for Travel PhotographyÖ a Sensible Approach
photographers, who already know what they need for equipment, most of us
average travelers just throw together what we have for equipment and are
off. Whether we take too much or too little is sort immaterial. So, what
do we take for camera equipment? For me itís simple, take sufficient
camera equipment and some backup paraphernalia to ensure that I bring
back all of my raw files that I just shot over last two to four weeks.
I am continually puzzled by those photographers who think they have to
take the kitchen sink with them; e.g., a laptop, four or five lenses, as
if the more equipment guarantee better images. The puzzler is the
laptop. I thought this was a vacation! Digital photography
has simplified the problem somewhat, we no longer have to decide what
film to take for different situations.
I am convinced the key to
capturing good images is having flexibility when composing and, of
course, a good eye. You have to feel free to move, bend, crouch, get on
your knees, or any gyrations you have to go through to compose before
clicking the shutter. What about a tripod some will say. Tripods are
fine if the shutter speed is too slow, but, in my opinion, using it
definitely dampens your creative flexibility when composing a shot
except may be when photographing landscapes or cityscapes. Some
photographers would say the opposite; you need to use a tripod all the
time. Well, each to his own as the saying goes.
I have found that a VR
(vibration reduction) lens can do much to prevent "Camera shake" on
those slower exposures.
Ok, I think you may start to
see my thoughts on flexibility; less is better. Well, whatís less?
Itís not so much "less", as what is optimal, taking into consideration
bad things can happen to digital camera equipment and storage media.
Here is my list of what to take when on a non-nature photo-travel
Items to Take
Two camera bodies, both dSLRs
Absolutely need two. If one breaks for
whatever reason, you need a backup
Three zoom lenses
Zooms can freeze up and break. It
happens. You need a back-up lens.
A wide angle lens , 10-22mm or
Absolutely necessary for architectural
shots and restricted positioning shots.
Two VR zoom lenses. One at least
from 18-200mm (half frame) or 28-300mm (full frame) and
another is a backup, zoom lens as well. Most of us have our
favorite zoom lens. But without taking two zoom lenses or at
least a fixed focus lens, you could be asking for problems
downstream. Ken Rockwell (http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/10-best.htm)
has rated the 18-200mm VR one of 10 best lens put out by
Nikon- Why?-flexibility-I could not agree more.
I am biased to the Nikon 18-200mm or
Canon 28-300mm for their incredible flexibility for
composing. They are reasonably sharp. Zoom lensess can
freeze up or stop auto-focusing or just get damaged. Here
you are mostly covered even if the wide angle fails for
whatever reason with 18 or 28mm and up zoom.
A minimum of two batteries for each
camera and chargers
No explanation needed
Circular polarizer, a UV filter,
and an optional filter, a neutral density 4X. I recommend a
polarizer always be on at least one zoom lens. It may
not be needed on overcast days but even then, it helps to
enhance color saturation and reduce annoying glare.
Need at least one polarizer on a zoom
lens and the UV on say wide angle. Usually it best to have
circular polarizer and UV lens for at one zoom lens. Neutral
density 4X is useful for blurred motion on sunny day- but
thatís an optional filter to take.
Flash cards- minimum of six to
eight 2 Gb cards. Carry them in a pouch- they are easy to
misplace or lose.
Why 2 instead of 4 Gb? Flash cards can
fail even in the camera or you lose one. Well, ití all about
reducing your losses. Lose a 4Gb card, you lose twice as
many images than with a 2Gb card. Thatís why it is better to
spread information around by using 2Gb cards.
One back-up storage drive, 80 or
120Gb. If you travel to undeveloped areas, two is better.
Wolverine and Epson make good portable storage drives which
allow you to view your stored images and do not require an
external card reader or computer, take SD of flash cards.
Hard drives can fail suddenly even new
ones with 100 or so operating hours on it. If youíre in an
industrialized country, no problem. Either one can buy new
flash cards or a new portable hard drive.
Cable, or remote, release for
Absolutely needed for bracketing shots
that will be blended in Photoshop and/or night shots.
People worry about putting expensive
tripods ($250 & up) through with their luggage so they
settle for a light weight, inexpensive kind- thatís foolish.
Usually good, sturdy tripods can be dissembled and stuck in
your luggage. Ask any TSA employee how many times they
detect tripods in luggage- lots of times. I did.
An umbrella or waterproof camera
I prefer an umbrella with a tripod when
it rains. I find a waterproof camera pouch too
awkward to deal with.
Lens cleaning brush, paper,
cleaning solution, and a small flashlight.
No explanation needed except the
flashlight. Itís invaluable when taking nights shots to
examine the camera settings. and to assist your autofocus.
How much does all this
equipment weigh? The total pack, including a sturdy camera bag, tripod
and umbrella is well under the 26 pound limit for carry-on luggage on
most airlines- thatís fine with me!
On the Street.
In the cities, villages or
wherever you visit, get into the habit of carrying two cameras; one with
a wide angle and one with a zoom lens. I usually hand hold the
camera with the zoom lens and strap the wide angle one around my neck
and over my shoulder so itís sitting on my back, out of sight. Why
advertise you're coming to grab some shots of the locals. Plus, I
compose a lot in the vertical format to frame vertical objects or just
to restrict the scene to remove distractions especially other tourists.
A camera strung around you neck is not conducive to composing in the
As for using a wide angle
when walking around, I cannot stress its importance enough. It really
helps when you are in a confined space- no room to maneuver backwards or
to the side. Images A and B from our photo-travel guides (http://www.usphotogroup.com/Travel/Travel_Slideshows.htm)
give you a good idea of what I mean. When I composed Image A there were
cars parked in front of the town meeting hall in Chipping Campden and
all I had was about 6 to 8 feet in front of the building. Without a wide
angle (12mm), it would have been impossible to get the height in the
image to bring in the V-shaped section of the sky.
In Image B, a wide angle shot
at 12mm taken at the Louvre, I captured the full diamond shaped
structure of the supporting walls in the main entrance. Without a 12mm
wide angle, the up and down vertex elements would have been truncated
making the image much less dramatic and definitely imbalanced, no
closure to the shape.
Well, I may have missed
something on my list of items to take that you think is important. If
so, let me know at
email@example.com, but please, no laptops
as a suggested item.