Chaïm Bruijning contemplates why photographers are always buying new gear – and why he loves Billingham so much.
What is it with those photographers? You might wonder what I (Chaïm) mean by that. Well, I’ll tell you, because at first I thought it was just me. I have some other quirks, so I didn’t notice this one at first, but apparently it’s a widespread virus. This time one that makes many of us happy (or so it seems). No problems thus far.
What I’m talking about, is this: We, photographers, are very passionate about shooting images. Some capture beautiful landscapes, others excel at capturing those specific moments happening on the street. Others capture ‘heads’ (yes, we photographers speak of heads, not faces. Don’t ask me why). I know that I’ve forgotten loads of other professions in photography, but forgive me.
Now, whatever kind of photographer you are, pastime or professional, there’s one thing we all share: “We like to buy stuff”. Which roughly translates to: “We never own enough stuff, and we always want more!”
What gear does Chaïm use?
For anyone who’s interested in what gear I use, here’s a short overview:
• Since September 2016, I’ve fully switched to Fuji. In my case, the Fuji X-T2. As a back-up, I regularly ‘steal’ my wife’s XT-1;
• If I need flashlight, either in my studio or on location, I use diverse lights by Elinchrom. But more and more often, I use my portable Nissin flashes: the Di700A flashes with Air 1 commander to control them;
• I regularly need to transport my gear from location A to location B. Sometimes for a shoot, but more often when I’m ‘acting like’ a street photographer. For this, I fully rely on my Billingham bags. This brings me back to the beginning of my story: “We like to buy stuff”.
Our Billingham family
My circumstances are lucky in the way that my wife is, apart from stylist and makeup artist, a photographer too. Yes, ideal because she can assist me, but there’s another hidden advantage: indeed, our second pastime: buying stuff! It doesn’t cost me as much trouble as it normally would to convince her that I absolutely need that lens, because I can’t move forward in my photography without it. And yes, that light source fits that desired image so well! When it comes to bags, I absolutely need that specific model, because otherwise I cannot take all gear I need with me (that last one is a dangerous one, because she can easily check this. Therefore my advice would be to always try to fit more gear than you need! This really helps in convincing your partner.
Now that we’re on the subject of bags: Billingham. The reason I’m writing this blog, is that I’m completely in love with these bags. Pricey, maybe, but more importantly: What do you get in return, and for how long can you enjoy them?
To be honest: I started with Billingham bags bought on eBay. Does that embarrass me? No, not at all! I’m an amateur, which means no more than that I don’t get paid for my photography. In my situation, buying a Billingham bag is a big expense. As a result, the bags I bought on eBay were used bags, aged bags, but still so pretty and so functional! What I’m trying to say is that the bags are absolutely worth their price.
You can buy accessories for your photography on a purely rational basis. Value for money, how does it benefit me, how does the price I pay relate to the benefit… However, I bought the Billingham bags based mainly on gut feeling, emotionally. I don’t know what it is, but apart from the functionality and quality, just holding my Billingham bag always cheers me up. The same is true when I carry my bag around my shoulders on my way to Amsterdam, or when I take it on vacation, or to take photos on the street.
I’m such a big Billingham-enthusiast, that I even own a luggage tally and a key fob. I think that’s where the line is. No, not for me, but for my wife. When I suggested a while ago that it would be very useful to own a Billingham Photo Vest, my wife’s look was enough to shut me up and keep our marriage intact.
Now, let’s dive deeper: Why do I choose Billingham?
At the moment, our Billingham family consists of 3 bags. My wife owns a Hadley Pro, together (I say, but of course it’s actually mine), we own a Billingham 555 and since a few months, specifically for street photography and to use as travel (photo)bag, I own a Billingham 307 camera bag. In this blog, I’ll focus on the Billingham 307, but let’s start with the other two bags.
Billingham Hadley Pro, Imperial Blue / Tan
The Billingham Hadley Pro is an awesome shoulder bag that’s perfect for a (small) mirrorless camera, one or two lenses and a few other accessories. I’m not going into details about size and specs, because you can find these on the product pages of the bags.
What makes this bag a great shoulder bag, is that it’s relatively small and thus lightweight. A big advantage, especially when you carry the bag on your shoulder when you go out into the streets, or when you work as a news photographer, is that the bag is water repellent, just like all other Billingham bags. The inside of the bag is fully adjustable with ‘dividers’, which you’ve probably heard before. However, an additional advantage is that you can completely remove the insert from the bag. This way, you can use your photo bag as a ‘regular’ daypack as well.
