TRAVEL TIPS // Pack Your Bags :: Part 1 – Camera Gear

I mentioned last week that I’ve been asked a good bit over this year lots of questions revolving around how I travel and what gear I take and so on.  I figured it might be helpful to put a lot of those questions into a blog form for others who may be wondering.

I’ve taken a bunch of the questions I’ve received and compiled them into several blogposts. Today let’s start with Camera gear.

I’ve been asked tons of questions specifically on what gear I travel with.  As mentioned last week I posted my master gear list HERE.  You can have a look there at my gear.  If you have any questions over a specific piece of gear, I’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have just shoot me an email or leave me a comment below.  But today I wanted to take a different approach than listing specific gear I take.  The fact is, every assignment is different and therefore it may require different equipment. So instead of talking specific gear… let’s explore a few guidelines.

1.  Take the gear you are comfortable with
It can be very easy to want to buy a bunch of new gear before a trip or assignment.  You need the latest thing to make this assignment really work is the thought creeping in your mind.  New gear can be good.  But I would say don’t take it if you don’t have time to become comfortable with it.  If your client expects you deliver, experimenting with a new piece of gear on a job especially if you might be in some remote village might not be the best option.  Instead take the gear you know.  The gear you are comfortable with.

2.  Take what you need
You will hear me throughout this series talk about traveling light.  And it’s true.  The more I travel, the more I want to travel light.  However, in the effort to travel light it is imperative that you don’t neglect needed tools to do your job well.  Be sure and take every piece of gear that you will need to successfully complete your assignment.  If it may be raining make sure you have protective gear.  Make sure you have enough memory cards, storage space, the right lenses, etc.  Make a checklist and check it twice.

There are a few things that for me are essentials but might not be thought about a lot:

  • Back ups.  Having back ups on just about everything in this field is essential and necessary.  I always carry at least 2 camera bodies when I’m shooting for someone, a lot of the time 3.  Backups goes for just about everything.  Camera bodies, computer drives and files, batteries, battery chargers, cables, plugs, etc. Always plan for the worst and hope for the best.  You are being paid to deliver great images.  You have to think through all the possible situations that might hinder and be prepared.  I will do a separate post in the future on backups with some stories from this past year.
  • Tripod.  I don’t use a tripod for a lot of my normal still photography.  However, I use it a ton for night photography, long exposures, time lapses, and for video.  The more video becomes a usual component of my assignments the more important it will be.  Taking something that is light but make sure you have a good sturdy one that will hold you camera and also withstand some wind.  I use a Gitzo GT1541T and I love it.  It’s super light and compact and works great.
  • Along with my pocket Moleskin journals I also take a little voice recorder to record notes to journal later.  I will also use it to record names of people I’m photographing along with the image file.  This is great when editing to be able to recall someone’s name if you forget.
  • Screen cloth.  These have been lifesavers for me. I use all them all the time for my camera and computer screens, viewfinders, lenses (or the UV filter really), and the iPhone and iPad screens.
  • Easy Release App for iPhone. This is a great app that makes model & property releases super easy to record on the go.  It costs $9.99 but it is worth it.  Highly recommend.  I believe it is also available for android.  Another thing you might want consider is carrying a stamp pad a a few printed copies of your model release so that if you are somewhere and a person can’t write their name they can use their thumbprint.

3.  Don’t take what you don’t need.
If you don’t think you will use it, or you can probably do without it, or it’s in your bag because “hey this might be cool to use”… You will more than likely wish you had left it behind.  Now, keep in mind that for me, I typically am traveling alone.  A lot of times I’m headed to extremely remote villages and taking a lot of gear just becomes a hassle. In addition I find I end up using the minimalist of things when I get there.  A lot of this is preference.  There are a lot of times when I’m out shooting in the day I just use 1 or 2 lenses (my 16-35mm and my 50mm make up about 70-75 percent of the images I’ve taken this year).  Traveling with tons of camera gear, lenses, lights, and other equipment begins to weigh you down after awhile.  They more I travel, the lighter I tend to want to go.  And this is from the guy who is always over prepared.  I want to have everything just in case.

Again if you want to see what is actually in my camera and gear bags you can view/download my master list here.

These are just some random things I’ve learned along the way. If you have any tips you’ve learned feel free to share with everyone else.  We’d love to hear from you.