Try to pack light, as we will not have room in the van for more than one piece of luggage plus camera bags for each of us. Most airlines are now charging for more than one piece of checked baggage. I love the Osprey Ozone series of lightweight wheeled luggage. My wife used the Ozone 28 for 2.5 months on the road and found it perfect. You will appreciated the lighter load when you have to muck your luggage up steep streets or stairs.
Two pairs of shoes: One sturdy pair for in the field that you can get wet and muddy. One pair for evenings.
Light weight rain jacket and rain pants. You don’t have to go all out here, but if we have some wet weather and it is not raining too hard we can still go out and get some good photos. I really suggest a rain jacket if nothing else. We have worn cut open Hefty bags as skirts and they work great when we did not have rain pants. The rain gear will keep you dry when walking in tall, wet grass. Montbell makes an excellent parka and pants that are extremely lightweight.
Small umbrella for rain and shade. I use an umbrella often to block the sun from hitting the front element of my lens. Black is best. I have recently begun using a handsfree telescopic umbrella which I love. You can watch a video of my review at PhotographyTravelTours.
Sweater or light jacket for possible chill on early morning shoots. A light layer underneath a rain jacket can be surprisingly warm.
Hat for sun and rain protection.
At a minimum I suggest that you bring a digital SLR or mirror-less rangefinder body and one general-purpose high quality zoom lens. If you are looking at a camera body-lens kit, I would advise to not get the kit with the cheap kit lens, but to get the body and then upgrade to a better quality lens. For example, you can purchase a Canon Rebel with a kit lens at Costco, but I am suggesting to avoid this purchase and buy the Rebel body somewhere else with a good quality upgraded lens. You can see some good reviews about lenses on Fred Miranda.com. Please call or email me about suggestions on equipment if you don’t know what to bring or purchase.
Sony has just come out with a couple of full frame, mirror-less bodies that have shaken up the industry. The Sony A7r has a full frame, 36.4 mp sensor, that is as good or better than the stellar Nikon D800e and at about one half the weight. This is major, almost no brainer option for travel photographers. I will be using one on my next trip in April 2014. The cheaper Sony A7 at 24.3 mp is another great option.
Cable release. Get the wired kind and the same brand as your camera. I think that it is worth having a backup cable release. They are small and easy to lose and are essential. I feel lost without one.
Camera manual. Download it to your laptop.
Camera batteries, at least 3.
Camera Bag. I greatly prefer backpack camera bags. Much less stress on the body versus an over the shoulder model. I like the LowePro Backpacks and Slingbags products as well as F-Stop. I am currently using an F-Stop Guru and love it. My camera backpacks have sleeves in them for my laptop. I always “Carry On” my camera and computer equipment. The airlines are getting stricter about your carry on luggage. Restrict your carry on to your camera bag and your laptop. Check with the your airline. I pack my tripod with the head removed in my luggage. Lithium batteries are not allowed in your “checked luggage” so you must have them in your carry on.
Camera battery charger and converter for European plug in. (I will have an inverter so that we can charge in the van if needed).
Camera Protection. There are a variety of rain covers out there for our camera. At a minimum, bring along a couple of shower caps to protect your setup during rain.
CF or SD cards, at least three, 16 gbs, or larger if you shooting the higher megapixel cameras like the Nikon D800E or the Sony A7r. Some people like to avoid using large cards in case the card fails. If a smaller card failed you would lose a lot less data. I like the Sandisk Ultra Cards. I find them fine for video as well. If you are using only SD cards make sure that they are Class 10.
Circular polarizing filter. Buy the largest one that you will need and then use step down rings to adapt to the smaller front elements if you want to save some money. I like the B+W Polarizers.
Compact Flash card reader if shooting digital and bringing a laptop. I use and like this dual slot Lexar USB Card Reader. Accepts both SD and CF cards.
Double axis spirit level for camera hot shoe/used for shooting panoramas. Many of the new cameras have this built in so you don’t need this external level.
Filter wrenches in case your filters get stuck on your lens. Here is a set for filters from 67mm to 86mm. Make sure you get the right size for your lenses.
Headlamp. For in the field and also handy for hotel rooms for reading at night or if the power goes out.
