It’s time to start reviewing what photography gear I need to pack for this year’s trip. For travel, it’s important to keep things light, but you do want to make sure you have the gear to get the images you want. I have started keeping track of what I pack and what I use, and you can see my packing list and results from our past trips to Nevis, the British Virgin Islands, and Ireland by clicking those links.
This year, we travel to Eleuthera! In anticipation of some great scenery, including the Glass Window Bridge and Lighthouse Beach, I’m beefing up my camera support. I’ve added a Gitzo monopod with a Really Right Stuff MH-01 Monopod Head, and a Really Right Stuff BH-30 to my carbon fiber tripod legs. I’ve added some Singh-Ray graduated neutral density filters to better capture sunsets and properly expose sky and landscape.
Here’s what’s on the travel photography gear list for Eleuthera. I expect I’ll do some editing as the trip nears, but you have to start somewhere!
My favorite roller bag because it meets all international guidelines. It’s compact, holds a ton of stuff, and is as touch as nails. The front pocket expands to hold the laptop bag.
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.
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). I changed out the standard strap for the amazing Crumpler strap. My daughter loved it so much, I had to buy her one. Its 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 serves as a backup.
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 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 left it home on the last trip to the BVI, and it might stay home on this trip too. I just haven’t decided.
I love this flash, and the fact that it doesn’t cause radio interference 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.
You might wonder why I pack a flash and Pocket Wizards for a trip to the islands. Every year, we do our Christmas card photos on that trip. The sun is gorgeous, but to avoid harsh shadows on portraits, you need to add some fill flash. I don’t pack any light modifiers, and just use the bare flash, but it works great for these photos.
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 variable ND is the most handy because you can dial in the light.
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 this year to get better landscapes, I started working on the support structure for my camera. Knowing that a tripod is not going most places, and needed to cut the shakiness of my videos, I purchased a Gitzo monopod, getting this at an unbelievable price and with 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. It made me hate my tripod, but one pricy item at a time! They are not cheap, but you will love it. I read an article about how you can save at least $700 by not buying the lower end support gear in the first place which ultimately breaks and does a poor job even when not broken. It’s hard to make the leap to the Gitzo, but I can’t imagine ever needing anything more.
This all-terrain foot for the monopod was purchased with the idea that I will be messing around in a lot of sand. It provides a broader platform for greater stability, but is still compact at 3.14 inches in diameter.
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 officially a Really Right stuff fan!
My Gitzo monopod made me crazy for a Gitzo tripod, but it’s not in the works this year. My Fancier tripod is lightweight and folds down small. It’s not really tall and a bit wiggly, but as long as I don’t meet a stiff wind, it will hold me for a while. Improving my ballhead (see below) was a more important first step.
The Really Right Stuff ballhead is just as amazing as the monopod head. I opted for the compact ballhead for travel. Eventually, I’m thinking I will pair this with a Gitzo 1531 tripod, but now I can just enjoy the fact that once mounted, there is no sag and no jiggle. This ballhead is rock solid.
I won this in GoPro’s “Everything We Make” Sweepstakes. It was super fun to use on our trip to the BVI, and I can’t wait to take it to Eleuthera. I highly recommend downloading your video daily to see how it looks. The LCD screen was un-usable under water because you couldn’t see anything on the screen. By downloading, we were able to see what we missed, and more importantly, how to improve our shooting skills. It’s pretty exciting to see all those beautiful fish, but you will make your viewer ill by shifting from subject to subject. A steady hand makes a better video.
If you are going to the islands, do not forget the anti-fog inserts! They take the fog out of the underwater housing so you can get good video in the humidity and under water.
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!
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. It’s about as big as your passport, hence the name.
I picked this up for $20 and it’s a fun addition, allowing me to pinpoint the location of my shots with GPS coordinates.
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. If it were to break, I could replace it twice before I spend as much as the Canon version.
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 that the loupe is adjustable so I don’t need to use my readers to use it.
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. The 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’ll let you know what I ultimately pack and what was useful and what was not following our trip. I hope this was useful to you in planning your own travel photography!
If it matters to anyone, I buy all my own stuff (or my wonderful husband!), and so I tell it like I see it. You will see affiliate links here, which, as explained below, help offset the cost of this site, but don’t be misled – – If I don’t like something, I’ll tell you so.
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