Wednesday, August 1, 2012

What Photo Gear To Take When Traveling

Have you been thinking about what gear to take on vacation? I read an interesting article this week at The Digital Photography School House (DPS) on this vary subject and it got me thinking about what I tend to take when I travel. Generally speaking I prefer to keep my gear list as short as possible when on vacation, while still covering the subjects that I am most likely to encounter or focus on. The following is post is filled with what I would take, and some tips for how to prepare for travel photography.

At home I have two camera bags, a shoulder bag for general photography, and a backpack that I primarily use for wildlife shooting. While having two bags for different tasks works well at home, taking both of them is not always practical for traveling, because I need room to pack other stuff in my car, like food, a tent, cookware and other assorted camping gear. Choosing which bag to take depends on what kind of trip I'm on. For example, if I am going to be doing a lot of walking or hiking to reach the subject matter a backpack is more comfortable to use. On the other hand, if I am going to be shooting within a short distance of my car, using the shoulder bag is easier. If I have room after all my other gear is packed, I like take both bags, because you can easily encounter both situations when you are traveling.

Travel Gear List:
This is a minimalist list of what I would take on a given vacation. If I was on a photo assignment I would take everything. The reason for keeping the kit small is so that everything can go in one primary bag, which as noted earlier, might be all that I can take with me. I keep my backup camera in a small shoulder bag.

  • Primary Camera: Nikon D700
  • Backup Camera: Nikon 1 V1 with kit 10-30mm lens and FT1 F mount adaptor 
  • Lenses: Nikon 24-70mm F2.8G, Nikon 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G VR
  • Backpack/Shoulder Bag: Lowepro Flipside 300 or Lowepro Classified 160AW
  • Tripod: Gitzo GT3531S w/ Markins Q-10 Ballhead and JOBY GorillaPod SLR-Zoom
  • Flash: Nikon SB-700 or SB-800 (depends on which bag I use)
  • Accessories: Various filters, memory cards (CF and SDHC), spare batteries, MB-D10 battery grip w/ AA batteries, Blackrapid RS4 shoulder strap and a mini LED flashlight.
Keep in mind that I am a serious photographer, so I tend to cary high end equipment with me whenever possible. You could easily travel with lower end gear, such as a mirrorless camera or advanced compact of some type as your primary camera and use a basic point and shoot or smartphone as a backup.

Things To Remember Before Traveling:

1. Camera Settings:
Make sure you set your camera to settings that are flexible, thus useful in a variety of situations. The last thing you want to do is have your camera setup for one particular thing. Why would that be an issue? If you happen to encounter something else while traveling, and you fiddling with settings at the last second, there is a possibility that you could miss the shot you want. If your camera has multipal settings banks and you have them setup for different situations this is less of an issue.

Also make sure you reset your ISO, White Balance and image quality settings to base or default settings, the last thing you want to end up doing is shooting a bright scene outdoors at ISO6400 (this is a non-issue if you use Auto ISO & Auto WB).

2. Batteries:
Make sure your camera, flash and other batteries are fully charged before you go. In addition, have at least one spare battery (or preferably a set) with you on vacation, especially if you shoot a lot or in are cooler climates. I generally take three batteries, one in the camera and two spares, because I often shoot in locations where recharging them is not an option. As an additional backup I bring the battery grip for my camera, along with the AA battery tray and rechargeable AA batteries.

3. Memory Cards
Make sure you have uploaded all images from your memory cards, then backed them up. Next reformatted your memory cards (in the your camera) before leaving on any trip. By following those steps you insure that your older images are safe, and that you have empty cards ready to go at all times while traveling.

For extended trips, where you can use a notebook computer or a iPad/tablet, follow the above advice and then work with your cards as usual. If you know you wont be able to backup your images from your cards for an extended period (a week or more) make sure you bring as many memory cards with you as possible. Use previous vacations as a guide for how many images you make on a daily basis. Figure out how many images you take on average, per day, then bring cards as necessary. If you need to buy more cards to ensure you have enough space, buy and test them ahead of time. The last thing you want to deal with while you are away is a bunch of new memory cards that are defective.