What’s In Your Kit?

What’s In Your Kit? with Alice Gao

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Alice Gao is a photographer from New York whose work I’ve been following for many years. I first discovered Alice on flickr and was so pleased to see her launch a blog a couple of years back. Her photography is filled with gorgeous light, warm tones and textures, and she has the ability to make you want to live in the world she shoots. Alice shoots lifestyle, weddings, portraits and food. Her food images are shot in a way that makes you feel like you’re right there at the table with her and they’re constantly making me drool. You can find her work in the gorgeous Kinfolk Magazine and on Serious Eats.

Her instagram feed is one of the most popular ones around and she’s one of my faves. If the photographer can shoot images with an iphone that are just as beautiful as those shot with a DSLR, then they are serious talent. Check her out!

Take her away, Alice…


ALICE’S KIT

MB: What are your cameras of choice and why?

Alice: iPhone 4S – This has become my go-to carry around camera. It is always on me and perfect for my everyday snapshot (not to mention the addiction and draw of Instagram!). I’ve actually been kinda curious about doing a client shoot entirely on the iPhone, but I don’t think the client would appreciate that. :P
Canon 5D MKii – I’ve got two of these babies and use them on almost every shoot. I still remember that “ahhhhhh moment” (angels singing) when I switched to full-frame after years of using a Canon Rebel. 
Contax 645 – Medium format bliss. Enough said. 

MB: What are your favourite lenses to work with and why?

Alice: I am married to my Canon 50mm f1.2 lens and likewise the 80mm for the Contax system. That focal length is just perfect for me, because it’s how I see the world and how I compose things in my head anyway. The 80mm Zeiss lens on the Contax produces some seriously beautiful bokeh. Sometimes to travel more lightly, I’ll swap my 50mm f1.2 for the 50mm f1.4. It’s like 1/5 the cost of the 1.2 and still a wonderful lens.

MB: What equipment do you prefer to use to shoot portraits?

Alice: I like both the 85mm f1.8 and 50mm f1.2 for portraits. And if I’m shooting film, then definitely the Contax and the 80mm.

MB: Name a camera that you just love to have fun with and why.

Alice: I do love my Polaroid SLR680. It’s so fragile so I don’t take her out much, but I am seriously gleeful when I do use it. Sadly I have quickly gone through my packs of original Polaroid film and not quite willing to shell out the current eBay prices for them.

MB: What do you carry your equipment in?

Alice: It depends. For simple shoots, I just use a camera insert like this one and stuff it in one of my normal day bags. I like big bags, so this insert fits nicely in just about all of them. That way I’m not walking around screaming, “I am carrying a camera bag with lots of expensive equipment inside!”
Otherwise I use a Think Tank Retrospective 10. Not exactly glamorous but man can you pack a lot in there. For weddings and bigger shoots, I tote around my equipment in a pretty serious looking Pelican case.

MB: Is there one piece of equipment that you would recommend to a newbie shooter?

Alice: I’m totally biased, but I almost always recommend a 50mm lens to newbie shooters. Skip the kit lens and opt for the 50mm. Also, I’m a firm believer that the best camera is the one you have with you. For instance, think of the iPhone as more than a device for texting and checking twitter. Even if you just practice with your phone’s camera, you’ll still be practicing finding good light, composition, etc.

MB: Name one place you would love to travel to with your favourite camera and why.

Alice: Paris with my Contax! Mostly I am dreaming of the light hitting the buildings and small alley ways, the Eiffel Tower in black and white film, the bread… Lucky for me, I’m going this week. (Alice has actually already been to Paris and returned- check out her blog for Frenchie photographs-Amanda)

Thanks so much for sharing your kit with us, Alice. I think I may need to come around and steal all of it!

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What’s In Your Kit? with Olga Bennett

Friday, July 8, 2011

Olga Bennett is a photographer whose work is dripping with the kind of light that all good photographs should be made of. Her work is very raw and uncomplicated, yet strikingly beautiful and serene. A wonder with her Hasselblad medium format camera, she creates timeless, classic pieces that tell real stories….still lifes that look as though someone just walked out of the room. Olga has had recent success with the launch of her book, Environments and is based in Melbourne, Australia. She was so sweet to take part in the What’s In Your Kit? interview. Welcome Olga!

