Please don’t feel overwhelmed by these lists and think that you need to bring all of these items. Bring the ESSENTIALS and add NICE TO HAVEs to your liking. I’d also be happy to advise you on which photography equipment will serve your goals.
For ideas on personal items you will need, please check each tour page under the “What to bring” tab.
Photography Equipment Essentials
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.
Sturdy tripod with ballhead. 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 a Really Right Stuff 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 photographer 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. Also the Feisol Traveler CT-3441S or the cheaper and comparable Feisol CT-3401 or the Feisol Traveler CT-3441T for taller people. The Really Right Stuff BH-40 LR or the BH-30 (if not using long, heavy lenses) would be a good complement to these tripods and a less expensive alternative to the RRS tripod combo listed above. The Feisol CB-40D ballhead is cheaper and heavier than the RRS BH-30 but has a larger load capacity and is a great value at $129 including a body plate.
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. For panoramas, an L-Bracket is also a preferred option. 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. I use Really Right Stuff L Brackets on all of my camera bodies which makes it easy and stable to switch back and forth between horizontal and vertical.
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 battery charger & converter for European plug-in. (I will have an inverter so that we can charge in the van if needed).
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. If you will be using the polarizer on a very wide lens you may need the slim version to avoid vignetting.
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.
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.
Headlamp. For in the field and also handy for hotel rooms for reading at night or if the power goes out.
Photography Equipment That’s Nice to have
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.
Camera level: 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.
Manual dust blower, Giottos Rocket Air Blower is a good one.
Trash compactor bag for sitting on or kneeling in the field.
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.
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 was the last version available to own. After CS6 you will have to rent a Photoshop and Lightroom Package on the Creative Cloud for $9.99 per month.
- Photoshop Elements 12 for Mac & Windows(download)
- Adobe Lightroom 5 for Mac & Windows(download)
- 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.
Additional Equipment That’s Nice to Have
Portable hard drives, for backing up from your laptop. Redundancy is prudent. The LaCie Rugged Triple Interface USB 3 Hard Drives are popular.
USB Memory Stick for photo sharing. If you want to share your favorite images with the group we will be showing them from Jim’s laptop.
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.