Like most photographers I know, I am a pack rat. I want to pack and travel with everypiece of gear I own. It’s great to be able to stand on the shores of the Atlantic and shoot a beautiful sunrise with the 14mm f2.8 and immediately be able to switch to the 300mm for some detail shots of boats going by.
But how realistic is that for most people?
Even though you may never go from the Arizona desert to The Smokey Mountains to the streets of Argentina, if you like to take photographs there will be some hard choices to make.
Since I spend a considerable amount of time traveling – and travelling fast and light – I look at my gear strictly as tools. When I’m heading out, I pull out all the gear I have and make three piles.
One is the essential equipment I’ll need for a shoot. The second pile is the equipment that is not absolutely required, but would likely be used if I had it. The third and final pile is the gear I want to bring just because I want to play around.
Once I’ve gotten the gear split into three piles, I consider a few factors.
- Travelling ‘all on my feet’ and no where to secure my equipment
- Travelling with a rental car where I can secure gear
- Travelling with a lockable storage area such as a hotel room or even a client’s home to secure my equipment
Travelling ‘all on my feet’ is the most common type of travel for me. What is ‘travelling all on my feet’? Simply put this means I am getting off a plane or bus then using public transit, taxis or walking everywhere I go, with no rental car, hired car or hotel room to store my gear. Anything I am bringing with me I must be able to carry, use, secure, all while shooting.
Due to the extremely rapid pace of most of my travels I need to have everything I require packed in such a way that I can comfortably carry it on my back all while shooting. Packing in such a way that you need to ‘hump it in & hump it out’ requires not only significant discipline for gear selection, but also clothing, accessories and critical items.
Making sure to have a thorough understanding of the gear you’ll be taking and how to use the gear will let you travel with a great deal of freedom. While having extra lenses is often nice, if you can’t be free to move and travel then you are more limited than what you would be if you had left the surplus gear at home.
So the next time you pack your gear for a weekend getaway or a ‘round-the-world photoshoot, look twice at the equipment you’ll be taking.
You can save some stress and give your shoulders a rest and still maximize the shooting by minimizing the equipment.