MB: What is your camera of choice and why?

Olga: Hassleblad 500 C/M with a newer 80 mm lens. It makes me slow down, pay attention, and seem to hypnotize my subjects. I’m joking of course, but people often love the look of the camera and forget to be self-conscious in front of it for some reason. :) The sound of the shutter is magical.

MB: Which are your favourite lenses to work with and why?

Olga: 80 mm on Hasselblad, it’s magical and makes simple things look incredible, especially in low light. I also use 50 mm on Canon 5D most often, I prefer to move around my subject and come closer if I need to. I think when shooting you have to think of so many things – expression, light, focus – I’m not sure I have time to change between lenses much.

MB: What equipment do you prefer to use to shoot portraits?

Olga: Definitely a Hasselblad, but all of the above, really.

MB: Name a camera that you just love to have fun with.

Olga: Nikon N8008, a 35 mm film SLR with a roll of Fuji film in it and 50 mm lens.

MB: What do you carry your equipment in?

Olga: Most of the days I use Domke wraps and carry a camera in my normal bag. I’m yet to find a bag that I really like.

MB: Is there one piece of equipment/set up that you would recommend to a newbie shooter?

Olga: Any film camera with manual settings. I think it’s much more satisfying and makes you appreciate photography so much more!

MB: Film or Digital or both and why?

Olga: Both! I would love to say I only shoot film, but I appreciate digital, as it allows me to work on many smaller commissions that otherwise would not be possible due to the cost of film and processing.

Olga, thank you from the bottom of our camera loving hearts. Your photography is stunning and we know you have an amazing career ahead of you.

You can see more of Olga’s fabulous photography on her website, read about her Environments book here and check out her blog over here!

What do you think? Isn’t her work beautiful?

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What’s In Your Kit? with Cindy Loughridge

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I first discovered photographer Cindy Loughridge quite a few years ago now and have always been a huge fan of her beautiful portraits and stunning still lifes. There is one element that Cindy always nails in every single photograph and that is light. She knows how to find the light all photographers seek and uses it amazingly well no matter what camera she is wielding. I love her intimate, personal work and have a great fondness for her San Franciscan windows. The light, oh the light.

Cindy is a lifestyle and wedding photographer from San Francisco and just between us, she’s pretty much a flickr superstar. She also produces some beautiful actions which you can find on her website under Cinnamon Rose Actions and Presets. Cindy was kind enough to answer the Mocking Bird What’s in Your Kit? questions.

MB: What are your cameras of choice and why?

Cindy: I have many cameras, but my go to cameras are the Nikon D700 for client work and Hasselblad 500cm for personal work and I think it’s one of the easiest and most fun medium format cameras to use. I love the heavy “thunk” sound the shutter makes.

MB: Which are your favourite lenses to work with and why?

Cindy: I absolutely love the 50mm for ease of use, size. It’s just perfect. The 85mm for portraits, and it’s perfect for street shooting, without looking completely obvious. 35mm is great for wide shots and it doesn’t distort like some other wide lenses.

All these lenses, I shoot on my D700 or F100.

MB: What equipment do you prefer to use to shoot portraits?

Cindy: The D700 and 85mm.  I can get close to the subject without sticking my camera in their face.

For film portraits, I absolutely love the Contax 645 with the 80mm f/2 lens.  The portraits are so dreamy with this combination. When I shoot clients, I love using the D700 and 85mm.  I can get close to them without sticking my camera in their face.

MB: Name a camera that you just love to have fun with.

Cindy: The Fuji Instax 210 – it’s the wider format of the Instax family.  It’s great outdoors and at parties.  Actually, it’s great anytime.

MB: What do you carry your equipment in?

