11.25.2015

I have a new camera bag. It cost $20. It's comfortable to carry and holds a lot of lenses. It's also bright red.



So, I was sitting around one day reading some book on critical theory or the unconscious when I heard a tiny noise that sounded suspiciously like a leaky toilet. I put my book down and wandered around the house looking for the culprit. Yep. Time to replace a flapper in the toilet tank. Should be a $5-$7 repair but it never really works out for me that way...

I headed to the hardware store to buy a flap and then I made my typical mistake; I looked around at all the cool stuff on display. Well, of course I might need a new adjustable wrench because I wasn't really sure where the old one might be. I can always use a couple more "A" clamps. And, of course, I needed to see what's new in economical, new LED light bulbs.

But as I turned down one aisle to walk to the check out I notice mountains of these red bags and I reached out and touched one. I'm not sure what construction workers use these for but you can readily see that there are three pockets on the side facing the camera as well as two big pockets on the ends and (while you can't see them in this photo) there are three more pockets on the other side. The bag is big and roomy and, on the interior, there are pockets all around the edges.  The handle are stout and well padded and you can see that they are anchored all the way around the bag.

I started thinking about a kind of job I do often. I'll arrive at a big, sprawling business office with the assignment of walking around looking for interesting photographs of interiors, intermixed with casual and set up portraits of different kinds. I walk through a space, find the image I want, and then reach into my bag to get the lens that might work best. I also reach into the bag from time to time to grab a new battery or switch out camera bodies. In location assignments like this I don't need the padding or the secure lid closure or the velcro flaps that are part and parcel of the typical camera bag.

There is a reason for bags to be designed the way they are. Most often they are used outside, in non-secure environments. But most of my recent assignments aren't like that. They are more about being in a secure and controlled environment where I have the luxury of putting my bag on the floor and walking away for a while. I may be naive but in my 30+ years of doing work like this I have yet to have any piece of gear go missing...

At any rate I saw this Husky brand bag and I looked for a price. It was about $20. I'd purchased a similar (but not as well made) bag from my local cinema supply store and it was probably three or four times the price. I decided to buy the Husky bag and try it out for the kind of project I've outlined above.

The fabric of the bag is very thick and resilient and the bag stands up well on its own. I had a job on the six floor of a new office building, located in on of the dozens of new developments of office towers and mixed use buildings that are popping up all over Austin. The brief was to shoot everything from the CEO greeting employees to the  brand new office, to lots of interior architectural details, to many shots of people working at their open plan desks. We spent a couple hours making modern environmental portraits of the executive leadership team, and ended the day with an "all hands" champagne toast to the company's new offices.

I put all the camera gear into the Husky bag. It contained two Olympus OMD EM5.2 cameras, a bevy of lenses, placed around the periphery of the bag, in the external pockets, and also a Nikon D750 with a 24-120mm lens. The bag also held the usual photo shoot "pocket" trash: the cellphone, a shot list,  extra batteries for everything, a small flash and off camera cord, and a small notebook and a pen.

I could see all the available lenses at a glance and the handles made the bag easy to carry from place to place. The bag never ended up on my shoulder --- there is no shoulder strap.

On almost every job like this I bring a cart to move all the gear from the car to the shooting location. The cart has the heavy stuff like light stands and cases of lights. This bag rides in on the cart and then, for most of the day (unless its contents are needed) the cart sits in a corner waiting, with it's load of gear, to be pressed into service.  The rest of the day I work out of the bag.

How did it work?  I loved not having to fasten the fasteners on a camera bag before hoisting it up on my shoulder; closing up the bag is a habit developed to make sure the traditional camera bag doesn't dump its precious cargo onto a hard floor. I didn't miss the ritual of opening each velcro'd pocket to search for that one needed, but hidden from sight, lens.

As I pushed my cart back to the car at the end of the day I had two thoughts. The first was of all the money I'd spent chasing the "ultimate" camera bag when, most times a cheap bag like this would actually be more efficient for many of the jobs that take most of my time. Second, I remember looking around as I headed to the parking garage and seeing dozens of construction workers who were carrying the same or similar bags filled with tools and materials for their jobs. I felt like I'd crossed over from some photo-snob attitude into the mainstream demographic of "worker."

Yeah. I used the same bag again for a dress rehearsal shoot at Zach Theatre. The bag sat at my feet and I could reach down and grab a lens directly from a pocket. I could drop a body and lens right into the center of the bag without messing with lids and straps. It worked well and seems to also be making my left shoulder a happier shoulder. Here's to thinking "outside the bag."

8 comments:

Tom Devlin said...

Did you ever fix the leaky toilet?

Eric Rose said...

I use the same type of bag. Have been for several years. It also doubles as a range bag for shooting.

Kirk Tuck said...

Tom. No. And I don't want to talk about it... Seriously though, I tried to fix it. The leak is gone but now it flushes sometimes with no human action required. It's a syndrome of possessed toilets called, Phantom Flushing. Much like Jar-Jar Binks in "The Phantom Menace", it can be annoying. Time to call in a real plumber..

Peter F. said...

I can see a few of those bags, even if they don't leave home... just for storage. Oly and lenses in one bag, Pany and lenses in another, Sony and lenses in a third. Oh, and the appropriate flashes too! Nice! If they came in three colors that would be even better! black for Oly, red for pany, blue for sony. Great blog post. Peter

David I said...

Nice festive color too. Toilet running...so annoying!

Michael Matthews said...

Take a look at the flapper valve (and its packaging if you can find it) and see if there's a rotational component with settings. I don't know how or why it works, but it does. Last one of these I replaced began the Phantom Flush routine after the tank filled up. Pulling the packaging with directions out of the trash can and reading them solved the problem with no additional expense.

Eric Rose said...

Reading direction!! Sir, hand in your man card immediately.

gregbrophy said...

I use one with wheels and a handle for my 8x10 camera. I live in NYC where everything is concrete so I can roll it. It fits perfectly and costs $300 less than anything similar. Plus it doesn't look expensive which is a good deterrent.