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 photography 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 when I was nomadic I was on the road for months and months and didn’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!
Less is More in Travel Photography
However, I feel that carrying less travel photography gear 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 travel photography gear I use and recommend.
Since I made the switch from DSLR to mirrorless a few years ago, it 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 an expensive change to make! I’ve been making changes slowly over time in order to avoid huge financial impacts, so this travel photography gear list continues to change!
Travel Photography Gear and Resources I Use
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 travel photography 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.
Sony Mirrorless Camera Body
I started with a Sony A7ii full frame mirrorless, and then made the switch to the Sony A7iii when it came out. I’m happy to say that the problems I found with the A7ii were all fixed in the newer A7iii.
What I carry with me when I travel 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. And now I have two camera bodies!
I made the switch from DSLR to Mirrorless so you can see my high level review of it and feelings on it via the link (spoiler…it wasn’t all good feelings!). The Sony mirrorless cameras have a lot of bells and whistles; it took me a while to understand all of the menu options! 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 than my older Canon, but I’ve just gotten in the good habit of turning my camera off after I take a picture. Plus the new A7iii has new batteries that have a much longer life – improvements are being made.
You can find some good deals on the A7ii now that the newer version is out, but based on my issues I had with the ii, I wouldn’t get sucked in by the lower price tag. Just invest in the A7iii, it’s worth it.
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’ Travel Photography Lens
I think it’s important to have a really good quality (i.e. more expensive) everyday lens; a lens that you will use the majority of the time and that’s good in low light. I use the Tamron 28-75mm F2.8. I really wanted something that focused fast and had a low F-stop. So far I’m loving the results – it’s my first Tamron – and it won’t be my last. I have my eyes on their wide angle lens for my next photography gear purchase!
I also have a Sony 24 -70mm f/4 Vario Tessar T It’s a super sharp lens and does great in low light. However, at F4, I prefer the Tamron for it’s F2.8. I like being able to get really close to my subject I’m photographing – like food, and I found that the F4 wasn’t able to get as close of focus distance as I would like. The Tamron is much better at that. However, the Sony lens is a much higher quality lens – so it’s a trade-off on what’s important to you.
Telephoto Lens 70 – 300mm
I also had to find a solution for a telephoto lens 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. However, I found that I wanted an even longer lens for wildlife photography.
Telephoto Lens – Sigma 150 – 600mm
For wildlife photography I went with the Sigma 150-600mm 5-6.3 (for either Nikon or Canon and an Sigma) mount converter MC11 so it would work with my Sony camera body. I looked at the Sony telephoto lenses, but they are just too terribly expensive for me to justify. The Sigma telephoto worked great with the Sony focus system (with a mount converter) and I absolutely loved this lens.
Coming in at under $1000, it’s cheaper than getting a Sony lens! Granted – it’s a bit on the heavy side and you don’t really want to be handholding it or walking long distances, but for wildlife photography with a monopod, tripod, or beanbag – it’s great. Definitely check out the more economical Sigma options if you are planning a safari or bear watching soon!
Check out my Safari Photography tips with this lens!
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 used with the newer Sony A7iii – it works perfectly fast – it’s incredible what a change there is in the two camera bodies!
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 Tamron 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
Tripod that Travels Well
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. This Joby tripod does hold a DSLR, Mirrorless, or phone camera with lenses up to 11 lbs – so it is a real versatile tripod to have for travel.
When I decide to take the extra weight of a full tripod, I bring my 3 Legged Thing Brian Carbon Fibre Tripod – it’s sturdy, but still travels pretty light. I used it for all of my night photography or aurora photography.
Camera Bags for Travel
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 to carry both hiking and a minimal amount of photography gear.
Inconspicuous Everyday Travel 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 plus a reusable water bottle on the outside pocket!
Photography Bag for Photography Focused Trips
When I go on trips where the main purpose is photography or wildlife trips, I take a proper photography bag that can hold my 2 camera bodies and 3 or 4 lenses and tripod. I have been using the Lowepro Whistler Backpack and have really loved it.
It opens from the back and you can change around the sections based on how much gear you are bringing. There is also an easy way to secure your tripod on the outside and a laptop sleeve that is protected by a waterproof ‘wall’. It also has a rain sleeve and a really supportive waist belt.
For 13 years my online solution for photo storage, my photo portfolio, and photography sales has been in Smugmug. Talk about standing the test of time! Annual prices range from $40 for simple annual storage and backup to $250 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.
Just use this link and you can get a 14 day free trial. And you’ll get 15% off if you end up subscribing!
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 for your home – like this gallery of laundry photos around the world is perfect for your laundry room!
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 2 or 3 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 and Google Photos.
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!
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)as well as my Sigma 150-600mm. I love them! They also make lens pouches, battery pouches, and other great wildlife photography gear!
LensCoat LensCovers LensCoat® lens covers offers your valuable equipment some protection from scrapes and bumps, preserving its resale value. It also help break up the shape of your lens, making it less noticeable to wildlife.
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!
This is probably my favorite new piece of photography gear. I adore this way to carry my camera hands free for hiking and just walking around. It’s easy to quickly pull out of the chest lock and use the camera in one smooth motion. But the best part is that the harness is dispersing the weight properly instead of around your neck only. My back is so much happier when I use my Cotton Carrier! All straps are adjustable. This is a must for any outdoor photographer; I use it hiking all the time. It also comes with a little rain cover.
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!