Travel Photography Tip #5 – What’s in my bag?

A few days ago, I went to a presentation on travel photography gear, where 6 advanced amateur photographers talked about what photographic kit they did (and didn’t) take with them on their travels. Their kits varied from “moderately spartan” to “everything and the kitchen sink”, but it got me thinking it may be a useful topic to discuss. (Point-n-shoot users, read this and appreciate the lightness of your gear!)

 Travel Photography Tip #5 – What’s in my bag?

First of all, it’s important to remember this is very much horses for courses – your gear will need to suit both you and your style, as well as the purpose and subject matter of your trip. That said, here’s what I normally take in my camera bag on a ‘generic’ trip:

  1. My camera: Currently the Canon 7D
    Picture of a flamenco dancer, Granada, Spain
  2. My all-purpose lens: for me, this is the 24-105 f/4, which lives on the camera probably 60-70% of the time, and gives me a reasonable range of focal lengths to chose from.
  3. My church-museum-and-low-light lens: a fast prime, currently a 50mm f/1.8 and/or a 35mm f2.0. Very small, very light – combined they take up less space in my bag than any other lens (and they are comparatively cheap as well!), are relatively inconspicuous, and they let me take pictures in light that other lenses struggle with. (The flamenco picture to the right was taken with a fast prime, due to the low light.)
  4. My fit-everything-in lens: An optional extra, depending on where I am going, but still included more often than not. For me, this is a Sigma 10-20mm. Very useful when you want to show the full breadth of a scene, whether a landscape, architecture, or bustling street scene, but can pose a few compositional challenges until you get used to it.
  5. My backup camera: a small point-and-shoot, for when I can’t or won’t take the ‘big’ camera, as well as providing some redundancy in case of camera failure.

I also have a cheap, small laptop (the smallest and cheapest I could find) two small hard drives, and an assorted mess of chargers, spare batteries, spare cards, and a card reader. This all fits into a small(ish) camera backpack (overhead-locker safe, even for small planes), along with wallet, phone, books, drinks, etc. It does not, unfortunately, leave much room for shopping – whether that’s a good or bad thing probably depends on your point of view 🙂

What about you – what’s in your bag when you travel?

(Read more Travel Photography Tips on Journey Photographic here)

24 thoughts on “Travel Photography Tip #5 – What’s in my bag?

  1. This one always get’s the opions differing on those photo sites often filled with inflated ego’s and those who spend too much time annalyzing lab condition lens tests that mean nothing in the real world, and very little time actually shooting. I steer clear these days as it can often become quite a heated debate, and doesn’t need to. What you say is absolutely right, we all have different needs, and what’s right for one person isn’t for another, and it’s fascinating to read your list of gear.

    I recently tried a do-it -all travel lens at 28-300mm f/4.5-6.3 VR stabilization, that offered the opportunity of less lenses on a long haul trip….. and I sold it because it was terrible. Rapidly hitting f/6.3 with the merest focal length, soft wide open, soft after 200mm, I hated it and went back to my ancient film lens 75-300 which is far superior in my opinion.

    My needs differ with the shoot I’m going on, naturally like most people, but for example, in a months time I’m flying back home to BC, Canada to see my family and stay for a month, so I’m travelling with the kitchen sink.. ha ha.

    Lowepro 300AW beastie bag to lug it all about.

    Nikon D700 full frame
    Nikkor AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED IF ultra wide 114 degree view for close ups and landscapes
    Nikkor AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G ED IF for walkabout
    Nikkor AF 75-300mm f/4.5-5.6 23 year old film lens for distance, and funnily enough a great walkabout lens too.

    Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.4G fast prine for landscape, portrait and low light urban/street shots
    Nikkor AF-S 85mm f/1.8 fast prime for same as above. Razor sharp, nice bokeh, great focal length

    I’ve got a couple of other lenses that might also make the journey and although some of them cover similar focal lengths to others, it’s the way that each individual lens captures the light and the image that makes a difference to me, the bokeh and colour rendition, hence I like them all for different reasons.

    Then the Nikon GP-1 gps which goes everywhere with me as I love to know exactly where I was when in Canadian or American mountains, towns, out of reach locations.

    Plus a bunch of Manfrotto tripod gear, three Nikon batteries as back up and the usual myriad of 16GB CF cards. I just need a willing Sherpa to lug it all about for me… ha ha.

    • Gear always seems to open a bag of worms for some people, that’s one of the reasons I don’t really focus on it here. It’s the end product that matters, not what you used to make it. That said, I do get questions sometimes, so figured it might be of interest to people.

      I was wondering if anyone had tried one of those ‘superzoom’ travel lenses – I thought about it, but then I found a second-hand 24-105 and went that way instead. It suits me, and your experience aligns with what I’ve heard from other people on the topic, so I don’t think I’ll change any time soon.

      That’s the nice thing about going to visit friends and family – you can take more stuff, and sometimes you can even convince them to be a Sherpa for you 🙂

      Very interesting to read your list, thank you!

  2. Glad to hear I’m not the only one who travels with all of that ‘gear’!!! And- I’m of the school of thought that it’s less about the equipment itself..and more about the person behind it.

