I wish I had my other lens with me for this shot. I should’ve packed my tripod. Why didn’t I bring my filters with me? I need my other camera bag for this hike.
These are frequent thoughts that run through my mind on every trip; I never seem to have the gear I need with me. It’s not because I’m forgetful or a terrible packer. (However in reality I am a pretty bad packer.) I don’t always have the right gear with me because in my nomadic lifestyle when I’m on the road for months and months I don’t have the luxury of bringing everything with me or even bringing the best camera gear with me. Travel photography when you are nomadic means that you make sacrifices; I can’t tell you how much photography gear just sits in my storage unit and is barely used! However, I feel that carrying less equipment has made me a better photographer. It makes me pay more attention to composition and working with the light I have, rather than all of the other bells and whistles.
One of the most frequent questions I get asked is what photography equipment I use and recommend. Since I made the switch from DSLR to mirrorless this year this kicked off a waterfall effect of other changes in camera gear. It’s not just the camera you have to buy, everything else seems to change too; lenses, batteries, sim cards, flash, camera bags, LensCovers, filters, and more. It’s been an expensive year for me! I have been working with the Sony A7ii full frame mirrorless now for 6 months, I feel like I can provide answers based on my experiences with all of these new – and some old – items.
I don’t consider myself a professional photographer, and this isn’t going to be an intense review of the gear I use or the pros and cons of the technical breakdown of a camera – there are other sites for that info. But this will give you an idea of what I use on trips, how I attempt to stay light but good quality, and what my experiences have been with the products at a high level. Also note, this isn’t the best gear out there by any means. However this is the gear I could afford. So of course photography gear depends on your personal budget too. I had to find things that fit my budget, and met my most important needs.
Travel Photography Gear and Resources
What I carry with me on my trips changes every trip depending on where I’m going, for how long, and how much I feel like lugging around. However, the camera body is always the same.
I just recently made the switch from DSLR to Mirrorless so you can see my high level review of it and feelings on it via the link. I am currently using a Sony A7ii Full Frame Mirrorless . The camera has a lot of bells and whistles that I’m still learning about. The fast focus as well as the variety of focus settings and the image stabilization in the camera body is really a plus. It does take more battery power, but I’ve just gotten in the good habit of turning my camera off after I take a picture.
The most important thing in your photography arsenal is your lens. That’s why when I changed over to Sony, I had to go through the agonizing process of replacing lenses – lenses that I loved. And because I’m not rich, I couldn’t just get everything at once, I had to just get the basics and then plan to slowly supplement and replace over the next few years.
My ‘Go-To’ Lens
I think it’s important to have a really good quality (i.e. more expensive) everyday lens; a lens that you will us the majority of the time and that’s good in low light. I chose the Sony 24 -70mm f/4 Vario Tessar T It’s a super sharp lens and does great in low light.
I also had to find a solution for a telephoto lens for wildlife photography and I decided to also switch to Sony for that too since the focus is super fast. I use the Sony FE 70-300mm F4.5-5.6 G OSS Lens and I’ve really been happy with it so far. It’s not too heavy or big, the focus is fast, and the lens is sharp. Even though it’s only a 300mm, I can crop in on the photos to get closer if necessary as the lens is so sharp.
I’m currently still using my older Canon lenses for my remaining needs until I can afford to replace them. The great news is that you can use Canon lenses with the Sony if you have an adapter.
I use the Fotodiox EF-Sny(E) Fusion Smart AF Lens Mount Adapter
This is a fairly economical solution for an adapter – there are more expensive ones. The only real drawback of having an adapter and using a Canon lens is that it slows down the ability for the camera to autofocus (something that the Sony is normally lightening fast at!) However when I tested the more expensive adapters with my Canon lenses I had, the focus speed was about the same so I went with the cheaper option.
Wide Angle Lens
Canon EFS 10-22mm F3.5 – 4.5
Every travel photographer should have a wide angle option It’s great for landscapes with rushing clouds, and super for architecture shots in the city with narrow streets. . I do love this lens – in fact I’ve confessed my love for it a number of times. Eventually I will get a Sony wide angle but for now the lens works fine with my Sony with an adapter.
Prime Lens for Low Light
Canon EF 28mm F1.8
I love this lens for shooting in restaurants that are often really dark and I don’t want to use (or carry) a flash. I can use this lens with the Sony setup with an adapter and it works pretty great – as long as you have ample time to focus. The adapter slows down the focus process.
Creative Effect Portrait Lens
LensBaby Twist 60
This is a lens that I don’t use that often yet as I don’t do a ton of portrait photography – but what little I have used it, it’s been great! This lens makes a swirled vignette around your subject. It provides a strong separation between subjects and their background – perfect for portraits or product shots.
Do be aware however that there is no autofocus feature on the lens – so you’ll have to manual focus and set your aperture yourself on the lens – not really through your camera. The effect of the swirled background is subtle, but really cool.
