|Paris for Photographers: film FAQ | Digital FAQ|
What cameras do you use?
I like Nikons so that's what I use. Over the years I've used everything from a black body Nikon F, a Nikonos II, to an F2 with a motor drive and then several F3HP's with MD-4's. The 1999 trip was made with a Nikon N90s and using an Olympus PS at certain times. I added a Nikon D-70 to my bag after using a Nikon Coolpix 5700 for 9 months. Today I use both a Nikon D300 and Nikon D2X.
In days gone by I've used a Cambo monorail for 4x5 work, a Hasselblad, a Widelux F7 and also a small format Polaroid slide printer for image transfers. Hey I like cameras, what can I say?
What film do you use?
It varies on the situation, in general I use Fuji slide emulsions. The 800 ISO color negative film is amazing, while the slide emulsions will give you the sharpest and most saturated results. I'm moved to digital so the question of film might morph into “ What cards do you use? ”
What lenses do you carry?
Far too many! Seriously, in 1999 the packing list included a 20mm, 55mm Micro, 28-200mm zoom and a 300mm. Today my lenses range from 14mm to 500mm but that's only because I'm a pro and can vary my selection based on what I'm shooting. One of my favorite lenses is the Nikkor 70-180mm Macro lens. I also use the 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 VR which is an amazing piece of glass, not to mention the 14mm ƒ/2.8 .
What camera bag do you use?
A Domke, only because they're best IMHO. I had the original, large, tan canvas one for about 10 years and it was wonderful to have. They're intelligently designed and despite a store in Seattle saying they couldn't get a J-2, it's fairly easy to find one online. My current bag is the Domke J-2 in black, ballistic nylon. I couldn't be happier. I'll probably buy another one just to hold my Nikon flash system.
Your photos look pretty good, are you a pro?
Yes I am and I'm based in Paris. You can license of my stock images for advertising, Web site useage, or commission work in Paris. Simply mail me with your request.
I also lead Photo Workshops in Paris where you can see & photograph the areas that only Parisians know about... and at the right time of day.
What's in your camera bag?
Nothing at all. It differs according to what I'm shooting because of the wide selection of gear. Besides everything wouldn't fit at the same time! Currently I can choose from:
Nikon D2x, for sale, at factory specs by NPS, see the details
Nikon D70 with 2, 512 Meg cards - for sale, 400 Euros
18-70mm DX, AF - for sale
4 Gig Sandisk Extreme IV
2 , Sandisk Extreme III, memory cards (2 Gig cards)
Nikon F3HP with a MD-4 motordrive
Nikon D2x 1,100 Euros for sale and in factory specs by NPS, see details & photos
Nikon D70 with a SanDisk 512 Meg card, charger and more , 400 Euros for sale
18-70mm DX, ƒ/ 3.5-4.5G, DX, IF-ED, AF for sale
14mm ƒ/2.8 ED, AF
16mm ƒ/2.8 Full Frame fisheye, AF
18-35mm IF-ED,DX,ƒ/3.5-4.5 with 77mm B+W filter and lenshood, 700 Euros for sale
14-24mm ƒ/2.8G ED
20mm ƒ/4 MF for sale
24-70mm ƒ/2.8G ED, AF
35mm ƒ/2.0 AF
35mm ƒ/2.8 PC, MF
85mm ƒ/1.4D IF, AF
70-180mm Micro, ƒ/4.5-5.6 ED-IF, AF and Nikon 6-T close up lens
70-200mm ƒ/2.8 ED-IF, VR, AF-S
500mm ƒ/8 MF (750mm on a DX body)
2, Nikon SB-600 strobes, for sale
4, Nikon SB-800 strobes
Nikon SU-800 Wireless speedlight Commander
2 step up rings for 77mm filters
77mm Moose warming, polarizing filter
Trimmed down Kodak gray card to fit into the top pouch in the camera bag
Gitzo carbon fiber tripod, 1257 LVL
Really Right Stuff, BH-40 Pro ball head with B96 & LCF-10 lens plates
Epson P-2000, portable 40 Gig HD with 3.8” LCD
Do x-ray machines bug you?
They don't bother me, they nuke film like a frozen dinner with a bad sauce. I'm all for airport safety but when someone is carrying 80 rolls of film then some special circumstances should apply which they do inside the US on domestic flights.
What most x-ray operators overseas don't understand is that the effects are cumulative, so having 5 heavy doses doesn't exactly make for good images. They always think that their one machine is the only exposure your film will every get.
