The Things They Carry: Christa Renee’s Sun-Chasing Kit

August 18, 2015

By Holly Stuart Hughes

Advertising clients like Motorola, Roxy, and T-Mobile hire Christa Renee to capture natural, outdoorsy lifestyle imagery, usually at a beach, on a boat, or on a remote hiking trail. In preparing to shoot on location, she relies on a “go to” bag that’s always packed with the gear she needs to shoot under any conditions. “I have a long, large bag and I never really change what’s in there,” she says. “It’s always two Scrim Jims, two California Sun Bounces, a tripod, some fly away sand bags, some road rags, a bathing suit, a towel, some more trash bags, tape, [and] a mini furniture pad”—a seat cushion Renee uses when she doesn’t want to sit on the floor; an assistant cut the cushion in half and re-sewed it to make it easier to travel with.

Renee typically shoots in available light, using the 6 x 6 Scrim Jims or the California Sun Bounces to modify it. “They are small enough to travel with and big enough to actually help,” she explains. As a backup, she brings a Profoto 7b with batteries and an extra head. “You never know when it will be raining or awful out and that shoot that you had planned to do in sunlight outdoors now is suddenly inside a house in the middle of an island and there is nowhere to rent equipment.”

In her camera bag, she carries two Canon EOS 5D Mark IIIs, and 24–70mm, 100mm macro and 70-200mm lenses. “Then depending on what I’m shooting and where, I will add lenses from there, like a 35mm or a 50mm.” She brings other necessities: a Sekonic light meter (“I’m old school, have to have it,” she says), a Contax T3, rolls of film, extra batteries, lens wipes, that little air rocket for dust, a small flash (“It changes which one I bring,” depending on what she’s shooting), trash bags (“I feel like you always need them for something, usually not for trash, but for covering stuff up or dust control or water control.”), and an Epi Pen (“I am always in different countries in strange remote places with no medical,” she explains.) Renee’s 9-year-old daughter always puts a note in her mother’s camera bag.

When shooting swimwear or sports campaigns on a boat, Renee has to prepare for a lot of moisture on her gear. “Models and people that don’t handle the cameras and computers really don’t give much thought to how much water they are getting everywhere when they are getting in or out, or changing suits,” she says. “We just make sure to always have a ton of things to dry stuff off with, a ton of things to wipe lenses off with, lots of plastic bags, lots of extra everything because everything gets wet, including me and my camera.” After any shoot that takes place on the water, she sends her cameras in for a cleaning. She recently received a note from Canon asking her to stop submerging her cameras in liquid, “which I thought was funny” she says. “Maybe other people are shooting differently but I really like to get in where the action is, and my cameras take a beating for that.”

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