A question I often see on photography forums is, “I’m going to ___, what should I take with me?” The answer of course depends on the location, subject matter, your particular needs, style of shooting, and your willingness to carry (or not) heavy loads of gear. I’ve been traveling on the regular for the past 7 years ever since moving to China, and my gear bag keeps evolving. I’ve come to a few conclusions about travel photography and what you should (or shouldn’t) take. If you find yourself clueless over what to take with you on your next trip, here are a few of my recommendations.
1. DSLR + 50mm equivalent + compact camera
It was last year on a trip to the Pinghai peninsula that I really started trying to lighten by bag. I went with my Canon 50D + Sigma 30mm f/1.4 and a Canon Powershot S90. I would walk around with the DSLR around my neck, and the S90 dangling from my wrist. The DSLR served the purpose of fast aperture, low light, shallow depth of field shooting. And the S90 took care of the moderate wide angle (28mm) and moderate telephoto needs (105mm). Altogether, I couldn’t have been more happy with this combination. If you’re a zoom kinda guy, swap the fast prime for a superzoom.
2. Film Camera
Recently while on vacation in the Far West of China, I felt bogged down by my bag. Granted, I hadn’t brought much, but I felt like traveling light on this day. Embarking on a day-trip to a small “river town” in the countryside, I decided to leave the DSLR back at the hotel, and take nothing more than a film camera. Film pushes your creativity, challenges, and forces you to think more deeply about each shot. And it’s exciting! I had an amazing day touring the river town with an Olympus OM-10, with a 28mm f/2.8 and 50mm f/1.4, and I don’t regret leaving the DSLR behind one bit. Pictures coming soon…
3. DSLR + Superzoom
Aside from the film camera, on my recent trip to the far west of China, I only brought a Canon 50D + Sigma 18-200 OS lens. I decided to leave the wide angle and the primes at home, in order to make the most of this lens, and push it’s potential as far as I could. It wasn’t always easy, but I remembered why this lens is so much fun – it covers just about everything! When traveling, if you can only choose one lens, something like this might just be it. Although I might actually prefer a fast normal prime! But that’s just me…
4. DSLR + Superzom + Wide Angle + Fast Prime
With this combination, you can cover just about all bases. This actually comprises most of my lens collection, and rarely do I need more than this. You’ve got everything from wide angles to fast apertures to long reach, all in one relatively compact package, such as the Crumpler 6 Million Dollar Home that I use. It won’t break the back, and you can carry it around all day, if you don’t mind such a thing and are dedicated to getting all shots possible. This was also my go-to combo when I was working for a newspaper several years ago. Versatile, yet compact. Golden.
5. Leave your DSLR at home…just bring a compact camera!
If you’re an avid photographer, this might be a hard thing to do. We are suckers for image quality and versatility in our cameras, and DSLRs provide that much more than any compact can. But compact cameras are getting better by the day, with many great models to choose from. However, do you remember the time when perhaps you started out with only a compact camera in hand? Remember all the fun it was? Remember the great shots you got with it? Now what makes you think you couldn’t accomplish the same thing today, but even better?