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Jeff is a returned Peace Corps Volunteer, philosophy undergraduate, international multimedia journalism MA (China Cohort), and professional wanderer with over 12 years of living in countries in Africa, Asia, and S. America. Although his background is in multimedia journalism and documentary photography, his specialty over the last few years has been mostly documentary brand storytelling for Trek Bikes.
Words and photos by Jeff Kennel
When I started at Americares they already had some Nikon gear for stills and 2 FS5II cameras for video. I’d been shooting Canon for stills and Sony for video for a long time, but had to switch to Nikon due to what they had already invested, which was a pain at first with the muscle memory, but I’ve almost completely retrained my brain and fingers now.
I ended up upgrading to the D850 and added some better lenses.
For video, we have 2 FS5II cameras, but they are a bit large for our type of shooting, so they stay in the studio for in-house local shoots. The new Nikon Z6 just came out and it seemed similar to the Sony A7s I was used to shooting video with. It was small, lightweight, and with the Atomos Ninja, it produces an amazing image in N-Log. So far I’m really happy with it.
Also if one of these cameras goes down, the other can fill in. They both shoot great quality motion and stills.
We work in around 90 countries and often in disaster zones (post-earthquake, hurricane, flood, etc), so I need my kit to be pretty light and mobile. I have separate gear for video and photo, with some things overlapping or serving as backups. I often can only bring one backpack on relief helicopters, etc., so the bag and my gear need to be light and reliable. I’m also carrying all my gear for the whole day and throwing it in and out of all types of vehicles, so it needs to have good support and protection.
I am able to pack all this plus a few changes of clothes in my Sukha bag and Pro Large ICU. If I’m shooting from one location and I need to bring a drone or extra lights and it isn’t a disaster zone, I pack a ThinkTank Airport Roller bag as well.
I put the tripod and light stand in the front outside pocket. Side pockets I put flip flops or shoes, sometimes the lightstand. Top pocket I put things I need to get quickly, like a rain cover, rain jacket, hat, scarf, etc.
If I need to travel super-light, and I usually do, I leave the Leatherman at home (TSA will confiscate it in a carry-on), and bring clothes I can wash in the sink and hang dry overnight: basically two pairs of lightweight quick-dry pants, 3 merino wool t-shirts, a Filson quick dry button up shirt (made for fly fishing I think), 3 pair of quick dry undies (I recommend merino wool or ex-officio synthetic), lightweight merino wool scarf for sun and dust protection (and serves as a tourniquet, sling, etc.), hat, sunglasses, sun cream, Lifestraw water bottle with filter, small notebook, pen and photo release forms.
I also love using my Newswear vest for shooting, it helps me get to essentials quickly (batteries, lenses, notebook, phone, cleaning cloth, etc.).