Tools of the Trade

The 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 hide under a magazine, fast enough to handle photo retouching, and durable enough to survive the torture I put it through. I also carry an external drive with a complete archive of all the data I have stored in the studio.

Software: I run Windows 10—it’s everything that makes Windows great harnessed beneath everything that makes an iPad a pleasure to use. My go-to software includes the Adobe Creative Cloud (Lightroom, Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator), Google Chrome, Edit Plus, and FileZilla. Evernote and Trello help keep me organized. I also use StarStaX for automating my star trail workflow.

Connectivity: Phone and field connectivity is provided by a Samsung S8 Active serviced by AT&T’s 4G LTE network. It’s hardware is waterproof and sturdy, but the software is unreliable junk compared to the flawless HTC One M9. Still, it’s the most rugged and reliable option available right now.


Camera Gear

  • Canon 80D — my go-to camera body.
  • Canon M50 — second body…used nearly as often as the 80D; downright stealthy when pared with the 22mm f2 pancake.
  • EF-EOS M Mount Adapter — lets the Canon M50 use all the big glass.
  • Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 Art — a tack-sharp shooter which outperforms “L” glass costing thrice it’s price (and my personal favorite).
  • Sigma 18-300mm — an excellent jack-of-all-trades travel lens, with surprisingly smooth bokeh.
  • Canon EF 50mm f1.4 — small, fast (aperture), and good IQ makes this a decent “walkabout” lens; unfortunately it’s also notoriously fragile.
  • Canon EF-S 10-22mm — my current wide angle, which I will likely replace with Sigma’s 10-20mm constant-aperture wide angle.
  • Canon EF-M 22mm f2 — purchased with the goal of making the M50 coat-pocketable around town; great IQ and surprising sharpness have had me reaching for it more than a few times in the studio too.
  • Canon EF-M 18-150mm — a great travel-zoom option for times when the 80D & 18-300mm are too cumbersome; quick focus and plenty sharp.
  • GoPro Session 5 — the potato; my primary vlog camera (yes, I still film).
  • Peak Designs Cuff — because shoulder straps are cumbersome, and the 80D/M50 are small enough for a wrist strap. I also keep a Leash (shoulder strap) in the bag just in case.
  • MeFOTO Roadtrip Travel Tripod — a sturdy and full-size tripod, at a reasonable price.
  • Sigma USB Dock — focus calibration is serious business, and Sigma lets us handle it ourselves.

In The Field

  • ASUS X202E — custom built for my mobile editing and storage needs.
  • Samsung S8 Active — because all the HTC One M9’s have dead batteries now…
  • Mpow Flame — the highest-reviewed-lowest-priced bluetooth earbuds; I hate things on my ears, but sometimes I need hearing protection and a little music makes that less awful.
  • Tamrac Anvil Slim 11 — my mobile studio bag; comfortably carries all of the photography, computer, and paper gear I need when traveling, and opens conveniently suit-case style while strapped into the passenger seat.
  • 5.11 Tactical Rush 12 — my hiking kit; I prefer leather and canvas, but no one makes a good all-day hiker that comfortably hauls lunch, snacks, layers (mountain weather), enough water (Arizona), and a small camera kit so I had to “make” one.

In The Studio

  • Workstation — where most of the editing happens; nerd out on the details here.
  • SteelSeries Apex — the only sub-$100 keyboard that can keep up with my typing speed (faster than wireless) and can handle all of strange 4+ key shortcuts in the Adobe Creative Suite.
  • Wacom Intuos — the ultimate upgrade from Apple’s Magic Trackpad; equally friendly to stylus-users and finger-painters (like me). Intuos (small) is great on the go, but I recommend Intuos Pro (medium or large) for your desk.
  • Kensington SlimBlade — because pixel-perfect clicking is unfortunately impossible on a pen- or touch-pad.
  • Logitech C920 — studio video camera; mostly used for vidcalls, and has a pretty good built-in mic.
  • Blue Snowball — studio mic; used for voice-over work, vidcalls, and phone.
  • Epson Artisan 1430 Wide-Format Printer — beautifully accurate color reproduction; used for limited-run prints, client projects, and occasionally home decor.

Software

  • Adobe Creative Cloud — 90% of the desk work I do happens in Adobe; I use everything but the so-called “webdev” apps.
  • StarStaX — star trail compiler; there are others out there, but this one gives the best results with the least headache.
  • Google for Work / Chrome — for lack of a better option. I have nothing but loathing for Google, but the service integrations and development tools can’t be beat. For the moment.
  • EditPlus — a good old-school editor. There might be better options now, but if it ain’t broke…
  • FileZilla — one of the first reliable programs to support SFTP (SSH file transfer). If you’re still using regular FTP you should have your ‘puter confiscated and be banished from the internets.
  • Evernote — arguably the best virtual notebook around.
  • Trello — manages the chaos that my workflow would otherwise become.

Last updated on July 30th, 2018.

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