Camera Equipment for Travel PhotographyÖ a Sensible Approach

 

Excluding nature 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 vacation:

 

Items to Take

Comments

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 12-24mm

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 each camera

Absolutely needed for bracketing shots that will be blended in Photoshop and/or night shots.

Sturdy tripod

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 pouch

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 vertical format.

 

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 joe@usphotogroup.com, but please, no laptops as a suggested item.

 

Regards,

 

J.R.Votano

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