Perfect travel shots? – Get to know your gear

I take my camera everywhere. I have a small point and shoot in the car, an iPhone in my pocket, and an assortment of bodies and lenses to choose from for my more serious pursuits. I believe this is a very visual world and I fully subscribe to the motto that a picture is worth a thousand words. Corny I know, but there’s more than a dollop of truth behind that saying.

That being said, the difficulty is always, what do I take, where?

When traveling there’s a few items I always try to take, space permitting;

  • a DSLR
  • a multipurpose lens to go with my DSLR
  • a small specialized lens for specific purposes such as a macro lens
  • a compact (point and shoot) camera
  • spare batteries
  • spare memory cards
  • chargers
  • cables
  • card reader(s)
  • computer (if weight permits, if not, more memory)
  • may take a flash (again depends on time, space and reasons for trip)
  • sturdy tripod
  • iPhone

There’s a reason for each item on my list.

Taking a DSLR suits my need to take high-end images for print and exhibition purposes. I used to take my MKII everywhere I went until it was stolen while I was on vacation in Chile, so now I’m chumming up to my new Canon 5D MKIII. My preferred multipurpose lens is the hardy 24 – 105mm. The zoom function up to 105mm makes it a very convenient lens to have in your bag and at 24mm it takes a reasonably good wide-angle shot. As well as this lens I may also take a “fast lens” with me. A “fast lens” is one that has a very wide aperture. This makes it possible to take shots in very low lighting situations often without the need for  a flash.

For my point and shoot camera I like the X100 by Fuji. It’s not really high-end or expensive however it works as if it is. It allows me to do everything I need to do both automatically (as most people do) and manually, where I have more control over the finished product and can be a bit more creative.
Sometimes when I’m traveling my compact camera might just sit in my bag for a few days and not get a workout. However more often than not there’s always a situation you meet that needs a small unobtrusive camera to get the work done. Sometimes a phone camera will do the trick but other times you need that slightly better quality and this camera delivers.

I always take more than one battery, usually 2 or 3 and plenty of spare memory cards I find essential. As for chargers; bring your standard fitting and if you’re going to be renting a car while on vacation consider  investing in a car charge adapter, a very useful tool to have. Once you have it you will find you use it once you get home as well.

With all these gadgets you will need to charge them, so consider investing in a generic multi format battery charger, one that takes rechargeable AA batteries as well as your unique Li ion batteries specific for your camera. That way you can cut down on the number of chargers you need to carry around. These can be found at many general electronics stores such as JB Hi Fi and Dick Smith stores.

Lastly if you think you’re going to be doing any photography involving low lighting such as night-time or sunrise/ sunset, make sure to consider a sturdy tripod. I know the added weight can be a pain in the neck to carry around, however you’ll never take that perfect night-time shot if you don’t have something to steady your camera for those long exposure shots. A home-made bean bag for your camera might work but again you need to find a place to use it. Being successful in capturing great shots in a range of situations requires preparation and homework, homework, homework….

With regards to memory cards, cables and batteries, my motto is always take more than less. I’ll quite often take two or three smaller sized memory cards than a single large-sized card because no matter if you think and what your track record is like, there will always come a time when a card will corrupt, a cable will break or a battery won’t charge and you don’t want that time to be right when you need to take that snap of a lifetime.

Taking all this gear can be tiring work even before you arrive at your destination so make sure you pack only what you will need. I make sure before I leave I’ve researched where I am going and what special things about the destination I might want to photograph. I often create a list, mental or otherwise, of shots I want to document the things I saw and the people I met and as I’m going through my trip I re-examine that list many times over to make sure I capture everything I want.

Lastly, get to know your camera before you go on that once in a lifetime vacation. You can take great shots by using your camera like millions of other people do and just stick it on P and it will do it all for you.. in my next post about photo tips I’ll be talking about simple techniques to create better shots…


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