The item Travel with your camera first appeared on Digital Photography School. It is written by Karthika Gupta.
For the longest time it was one of my dreams to live away from home and to travel with my family for a longer period of time. I always dreamed about all the places I could travel to, and how much pleasure I would have to live a nomadic life. Of course I woke up and the reality of my responsibilities took over.
A few years ago, after a major setback in my mother's loss of cancer, I decided that my life was too short to make my dreams come true.
That year, after several months of discussion and planning, my husband and I decided that our small family would spend our summer in India – traveling and visiting family. Somewhere along the way a trip to Ladakh, London, Zurich and Rome was added to the selection. Soon I was in charge of planning and packaging for a life on the road for two and a half months. We would live on only four suitcases – one for each of us. As a photographer I knew that somewhere in those cases I had to pack my camera equipment, along with my necessities.
Since that year, my family has consciously chosen to take the time during the summer and to travel for at least 3-4 weeks. Last year we spent two weeks in Utah, and back-country camped for a week in the Denver wilderness. As an official photographer (both for personal and professional reasons), I had to take on the task of packing my things and traveling as lightly as possible to get the most out of the trip.
Here are a few things that have helped me make the most of my time away from home. It is very likely that I have missed a number of important photographic opportunities, but in general I am satisfied with my acceleration device, the possibilities that my family has experienced and the photos that I have taken. As a bonus, all the camera equipment that I brought back will make it back without any major accidents on the way. If travel has taught me something, it is that not every moment has to be documented and not every piece of material must be used at the same time!
1. Gear choices
Let's face the reality of life as a photographer – we all love and want all the things we think we need wherever we are. As I pack, I realize that as a photographer I always have so many things that I want to take. However, often the need for things is quickly drowned out by the need for practical things such as clothing, shoes and books. After a few days on the road, showers are not an overrated thing, they become necessary! I limit my list based on where my travels are going and what equipment I can realistically transport and safely transport without any damage.
This is my typical kit for most travel adventures
- A wide-angle zoom lens – my go-to is the Canon EF 24-70 mm f / 2.8
- A simple aim and shoot camera (yes, this is my backup, because weight is a concern on most journeys)
- One telephoto lens – I have the Canon 70-200 mm f / 2.8
- One camera body – Canon 5D Mk III
- 3 camera batteries
- 1 battery charger
- A small travel tripod – this is my newest addition and it fits in my hand luggage
- A remote trigger
- 7-8 camera CF cards ranging from 8GB to 32GB
- One compact 2 TB external hard drive (backup photo storage)
- Two generic lens and camera cleaning kits
All these things fit comfortably in my REI brand hiking backpack. I use this bag for everything and keep my things in individual soft-cover bags in the package. This is what I have done since the first day and something that has worked well for me.
As a mother of young children, my backpack not only carries my gear, but also snacks, extra t-shirts, books, colored pencils and at least 5 matchbox cars in many colors. Just like the camera is my toy, my children have their own toys that they have to make every trip.
The only thing that I always wish I had brought with me is a rain cover for the camera itself. My backpack has a rain cover that I use when I end up in a sudden downpour, but without a separate rain cover over my camera, I can't use it in the rain – which can be disappointing. Somehow I always forget to buy one for my travels.
2. Organize and plan your trip
To me, being prepared and organized means having a global idea of where I'm going and the kind of environment I want to expose myself and my equipment to. Before I go on a trip, I write down all serial numbers, brand and brand for my camera equipment and save them in a document on my cloud-based Dropbox account. This is updated and checked several times during the year while I sell and buy new things. Add this as one of your duties before you leave during your trip. All my external hard drives are stored off-site at a friend's home, as well as the rest of my equipment.
This is clearly a friend that I trust. But another option would be to store it in an external storage facility. As part of your research, another good thing to keep in your back pocket is the name, address, and contact details of authorized service dealers for your equipment in the country you visit. Sometimes things go wrong, no matter how prepared you are. Having information about service centers and authorized dealers for your belongings saves you time – especially when traveling in areas where internet connections are not very reliable.
During my travels, my gear choices depend on the planned activities and the type of trips that we will make. When I traveled with my family in Rome and Zurich, we traveled everywhere, on foot or by public transport. So I just carried my camera body and the 24-70mm lens among other things in my backpack. The rest of my camera material was either packed in the hotel room safe or locked in my suitcase.
When we walked and camped in the Himalayas, my camera, along with both of my lenses, was always on my person. The tripod was handed over to the porters who carried our camping gear. For my camping trips I just had all my CF cards with me and I threw the charger and the external hard drive to the house where we were staying because it was highly unlikely that I would find a charging port on the way.
