I have a camera bag problem.
It started out innocent enough – just one or two bags for different-sized camera systems – maybe a backpack for longer hauls and a shoulder bag for the day-to-day stuff. Yet I’ve now somehow reached the point where I’m contemplating a bigger apartment to accommodate all my camera bags. A dedicated closet would do, or maybe a wall in my office where I could neatly arrange them by color and appreciate their visual aesthetic . We all have our thing, right?
After my most recent camera bag acquisition (I’ll get to that later), I realized it’s probably high time for another “What's Our Bag” breakdown. The last peek into our Leica Store Miami staff camera bags was two years ago, and needless to say, a lot has changed.
Leica has rolled out an impressive line-up of new cameras and lenses: the SL2, SL2-S, M10-R, M10 Monochrom and Q2 Monochrom, just to name a few. We’ve hired new staff: Gabe, a punk-rock gentle giant and wedding photographer, and Jose, who has the most beautiful head of hair this side of the Mississippi and is the man behind the camera during our live Red Dot Forum Camera Talks. Our shooting styles and subject matters have changed quite a bit in the last year too, with many of us putting our travel photography on hold and having to turn to our own backyards for inspiration. While not ideal, COVID-19 challenged our creativity and forced us to see the world through a new lens – perhaps changing the gear in our camera bags along the way.
So, without further ado, I present to you the latest edition of the Leica Store Miami staff’s “In Our Bag.”
Scroll through or click the quick links below:
Kirsten’s Environmental Product Photography Bag
Kirsten Vignes has been with Leica Store Miami since 2012 and is the resident graphic designer and marketing creative. She’s originally from Minnesota, but much prefers the sunshine and warmth of St. Petersburg, Florida, where she lives and works remotely. Kirsten loves photography, which she studied at Rochester Institute of Technology, volunteering with LHSA – The International Leica Society and putting together their quarterly photography journal Viewfinder, traveling the world, movies with mythical creatures, and, of course, coffee. Read some of Kirsten’s articles here.
About that camera bag problem… Last year we began carrying Billingham bags, I never let myself take too close a look. I knew what the outcome would be: I’d buy one. And, I was right. After a year of ogling from a distance, I finally caved.
BAG – BILLINGHAM HADLEY PRO, SMALL, NAVY
I’m convinced the Billingham Hadley Pro Camera Bag, Small might actually be the perfect small-system camera bag. Bold words, I know. It’s the perfect size for a Q kit or an M or CL with a couple of lenses. The two front gusseted pockets are deceivingly spacious – perfect for all your extra bits and bobs such as spare batteries, lens cloths, and keys. On the inside, you can squeeze a small tablet between the insert and the bag itself. The insert, by the way, is removable, making it easy to convert into a functional day bag. The leather buckle closures are adjustable in case you need a little extra height to fit your tablet, notebook, or what have you.
On the back, we’ve got a weather-sealed zippered compartment for valuables (think Passport, wallet, phone, ), as well as a luggage strap that fits just peachily over a carry-on handle.
All in all, the functional details of the Hadley Small Pro are thought out to a T. No buyer’s remorse here. And it looks so sharp in navy blue with classic brown leather accents.
CAMERA – LEICA CL & SUMMILUX-TL 35MM F/1.4 ASPH + APO-MACRO-ELMARIT-TL 60MM F/2.8
Enough gushing about the bag. Let’s talk about the camera setup.
This time around, I was a little stumped on what to write about. During the pandemic, I’ve been shooting with various M’s – just taking snaps around the neighborhood. But, when I looked back over the last couple years, I realized I was forgetting the obvious: product photography.
If you follow @leicastoremiami on Instagram or receive our weekly newsletters, you’ve probably seen the myriad environmental Leica product images. From coffee shops to mountain tops, I’ve photographed Leica cameras and lenses in just about every scenario possible. Every trip I take, every cute little café I pass, I’m always scoping out and trying to sneak in an environmental product shot. As our full-time graphic designer and marketing creative, I am creating new content every chance I get.
And what camera do I use for that, you ask? The Leica CL.
Take a look at our Instagram feed and nearly every image you see was taken in-house with the Leica CL and Summilux-TL 35mm f/1.4 ASPH. It’s been a reliable workhorse for the past few years. Lightweight, low-profile, and its CMOS sensor is perfect for web resolution files.
The -TL 35mm f/1.4 ASPH (50mm equiv.) is a gorgeous product photography lens. With a f/1.4 minimum aperture and close focusing down to 0.3m (just 12 inches), it allows me to create a nice separation between the subject, background and foreground. The APO-Macro-Elmarit-TL 60mm f/2.8 ASPH is the perfect complement to the 35mm . It allows me to dial in even closer on little details: red dots, and rangefinders and aperture scales (these are a few of my favorite things!).
I actually went to school for Advertising Photography and have spent countless hours in studio arranging product still (I once spent an entire summer internship helping photograph Target’s UP & UP brand of shampoo and bottles.) Needless to say, I know how a simple adjustment in studio can save hours later in photoshop: wiping schmutz off a lens, blowing dust out of the grooves of a lens barrel, eliminating strange glares by using a flag or scrim. So, there’s always a few must-haves I keep in my bag. First, a blower ball: the Eyelead Mini Air Blower is fantastic and actually packs quite a punch (or should I say gust) for such a little thing. It comes standard as part of the Eyelead Optical Cleaning Kit which clips nicely to my bag via a carabiner and includes a wonderful assortment of cleaning tools, such as lens wipes, antistatic cotton Q-tips, and a lens cloth. I also always carry an extra bottle of the Eyelead Optical Cleaning Fluid, an alcohol-free optical cleaner that is safe for both paint finishes and lens coatings alike.
I also always keep a wad of sticky putty in my bag. I never know when I’m going to have to prop a lens or camera up to get just the right angle.
Lastly, I recently added the Remarkable II digital paper notebook to my workflow. I use this magically paper-like tablet to keep track of marketing ideas and make product photography shot lists.
And of course, I can’t live without Apple AirPods Pro, which provide my soundtrack for getting in the zone, and also let me touch base my coworkers hands-free while I'm lining up my next environmental shot.
Some of Kirsten's environmental product photography shots: