What’s in my travel camera bag?
Headed to the beautiful islands of the Caribbean? Or planning a trip somewhere else around this amazing planet? Not sure what photography gear to pack or even what bag to use? Every trip, I research potential shooting locations and go through all my equipment to see what I should bring. Obviously, the studio gear stays home, but even the small stuff can add up! I keep track of what I packed, what I used, and what just took up space.
What’s on the list for this year?
This year, we return to Nevis It’s a few months off, so I’ll make decisions on what to take as that trip approaches. Until then, here’s the basic packing list:
My favorite roller bag because it meets all international guidelines. It’s compact, holds a ton of stuff, and is as tough as nails. The front pocket expands to hold the laptop bag. The only downside is that it holds so much stuff for it’s compact size that you have to watch the airline’s weight limit. We had an issue with that on Aer Lingus. Read about it here.
A gift from my husband, this is a great walking around bag. It holds a DSLR with lens and another lens or two, depending upon length. There is a nice front pocket which will hold filters and wipes, and two generous side pockets to hold flashes or extras. It’s now my everyday bag. For travel of any distance, I prefer to take a large tote bag, the Longchamp Le Pliage with the long handles, and pop my gear in that for every day treks. That way, you don’t look like a photographer, but have your gear available. It will also hold everything else you need, maps, money, sunglasses, etc.
Think Tank Artificial Intelligence Laptop Bag with Mac Book Pro
I use this bag for work as well as travel. It’s Think Tank, so it’s built like a tank. There is a back pocket for legal pads or folders and a generous front pocket to hold all those pesky cords and external drives. It slides into the stretchy pocket on the front of the Airport Airstream for travel.
I love my 5D Mark II and have not seen a reason to upgrade to the Mark III (I don’t shoot weddings for a living – but maybe the IV or the 6D Mark II?). I changed out the standard strap for the amazing Crumpler strap. My daughter loved it so much, I had to buy her one. It’s super comfortable and fits well around your neck and shoulders. Try one and you’ll want one. It’s worth every penny.
This was my first DSLR and now is my son’s primary camera. I have also used it with the Ewa-Marine UB100 Underwater Housing.
I am gravitating toward primes and the 35L has become my walkaround lens for travel. The 35mm focal length on a full frame camera like the Canon 5D Mark II is pretty comparable to your natural field of view.
This was my first L lens and I have never regretted the purchase. It weighs a ton (roughly 2-1/2 pounds) but my wrist soon adapted. It is still responsible for the majority of my shots while traveling, despite its weight.
This is my favorite lens for portraits. It has a gorgeous bokeh and is tack sharp, yeah, tack sharp.
This is an EF-S lens, which is not compatible with the full frame Canon 5D Mark II, but is a great lens if you you have a cropped sensor like the Canon 40D. I brought it along for use with the underwater housing on my 40D, but it is also a favorite of my daughter for use on her Canon 60D.
This little gem gives me a bit more reach when needed. The 135mm with the 1.4x extender becomes a 189mm lens. It is small (2.8 by 1.1 inches) and lightweight (7.9 ounces), so you can always have it with you and avoid the necessity of bringing the 200mm f/2.8 L lens. It is only compatible with fixed focal length L lenses 135mm and longer, and on the 70-200/2.8L, 70-200/2.8L IS, 70-200/4L, and 100-400/4.5-5.6L. You also lose a stop of light, so keep that in mind. However, when you need a bit more reach, it’s a great accessory to have.
FLASH & TRIGGERS
This is the flash I use when I use on camera flash. I have left it at home the last couple trips, and here’s the reason why: I can do pretty much everything I want with the Canon 430 EX II flash and the 430EX doesn’t interfere with the radio signals of the Pocket Wizards. I can avoid carrying a hard shield needed for proper operation of the 580EX II with the Pocket Wizards.
