by Irwin Wong
Photography is a funny job and some days are just really, really long. Like dawn to midnight long, shooting non-stop, constantly on the move. The day I photographed All Nippon Airways’ impressive maintenance hangars at Haneda Airport was one of those days. We had a lot of ground to cover, a lot of subjects to photograph, and only one day to do it in. The schedule was written as “6am to late” and if you’re familiar with location shoots then you know you’re probably going to finish even later than “late”. That’s just how the job goes sometimes. The big question is, when you are faced with an 18 hour day of being on your feet constantly, what kind of kit can you pack that will be versatile enough to cover all the angles and won’t get in your way? Photographers back in the day didn’t have a lot of options to answer that question, but now they do.
Here’s a photo of what I’m talking about: this is the Domke F-2 Shooter’s Bag, which I used on the shoot. It’s one of the best bags I’ve owned; compact, comfortable and rugged enough to withstand almost all weather thrown at it; it can also carry a fleet of mirrorless camera lenses, and I’ve filled my bag with the best ones available. Listing them off they are:
Loxia 21mm f/2.8
Loxia 35mm f/2
Batis 18mm f/2.8
Batis 85mm f/1.8
This kit makes no compromises to quality or size. That’s a beast of a camera and five fast primes all in a little shoulder bag, with a focal range going from ultra-wide to telephoto. It’s light enough to carry around all day and I can shoot anything I need to shoot, limited only by my imagination.
The best part about this mirrorless Zeiss kit is the mobility it affords me. Documenting the ANA maintenance hangar complex is no joke – the engineers and technicians are deeply immersed in very important work; servicing the fleet of gigantic airplane engines that are relied on to safely fly thousands of people around the world every month. The hangars are a slow ballet of sombre activity, sometimes on the grandest of scales – such as watching a 787 Dreamliner pull into its maintenance berth, and sometimes on the most miniature of scales – such as hand checking and cleaning every nut and bolt that has come off of a disassembled engine. Large pieces of machinery are always on the move from one place to another, and every employee moves with precision and purpose.
In an active and occasionally dangerous environment like this, a photographer needs to be discreet, mobile and versatile. With my kit, I was able to seamlessly transition from environment shots with the Batis 18mm to detail shots with the Loxia 50mm, all on the one mirrorless body. The Loxia series in particular allows for speed and versatility in framing and composition, due to manual focus. No need keep realigning your autofocus reticle between shots or wait for your lens to finish hunting in low light. The manual focus experience of the Loxia paired with the A7RII is sleek, smooth and silent, and in many situations preferable to clunky autofocus systems.
I can’t simply gloss over the optical superiority of these lenses either; each lens, while small, surpasses other systems in terms of contrast, sharpness and color. The Loxia 21mm for example, packs an amazing ultra wide lens into a tiny barrel with a professional standard maximum 2.8 aperture, not to mention the extremely controlled flare and minimal distortion made capturing the straights lines of vast hangar interiors a dream.
With my compact bag of Loxia and Batis lenses I was able to stay on my feet for over 18 hours of solid walking and photographing, with the versatility of five different focal lengths to help me tell the story of one of the top aircraft maintenance centers in the world. The age of compromising when packing a camera bag is over – my kit does everything I need and sacrifices nothing in terms of image quality. Never before have I felt such unparalleled freedom in photographing on location. It‘s almost like I‘m flying.
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