I'm surprised at how similar many photographers are. The ones who have really made a name for themselves already have their unique styles and don't need to care about what other photographers use in terms of gear and accessories. But many 'almost-there' up and coming photographers seem to use the same software, the same equipment, the same name brands and the same techniques.
I'm finding that not only can I not always afford to do what everyone else is doing, but frankly it's just not me. And I'm definitely not going to buy a $900 Really Right Stuff tripod when I've got kids at home and in college. With that in mind, I'm going to point to a few really good items that I love for my business:
First, here's my tripod. It's Sunpak, not a name usually synonymous with professional photography (like Gitzo, Really Right Stuff, Vanguard or Manfrotto). The Sunpak Pro 423PX carbon fiber tripod with a pistol grip ball head really works for me. The tripod itself is solid but light enough to take hiking, and it comes with an incredibly comfortable carrying case that mounts over your shoulder like Legolas' quiver of arrows. But it's also small enough to strap onto your backpack for hikes and excursions. I love the pistol-grip ball head. It's so much easier for me to maneuver my DSLR on this ball head with the pistol grip.. very fast, responsive... I love it.
Next is my LowPro Photo Sport 200 AW backpack. This thing is awesome and it works for me. it's weather and rain-proof, has lots of storage for clothes, water, food, keys, etc., and has great straps for my Capture Clip (which I will address in this post). This is a great hiking backpack, especially if you're going to be shooting waterfalls or getting grimy. Very, very comfortable. I use this backpack when I'm drudging through caves, national parks or long walks and hikes, especially overnighters.
For my camera, this is my most-utilized strap... the BlackRapid Strap for Women. It can be easily adjusted so it hangs securely in the back without swinging (much) but the main features are it's comfort, how accessible it makes the DSLR and how is solves the problem of having a hands-free experience. NO MORE PAINFUL NECK STRAPS FOR ME! This thing is genius. And even though the strap attaches through the camera's tripod mount on the bottom of my Canon, it is quickly and easily unscrewed if I need to use a tripod.
For occasions when I need my camera close to my body, the Capture Camera Clip by Peak Design LTD is perfect. This solves the problem of safe carrying of my DSLR when I need immediate access to it but don't want it in my backpack. It's perfect for hiking, cave excursions, mountain climbing, biking, running or any situation in which you need to have your hands available for safety and balancing reasons. This Capture Clip securely snaps onto your belt, backpack strap, etc.... Imagine hiking through the 4 day long Milford Track in New Zealand. This is what I will have hanging on the front of my backpack with my Canon attached. Heck, if they use it in the military, you know it's good.
Finally, my newest exciting find is the Continuous LED Lights from Manfrotto. Recently I was in another city and had the opportunity to hike through a cave that led to an underground waterfall. The darkness and odd lightly was so unruly that I could barely get a good shot, although that was also due to the quickness of the guided tour I was on. The experience left me so frustrated that I've vowed to find a solution so as to never be in that situation again. And I believe I've found it: LED continuous lighting. it is affixed to the hot shoe of the camera and emits the perfect amount of light so as to not wash out the face or subject in the shot while leaving everything else completely dark. Instead, I can set the shutter speed and aperture concentrating on the surroundings and background while lighting the person or thing closest to me in the perfect balance of illumination. Essentially, it allows me to test through the viewfinder the right balance instead of being surprised at how the shot turns out with a flash. Although this LED Continuous Light can act as a flash as well. I truly wish I had one of these babies before my excursion...
Now when I show up for a media event, I do get stares because I'm toting my BlackRapid Strap instead of a Canon neck strap or a Continuous LED Light instead of a typical flash (depending on the event). But honestly, I don't care. I'm comfortable and have found what works for ME, and when my counterparts aren't able to do much with the awful lighting in some of the locations we are sent to, I know that I have exactly what works for me and my end result speaks for itself.
And you should find what works uniquely for you, not what people think a photographer is 'supposed to have'.