I love this flash, and the fact that it doesn’t clash with my Pocket Wizards makes it my go-to flash. I use it for off-camera flash or on-camera when the 580EX II isn’t around. I have two of these. They are fabulous.
I have had great luck with these triggers and I have a total of four. They fire my flashes and also (with the A9 adaptor) fire my Alien Bee studio lights. Top the Mini off with an AC3 Zone Controller, and you can control three zones of lights from the top of your camera. There is a trick to getting them to communicate (turn on radios first, then flashes, then camera), but they work really well. My only complaint is that the battery for the Mini seems to drain pretty quickly. The Mini has a super low profile and doesn’t interfere at all with your shooting. Love them!
This is not the most powerful LED light, but it does what I need it to. I use it for adding a bit more light in dark situations, as a video light, as a focus light, and as a beach flashlight when we’re making our way home after dinner. It runs on 4-AA batteries and can slide into the hotshoe on the top of your camera for convenience.
I love ND filters. They are super handy when you want to make waterfalls, streams, and other bodies of water look silky smooth. They will also cut the light so you can get a shallow depth of field shot even in the super sunny Caribbean. The x400 gives you 9 stops of density. The variable ND is the most handy because you can dial in the light to exactly where you want it.
I am new to the P filter thing, but one of my goals this year is to take better landscape shots. These filters allow you to properly expose the foreground against a bright sky and have the exposure correct across the board. The Galen Rowell is a soft edged, 2-stop ND filter for use when I’m trying to get both the sky and the foreground properly exposed. The Daryl Benson filter is what I call a sunrise/sunset filter. This 3-stop ND filter has the deepest density at the middle, gradually lightening as you move outward. The filter allows you to perfect the exposure when the sun is prominent in your images.
Circular polarizers are pretty essential when shooting around so much water. It cuts the reflected light and glare, maximizing your capture. Don’t leave for the islands without one.
As part of my mission to get better landscapes, I started working on the support structure for my camera. Knowing that a tripod is not going most places, I purchased a Gitzo monopod, getting this with a great price and a nice Gitzo rebate. It is solid as a rock and light as a feather. The locks on this thing open and close like butter. They are not cheap, but wow, you will love it!
This all-terrain foot for the monopod was purchased with the idea that I will be messing around in a lot of sand.
People talk about Really Right Stuff, and now I know what they mean. Now I know why people buy these even though they never go on sale or have other rebates or promotions. Their stuff is solid and perfectly machined. The operation is smooth and once you’re locked in, your camera is not going anywhere. I purchased the lever release plate which is a dream. It’s super easy to open and close. I am a Really Right stuff fan!
After my Fancier tripod took a dive, taking my beloved 24-70mm f/2.8 with it to the floor (resulting in about $450 in repairs), it was necessary to replace it. I spent a lot of time researching tripods to find one that met my needs in terms of weight and stability, but was still light enough for travel. I settled on the Gitzo GT 0532. This tripod had the newest Carbon eXact tubes, which were narrower and stiffer and could bear more weight than it’s predecessor in the “0” series. At 1.07kg (2.35 pounds), it was still light enough to carry. For more on why I chose the Gitzo GT 0532, read my review here.
The Really Right Stuff ballhead is just as amazing as the monopod head. I opted for the compact ballhead for travel. Once mounted, there is no sag and no jiggle. This ballhead is rock solid.
I previously used the GoPro Hero 2 with dive housing, tripod mount, wrist housing, LCD BacPac, Wifi & remote, anti-fog inserts, and batteries. I won this in GoPro’s “Everything We Make” Sweepstakes in 2012. It was super fun to use on our trip to the BVI, but unfortunately, the waterproof housing leaked on our trip to Eleuthera, and it’s now history. I replaced it with the Olympus TG-3 Waterproof Digital Camera. It is a point-and-shoot, and does not shoot in RAW, but it’s small, goes anywhere, is super easy to clean, and has controls which are intuitive for DSLR user. None of those silly menus to keep clicking through like on the GoPro. A few months back we picked up the Olympus Tough TG-4 which upgrades from the TG-3 with RAW capture. Check out our review and comparison between the TG-3 and TG-4 here! Both are still going strong with annual seal replacements. See how to maintain your underwater camera here.