  3. Depending on exactly where I’m going, or more importantly how I’m travelling… I tend to be a kitchen sink kinda person.. lol.. complete with tripod and a selection of 4 lenses… filters.. flashes.. cards.. batteries.. chargers.. Mostly though when I hit a location, I’ve a quite specific set of shots in mind, and will tend to leave the un-required elements of kit safely locked away in the car or room… I’m never very far away from my trusty Sigma 10-20 though…

  4. I like to keep it as light and stripped down as possible. – Nikon D7000 and 3 primes – 24mm f2.8, 35mm f2 (my most used, since it gives me about 50mm on the crop sensor) and the 50mm f1.4. I never take a computer on holiday – don’t have a laptop – but do have 2 HDDs for backup. Extra batteries, charger, card reader and cards.

    I am tempted to get one of the new Android tablets out for some quick n dirty processing on the go if I need it – but being a perpetual late comer in the technology space, I’ll probably end up picking one up when the rest of the world has moved on to whatever else is there 😀

    • All primes, huh? I don’t process anything as I go, my ultra-cheap laptop struggles even opening Firefox let alone running any sort of image processing software. Sometimes I think it would be nice, but then, I also enjoy the surprise when I get home 🙂

  5. Good topic…I currently carry my Canon 500D (soon to be the much larger and heavier 5D!), 24-105m f4.0 which also stays glued to my camera most of the time, 50m f1.8, 430EXII flash and diffuser, batteries and all the other normal accessories…and now 2 memory cards!! I recently lined up a great shot onto to see “no memory card” flash on the screen when I released the shutter. I’m hoping to add a super wide angle and 85m prime to my kit, so may not be much room for clothes anymore 😉

  6. Nice subject you have broached here. Horses for courses – indeed:

    The camera 500D is always the first item. Then battery charger and two spare batteries. 16Gb on board and same in reserve. The bag also contains the basic cleaning kit, a polarizer and ND for the 50mm.

    Over time I have rationalised my lenses – remaining 50mm f/1.4, 16-35mm and the trusty 100-400 IS (all are Canon).

    The 50mm travels with me all the time, except when I do long distance by foot. Then it stays behind.

    The 16-35mm is a building, landscape and people shooter. So, if I travel to europe, family weekend and stuff like that – it goes with me.

    The 100-400 is with me whenever I go nature. Last year I attended a course (tracking lions and such) and only had the camera, this lens and a spare battery with me. We walked up to 20km per day.

    I have a Nisan flash that accompanies the 50mm most of the time. On night drives, it goes with the 100-400.

    I believe the bag that you use could be of importance. I have a rucksack variant that can swing forward to hang in front of you like a server on two supporting straps. When I carry any combination of what I mentioned, there is room to spare. It has space for a notebook/laptop, but then I do everything when I get home. This leave me time for beers and socialising.

    • Yup, it’s important to tailor what you take to what you are looking to shoot. You’d definitely need a long lens for tracking lions! Your bag is important, especially if you are carrying it on your back for long periods of time. I went through three before I found one that suited me and my style.

      Making time for beers and socialising is an important benefit of not processing on the road 🙂

  7. I don’t think it really matters what camera you use.

    I’ve taken all kinds of cameras with me when travelling, from D300, Trip 35, Hasselblad, OM10, Holga – none of them was really “better” than another, just a different perspective, weight and hassle factor. The only genuinely ‘bad’ one was a Canon Ixus APS film camera, it was slow, didn’t have a good focal range and the resolution of the film was pretty poor.

    If I have to take my D300 anywhere, I’ll use the Sigma 10-20 and my 50mil f1.8

    Going forwards, I’ve just got a Panasonic LX5, which is an awesome little thing – It’ll probably replace all my other travel camera choices this year.

    • Yeah, I think people get way to hung up on the hardware side of things. It’s the person behind the camera that really matters. That said, I do find it interesting what people take – there are so many alternatives, and I think it provides an interesting insight into how people think about their photography.

      Glad you like the LX-5, since I’ve just bought one to replace my much-loved and now sadly-defunct Lumix – hopefully it will arrive soon and I’ll be able to take it on my next trip to get a feel for it.

      • The LX-5 is pretty good – its fast, has good battery life and focus is accurate.

        My tips for it – shoot RAW, dont take it above ISO 800, if you shoot JPG, remove the noise reduction on the film mode setting (or the images get really smeary), turn off image preview after shoot (or you lock the camera up for the preview duration) stick it on Aperture priority and shoot away. The only downside is that images can be a little cool, but its easily corrected.

  8. Very similar set up with digital pc processing on the move
    http://latreloar.wordpress.com/2010/04/03/cook-islands-rarotonga-%E2%80%A6-%E2%80%A6-my-survival-kit/. However, camera gear Pentax K20D & 10D for spare, Sigma 10-20, Tamron 17-50 2.8, Sigma 30mm 1.4, Pentax 50mm 1.4, Pentax 135mm 2.8 & a Lensbay. Lord, sounds a lot doesn’t it, but the primes are my love above them all. Now, on the verge after many years of getting a Canon 5D, full frame beckons!

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