Tools of the TradeThe ever-changing list of my go-to gear Most of the work I do is performed out of my creative studio, behind the wheel of a heavily modified Land Rover, or through the viewfinder of a Canon. Many of the tools I use are custom fabricated by yours truly, sometimes because what I need doesn’t exist, or more often because I simply enjoy building things with my own hands. I originally posted this on the about-me page at Layne Studio after being asked “What __________ do you use?” once too often, but since the studio involves more than just me now it’s time this list moved to the blog proper. This post is just an overview, I might write up an in-depth with the how’s and why’s of each category if anyone would find it helpful. Read along for the details or just click here to skip down to the bullet list of links so your inner-consumer can run wild and free. Camera Gear The Big Guns: I shoot with a variety of Canon gear, but my go-to and favorite is the 80D. It’s durable, light weight, and inexpensive enough to take risks when getting the shot. I use three main lenses: a Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 Art (my personal favorite) for most portraits and some travel/vehicle/landscape work, a Sigma 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 macro-capable travel zoom, and a Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 wide angle for grabbing wide vistas or interior shots. The Canon 10-22mm wide is due to be replaced…likely with Sigma’s superior constant-aperture variant. Yes, I’m a Sigma fanboy…because, science. Rolling Light: I loved Canon’s pocketable S-line of cameras, but since they’ve been discontinued and the latest rendition predated modern processors and sensors I’ve reluctantly moved on…to the Canon M50. It’s basically an 80D crammed into a rangefinder body; it’s just as capable as it’s big brother, and runs the same glass when paired with the EF-EOS M Mount Adapter. With the native EOS-M lenses it’s the perfect walkabout and hiking camera. Computing Gear Hardware: In the studio my workstation is a personally built Intel-powered, liquid cooled, quad-core PC tower. It’s currently clocked at a conservative 4.4GHz, drives multiple color-calibrated monitors (lead photo), and houses a RAID array large enough to eliminate the need for a separate file server. Communication and general office needs are handled by Google for Work, with weekly on-site and monthly off-site backups of all data. In the field I use a custom built ASUS X202E with enough solid-state storage to back up my cameras on a multi-week expedition. It’s small enough to…
Rear BumperSometimes you just have to D-I-Y After two years of waiting for either delivery of the rear bumper I purchased, or a full refund of the rather large deposit, I’d had enough: it was time to look elsewhere. Discovery II rear bumpers are a tricky thing—a combination of unusual curves and angles, lack of frame tie-in points on the long overhang, and the general lack of symmetry on these trucks creates many challenges in the design process. As a result, most bumpers on the market are either prohibitively expensive or extremely ugly. RTE Fabrication’s rear bumper is arguably the best looking of the bunch and has a beautifully near-factory appearance, but I couldn’t get over the jungle gym they use for their swing-out. It was clear there was only one way to get what I wanted: a custom build. Once again I enlisted help from the exceptionally talented Dave Argust to design and fabricate all the little (and big) parts necessary to pull this project off. Prototyping on something like a Jeep can be fairly easy—straight lines and a body tub that ends cleanly before the bumper mean you can bolt on practically anything from the frame back. While the mounts are similar on a Discovery, the body is blended into the (frame mounted) bumper through several pieces of molded plastic, all designed to flex and bend just enough to allow for body movement. This meant building much of the bumper in place on the vehicle, and installing and removing the bumper dozens of times to check clearances…tedious work. I’m not a huge fan of the ubiquitous 2 x 6″ oval lights found on so many aftermarket bumpers, but I do understand now why they are used so often: few DOT-legal brake lights exist that are small enough to fit on a slim 4-inch bumper. I wanted brake lights, not for legality, but because I needed the “high” lamp to restore the rear fog functionality Land Rover gave us. Fortunately, just as the bumper was nearing completion Grote released a brand new tail/brake lamp with integrated reverse lights dubbed the “2-in-1.” Installation hardware attaches via the original bumper mounts on the frame. Access to the bolts hides underneath the new lights, which sit almost exactly where the original reverse and rear fog lamps once did. As an added bonus the trailer wiring is now safely up and away from trail obstacles, with 4- and 7-pin connections built in. Building…
By Land or Sea A capable and dependable workhorse, AT Overland Equipment’s Horizon has proven itself time and again to adventurers the world over. So how does one push this platform over the top, transforming it into an all-inclusive, ready-to-roll, adventure support system for extended excursions into the wilderness? A pair of custom-built Horizon trailers bound for Australia have been loaded up with everything and the kitchen sink to create just that. Built for Unhindered Exploration To prep the trailers for service in the harsh coastal environments where they are headed, the basic Horizon chassis were first dipped in a zinc bath for galvanization. Additional protection from debris is provided by Line-X on all leading surfaces. Marine-grade hardware was used for all fasteners, hinges, and latches. A MAX Coupler and Aero silent hitch pin provide peace of mind and a quiet connection to the tow vehicle. Tread plate fenders offer additional grip when wet, and high-powered LED floodlamps make finding camp in the dark that much easier. The forward end of the cargo box provides enough storage for a Folboat packable boat, while still leaving enough space for two drawers and a massive dual-zone National Luna fridge/freezer to the rear. A custom swing-out spare tire carrier also acts as a platform for carrying the boat’s outboard motor. Several Rotopax cans provide additional fuel for the boat and tow vehicle, as well as extra water, first-aid kit, and a tool kit. Built for Extended Field Use A large Odyssey PC-1800-FT 190 amp-hour battery stores power for the trailer’s systems, and recharges via a combination of dedicated 4-gauge connection to the tow vehicle, solar panels, and a wind turbine. Power is managed by an array of battery maintenance, charge controllers, and status panels located in the galley. A Xantrex Prosine inverter provides clean and reliable AC power. A custom 31-gallon tank replaces the area normally taken up by a 19-gallon tank and two 20L jerrycans, and ensures an ample supply of water is on-hand for weeks of boondocking. Dual 11-pound propane tanks provide fuel for the on-board water heater and galley stove. When needed, on-board air is provided by an Extremeaire Jr. with a 2-gallon air tank. Built for Comfort and Convenience Comfort becomes an important factor with long periods of time spent traveling. An Eezi-Awn Globedrifter tent tops the trailer to provide a good night’s sleep, and the attachable Add-A-Room creates cabin-sized interior square footage. On the galley side of the trailer a Fiamma F35 Pro…
Defender 4′ x 5′ (half) Roof Rack I’ve been in the market for a roof rack for some time now, both as a mounting point for antennas/lights, and to carry bulky (but light) gear like sleeping bags and tarps. Since my needs are very small and I really like the view out of my sunroof, I really wanted a half-length rack. I also wanted it to sit nice and low, close to the roof’s surface. There are only a few off-the-shelf options available for a roof rack on a Discovery, and almost all of them are full racks. In fact, the only half-rack option I was able to find is by a company that has an awful reputation on the various Land Rover forums. Ultimately, I opted to go with a unit from Defender Rack and figure out some other way to handle mounting. Defender makes a model that is 4 feet wide (perfect on a Discovery) and can be had as short as 3 feet—I went with a 5-foot one-piece welded model. The build-quality is top-notch, but it could have used another trip through the powder coater as it is already showing (slight) signs of rust from this year’s rain…