Laptop or a stand-alone data storage device such as the Sanho Hyperdrive Colorspace UDMA2. I have the 250 gb model and use it as secondary backup other than my laptop. It is also a backup for downloading if my laptop happens to fail or get stolen.
Manual dust blower, Giottos Rocket Air Blower is a good one.
Portable hard drives, for backing up from your laptop. Redundancy is prudent. The LaCie Rugged Triple Interface USB 3 Hard Drives are popular.
Sturdy tripod with head. If you want to spend the money, the carbon fiber tripods are a pleasure to carry around and use. Expensive, but should last you a lifetime. Try to keep the tripod minus the head weight to below 3.5 lbs. You will get better images overall if you travel with and “USE” a tripod. I am currently using a Gitzo Carbon Fiber tripod with an Acratech Ballhead. The new Really Right Stuff Carbon Fiber TQC-14 w/ BH-30 Pro Ballhead has been getting rave reviews as a travel tripod. I personally know three photographers who are using this setup and love it.
I have a couple of photog. friends who are avid backcountry dudes and they use and love the Feisol CT-3301 Carbon Fiber Tripod Legs. * I just purchased one of these and I am very impressed. A big little tripod. $279, 2.6 lbs. Be aware of the folded length of 23.6 inches. It just barely fits into my luggage with the head off. Feisol has another model that I have not had my hands of yet that is 4 section, taller, folds down smaller and a bit lighter than the CT-3301. The Feisol Traveler CT-3441S and the Feisol Traveler CT-3441T for taller people. The Really Right Stuff BH-40 LR would be a good complement to these tripods and a less expensive alternative to the RRS tripod combo listed above.
If you are doing a lot of panoramas you may want to consider the Acratech Leveling Base. This makes it very easy and quick to level your panning base which is essential for doing panoramas. Make sure that you choose the correct thread size for your tripod, 1/4″ or 3/8″.
Plan to pack your tripod in your checked luggage when flying. Remove the head and wrap it in some garments and make sure that the tripod legs will fit in you checked luggage. When I bought my latest Gitzo tripod, I was somewhat limited by the long dimensions of my luggage.
Quick release mechanism for the tripod and corresponding plates for the camera body and or lens. It is a good idea to get “Arca-Swiss” compatible plates.
Computers, Software, & Smart Phone Apps
Laptops: I have the Apple 11.6″ MacBook Air, which weighs about 2.5 lbs. I find that the small screen is adequate for editing while on the road.
Stand-alone data storage device such as the Sanho Hyperdrive Colorspace UDMA2. I have the 250 gb model and use it as secondary backup other than my laptop. It is also a backup for downloading if my laptop happens to fail or get stolen.
Computer Software: These are suggestions only. At a minimum, I would suggest Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Elements. You can use the Nik plugins with both. If you are interested in doing some serious post processing then you should consider Photoshop as well.
-Adobe Photoshop | CS6 will be the last version available to own. After CS6 you will have to rent Photoshop on the Creative Cloud for $19.99 per month.
-NikSoftware. Now that Google owns Nik you can get the complete suite of Nik plugins for $149. NikSoftware. The Nik Collection is compatible with Mac® OS 10.6.8 through 10.8, and Windows Vista®, Windows 7, Windows 8 as well as with all the following host applications:
- Apple® Aperture® 3.1 or later
- Adobe Photoshop CS4 through CS6
- Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 through 11, (apart from HDR Efex Pro 2, which is not compatible with Photoshop Elements)
- Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 through 5
- Adobe Photoshop Creative Cloud
-The Photographer’s Ephemeris The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE) helps you plan outdoor photography shoots in natural light, particularly landscape and urban scenes. It’s a map-centric sun and moon calculator: see how the light will fall on the land, day or night, for any location on earth. Free for computers and $8.99 for Smart Phones.
Smart Phone Apps:
-Focus Stack. For photographers employing focus stacking to achieve astonishing depth of field in landscape and architectural photography. How many shots do you need to take? On what distances should these shots be focused? What is the ideal aperture to use?
-Long Time. This app. is used for calculating your exposure when using very dark neutral density filters which your camera meter will have a hard time reading through.
-Opitimum CS Pro. This is a great app. for determining your hyper focal point for achieving maximum depth of field.