Cindy: I use the Emera camera tote during the work week, there is at least one camera with me at all times. The tote is perfect for the extras that I like to take with me, folders, magazines, iPad.  On the weekend, I carry the new Emera Messenger bag; it is compact and will easily fit 2 cameras and a few essentials.

MB: Is there one piece of equipment/set up that you would recommend to a newbie shooter?

Cindy: For newbies, I really recommend they use the 50mm lens, instead of the kit lens that come with most digital camera packages.  I also recommend, they should shoot every day, shoot everything. Practice.  Learn everything about their camera. Try film.

MB: Film or Digital or both and why?

Cindy: I’m love both digital and film.  Digital because the results are immediate, it satisfies that instant gratification some of us crave or are used to.  Film because it’s not immediate, you have to slow down a bit, load the film, read the exposure, make the adjustments, complete the whole roll, develop the film and the thrill of anticipation when you finally get to see your images.

Cindy’s gear. That’s one sweet load.

Thank you for sharing all your equipment secrets with us, Cindy! It was such a pleasure to have you here on Mocking Bird.

Go here to check out Cindy’s portfolio, blog and flickrstream.

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What’s In Your Kit? with Irene Nam

Monday, December 6, 2010

I’m so excited to share this week’s ‘What’s In Your Kit?’ interview with you! Irene Nam is not only one of the most lovely, kind and sweet people you could ever care to know, but she is an amazingly talented kids and Polaroid photographer. Irene also spends her time as a writer living in Paris with her family. She is a contributing writer on the very popular Shutter Sisters, is one of the authors of the book, Expressive Photography and offers the Simple, Soulful Photography Workshop online. Irene’s Polaroid photography is in the upcoming exhibition ‘Facing The Impossible‘ at The Impossible Project’s New York gallery store.

I have been following Irene’s work online for as long as I can remember and have always been captivated by her beautiful Polaroids of life in Paris. Her Polaroids of children are magically innocent and so natural and pure in their design. She captures the innocence of childhood perfectly. I can only hope that she might photograph my future children some day. This Polaroid of her two boys above is one of my all time child portraits ever. I was so thrilled when she agreed to take part in ‘What’s In Your Kit?’.

MB: What are your cameras of choice and why?

Irene: My Canon 5D and Polaroid SX70 camera.
I am passionate about Polaroid. It is truly my favorite medium, the one that helps me achieve my personal vision, excites and challenges my imagination, inspires me to develop new ideas, be playful and make conscious efforts to look differently at ordinary situations.

I use the Canon 5D for commissioned work (magazines, child/family portraits) and family travels because it is so convenient (read “I can take hundreds of photos without being afraid to mess them up”) and offers so many possibilities to experiment and create images that reflect my personal style and point of view.

MB: Which are your favourite lenses to work with and why?

Irene: I‘ve tried a few (with the Canon 5D) but my favorite is the 50mm. Again, it’s the one that helps me capture and create the images that I want whether I am looking at a mind-blowing landscape scene or tiny little hands.

MB: What equipment do you prefer to use to shoot portraits?

Irene: Although I am in awe of photographers who shoot portraits with Polaroid cameras, the 5D is the one that has been working best for me. I also have a Contax 645 that I intend to learn how to properly use and experiment with soon! (Editor AKA Amanda says: Super jealous! That is my dream camera. Send it to me and I’ll be happy to test it out for you ;)

MB: Name a camera that you just love to have fun with.

Irene: The Holga, because it is so unpredictable and I wait for weeks (sometimes months) to have the rolls of film developed. The SuperSampler is fun too. And, it’s not a camera, but I love playing with the LensBaby composer.

MB: What do you carry your equipment in?

Irene: I carry an Epiphanie Bag, a line of stylish camera bags designed by my friend photographer Maile Wilson.

MB:  Is there one piece of equipment/set up that you would recommend to a newbie shooter?

Irene: If you are shooting digital, the lens is really important so I would recommend taking some time to try a few and choose the one that you feel most comfortable with and that will help you create the images that you want, not just pretty photos.

