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Summer Travel Photography – Part 2

What’s in Your Camera Bag?

Summer snapshots from the Maldives. What's in your camera bag.
©2019 David Mark Erickson (Olympus Stylus 1: ISO 100, 6mm, 1/1000th at f/5.6)

In the previous post of this series, I discussed an important way of thinking about how to approach your summer travel photography. I pointed out that cameras are just tools and it is up to us as photographers, to know when and how to use the right tool for the right job, especially when it comes to smartphones or traditional digital cameras.

In this article I want to look at what’s in your camera bag. I’ll discuss some practical issues regarding preparing your equipment for a trip, especially when using DSLR and mirrorless systems. Continuing the metaphor of the camera as a tool, when traveling you need to give additional thought to what else to put into your tool bag. In this post I’ll cover the questions of: what to bring or not bring in your camera bag.

In a later post I will cover more preparation activities, including:

  • Strategies for managing memory cards,
  • Strategies for geolocate your images,
  • Research your destinations, and
  • Reviewing photos while traveling.

What to Bring/Not Bring

This is a big category and what’s in your camera bag very much depends on the kind of traveller you are and the type of trip you are planning for. That said, these are the questions that our clients regularly ask us about.

Tripod or monopod?

Let’s face it, tripods and monopods can be a real hassle to travel with. So, consider carefully if you want or need to bring one along. Tripods are great for any type of photography where you need to hold your shutter open longer or are dealing with low light situations. Tripods are especially good for landscape photos.

Monopods are a little easier to travel with but are not stable enough for long exposures. So, if you are doing anything like a timelapse, a panorama or using shutter speeds longer than ¼ second, you really should consider getting a tripod as the monopod won’t be practical in those scenarios.

Bottom line: do your research on your destination and know what kind of photography you want to engage in to help in making your decision.

Pro-tip: Bring three CDs with you (yes, we do mean old compact discs!) to stabilize the feet of your tripod legs when standing on sand or soft ground of any kind.

Batteries and Chargers

A general rule of thumb is to have 2 batteries with you at all times: one in the camera and one in your bag. How many more batteries you want to bring really depends on where you are going. The more remote your location and the less reliable electricity is, the more batteries you will want to bring. 

If you can reliably recharge all of your batteries every night then 2-3 batteries would be your minimum. Also consider purchasing a charger that allows you to charge more than one battery at a time. While 3rd party chargers are generally ok to purchase, we strongly recommend that you only use batteries from the camera manufacturer. 

Bottom line: 2 batteries + a charger + international travel adapters.

Pro-tip: Bring your own power strip and extension cord. Wall sockets can be limited and/or awkward to get to. Depending on the total number of devices you need to recharge, a power strip can make all the difference in getting all your batteries recharged overnight!

Lens Accessories

Nearly every lens sold comes with a lens hood and a front and rear protective cap. A lens hood does two things: it protects the lens from physical damage and it helps to prevent lens flare.

Greek Columns with Lens Flare. What's in your camera bag
Lens Flare ©2018 D.A.Wagner

When light strikes a lens, the light reflects around the interior of the lens, creating something we call lens flare. Lens flare can add a creative look to a photo, but it is also very very difficult to remove in post production. The hood is specially designed to help prevent light hitting at an angle and creating the effect.

For the same reasons, bringing your lens caps and camera body caps is very important. They’re key to help protect your lens and camera body from the inevitable bangs and bumps and dust and dirt that you’ll encounter on the road.

Bottom line: Those lens accessories you give little thought to become essential tools while on the road. Don’t leave them behind!

Lens Filters

Camera bodies come and go but lenses are forever 😉 Seriously, lenses are the most important part of your investment in your system. It pays to take care of them. So, we recommend using clear or UV filters.

Most importantly, a filter will help protect the special coating on the front of the lens. Every time a lens is cleaned, small abrasions and scratches are created. Eventually all of the coating will be removed and degrade the quality of the lens. A front filter will keep dirt and dust off the actual lens so you’re never forced to touch the front element.

A clear or UV filter can protect your lens from damage. What's in your camera bag.

Additionally, filters can project a lens from physical damage. A filter can absorb an impact or scratch, saving the lens itself. Better to replace a $20 filter than a $2000 lens!

If you’re interested in a deeper discussion on the filter vs. no filter debate, I found this video to be very helpful: https://youtu.be/J8hAKgwWj9A

Bottom-line: Spend what you want on a filter but, don’t travel without something on the front of all your lenses!

Pro-tip: Newer digital lens coatings better handle lens flare and UV light, but still need protection. So either a clear or UV filter will do the job just the same for a DSLR or mirrorless camera.

Conclusion

As a general rule of thumb, when traveling, it is always better to only take *only* what you need. Less stuff in your travel bags means you can give your focus to being where you are and not worrying about managing all your things. However, this is easier said than done because we need to plan for unexpected circumstances! 

With a little planning and forethought we can find the right balance of what’s in your camera bag. In the next part of this series we will give some more thought to …

  • Strategies for managing memory cards
  • Strategies for geolocate your images,
  • Research your destinations, and
  • Reviewing photos while traveling

Let us know in the comments below if you have any tips or tricks for how you like to prep! Or, with anything you see anything that we missed!

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