What you bring with you on a getaway can make or break your trip. This is especially true if you’re packing photography gear. Shirts, shorts, and sunscreen are relatively easy to pick up if forgotten but lenses, filters, and other gear are not. Packing all of your photography equipment, though, isn’t the answer. In fact, I’ve found less gear is better. Unless you’re traveling specifically to photograph a destination, there’s nothing worse than having to lug an extra 15 pounds of photography equipment around. Here’s the photography gear that comes with me when I travel.
1. DSLR Camera Body
I strongly recommend picking up either a Canon or Nikon DSLR body. Prices have dropped dramatically in the past few years and the functionalities provide a level of control unmatched by point-and-shoot cameras. Learning the basics of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO will enable you to capture dramatically better photos. If you’re looking for something more lightweight, take a look at the new mirrorless cameras. These provide the same level of control and quality but at a fraction of the weight. I’m a Canon guy through-and-through (Nikon users, I can hear you hissing!) and I shoot with a Canon Rebel XSi. It’s an older body with a cropped sensor but it’s lightweight and rugged so it’s great for traveling. An equivalent body today is the Canon Rebel T5i.
2. One Lens
Packing multiple lenses is what gets most of us into trouble. Even one extra lens can dramatically increase the total weight of a bag and the added worry—both of protecting the extra lens and switching lenses while on the go—is rarely worth it. Packing a great multipurpose walk around lens, though, can be a challenge in and of itself. For most, I recommend a variable (or zoom) lens with a low f-stop. The variability of the focal length provides easy flexibility while the low f-stop ensures the lens can capture great images even in low light situations. Canon’s Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 lens is one good candidate. I personally prefer fixed focus—or prime—lenses and exclusively bring Canon’s 40mm f/2.8 pancake lens with me on our getaways. The fixed focal length makes me work for a shot—forcing me to move around to frame the subject—while dramatically minimizing the overall size and weight of the lens. I’ve already written a full post dedicated to this lens, so I’ll not spend too much time on it here.
3. Two Filters
You can conceivably pack a whole collection of filters without adversely impacting the overall weight of your gear bag. Personally, I bring only two filters with me: the Hoya HD2 UV filter stays on the 40mm lens at all times while the Hoya HD2 circular polarizer filter stands by for those times when I want to add a bit more punch to a shot.
In addition to the above, I pack three extra rechargeable batteries for the Canon Rebel XSi as well as 2 32GB Class 10 SD cards. If I know I’ll be shooting for extended periods of time, I’ll sometimes bring along the Canon BG-E5 Battery Grip. This puts two batteries into the camera, bulks up the body, and gives me extended controls for portrait shooting. Of course, it comes with an added cost in weight.
Capturing your travels in great photographs doesn’t require a lot of gear. Traveling light with only the essentials is often times the best way to get some great shots without hindering the experience with added weight and worry.