digital photography tips with Digital Photo Mentor Darlene Hildebrandt

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What Camera Gear Should I Take on Vacation?

My husband and I travel a lot. What to take with me in terms of camera gear is always a challenge. I get this question a lot in my travel photography class too. So I thought I'd go over my thought process of how to decide what to take, and what to leave at home.

What mode of travel are you using?

photo by caribb

The first thing to consider is the how you're getting there. If you are driving then you have a bit more flexibility than if you're flying. Air regulations limit the size of carry on bags, so make sure to trim down so you can fit what you need into a smaller bag.

Note: never put your camera gear with your checked luggage. It's not secure and I'm sure I don't need to go over their gentle baggage handling techniques.

What to take when you're flying:

In summary:

Really all you need is: a camera, a wide lens, a long or telephoto lens (you could also have one that does it all like an 18-250mm which covers both), a normal prime lens (35mm on cropped sensor, 50mm on full frame), and a bag.

But wait, there's gaps in between those focal lengths!

That's the comment I get when I give list that to my class. My answer is – so what? When I shot film cameras all I had were prime (fixed) lenses, and I managed to do professional portraits and weddings with those limitations just fine. It's called, move your feet.

When you are more limited, you are actually forced to be more creative. Move around your subject, squat down low, get up high. You might be surprised with what you achieve.

I tend to like to shoot on either end of the scale, either really wide or really long, and I take my 50mm for low light situations. Other than that I really don't miss those other focal lengths in the middle. I rented a super wide angle 14mm lens once in NYC that was a lot of fun. So keep that option in mind if you're heading to a big city. Call ahead, you may have to reserve early if you do want to rent something special. It's a great way to try out a lens you're considering buying.


NYC2005-0082-travel-gear NYC2005-0142-travel-gear

I also put a small travel tripod in my checked baggage so I can do night photography when I get to my destination. If that's not a priority for you, skip the tripod. But personally I find night photography one of the most exciting and rewarding aspects of travel photography. Give it a try it you haven't, find some tips here:

Oregon-July13-1672-travel-night-gear Vegas2013-0076-travel-night-gear

What to pack if you're driving:

When you're driving and weight and bag size isn't an issue, bring the whole lot I say. If you have a bunch of lenses to choose from bring them all. What I do is bring everything in a large shoulder bag, and bring a smaller sling style or backpack as a day bag. Then I get to choose what I take for the day, based on the day and what I'm doing.

In addition to what I take when I fly I also have an 85mm f/1.8, the Canon 24-105 f/4 and a Canon speedlite  (flash). I'll usually add a 42″ 5-in-1 reflector, an umbrella, and remote triggers for the flash in case I want to do any portraits.

Safety with your gear when travelling

Once you get there keeping your gear, and yourself safe it top priority. Here are a few tips to follow, some are basic common sense, others you may not have considered:

  • Never open your bag to show all your gear in a public place (you never know who's watching)
  • Keep your bag on you at all times, not on the ground next to you. Backpacks are ideal for this, or sling bags that rotate to expose access to your gear
  • Keep your camera across your body, not over your neck or shoulder
  • Be aware of your surroundings and suspicious characters
  • Register your camera gear with your customs office before you leave. That way they can't question you about buying it abroad when you return and make you pay duty on your own stuff
  • Make sure you have adequate insurance: call your agent to make sure you're covered and provide them a list of your gear and serial numbers
  • You can also get a slash-proof bag and secure lock for hotel rooms, etc. Pacsafe has some good options. Also check with your local camping supply store, they may carry something similar.

Get out there and shoot


So what are you going to shoot when you get to your destination? Here are a few tips to give you some ideas and get you started:

So I hope your next trip is exciting and this helps you plan ahead. If you haven't got a trip planned maybe you want to consider coming on one of our photo tours with us. We'd love to have you along!

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