The Peli 1510 & TrekPak Custom Insert

Over the the last few years I’ve relied quite heavily on Peli products. As a professional photographer, one of my biggest (if not the biggest) financial investments is camera gear.

High-end cameras and lenses are not only seriously expensive to repair and replace but I also need to feel confident they’re going to perform as they should during commissions. Knowing they’re kept in a bullet-proof case at all other times, gives me great peace of mind!

Now, if you’ve read my ‘What’s in the kit bag and why’ blog post from way back in 2011, or regularly read my blog, you may already know I’m not at all keen on excessive and unnecessary equipment - if a piece of kit just sits in my bag or case, not being used for three or four months, it’s sold! 

I’m a firm believer in travelling as light as possible to aid my documentary approach ... a less is more approach. The select cameras, lenses and accessories I do take to commissions perfectly suit my approach. This equipment facilitates my style, nothing more. 

Why I chose the Peli 1510? 

Each year I photograph anywhere between 35 and 60 weddings plus 10 to 20 portraits and a few commercial commissions. Most of my work tends to be within the UK though each year I’ll do a handful of international commissions. The benefit of the Peli 1510 is not just how tough it is but also it’s size - it's designed to fit carry-on requirements with almost any airline. Pretty handy as I would never put my gear in luggage.

These cases are used by the UK military and NATO, I even saw them being thrown into the sea during Bear Gryll’s latest ‘The Island’ series!

What I keep in the case? 

It’s been 6 years since I wrote my last ‘What’s in the kit bag and why' post, so things have evolved a little. Since then, I’ve been Nikon, Canon, Fuji, now Canon again. I have no brand loyalty and see the camera only as a tool, nothing more. 

For the foreseeable future, my gear is…

  • Canon 5d Mark 3 (body 1)
  • Canon 5d Mark 3 (body 2)
  • * Sigma Art 35 1.4
  • * Sigma Art 85 1.4
  • * Sigma Art 24-35 2
  • Yongnuo Speedlight YN565EXII
  • Zoom H2n Audio Recorder
  • Zoom H1 Audio Recorder
  • Chargers
  • Spare batteries 
  • Card Readers

First impressions of the TrekPak Custom Insert

My first Peli came with foam inserts and netted pockets under the lid, whilst it kept everything adequately safe, it was pretty messy! I ended up keeping unnecessary items in there, lots of pointless crap. Furthermore, as it aged the gear became loose in the inserts - increasing the chances of damage during travel. So, time for an upgrade...

The TrekPak Custom Insert is available in all shapes and sizes. For Peli cases, there's a custom insert available for every model and additional dividers are available for separate purchase. For me, I got the Peli 1510 kit, without any additional accessories. 

In terms of pricing, the custom insert is actually slightly more expensive than the foam version previously mentioned. However, for the enhanced protection it offers, for gear often worth thousands (and thousands) of pounds, it’s worth every penny. In fact, you can get the Peli 1510 plus TrekPak insert for around £270. 

The kit comes with everything you need to assemble the exact insert you need for your specific gear. It may sound quite complicated at first but there's a great video about how to get started with the TrekPak on YouTube, just Google.

Making your Own Custom Insert

It’s vital to stress the importance of planning your design before cutting the dividers. Measure twice, cut once! In my case, I needed around 40 minutes to complete things… 

Don’t only think about worst case scenarios when building the protection (dropping the case from a massive height, car crash etc) but also how balanced the case will be when carrying it around. Good lenses are HEAVY, heavier than cameras, so distribute the weight evenly. 

Keep things snug. The last thing you want is for there to be movement inside the case, ensure each piece of equipment is secured in tight. If you want each section of foam to be perfectly straight i.e not like mine, then leave a few mm either side, I'd rather things were snug. 

I created a total of 10 different compartments for my gear, everything looks neat, tidy and secured, exactly as it should. 

I hope you've found this little review useful, check out the full range of products and accessories:

Best Lenses For Wedding Photography | The Sigma 24-35 F2 Art

When it comes to selecting the most appropriate lenses for documentary wedding photography, there are a plethora of options. It’s really quite confusing for anyone looking to either get into wedding photography or perhaps refine their approach. In this little article, I’ll explain my current set up. I say ‘current’ as I’m always looking to evolve my style and approach in a positive way, I hate the idea of getting stale.

