Lighting Techniques

The Things They Carry: Daniel Russo’s Surf Photo/Video Kit

August 11, 2015

By Conor Risch

“In my line of work, there’s always a sense of rush,” says surf photographer and filmmaker Daniel Russo. Reacting to surf conditions means hitting the road quickly with gear bags that can be lugged through airports and on lengthy boat rides in places like Fiji or Tahiti with “water splashing everywhere.”

On assignments for clients like Vans, Sony and Patagonia, Russo spends a lot of time in the water working with his Nikon D4 and RED Epic cameras, interchanging his Nikon lenses between the two. He carries two water housings, including a custom housing for the RED that includes a port that will accommodate his 14–24mm f/2.8 lens. This lens allows him to get underwater/above water split images with minimal distortion.

Russo’s clients are often looking for a combination of still images and video work. And while he might leave his RED camera at home on certain assignments that don’t require video, he’s never left his still cameras at home.

Russo’s film cameras, which include a Yashica T4, a Minolta Panoramic and a Canon Demi EE17 half-frame camera, are an essential part of his kit—for personal reasons, for clients’ catalogue and marketing needs, and for magazines. “There is definitely a wide variety of usage for the film photos,” Russo says. The EE17, he adds, allows him to envision and shoot a layout as it might appear in a catalogue or magazine on a single frame.

The NIKONOS all-weather film camera, which Russo uses on land as well as in the water on account of its quality glass, comes with him for personal images made during downtime. “If I have time to go swim around somewhere, I like to take that,” he explains.

Russo also shoots and edits photos and video with his iPhone, often sharing travel images or short videos with his clients in real-time, or on his own social media channels.

Clients also often need audio commentary from the surfers they sponsor, Russo says, and that content generally sounds better when it’s captured casually during downtime rather than in more formal interviews. For that, Russo packs a Zoom H4 audio recorder. “I try to pick up audio when people are just relaxing and hanging out,” he says.

Generally all of his gear fits in a single Pelican case and backpack. “A lot of times I’ll be swimming for hours everyday for a few days,” Russo says. “It’s a lot of stress on your body if you’ve got a lot of gear.”