Some ‘twist’ shots – you can see the subtle swirling blurred background
My tripods actually spend more time in my storage unit than traveling with me. This is a pain point for me, I actually rarely carry a tripod since they are just so bulky and heavy and I already have too much gear to carry around for months at a time. So I decided to invest in good low light lenses instead as noted above. But I often find myself wishing I had a tripod with me in certain situations. I’ve sort of found a compromise for the weight and bulk issue with the Joby Gorillapod Focus Camera Tripod. It’s not a full size tripod which is great for weight and size issues, but it also isn’t as versatile as a regular tripod. For me it’s a trade off that I can live with.
Well, I’ve had my fair share of camera bags that I’ve used. This is a really personal choice for people typically. Since getting my new camera, I’ve had to change my bags out quite a bit. Here’s what I’m carrying now depending on the trip.
Adventure/Hiking Photography Bag
I do a lot of hiking and photography, and I’ve always been on the lookout for a good camera backpack that was part proper day pack and part Pro camera gear holder. I finally found it in the Lowepro Photo Sport! I actually have done my last two big hikes (Costa Brava and Alaska) with this daypack as my photography bag and hiking bag! I was able to bring my camera and 2 lenses with me easily and it’s has easy access to the gear without having to take the back entirely off your back!
From a hiking standpoint it’s a great daypack, I was able to pack in rain gear, extra socks, snacks and a water bladder. Plus it has an easy way to carry hiking poles. This is a great solution for the truly active photographer who needs a bit of hiking and photography gear.
Inconspicuous Everyday Photography Bag
I recently tried the Lowepro Passport Sling III as a great day to day bag for my gear. It looks and acts like a purse honestly – so this is a great dual purpose bag for the ladies! I can fit in my small mirrorless camera plus an extra lens and filters. Plus I bring my wallet and other essential purse items. PLUS – it actually expands and I can even fit my 13 inch MacBook Pro in it too! So it’s perfect to take out exploring a town and you can actually carry everything with. I also us this as my ‘small/personal item’ carry-on when I fly and can fit a bunch of stuff in it!
The last bag I still use is my old favorite – my Tamrac 5683 Digital Zoom 3 Camera Bag that I’ve had for YEARS. I love it because you can easily add or remove what lenses you want to bring with you by hooking them on the side loops of the bag. I store all of my lenses in protective cases anyway – and these cases just hook right on the outside of this bag. So it easily changes from a just a simple camera bag to allowing me to carry a camera and two lenses with me easily.
For 10 years my online solution for photo storage, my photo portfolio, and photography sales has been Smugmug. Talk about standing the test of time! Annual prices range from $40 for simple annual storage and backup to $150 if you want to be able to sell your photography and set your margins. I actually sell my photography on Smugmug, so I have a Professional Plan.
Since I’ve been a long time customer, I have a 15% discount I can pass along to you if you signup to use Smugmug. Just use this link and when you click on the “Try it Now” button the 15% off is applied! Or if you use this link for your free trial and then upgrade after a free trial, the 15% will be applied then.
And you read that right, if you are one of these people who have said that you loved my photography and want to purchase some – I’m happy to help you curate a purchase. After all I have thousands of photos on my Smugmug site – and I can help you navigate through and find the image(s) you are looking for to put something together that is great!
External Storage and Backup Drives
Since I don’t have a home where I can store a proper backup external drive I have to use a different solution. I choose to simply store my photos on WD Elements 2TB external drives. I used to get more expensive heavy-duty drives – but I find that these work just fine and take up less space. I carry about 3 or 4 of them on a given trip – so it’s bulky and space is always an issue. I use them to store and access my initial photo library as well as use them for backup of my library. I leave a few backups at friends and at my storage unit to reduce my risk in case of theft. As noted above I also use my Smugmug account as a place for online backup as well as Dropbox.
Extras – Don’t forget these essential items!
Extreme Pro SanDisk 32Gig – super fast for the newer cameras. Even though I know they make bigger cards, I only carry 32 gig cards as it forces me to remove them and transfer my photos more often and reduces my risk of losing everything (if all of my images were on one giant card) if my camera body gets stolen.
Loose the plastic bags and get a proper rain solution for your expensive camera gear. I use a LensCoat Raincoat to keep my DSLR camera dry. It’s lightweight and easily stuffs into my camera bag and the design ensures that you can easily get to all of the controls while keeping your gear dry. Throw away the plastic bags and get this!
See the RainCoat designs and sizes at LensCoat
This is a super way to protect your lenses from scrapes, the elements, and provide them better resale value…plus…they are just damn fun. A LensCoat LensCover is like a wetsuit for your camera lenses. Dress up you boring drab lens with a Neopreen LensCover. Yes – these are meant for wildlife photographers, however the covers come in all sizes and various prints and colors. Decide to stand out or try to blend in whatever you want. I use one on my long 300mm lens (pictured) . I love them! They also make lens pouches, battery pouches, and other great wildlife photography gear!
Not only does it look cute, but a Rocket Blaster one of the most important things in my camera bag when I travel. Ever found yourself in a dessert sand storm, dusty field, or wind storm while trying to change lenses? Keep your camera sensor clean safely by using this simple air blaster. Plus, it’s small and ‘squishable’ so it easily fits into your camera bag!
There are still a few things on my list that I need to get post camera change – like filters. However, I’ve been slowly building back up my arsenal! If you have any questions about my gear or if you have gear you love, feel free to share it in the comments below!