Destination Photography Equipment

I’ve been fortunate recently to be sent to various international locations to capture and document some fantastic travel destinations.

As glamorous as that sounds, there are some serious practical implications to consider. Packing for a full itinerary must take into account expected (and unexpected) weather conditions, itinerary changes and various activities in one day, and that goes for your own clothes as well as camera kit.

So glad I packed the tripod when a 25yr storm rolled through town! Canon 5D mkIII, 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM. 21mm 25sec f/5.6 iso 100. Manfrotto 190 MF3, cable release © Lee Irvine, PelicanImages 2017

Itineraries on all the trips I’ve been on have been packed, and guaranteed to ensure that, as a journalist you will see and experience the full gamut of activities, sights, sounds and flavours that a destination has to offer. It’s up to me as a to capture the essence of the trip, and to document it all with a concise set of images that support my written copy. Hopefully resulting in an article that is as close as possible to final publishing content. In my opinion, some scrappy notes and a dump of phone pictures probably wouldn’t cut it!

It’s safe to assume that itineraries will change, food breaks will be later than expected, and that option to pick up other kit on a return trip to the hotel? That might not happen if any number of unforeseen circumstances come into play. So, I am, gradually, learning to pack lighter and lighter, and take only what I need on these assignments. I’ve developed a simple approach to reviewing and assigning a score to what I use. It’s become a standard post-trip exercise in refinement and pragmatism. Here are is my kit from the last two trips from the last trip to Thailand and the same image used as a visual mark-up for next time.

pre and post trip image indicating what was an wasn't used with coloured dots
My simple, post-trip mark up system indicating what was/wasn’t used with coloured dots

As you can see, there are staples, things have/haven’t made the cut, and things that I won’t be taking next time. And, of course, this is all assuming that I am checking luggage (see * below for what gets checked in to the holdg).

Green indicates necessities. The things I take, and always use?

  • Camera (5D mkIII)
  • Lenses (24-70 f2.8, 50 f1.4)
  • Laptop (Surface Pro)
  • *Tripod (Manfrotto 190 MF3 MagFibre)
  • 32gb memory cards
  • Notebook(s) & mechanical pencil
  • 3x5D batteries in hand luggage
Sharpness and separation with my go-to travel kit. Canon 5D mkIII, 24-70 f/2.8L USM. 70mm 1/640 f/5.6 iso 100 © Lee Irvine, PelicanImages 2017

Amber: Less used, but incredibly handy for location and/or brief specific content:

  • Lens (16-35 f2.8)
  • 360 camera (Ricoh Theta)
  • *Collapsible light stand for 360 shots
  • Lifeproof Waterproof phone case
  • 12mm and 20mm extension rings, AKA lightweight macro options when used with the 50 f1.4
  • Carabinered ThinkTank strap for quick change and multi-use
  • *ThinkTank Hydrophobia, bought specifically for Thailand after I checked the weather forecasts for October. As hardy as the 5D is, this turned to to be worth it’s (minimal) weight.
  • Tascam DR-05 So useful in tour situations where the facts and figures some thick and fast. I struggled taking notes in the past. Now I record the lot and listed to it as I write later.
  • Olympus Mju II and some old film
A tuk-tuk during a tropical rainstorm, Bangkok, Thailand
Unstoppable shooting in frankly hilarious conditions! ThinkTank Hydrophobia, Canon 5D mkIII, 24-70 f/2.8L USM. 70mm 1/40 f/3.2 iso 400 © Lee Irvine, PelicanImages 2017

Finally, in red, the things I carted there and back and barely used. Techically I could’ve done without so they’ll be way down the packing list next time.

  • Lee Adaptor Rings (72 and 77mm), holder and Graduated Filters (Soft and Hard)
  • Various screw in polarisers and ND filters.
  • 580EX II flash
Sunrise in from the shore of Ko Samui, Thailand
Seven shot HDR, merged and tweaked for saturation and contrast in Lightroom Classic CC. Canon 5D mkIII, 16-35 f/2.8L II USM. 27mm 1/4-2.0sec f/11 iso 100 © Lee Irvine, PelicanImages 2017

Filters are becoming more location specific. Earlier in the year I was in Umbria and with sunrise around 5am, there was ample time to filter and balance a morning sky as it changed with sunrise. In October in Thailand, sunrise was much closer to the rest of the work day. Also, being so close to the equator the sky goes from amazing morning glow to sunsrise in about 20mins flat. So, for efficiency, I went for 7 bracketed images of each view. This gave me more scope for angles and locations in the limited time, and I now have a selection of options in processing.

And one last thing that proves it’s worth every time: My Canon G1X mkII. I never used this “on-the-ground” on the trip, but it’s my default, just-in-case travel camera. It shoots raw so it’s a back up camera, it’s less obtrusive than the 5D if need be, and, it’s the camera I unpack and have at my feet every time I get a window seat (which is pretty much every time). You never know when that clichéd wingtip shot could come up with the goods…

An aeroplane wing at sunset
Surfing the terminator for hours, my 2nd best window seat ever! Canon PowerShot G1X MkII, 1/100 f/4 iso 100 © Lee Irvine, PelicanImages 2017

And there you have it, that’s my hand luggage. Bulky items get checked along with the obligatory bag of cables, chargers and power adapters. I think a future post will be about the kit I’d love to take, but gets left behind for various reasons. Do you think I’ve missed anything? What are your go-to travel kit choices and recommendations?

 

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