I also think it’s important to have a camera that you can just have fun with. It could be any toy camera or even your cellphone as long as it reminds you to be playful, that creativity is about making fresh connections and seeing things from different perspectives, and that really, photography is not so much about coming up with a great image than it is about the true expression of your authentic self.



Thank you for sharing a little of your photography world with us, Irene! I’ve loved reading about your equipment and love of photography and I know the Mocking Bird readers have also. Readers, please feel free to share your thoughts with Irene in the comments.

Check out Irene’s blog, her website and flickrstream.

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What’s In Your Kit? with Jen Causey

Friday, November 19, 2010

Jennifer Causey is a Brooklyn based photographer who shoots weddings, kids, food and lifestyle. Well known for her love of breakfasts, Jen keeps us salivating over eggs and bagels on her blog, Simply Breakfast. I think Jen somes up her work with the titles of her blogs. Her work is simply beautiful. You can really get a sense of her character and passions through her photographic style. In my opinion, being able to do that makes for a brilliant photographer. Jen’s style seems effortless and natural, always classic and full of grace. I love that her love of the simple life is so apparent in her work.

Jennifer’s photography has been featured in publications such as Applique Your Way for Chronicle Books, Lines and Shapes’ most recent Brooklyn Diary, Real Simple and Edible Manhattan. You can have your own little piece of Jen’s world with her book, Simply Paris. I asked her about her equipment choices for the latest What’s In Your Kit? feature. Thank you, Jen!

MB: What are your cameras of choice and why?

Jen: I recently purchased a Canon 5d mark II, so I have been shooting with that a lot. I also like to shoot film with my Mamiya 645 and my Nikon 35mm 8008. I wish I had a Leica M6.

MB: Which are your favourite lenses to work with and why?

Jen: My favorite lens is a 50mm 1.4 for the Canon and a 90mm for the Mamiya. I also sometimes use a 35mm, 85mm, and I have a 24-105 zoom.

MB: What equipment do you prefer to use to shoot portraits?

Jen: For portraits, I usually use the zoom to get a variety of focal lengths or the 85mm.

MB: Name a camera that you just love to have fun with.

Jen: I love the Diana and the Holga. You never know what you are going to get, which makes it a wonderful surprise when you get magic.

MB: What do you carry your equipment in?

Jen: If I am carrying a lot, I use a rolling suitcase, otherwise my purse for on the go/everyday shooting.  I also have a Tenba bag when I am just carrying a few items.

MB: Is there one piece of equipment that you would recommend to a newbie shooter?

Jen: Any type of SLR, film if possible (set to manual), then move over to digital. I think learning the basics on film is important to learn and see the magic that is photography.

Thanks so much for joining us at Mocking Bird today, Jennifer! Check out more of Jen’s beautiful work at her website, blog and flickr.

Check out all the What’s In Your Kit interviews on their new special page!

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What’s In Your Kit? with Johanna Wallin

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Johanna Wallin

Johanna Wallin

I first discovered Swedish photographer Johanna Wallin’s work through her blog and was instantly entranced by her moving and atmospheric photography. Using medium format and 35mm cameras, Johanna paints beautiful portraits of people and life. She has an ability to capture the essence of the bigness of cities like New York and Tokyo whilst still painting a picture that is warm and inviting. I particularly love her beautiful and timeless ‘snow’ essays as shown in the photographs above. They look like something out of a Sigur Ros video.

She of course does amazing things with her film cameras, but her digital work is also beautiful. I was convinced she was a strictly film shooter when I discovered that some of the photographs that I thought were film, were in fact shot with her Canon 5D.

Johanna kindly answered questions about her equipment and shooting for the What’s In Your Kit? feature.

MB: What is/are your camera/s of choice and why?

Johanna: Hasselblad

MB: Which are your favourite lenses to work with and why?

Johanna: Prime lenses, such as 35mm and 50mm (80mm with medium format). I want normal perspective and the option of big aperture.


MB: What equipment do you prefer to use to shoot portraits?