This model accommodates DSLRs with lenses having filter sizes up to 82mm. I planned to use it with the Canon EF-S 10-22mm on the 40D, so it was perfect. I have used bags for underwater shooting and have had minimal success. They tend to be flimsy. This bag was not. Not only was it manufactured with a double-laminated PVC, it has a glass optical port for better image quality. The bag is constructed to fit your hand to access the controls, so you don’t feel like you are fighting the bag. It’s not cheap, but it’s a great compromise between the hard cases which will cost you thousands and the $25 bags which will cost you much more when you have to replace your camera gear. For my full review of the Ewa-Marine UB100, read my review here.
I love, love, love Sea to Summit bags. The 4L Dry Sack held my DSLR and 24-70 f/2.8 L so I had no worries on our boat trips. The big 35L bag held my fins, mask, snorkel, and sunscreen. The top rolls down and snaps closed, creating a handle. Great bags!
The Fotodiox adapter lets me use my Mamiya 80mm f/1.9 on my full frame Canon 5DII, turning it into what is close to a 50mm f/1.2 manual lens.
Having a light meter takes all the guesswork out of the proper exposure, especially in tricky backlit or super bright situations. It overcomes the limitations of the camera’s light meter so you can nail it every time. If you use it with the RT-32 CTL radio transmitter, you can trigger your flashes on your Pocket Wizards to get the perfect flash portrait.
Sometimes I spend way too much time color correcting, never really being sure I have it right. The X-rite ColorChecker Passport is always right, and it’s convenient to carry anywhere.
This is a great portable audio device. For $100 (or less), you get far better sound that the on-board microphone in your DSLR. Given the wind on the beach, don’t forget your Redhead Windscreen. Capture the sounds of the waves, the music, and the voices of those around so you can remember all the great times you had.
It’s no mystery – I love Think Tank Photo. They make great bags and accessories, and the Pixel Pocket Rocket is used every single time I shoot. It holds all my cards, and when I have filled a card, I flip it over and slide it back in. My cards are easy to find, and organized. It’s the best $20 you’ll spend.
I considered the $135 Canon version, but could not justify the extra $100. This $35 version does everything I need to do for long exposures.
It’s awful hard to see the LCD screen on the back of your camera in the bright sunlight. Pop on a Hoodman loupe, and you can see again!
I love this card reader because it is super fast and it reads both CF and SD cards. I shoot CF and my daughter shoots SD cards, so we only need one card reader for both of us.
It was a good move to go to rechargeable batteries. Eneloops are the best. They hold the charge and are easy to recharge.
I was always a bit uneasy about cleaning my sensor. I was afraid I would screw up and end up holding a $3000 paperweight. Luckily, it’s really not that hard and the Dust-Aid Platinum makes it easy. It is a little wand which you press into a small plastic pad and then gently apply to the sensor to lift the grime. It pops back into a small plastic box which easy fits in your bag.
I still haven’t decided what film gear is coming with me on our next trip, but here is the gear I am experimenting with at the moment:
Mamiya 75mm f/3.5
Mamiya 150mm f/4.5
Mamiya 645 Pro TL
Mamiya 80mm f/1.9
Mamiya 45mm f/2.8
Mamiya 110mm f.2.8
Mamiya 150mm f/3.5
Mamiya 210mm f/4
Canon EOS 1v
Canon EOS 7n
Fotodiox Pro Lens Mount Adapter (Mamiya 645 Lens to Canon EOS EF) This allows me to use my Mamiya lenses on my Canon film and digital bodies with the EF mount. I love to use the manual focus 80mm f/1.9 on my Canon DSLR!
I buy my film at B&H!
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