Whether you like the colour or not, that’s up to you. But I love this blue colour. Moreover, it fits with the colour of my wife’s eyes (or does it…)
Billingham 555 + Delta pockets
I’d been looking for a larger camera bag for a while, to use when I had to take more camera gear with me. I had my mind set on the Billingham 555. Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford to buy a new 555, so I searched the internet to find a clearance… Too bad, the bags are too much wanted for that. So, I kept an eye on eBay.
Sometimes you get lucky. On my search for this bag, my patience got rewarded. A reporter for a Dutch newspaper bought a Billingham 555 to transport it on her carrier bicycle, to cycle through Amsterdam with it on her way to different assignments. Unfortunately (for her, but lucky for me), the bag turned out to be too big for her. So I drove to Amsterdam, after she accepted my offer, and proud as a peacock I took my Billingham bag back to my hometown Apeldoorn.
Yes, I know, it’s ‘just a bag’. But I’m Chaïm, so I put the bag down on the floor in front of me and I started admiring it. The quality just shines from it. The beautiful canvas, the leather straps and the perfect copper details… Finely handcrafted in England!
I use the bag, which I’ve customized using the dividers, to take on vacation. It fits all the photographic gear that I want to take, plus a laptop, and I still have some additional space. I also use it for shoots on location, when I work with my Nissin portable flashes. Both of my Fuji cameras fit into it, together with all my (4) Nissin Di700A flashes, and some modifiers for the flashes. Then there’s still space to fit my laptop, a couple of lenses and lots of other accessories. The ideal bag for this goal and with a beautiful look, what more could you want. By now, the bag’s a few years old, but it gets prettier with use.
By the way, the bag did not include side pockets, those small bags on both sides. Don’t ask my why someone offered 2 brand-new Delta Pockets on eBay, but I was the first to respond! Do you really need pockets with this big bag? Well, maybe not, but it looks so pretty and it must be useful in some situation…
Billingham 307 presstop camera bag
I recently acquired this Billingham 307 bag. It replaces my ‘old’ Billingham 206 presstop. I bought this 206 bag secondhand as well and it gave me much joy. However, I was looking for a slightly larger bag and one in my favourite colours. My 206 is black, a colour that doesn’t really suit me. The 307 is Khaki/Chocolate, which I think is the best Billingham colour combination.
“Why the 307?” you might ask. I have a clear vision about that. The bag is part of the 07-series and those bags all have a Presstop access. What does that mean? The bag merely ‘folds’ open, like an old-fashioned doctors bag. You probably know the mechanism from some old school bags.
What’s ideal about the presstop, is that is appears to be made for street and documentary photography. A big advantage is that you can quickly take your camera out of the bag, without having to open all sorts of flaps and straps. When you don’t want to hold your camera in your hand the whole time, or when you want to exchange your lenses, this way of opening and closing the bag is the most ideal and quickest way. .
As mentioned before, this bag is water repellent. This Billingham 307 is not made of canvas, but of FibreNyte. I must confess that at first I doubted whether the material is as nice-looking as the canvas, but to be honest: I don’t see the difference. The FibreNyte looks amazing, is strong and easy to maintain.
Moreover, I think it’s important that I can easily put my bag down and that it doesn’t fall over. This sounds logical, but how many photo bags do you know that are immediately stable when you put them on the ground? The 307 is!
What’s important for me, as a street photographer, is that the bag is balanced when I carry it on my shoulder. I seems so obvious, but my experience tells me otherwise. Apart from the shoulder strap, this bag has leather handles to carry it as a ‘hand bag’. In short: the functionality of this bag is well thought through!
Chaïm: Photographer, Billingham enthusiast
When re-reading this blog, I can’t help but notice how enthusiastically I write about Billingham. You’ll probably say that goes for whoever writes a blog, but I can be critical when demanded. However, if each time you grab an item, it makes you happy and you really enjoy using it, and on top of that it’s functional, than my enthusiasm is justified.
I wish you all an inspiring and creative (photographic) summer!
Who is Chaïm Bruijning?
Hereby I provide you with a short introduction of Chaïm Bruijning, the photographer.
I’ve only recently started photographing, about 6 or 7 years ago, but it’s my passion and a way to share my emotions via images. What is my profession, and which kind of photography appeals to me most? I have a preference for staged, conceptual photography. A profession in which the whole image is ‘formed’ and ‘coloured’ by me, the photographer. In addition, I also keep myself busy with portrait and glamour photography.
For the last two years I’ve worked as a street photographer as well. After a mentorate, Chaïm thought: “Let go of the control in the studio, and get out!” Well, I’ve known that. I literally almost dumped my camera in a canal in Apeldoorn! Street photography is difficult, because all my ‘models’ keep walking away and they don’t do what I say. Still, by trial and error, street photography has become my second (photographic) love.