Sometimes, if I ask nicely, my husband will carry my bag, but only because it is not too feminine !! It also doesn't scream a camera bag.
When we travel on a road trip, my camera and the 24-70 mm lens sit in front of me and store the rest of the gear in the trunk of the car. When I fly, I carry all my things in my backpack – I am too paranoid about checking in all things.
My next purchase for a long-distance journey will be a Pelican affair, so I don't have to carry anything from my person. As I get older, I notice that I can't carry heavy bags that easily.
All these choices are possible because of the research that I do beforehand.
Moreover, a good mindset to have when traveling to far-off exotic locations is one of acceptance of physical and mental limitations of both your camera and your camera.
I experienced some altitude sickness when I traveled to Leh and Ladakh while we were driving on roads at nearly 17,000 feet above sea level. I also noticed that my equipment did not function that efficiently at that height. My batteries didn't last that long and the camera didn't take photos very quickly either. The first times it happened, I panicked. But then I just accepted it as something that I couldn't control and gave myself some extra time to be patient when taking the photo I wanted.
3. Know your equipment
This is too basic to include here, but it's amazing how many of us don't follow this simple tip. We are so charmed by the latest and best equipment available, but we do not yet know how to use the things that we own.
The best way to find out is to limit yourself to a few important camera equipment for a longer period of time. One of my photography goals is to capture star trails and the Milky Way. The opportunity presented itself when I traveled to Ladakh. After all, I would be in a remote part of the country at an altitude of almost 15,000-17,000 feet above sea level.
Now astrophotography is not my thing. I have always limited myself to try it out, because I usually do not travel with a tripod, nor with an interval meter. So this time I downloaded the camera manual on my phone and I studied it before I left. With that information, I could comfortably and confidently use the B (a.k.a Bulb mode) on my camera to record star trails in Ladakh. It was a very exciting experience for my first attempt.
This is one of my first galaxy photos & now I notice that I look for stars every night! This would have been impossible without a tripod and a good remote trigger.
Another good thing to practice before you leave is the tool maintenance. During my travels, I routinely clean my lens and camera, so I wear two cleaning kits for the camera because I know my stuff is losing a lot of time while traveling.
Before every major trip, I took the time to remove the dirt and dust from the camera and lens. I keep the dust pen in my camera case in case I need it while I'm taking pictures.
4. Be local and think like a local
I have to include this in every travel photography related article because it indirectly relates to taking care of yourself and your equipment. I often see that photographers that I encounter during my travels have a false sense of consciousness. When you're a guest in someone's house, aren't you that good? Why is it that when you are a guest in another country, common sense and basic manners seem to fly out the window?
Locals are still people who deserve the same level of respect and courtesy as everyone else. Put yourself in their shoes and try to imagine what they experience when someone puts a camera in their face without a hello or a smile.
My 24-70 mm lens is my ideal travel lens. It really makes me come to small places and photograph a variety of things. I am not a person for a more obscure lens where people do not know that I am photographing them. Instead, I prefer to get in touch with people and let them know, rather that I take their picture. This is exactly how I work.
When we were in Ladakh, we visited many beautiful monasteries. Most of them are still in use and we have seen many temples where the monks were praying. Even if there is no sign-deterring photography, use common sense not to invade their private space – especially when they are chanting.
I cannot tell you how many times I have come across tourists who almost jump over each other or from moving cars just to take pictures of monks singing and praying. When I saw this rude behavior, I was almost embarrassed to take my camera out!
Moreover, flashing your beautiful equipment almost begs for the wrong attention. One evening in Rome I was on the road with my children to take pictures of beautiful horse-drawn carriages. We lost sight of time and soon ended up in an abandoned alley. I quickly put my things in my backpack, put it on with our coats, grabbed my children and sprinted to a busier piazza.
5. Make friends with local photographers
The internet is a great tool for almost everything. It is such a great source to connect with other photographers, especially when traveling to areas that are new and strange to you. Whenever I travel, I always try to make contact with a number of local photographers. We sometimes meet for a dinner / drink, chat on the phone and just become friends.
They even give me advice on some of the local, non-touristy places to take pictures and are offered to lend me things when I need it (well, some do … not all of them want their stuff at a total give up the unknown).
I hope these tips are useful when planning your next vacation at a distant destination. Traveling by itself is quite an adventure and adding photography is simply the icing on the cake. However, don't forget to travel light and enjoy your journey for all that it is – not just a photography expedition.
There is also no such thing as perfect photography, but something is known as a life-changing experience. Travel more of it than just taking beautiful photos.
Do you have extra tips for traveling light with your photography equipment? If so, share them with us and our readers in the comments below.
The item Travel with your camera first appeared on Digital Photography School. It is written by Karthika Gupta.