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What’s In My Bag: A Lean & Mean Single Lens Kit For Sports Photography

Ali Gradischer (@a_gradischer) is a former Division I athlete-turned-sports photographer creating magic out of Portland, OR. The nitty-gritty is she's a one-woman creative photography studio using a Swiss-army-like-skillset of her formal arts education, and her previous life as a high-level competitive athlete, to create work that highlights the athletic experience both in, and out, of the competition spotlight. She gets the job done with a lean-and-mean kit for fast action htat's built around a pair of Sony Alpha 9 bodies and a single, all-purpose G Master zoom. We connected with her to learn more about the gear she uses and why and to get a look at what’s in her bag for sports photography.

Ali Gradischer's Sony Alpha sports photography kit

Division I athlete-turned-sports photographer Ali Gradischer gives us a look inside her high-speed, super-tight Sony Alpha kit for action.

Cameras

Sony Alpha 9 (x2): For all of my digital photography work, I’m currently shooting with two Sony Alpha 9 camera bodies. When I’m out in the field shooting a game, meet, or match, I’m using both camera bodies with different lenses in order to get all angles and aspects of the action. In the past, when I didn’t have two camera bodies, covering a game was really difficult because I had to switch out lenses during some of the peak action which was really cumbersome and counterproductive. Now having two Sony Alpha 9 camera bodies, I’m able to cover everything that’s happening seamlessly and with 20 fps, I rarely miss the important action that’s taking place in front of me. Having upgraded to the Sony Alpha 9 two years ago, it has completely changed the way I’ve been able to cover what I’m being hired to do. It has given me an enormous amount of confidence knowing that my gear is fully capable of capturing the peak action of any sporting event I take on. From the tracking autofocus, to the large files, and the smaller build of the body, I’m able to focus more on the kinds of shots that I want to create, and not worry about whether my shutter speed was able to keep up. For any sports photographer out there, this camera body is truly a delight!

Photo by Ali Gradischer. Sony Alpha 9. Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 G Master. 1/2000-sec., f/2.8, ISO 6400

Photo by Ali Gradischer. Sony Alpha 9. Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 G Master. 1/2000-sec., f/2.8, ISO 6400

Lens

Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 G Master: For me this lens is an absolute must and a complete workhorse. Because I like to run a pretty lean and mean photo kit, this lens is used for roughly 90% of the work I create at the moment. It’s fast, super sharp, has great versatility, and works in just about ANY situation. Something that I love with this lens is that I’m able to shoot a little wider if I want, and because the Sony file sizes are large enough, I’m able to have options for cropping later. Because I’m in the earlier stages of my sports photography career, investing in the right gear can take some time, but I can’t stress enough just how much this lens has leveled-up my photography work. Well worth the investment!

Photo by Ali Gradischer. Sony Alpha 9. Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 G Master. 1/2000-sec., f/3.5, ISO 200

Photo by Ali Gradischer. Sony Alpha 9. Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 G Master. 1/2000-sec., f/3.5, ISO 200

Accessories

ONA “The Monterey” Bag: When I was upgrading my camera kit, I really wanted a bag that was aesthetically pleasing to me (sorry black bags), but also could handle my gear. I’m all about efficiency, and this bag has been able to hold everything I need in a lean-and-mean setup.

BlackRapid Double Breathe Camera Strap: A relatively new addition for me, but this has also been a game changer in being able to switch between my cameras easily and comfortably. 

CotoPaxi Hip Pack: I wear this to almost every event I cover. I’m able to keep extra batteries, SD cards, my “shot list” notebook, and snacks tucked away so that I’m never needing to run back to the media room for anything.

Pelican SD Card Case: I’m an organization freak, so I love being able to have any and all of my SD cards with me during a game if I need them. This little case fits perfectly in my hip pack and is super lightweight.

Photo by Ali Gradischer. Sony Alpha 9. Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 G Master. 1/1600-sec., f/4, ISO 6400

Photo by Ali Gradischer. Sony Alpha 9. Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 G Master. 1/1600-sec., f/4, ISO 6400

Lacie 1TB Hard Drive: I save all of my work on multiple external hard drives and take them with me to all of my jobsites. Lately I’ve been designating one large hard-drive per year so that I’m able to organize my photos in a way that’s easy to find.

SD Card Adapter: I like to carry this little dongle with me as a backup measure in being able to deliver photos directly from in-camera to clients during the peak action of the game. 

APL Shoes: I’m a big believer in manifestation, and I bought these shoes right after the Tokyo Olympics (the colorway is inspired by the Olympic rings) with the goal of one day being able to shoot at an Olympic Games. Wearing these *super* comfy shoes remind me of the professional goals I’m working towards.

Notebook: I keep a small Field Notes notebook with me that holds all my sketches for different shots I’m looking to make for various sports. It’s helpful to refer back to this before an event to refresh myself.

Giottos Dust-Remover: I carry this little dust remover in my kit as a way to make sure all my lenses are clean and dust-free before each event. 

Media Pass: A key item! For any event that I shoot, especially multi-day competitions, I usually keep my credential tucked safely away in my backpack so that I know exactly where it is when preparing for the day.

Sirui Carbon Fiber Monopod: I love having this small, lightweight, and compact monopod handy for when I know I’ll be shooting with some big glass.

See more of Ali Gradischer’s work on Instagram @a_gradischer.

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