Versatile Zooms and Workhorse Bodies


Never underestimate the importance of having your “workhorse” camera kit available and ready at all times. Obviously, “workhorse” can mean different things to different people, but for me, it’s a solid, pro-level DSLR body—the Nikon D750—and a versatile, fast zoom lens, the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art lens. With my second D750 body and complementary long zoom lens, the AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II lens also available, I can cover almost any event, and have a second body in case the first has an unexpected problem. I keep both, along with a 50mm prime and two flash units, charged and ready to go.

On the morning of Wednesday, July 10th, I had the last-minute opportunity to photograph a ticker-tape parade up Broadway, in New York City, through the legendary “Canyon of Heroes.” Living in New York offers these opportunities, and this was the 207th ticker-tape parade at that legendary locale, to honor the United States Women’s National Soccer team’s recent World Cup Championship. I arrived to find packed sidewalks and police barricades on every corner. I was initially able to use a press pass to get into the middle of the street and await the first car of the parade, but soon realized that there were enough photographers covering this angle and the better place for me, despite the crunch of bodies, was on the sidewalk with the fans.

After walking a few blocks, toward City Hall, where the parade was scheduled to end, I found a protected, slightly elevated spot in front of the famed Woolworth Building. From this spot I had a decent angle to photograph the players and dignitaries on the passing floats, but also to get shots of the crowd and falling paper. The decision to leave the street would define the type of photos I took, perhaps away from straight “news” photos to more documentary or “essay” style images of this event, but I knew that having a longer zoom lens (70-200mm f/2.8) would give me an opportunity to photograph the players on the floats, while remaining embraced by the excitement of the crowd, and use the wide end of my 24-70mm f/2.8 lens to capture the images developing in the throng around me.

With two relatively heavy cameras and lenses and my Tenba messenger-style photo bag, I had to be careful working my way through the crowd, to protect the lenses, but also to protect the folks around me, not wanting to bonk anyone on the head, especially the many children who were in attendance. I certainly saw many photographers, amateurs and pros, shooting with more compact systems, and I understand the appeal of the Sony and FUJIFILM mirrorless cameras but, for me, having these two big systems hanging around my neck provided me with a sense of comfort, even professionalism, that helped me achieve the space, the mindset and, of course, the technical capability to capture the images I was looking to make.

The basic lesson of this anecdote is to always have your “workhorse” gear available and batteries charged; however, being prepared to improvise and use all of your tools is also important, and I did end up using my iPhone to make these “boomerang” shots that I think sum up the event as well as any one still image.

Times and tech are advancing, and the appeal of smaller kits is obvious, but I still appreciate the size and sturdiness of the DSLR and was happy to have had the gear at the ready when this opportunity arose. As it turns out, of the photos I took in this 45-minute period, I preferred the shots of the crowd, not the parade itself, and fortunately, one of those images was published, making this morning not only a great opportunity to mix it up with the New York crowd and attend an historic event, but a chance to see my work in print.


Hi John,

I saw this excerpt "having these two big systems hanging around my neck provided me with a sense of comfort". After a long day of one camera hanging from my neck, it becomes a "pain in the neck". I went went to a practice round for a golf tournament that is held during the first full week of April.

I brought two cameras, a Canon 5D III with a EF 100-400 f4.5-5.6L II and a Canon F-1 with an FD 28mm f2.8 lens. I bought a shoulder harness so that I wouldn't have two cameras hanging from my neck. I bought a shoulder harness from B&H to hang two cameras. The DSLR was hanging from the left and the FSLR was hanging from the right so that my thumb was behind the film advance. That setup was comfortable. I didn't need to see a chiropractor the next day.