Jesse Clements is the photographer behind WodHawk Photography Studio. Jesse’s work includes athletic pursuits and tactical training and gear. He has shot various Crossfit events as well as worked with tactical instructors and brands, including 5.11. We decided to ask Jesse a few questions about gear selection with regard to photography and take a look into his RUSH72™ pack used for personal photo projects.
What are the some of the most important things you pack in your bag (besides the camera) when heading out to shoot photos?
What gets packed in my team’s bags is dependent on the type of location for the shoot, whether we are miles from nowhere, which is typical, or if we are shooting in an urban environment. One thing that is ultra critical, regardless of location, is some sort of tool for either adding light or modifying light. This means external lights with extra power sources or reflectors/diffusers (we always bring both). Past that ultra important photography-specific-tool, there are several other tangible items that we always make sure are in the packs. Water, water, water! This cannot be stressed enough. Getting dehydrated on a shoot is one of the first ways to short circuit creativity and energy. Sunscreen is also clutch if we’re working for multiple days out in harsh elements, which we often are. Layers of clothing are critical as well since we can easily experience drastic temperature changes when we start at sunrise and end at sunset. An extra pair of socks is always smart to throw in because sloshing around in soaking wet shoes is the last thing we want to be dealing with for an all day job. Lastly, unless we are in a controlled environment in a building, someone on the team is usually carrying a firearm, if the law permits it. Whether we are off the grid in some remote location or are in an urban setting with easily $20,000 to $50,000 worth of gear exposed, we prefer to adopt the 5.11 motto – always be ready.
Is there a piece of gear you can’t live with out when doing photo shoots for clients?
The light modifying tools as described before, but past that I would say there are two lenses that are must-haves. The 70-200 and a 24-70 are always available in our kit. Literally an entire shoot can be done with just these two pieces of glass if need be. Of course, we have a lot more lenses but those are the two workhorses that are rock solid pieces of gear.
What was your favorite photo shoot to work on and why?
I consider myself an incredibly blessed man to have been given the opportunity to travel with my team to some amazing places for a shoot. I love the wild places of the world, and we have seen some of the most beautiful spots in creation. The time we stayed at a bunkhouse at the “Rancho Peligroso” in the mojave desert, and roasted a pig over the open flames after a day of riding the back country on Kawasakis comes to mind. Or the shoot where we were hanging out of a helicopter shooting a SWAT exercise. One does seem to eclipse all the others though, and that was an assignment in Wyoming. Partly because of the way it started. We were heading to Jackson Hole for the actual job, but we booked flights into Cody, Wyoming because they were significantly cheaper. When making the airline reservation, I had seen that the drive was 180 miles to the set location. Being from Florida, I immediately made the mental calculation of a three hour drive on an interstate (laughs). Little did I know that the 180 miles was going to be predominately on a two lane road with a 30 MPH speed limit through Yellowstone National Park. We landed at around lunch time, and after grabbing some tacos at a local bar, we took a peek into the Buffalo Bill Museum (a childhood favorite hero), and then headed on our way. It was only when we pulled up to the park ranger toll booth to pay the fee for visiting the park (driving through it) that we realized that the road was actually through the heart of Yellowstone. Having never seen the majesty of that raw country, we were blown away by the grandness and beauty. The purples and blues of the mountains in contrast to the vibrant tones of the landscape and rushing rivers were riveting. Herds of buffalo and elk seemed to appear on a regular basis. It was such a surprise that we didn’t arrange this for ourselves, and was a spectacular welcome to Wyoming. The shoot itself took us deep into country that could only be accessed via 4x4s, with the help of the local Jeep club. We also had access to the mountain itself, and shot at the peaks of Jackson Hole. The scenery was jaw dropping, and the images we made on that shoot were epic!
For some one looking to shoot photos, what piece of advice would you give them and what piece of gear would you encourage them to own?
I would recommend a camera with full manual controls. You have to learn to control three main settings: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO (sensitivity to light). Past having a camera that you can control those variables, my advice is simply to shoot, shoot, shoot. The more you use your gear, the more you’re going to understand it. I actually started on a Canon Rebel, and I kept shooting until I understood that thing backwards and forwards. I’ve always heard that you should read your camera’s manual, and while I do agree with that, honestly a lot of it won’t make sense until you’ve spent some time in the field using it. You’re going to need training, and a lot of it to get good. When I first got my start, I emailed local pros in my area whose work I liked, and I offered to carry their bags for free. Don’t underestimate the need to be an “apprentice” for a while, and know that the really good photographers are probably getting hit up for a spot on their team regularly so don’t be afraid to work for free or at a low rate for a while. There are so many great online resources for photographers as well. CreativeLIVE is one of my favorites because you can watch the material for free while it’s live, and then decide if you want to invest in the class.
Do you have a favorite 5.11 piece of gear? If so, why is it your favorite?
Hands down my favorite piece of 5.11 gear is their pants – wish I would’ve discovered 5.11 long before they became a client as they are absolutely perfect for the photographer’s market. Unless I have to dress up for the shoot, I literally wear them on almost every assignment. I shoot from a low perspective a lot because I want to bring the sky into the frame or want to make the subject appear more powerful so my clothing, and pants especially, take an absolute beating. If it’s a cold environment or exceptionally rough, I will go with the Stryke or Apex pant, and if it’s a warmer set, I’ll opt for the Traverse because they’re so light, and they dry very quickly. I also really dig the 5.11 Taclite M-65 jacket. It’s also extremely durable for when I’m laying down to get a shot in tough terrain, and I regularly get compliments on how it looks as well, which is obviously a plus.
What’s in the bag? / Gear List
Firebase Combat Studies Group moral patch
TOAKS Titanium Long Handle Spoon with Polished Bowl
Canon Rebel XT pack (to keep the gear secure and padded inside the Rush 72)
Lens cleaning tool
Extra Canon 5d Mkiii battery
TOAKS Titanium 450ml Cup
Extra GLOCK 43 magazine
R.A.T.S. Rapid Application Tourniquet System
Ever Ready First Aid Israeli Bandage Battle Dressing First Aid Compression Bandage
Compact Wood Burning Backpacking Stove
Lexar Professional 800x CF memory cards
Canon 70-200 ii L IS 2.8 lens
Canon 5d Mkiii camera
Canon 24-105 L IS lens
Emergency sleeping bag
Mountain House dry packed meals
Solar Powered Battery USB for iPhone
Best Glide Adventurer Series Military Glass Signal Mirror
Wet Ones Wipes
Hold Fast Gear Camera Straps
Camping stove lighter
Berkey Sport Bottle Portable Water Purifier
Show us your loadout! Enter our photo contest for a chance to win a fully loaded RUSH24 pack including a flashlight, pouch, extra clothing and, of course, a patch. Winner will be chosen on Tuesday 3/8 at noon PT. Post your photo on Instagram or Twitter and use the hashtag #511loadout.