For any couples reading my blog, you might wish to skip straight to the images! Kristy and Adam’s beautiful wedding, with a humanist ceremony in a boathouse overlooking a lake in Berwick upon Tweed. That said, it’s not going to be particularly techy or nerdy and does explain a little more about the way I approach wedding photography, so you might actually enjoy reading it!

bridal portrait

I’ve been (almost) exclusively using fixed-focal ranges / prime lenses to produce my style of documentary wedding photography over the last decade. Personally, the obvious benefits of having a wider aperture to allow in more light and the smaller, more lightweight approach far outweigh any benefit of having more ‘flexibility’ with a zoom - an ill perceived point of view.

People like to overcomplicate. With a prime lens, there is no zooming - other than using your feet. This simplification allows you to master specific focal ranges and develop a signature style, faster.

Being able to see an image, without bringing the camera to your eye, is an invaluable step in producing a consistent documentary wedding photography product for couples.

couple portrait

Alongside the consistency that the prime-approach instills in a photographer’s work ethic, the technical aspects also outweigh that of a zoom. The most obvious of these aspects is the lens speed, or aperture. I’ve worked in cave-like conditions over the years, perhaps a ceremony in a crypt or very old chapel where flash is just not an option. With primes, I’ve still been able to produce professional, printable image files. Yes, the camera’s high ISO capability plays a significant role in the success of low-light wedding photography, but having a high quality prime lens which can be used ‘wide open’, allowing significantly more light in, is vital.

guest portrait

All of my lenses are Sigma. Their range of prime lenses is exceptional and what’s more, in recent years they’ve introduced the ‘Art’ series which features high-end build quality, lightening fast focussing and sensational image quality. For me, the Sigma Art range is far superior to current Canon alternatives - lenses I’ve always felt could be a little hit and miss in terms of build quality and focus in relation to their price tag.

My approach to documentary wedding photography has almost always involved a two camera setup, one with a 24mm or 35mm prime lens (responsible for roughly 75% of images in my final collections) and on the other side, a medium telephoto, a 50mm or 85mm. 

first dance photography

My style has evolved within these four focal lengths, switching between a 24/50 and a 35/85 set up. Whilst I’ve always been satisfied with the upper, more telephoto end of these set ups, I’ve always felt a little compromised with the wider end with the 24mm often feeling too wide for certain scenes and the 35, a little too tight. For years this was a compromise I was willing to make in return for the faster aperture of the prime. The only zoom lens close to helping the issue was Canon’s 16-35mm however, with a slower F2.8 aperture it just wasn’t the solution, especially during the darker months.

So when Sigma released the 24-35mm F2 Art this year, which boasts an F2 aperture, I jumped at the opportunity to have the best of both worlds. Now, I not only have both the 24 and 35 range on one camera but also prime-like speed and image quality.

I’ve now been using the 24-35mm + 85mm two camera setup exclusively for the last 8 weddings and I’m so pleased I made the switch. 

Here are a few of my very favourites from Kristy and Adams lovely wedding at Paxton house in Berwick upon Tweed. This place is just stunning.

All Sigma:

- 24 - 35mm F2 Art

- 85mm 1.4

- 35mm 1.4 Art

The New Fujifilm X-T1 | My Initial Thoughts On This Great Little Camera

Over this last week I've been changing the way I document not only weddings but my personal work in the form of a beautifully engineered mirrorless camera from Fuji. Before I write an in-depth article on this clever little camera, which will discuss it's ability as a camera for professional documentary wedding photography amongst other things, I wanted to share a few initial thoughts after a week of both professional wedding photography and personal use.

Firstly, it's a beautiful thing!

I've never suffered from so called 'gear lust' and have always been a firm believer in a camera simply being a tool for the job, nothing more. But there's just something about the new Fuji X-T1 that inspires you to create images, it has huge character and likability, much more so than your run of the mill Canon or Nikon, as efficient as they are.

Ok, it's certainly got it's weak points which I'll go into more detail about in my full review. I'll also be the first to admit that I did not like this camera to start with, in fact I was certain it was going back to the shop. In a matter of days I realised that I could not stop using the thing and I'm now completely hooked, especially having seen the incredible files the X-T1 produces.

How does the Fuji X-T1 fair professionally? I wouldn't hesitate to use it on a commission - wedding or commercial, and a high pressure one at that. In my opinion it's the best X Series camera Fuji have made to date. The build quality of the bodies and lenses is second to none.

Full article will be on here shortly, so keep posted!

Here are a few family images made over the weekend, shot in JPEG mode (I've never seen a camera produce such nice JPEGs as the Fuji X-T1). All created on the Fujinon 23mm 1.4.