensitive cameras are to light now, I haven’t found a real need to replace it although there were one or two times when I wish I had supplementary light.
One of the pockets on my camera bag is reserved for lens caps. They’re expensive but they get in the way of good photos so mine stay in my bag, not on my lenses.
Some people carry two camera bodies in their camera bags. It’s good to have a backup. I don’t have room for that. But I have been in situations where I’ve had to pull out my phone to shoot with for various reasons.
In the back pocket of my camera bag, I have several notebooks and assorted writing utensils, maybe a dozen pens and a Sharpie or two. I get tired of writing on my hand in a pinch, but I know how important caption information is to the success of any photo. Captions complete the story. Captions answer the questions who, what, when and where with the names of all identifiable people. It’s so much easier and more efficient to get caption information at the time of the event rather than asking people to recall details from three weeks ago.
Finally, also tucked away in a hidden corner of my camera bag is a $20 bill with a few business cards. You never know.”