Rather than carry a lead lined bag which would just add to my luggage weight, I buy a few rolls of B/W Infrared. Since IR rays can penetrate the velvet light trap, even taking the top off the can will fog the film. Kodak has been kind enough to put a sticker on top warning to not even think about opening the can. Point that out to your heavy handed x-ray inspector when overseas. Toss 1 roll of IR into a Zip-Lock bag with the real film you're using. Offer to help them open every one of those 3,000 plastic canisters and they'll give up after 20-30 and let you pass.
Kodak's official line on x-rays TSA tips about film
Which scanner do you use?
My favorite used to be the Polaroid SprintScan 35 Plus. I've also used Agfa and HP flatbeds with success and a Minolta slide / negative scanner with great success. Today I use the Nikon 5000ED.
What software do you use?
I use the latest versions of Photoshop, Painter and PanaVue for panoramas. There are also various 3rd party software plugins I also use.
What's coming up next?
Panoramas made with PanaVue ImageAssembler , they are a few on this site now.
Look for Left Bank Lens, a weekly photo magazine from Paris. With true photographic prints available.
Most useless thing you packed?
In 1999 it was the 20mm. Interior spaces in Europe are small and I used it only twice in 9 weeks although I do have it with me today. I did lug around a 300mm MF, used it rarely but it came in handy to shoot the migrating pink flamingo's in the Camargue when in the South of France. Today my lenses range from 14mm to 500mm.
Most useful thing you packed?
A combination of things: A Sharpie, ultra fine point marker for writing on film leader and metal cassettes. Extra batteries, they're cheaper in the US than in France. A trimmed down gray card to fit into the top pocket of my Domke camera bag. Zip lock bags to put clear plastic film cans into, making it easy for airport inspection and cold storage while on location.
What do you wish you packed?
A Palm Pilot or Treo. They're only a few ounces, handy for jotting down exposures, locations and expense items. Why at 2 AM you could even jump into a taxi, bring up your hotel address and off you go!
What about French customs?
I've never had a problem or had them ask to look at any camera gear, even after 9/11. Only one time, after 35 years of traveling did they ask a few questions but I had many pieces of luggage and a huge Gitzo tripod on 2 airport carts, even then it was a breeze and no problem at all. Your mileage may vary.
What about camera stores and repair shops in Paris?
Most camera stores are along Bld Beaumarchais near Metro Bastille and are closed on Mondays.
I got my Nikon 90s body repaired in 5 mins for the price of a cup of coffee at:
Le Reflexe Photo
89 Bld Beaumarchais
Tel: + 01.42.78.27.16
Metro: Chemin Vert, Ligne 8
What about US Customs?
Go to your local Customs Office. Ask for Customs Form 4457. Fill it out and list anything that has a serial number. Write down the make, model and any serial numbers, they'll look at the SN''s on your equipment and stamp or sign the form.
This avoids US Customs charging you duty on your own equipment when you come back. I've never had anyone ask to look at things or for the form but if they do, then I've done the paperwork ahead of time and made their job easier.
I have a question...
OK, mail me and we'll see if I know the answer. If so, I'll mail you back and put your question and any advice right here. Please note that I'm not a camera store, just a professional based in Paris. But here's a real camera store where I buy most of my gear from.
Brown Cathell from NYC asked: What's the deal with tripods in Paris?
By and large tripods are forbidden from public spaces like Palais Royal, without a permit. You can expect to see someone in a dark blue uniform come up and ask for your permit. If you don't have one, they'll kindly tell you that tripods are forbidden and might ask you to leave. At worst, you might get the waving of a finger to indicate “No, not allowed”. You could set up you tripod ahead of time and then move into position to quickly get your shots before anyone has a chance to arrive ask a question.
In any other part of the city, in the streets I've never had a problem.
A photographer had asked: What about cleaning a Canon sensor?
“ I have a dirty sensor and have had a difficult time finding a camera shop around Paris that provides sensor-cleaning services for dSLR cameras. I have a Canon 20D and have been reluctant to go out and shoot more photos because my sensor is dirty and I’m reluctant to attempt it myself. Are there any particular repair shops which also have reasonable prices that you can personally refer me to? ”
The shop that Canon recommends is:
72-74, rue du Surmelin
I passed along the info for the Nikon shop above and the Canon recommendation, the photographer replied: “ ... one of the workers (at Le Reflexe) simply looked at it and took it to the side and cleaned it with compressed air and didn’t charge me a dime. “ , hey problem solved!
Do you know if a tripod purchased in Europe will fit a Nikon purchased in the US?
It depends on the tripod you want to buy. Any Nikon has a 1/4 - 20 tripod socket which only means it's 1/4“ in diameter and has 20 threads per inch. Many tripods have 1/4 - 20 threads. But many also have 3/8“ threads too. So it all depends on which tripod you plan to buy in Europe.
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