Travel Photography Gear

I’m a really fast packer. I can be packed and set to go at any point in less than ten minutes. And I pack super light too. A 4-day trip in a backpack.

Except.

Except when I’m taking my photography gear. Then, I need to debate, decide, pack, change it again and then throw up my hands, pack it all, realise it is too much and then cut down.

When I started photography (as a hobby), I used to travel with ONE lens – the standard 18-55mm. I didn’t realise what a great lens this was till I went back and started looking through my shoebox collection of photographs. Then I got the 18-200mm and this was my favourite travel lens. Yes, you cannot get a great bokeh. Yes, the lens has drawbacks. But my vision was different when I was traveling, and I sorely miss it (well, it is still around. Just has to be serviced badly).

In the past few months, I’ve been working with SIGMA lenses and I absolutely love these lenses. I could easily say that they’ve really spoiled me for other lenses. The only drawback is SIGMA’s 18-300mm lens – the essential do-it-all – doesn’t quite measure up to my trusty old 18-200mm lens. In any case, I’ve stopped using tele lenses during travel and I want to shoot with a fixed lens only. This is a challenge I set myself and has resulted in some frustration on the spot and some great shots. And some missed shots.

Plus, I do not allow myself more than 2 lenses at any given point, so I have to choose carefully. The 50mm is usually a standard. I love shooting portraits, and this works great for portraits and street. The second lens, these days, I generally debate between a wide or a zoom. Despite my recent spurt in landscape photography, that isn’t one of my genres. I like shooting gritty streets, the underbelly and the absolute absurd. I like shooting people, or elements of landscape that involve people. I recently had a chance to review the SIGMA 135mm F1.8 Art lens and absolutely loved it. (Then again, I’m yet to find a Sigma art lens that I don’t love). The flip side of this lens is the weight. It is over a kg and can get pretty damn heavy when you are hiking through the streets. Plus, since I go with my trust old Canon 7D, which is a crop sensor, I’ve an 80mm in the form on a 50mm. So I end up going with a wider lens (also since I’ve been traveling to places that call for wide lenses) like a 24mm or the 20mm.

I’m yet to invest in a GoPro. Not sure what exactly is holding me back. But I use the OnePlus a lot when I’m on the road for quick shots. The OnePlus 3T is quite fantastic, even in terms of manual settings. Plus I realised early on that a DSLR isn’t quite suitable for shooting on the go.

What’s in your Travel Gear Bag? Keen to hear!

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. bauer.casey says:

    I can sympathize with your dilemma. I also find myself packing and unpacking over and over again trying to decide what I will end up using to shoot with. I shoot film now almost exclusively, which also means that I have to decide which film stocks I want to use on my trip. I used to try and take all of my gear, but I found that it would simply just distract me and I would end up with less quality images. Now I normally travel with only one or two lenses, I always have with me my 28 mm 2.8 Nikkor Prime. Then I pick either an early 90s Nikkor 35-70 2.8, or a 70-210 4-5.6 from the same era depending on what I will be shooting.

    I definitely prefer older lenses made in Japan that have some heft to them. What I don’t like is carrying around a bunch of gear that I won’t be using. These lenses go on my Nikon F 100, usually loaded with a good black-and-white film or a low-speed slide or color film for landscapes. I always have a tripod with me, a remote shutter release, and my case of Lee filters. For me, the less gear I have with me the better, in this way I focus on the image and not on the gear, I know what focal length I am limited to and therefore look for images to work with that focal length.

    I enjoyed your post, thank you!

    1. Leia says:

      I’d love to shoot film, but availability of quality film is a challenge in my area. Worse is finding a good darkroom to develop the prints! I’m shooting a lot more with Sigma lenses, which offer great quality but can be quite heavy. I’m leaning more and more towards a 50mm or a 24mm, which offers the range for wide and some street. I really wish someone developed a good 18-200mm lenses, which was my default travel lens. Except, after the quality of Sigma lenses, I can’t really bear the quality of Canon 18-200mm

      1. bauer.casey says:

        I completely understand. I live 11months of the year in Central America, so I buy film, chemicals, and paper in the USA, and have a small basic darkroom in my apartment. Is it a hassle? Yes. Do I enjoy it ? Absolutely. However it is definitely not what I would recommend to most photographers.

        I also agree with you on sigma lenses, they are incredible. I have a 16-50 DC 2.8 lens for my digital camera, and it is a great lens, heavy, but crazy sharp. Due to the weight factor, I also would opt for a prime especially for street photography. I don’t shoot street very often, but a big camera and lens can be a bit of a deterrent.

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