Johanna: Hasselblad 500c/m with 80/2.8, loaded with Astia 100F and (depending on the light) a hammerhead flash.

MB: Name a camera that you just love to have fun with.

Johanna: LC-A is great for just random shooting,  being so small and automatic. I always have lots of fun shooting instant film as well, with Polaroid 635 or just Hasselblad with polaroid back.


MB: What do you carry your equipment in?

Johanna: Mostly on my shoulder in the strap, or in a tote bag. I never had any case/bag/etc for my equipment, I want to be casual with my cameras and bring them everywhere. People may think I’m not being protective enough, but I never broke a single thing.

MB: Is there one piece of equipment/set up that you would recommend to a newbie shooter?

Johanna: Buy a used digital Canon 5D and a cheap 50/1.8 lens, or use the money on a Nikon FM and lots of film. Both alternatives are great, and not just for newbies.


Thanks for answering the WIYK questions, Johanna! Make sure you check out more of Johanna’s work at her links below:

Johanna Wallin website
Johanna’s blog
Johanna’s flickr

All photographs were taken by and copyright Johanna Wallin.

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My Travel Camera Kit

Monday, July 12, 2010

Always my biggest dilemma when travelling is figuring out which cameras to take…or more correctly, how many I can fit in my bag. Before the Canadian and I went on our Canadian Rockies road trip, I wrote about said dilemma.
In the comments, one of you lovely readers asked about what photographers take with them whilst travelling. I think that’s such a great idea for a series of interviews. In running with the theme, I thought I’d share what I took with me on this last trip.

I am clearly not one to take pointers from as I take FAR too many cameras with me. I would love to condense it down but I get sad when thinking about leaving them behind. I do use them all, if that helps any. Here we go:

Top row:
Yashica FX 3 with 50mm lens for 35mm film- every day photographs on film. I usually choose between this or the Nikon.
Holga- I don’t always take this with me but thought it would be great for mountain shots.
Nikon FM3A- my main travel camera. It has a 28mm lens which is great for travel photography. It’s trust worthy and I know I won’t miss any shots with this camera.
Second row:
Polaroid SX70 – I don’t really need to say why, do I?
Canon 40D – I really don’t use this camera personally anymore. The Canadian made me bring it.
Polaroid Spectra- I wouldn’t ordinarily bring this for travel but I needed to shoot for our Polaroid book.
Third row: 120 film for the Holga, 35mm film for the Yashica and Nikon, Polaroid film for the SX70.
Bottom row:
iPod touch- for checking my notes app which I store photo ideas.
External hard drive- I recommend bringing one on a long trip, you never know what might happen to your digital pics.
Photograph holder- I bought this at Urban Outfitters about 3 years ago and I use it anytime I leave the house with my Polaroid camera. It’s great for slipping Polaroids in to keep them safe and protected.
Canon IXUS Point and Shoot- crappy little P&S we use for all our family and friend snapshots.
Polaroid Spectra film- for my Polaroid Spectra camera.

To carry all these items, I use a Lowepro slingshot backpack and my handbag for the day to day touring. To transport them around, I use the Lowepro and a leather weekender bag I bought in Sydney. I also have some individual Crumpler camera bags which work well but I’m not a fan of  ‘Look at my bag, it’s got expensive camera equipment in it’ type bags. I will get around to getting one of these beautiful babies eventually.

As I said, I don’t usually take all of these cameras with me. I would usually only take one Polaroid, instead of 3 ( I also took the SLR680) but I was shooting for the book on this trip. While travelling around on individual days, I wouldn’t obviously take them all with me either. I usually only have one film, one Pola and one digital at a time.

Do you have any camera travelling/packing tips?

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What’s In Your Kit? With Jill Thomas

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I‘m so delighted to bring you so more What’s In Your Kit interviews in the coming weeks. I have some fabulous photographers lined up and today’s amazingly talented interviewee is wedding photographer, Jill Thomas.

You may know Jill’s work from her beautiful blog where she shares her mostly wedding portraits that are always so natural and full of gorgeous light. I really love the beautiful compositions Jill creates with her camera. Of course, Jill loves film as much as I do, so it was natural that I would fall in love with her photographs.

