Paris for Photographers: Digital FAQ | film FAQ | Questions answered

What camera do you use?
  Today I use a Nikon D300 and the Nikon D2X. I made my 1st entry into digital with a Nikon Coolpix 5700 and then a Nikon D-70 .

Which CF cards do you use?
  A 4 Gig Sandisk Extreme IV with the D300 and a SanDisk Extreme III with the D2X. With a high write speed they certainly satisfy my requirements even if I'm shooting at the highest frame rate with the D2X.

What lenses do you use?

  Far too many! Seriously, in 1999 the packing list included a 20mm MF, 55mm Micro MF, 28-200mm zoom AF and a 300mm MF, with a Nikon N90s body.
 Today my lenses range from 14mm to 500mm but that's only because I'm a pro and vary my selection based on what I'm shooting. One of my favorite lenses is the Nikkor 70-180mm AF 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 large bag for about 10 years and it was great. They're intelligently designed and despite a store in Seattle saying they couldn't get a Domke 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 just bought another one just to hold my Nikon flash system.
  Despite the bottom pad in the J-2 being a little heavy I was happy it was there because a TSA supervisor at IAD airport dropped about $6K worth of equipment 10 inches onto hard metal rollers. It's true he was an idiot but I was able to keep shooting.

What do you do before going out?
  Think about vacuuming my camera bag. I'm shooting digital and the number one enemy of digital is dust. Just by changing lenses you can get dust on you sensor. When you're In Paris it's easy to find an enclosed phone booth which comes in handy when changing lenses if the wind is blowing.

Your photos look great, are you a pro?
  Yes I am and I live in Paris. You can license any of my stock images for advertising, Web site usage or you can 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, because my selection of lenses and flash units wouldn't fit in the bag at the same time. What I pack differs according to what I'm shooting because of the wide selection of gear. Currently I choose from:
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
Nikon D300
18-70mm DX, ƒ/ 3.5-4.5G, DX, IF-ED, AF for sale
4 Gig Sandisk Extreme IV
2 , Sandisk Extreme III, cards (2, 2 Gig cards)
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
17-35mm ƒ/2.8G
14-24mm ƒ/2.8G ED
20mm ƒ/4 MF   for sale
24-70mm ƒ2.8G 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 bother you?
  Not at all. CF cards and digital cameras aren't harmed by X-rays. Always have your batteries charged since some X-ray operators will ask you to turn on your equipment to prove that it works and that it really is a camera instead of something else. Take a quick portrait of them and show it to them. That should satisfy anybody.
  X-ray machines don't bother me, it's the European operators that do.

Sandisk's official line on X-rays          TSA main site

Which scanner do you use?
  I've used several but today I use a Nikon 5000 ED. I've used Agfa and HP flatbeds in the past with success and also a Minolta slide/negative scanner with great success.

What software do you use?
  The latest versions of Photoshop, Nikon Capture, Painter and for panoramas PanaVue ImageAssembler™. There are also different 3rd party software plugins that I use.

What's coming up next?
   They're already here, panoramas made with PanaVue ImageAssembler, they are a few on this site now.
Also coming up are archive prints from the weekly photo magazine Left Bank Lens.

What's the most useless thing you packed?
  In 1999 for a 2 month trip it was the 20mm. Interior spaces in Europe are small and I used it only twice in 9 weeks. I did carry a 300mm MF, used it rarely but it came in handy to shoot the pink flamingo's in the Camargue when in the South of France.
  Today, living in Paris has it's advantages because I can take advantage of lenses that range from 14mm to 500mm and pack my camera bag as I see fit.

Most useful thing you packed?
  A combination of things: A Sharpie, ultra fine point marker for writing on anything in the field. 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. An Epson P-2000, a portable 40 Gig storage unit with an LCD. One RAW / NEF shot with a D2X can be 19.2 Megs so storage requirements in the field add up fast.

What do you wish you packed?
  A Palm Pilot. They're only a few ounces, handy for jotting down location details and expense items. Why at 2 AM in any country you could 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 37 years of traveling to Paris did they ask a few questions but I had many pieces of luggage along with 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 US Customs?

  Go to your local Customs Office and bring all your gear that has a serial number. Ask for Form 4457. Write down the make, model and any serial numbers, they'll look at the SN's on your equipment and stamp and/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, I've done the paperwork ahead of time and made their job easier.

What about camera stores and repair shops in Paris?

  Most camera stores are along Bld Beaumarchais near Metro Bastille and are closed on Mondays.
Once I had a Nikon 90s film body repaired in 5 mins for the price of a cup of coffee at:
Le Reflexe Photo
89 Bld Beaumarchais
Tél: +
Metro: Chemin Vert, Ligne 8

I have a question that's not here!

  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 understand that I'm not a camera store, just a professional living 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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