What's in the Bag? - Air-to-air with Doug
Each photo shoot will always be a little different, but when you are shooting while airborne, lighter is almost always better! While you might not think that riding inside a US Air Force C-130H transport aircraft would limit your gear, remember that when the action is happening, you won’t be making a lot of trips back to the front of the aircraft to change lenses. On top of that, you certainly won’t want a loose camera bag near an open door or ramp, just waiting to get sucked out! My gear bag stays under the webbing seats in the front of the cargo bay, clipped to the seat with the LARGE red carabiner you see in the photo. Occasionally I will also bring a flight helmet bag along, and the oversize carabiner allows me to connect both bags to the aircraft seats.
- Nikon D7100
- Nikon 70-200mm 2.8 VR
- Sigma 17-70 2.8-4.0 OS
- Sandisk UHS-1 90MB/Sec 32Gb SDHC
- 8xAA / 4xAAA NiMH rechargeables
- 2xEN-EL15 batteries (extra)
- GoPro Hero3 Black w/ multiple handlebar/roll-bar mounts
- Olympus DM-620 Audio recorder with TP8 earpiece mic
- Vari-ND filter
- Gaffer’s tape
- Bag – Spec-Ops S.O.B. Butt-pack with add-on pouch
The 70-200mm and 17-70mm lenses are the mainstay of my air-to-air photography work. If I’m going to be inside of an aircraft’s canopy and size will be an issue, then the 70-200mm remains on the ground. Likewise the flash is only brought along if I’ll be able to capture the interior of the aircraft without distracting the crew from their duties with the popping of the strobe.
I bring along the Olympus voice recorder to capture the communications in-flight. The audio is useful for both behind-the-scenes (BTS) work and for reconstructing elements of the flight well after the event. The TP8 earpiece is a great piece of gear for the Olympus recorder, as I place it inside my headset or helmet and it records the audio coming in through the earcups, while recording my audio feed as well.
The bag from SpecOps is a great piece of gear, but unfortunately is out of production now. I’ve had it since my last trip to Afghanistan in 2009-2010 and it has not let me down. There isn't much padding inside, but that can always be remedied with a few lens-wraps as equipment is packed for the event. An add-on pouch on the front allows me to carry a mini-tripod, or even my 70-200mm lens, and can be removed for the most constrained of cockpits. Overall, the combo of a great, rugged bag and a minimal amount of kit allow me to quickly move around the flightline and into the aircraft without spending a lot of time gathering my equipment.