MB:  What is/are your camera/s of choice and why?

Jill: Contax 645 – because it is a medium format camera that allows me to work at my fast pace during weddings.  Also the images that come from this camera are just artistically beautiful.

Canon IV: A 35mm camera that is amazing.  It allows me to use my favourite Canon lenses when I want to shoot wide angle.  When talking Canon or Nikon 35mm – it is the best out there.

MB:Which are your favourite lenses to work with and why?

Jill: Zeiss 80mm – Zeiss glass is amazing.  If you have not pick up a Carl Zeiss lens, do so!  This lens is tack sharp, but because of the use of film, is still soft. I want my images to be simple and speak for themselves. The 80mm is perfect for this. It allows me to have an artistic but timeless style.

On my canon IV, my favourite lens is my 35mm 1.4.  I love this lens because it is slightly wide angle.  I am capturing images that are wider than the eye sees but this lens does not distort. It grabs a person’s eye because it is different just slightly. It is perfect to add a little artistic edge to your images. I just love it.

MB:What equipment do you prefer to use to shoot portraits?

Jill: Contax 645 with my 80mm – this is my first go to camera.

MB: Tell us about a camera that you just love to have fun with.

Jill: So I am crazy about cameras! I have way too many. I do not collect cameras because to me that says they just sit there and that makes my heart ache. I find cameras at thrift stores, antique stores, and on ebay. I shoot with them all and they all are in working order.

My fun street photography camera is my Hasslebad 500C/M – I slow down, wind the camera and compose each shot. Strangers just look amazing to me in the camera.
If I am bringing a camera with me on an outing with my kids, I bring my Brownie or Holga. I think my kids look so dang cute in these cameras. They are soft and just capture their moments perfect.

My favourite Polaroid is my Polaroid 600SE. I love Fuji film. This is how I love to capture my family. I love those Fuji images in my album. The lens is a Mamiya lens and it is so sharp. This camera gives you amazing instant photos.

My favourite artistic Polaroid is my Polaroid SX-70. I love details with this camera. Settings, scenery, and objects. I have these photos framed all over my home.
What I love about film is that every type of film and every camera capture moments differently. So I have found what cameras I love for what situations. Of course I love to mix it up and try new things … what photographer doesn’t? It is grabbing new cameras, trying new films, and shooting new things, that keep me inspired.

MB: What do you carry your equipment in?

Jill: All my equipment is in an old vintage hutch I purchased at an old beach shop. I love it. When I am shooting for fun, I just bring one camera with me at a time. It is like I picked my baby for the day. I have 2 kids and am pregnant, so I cannot carry a bunch on me.
If I am shooting a wedding, I have a roller Tenba suitcase and a Tamrac bag. I also love my Shootsac. My shootsac is not necessarily a lens sac, it is a film sac. Its compartments are perfect for keeping your film organized and ready.

MB: Is there one piece of equipment/set up that you would recommend to a newbie shooter?

Jill: For a newbie FILM photographer, I would recommend grabbing a Canon 35mm and just shooting your heart away. The Canon IN is on ebay for like $150 and is a great camera. If you have that and a good lens like the 50mm 1.2 or the 85mm 1.2 – you would be ready … just shoot away. Try new film types, to find what film best represents you. Find what films work best when and where. Also pick up an instant and stay inspired.  you can get the Polaroid 340 land camera very inexpensive as well. It is so fun to work with Fuji film and this is a great camera to start experimenting on.
Just to add: one camera I don’t own and is next on my list is the Leica M6. It is an amazing 35mm that will soon become my best friend!

Thank you SO much Jill for those wonderfully informative answers. What a treat this was! You literally named all my most coveted cameras and you own them all! I think I’ll have to come over and raid your camera closet some day.

To see more of Jill’s work, please visit her site and blog and you can follow her here on twitter.

Please join me in thanking Jill for this great interview in the comments below. :)

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