What’s in Your Bag? SmugMug’s Ivan Makarov, AKA Uncle Scrooge and G+ Superstar

We’ve always said that we love photography, but how can you tell it’s true? We’re busting at the seams with our crazy obsession for all things photo, and some of the most gear-minded folks on our team wanted to bust open their bags and show you what exactly they’re hauling around this year. Or this week. This minute. (You know how it is!)

Today we interviewed Ivan Makarov, SmugMug’s Controller. Since his official title is scarier than sand in a focus ring, we just call him “Uncle Scrooge.” Ivan’s been taking hauntingly beautiful black and white photos for years before he came to SmugMug, and he’s showing us what it takes to capture those now.

Not just Ivan’s! We’ll feature future interviews by fellow SmugMug gearaholics to cover the rest of this luscious lineup.

Why did you pick the setup that you have?

It took me a few years to put my setup together. I wanted to cover all focal lengths I usually shoot with sharp lenses, and I also wanted it all to fit into a backpack so I can take pictures both in the urban and nature setting. I shoot nature, I shoot architecture, and occasionally I shoot people. So this setup allows me to cover it all.

What’s your #1, go-to, must-have, desert-island item?

I shoot the most with 85mm f/1.4. It’s super sharp, and I’m in love with how it renders out-of-focus areas. The reason why I shoot with that lens a lot is because I have a house full of kids (three little clowns!), so I shoot them all the time. It’s a perfect lens to capture their little lives and faces.

What’s the rarely-seen underdog in your pack?

I hardly ever use a macro lens I own. I knew it from the start and was on the fence about buying it for years. That’s why I went with a Tamron version rather than a Nikon version – I knew I’d shoot with it very rarely. That turned out to be true, but this lens by Tamron is actually pretty good.

Are you an off-brand kinda guy?

I own a Sigma lens and a Tamron lens. They aren’t build as well as Nikon glass, but good enough for a lot of situations, and are often cost half the price.

Confession time! What’s your worst gear fail story?

I was once shooting a portrait of a nephew on the beach using off camera flash. A rogue wave came in, sending fully charged flash into the water. It electrocuted me, and fried the flash right away.

Show us one of your favorite shots and what you used to get it.

This shot was taken with a 80-200mm lens. I wanted to get closer to the pilings, and also get the Bay Bridge in the background.

To end on a dreamy note, what’s at the top of your wish list?

I would upgrade my Sigma 24-70mm with the Nikon 24-70mm. The Sigma is very soft at f/2.8 and is very slow to  autofocus. I do shoot with it quite a bit because it’s pretty sharp after f/5.6. Nikon’s version costs five times as much but the upgrade is probably worth it.

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I'm a freelance documentary photographer who loves travel, rangefinders, medium format film photography, and everything in-between.

2 thoughts on “What’s in Your Bag? SmugMug’s Ivan Makarov, AKA Uncle Scrooge and G+ Superstar”

    1. Thanks Scott. My overall experience with Sigma has been positive. For example, my first non-kit lens years ago was 10-20mm wide angle, and I loved it till the day I accidentally left somewhere in the field while changing it and not putting it away in the bag. I can see why they’ve seen upgraded the models of 24-70mm – the older version I was using just didn’t have the sharpness and good contrast.

      Since writing the post, I’ve upgraded to Nikon’s 24-70mm, and I couldn’t be happier.

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