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Undoubtedly the question that I get asked the most is what camera equipment I carry with me when I go on an assignment. My first bit of advice is to only carry what you need. After all, who wants to walk around all day with an extra 10kg (20 lb.) on their back? But at the same time you don’t want to be caught short so, as always, planning carefully and creating a shot list before you travel can be invaluable.
You should try and get together a basic set of equipment which will cover you for most situations. You can then add more specialized equipment depending on the nature of the shoot.
Here is what is in my camera bag:
My camera of choice is a Canon 5D MK II. It is a exceptional camera that won’t let you down, and stands up very well at high ISO settings. I usually carry an extra body with me, which I leave in my hotel room in the event that anything happens to my main camera. The last thing you need when you have limited time at a place, is to have to run around to try and find another camera so a spare could be essential.
The Canon 24-70 f/2.8 is my work horse and is what I use the majority of the time. The focal range means it is perfect for landscapes and is also a wonderful lens to take portraits with, as it means you have to get close to your subject. It is also fast enough to use in low light conditions, so it’s ideal for places such as markets.
This is a wonderful telephoto lens which comes with a hefty price tag but is definitely worth the cost. Great for portraits and close-ups, the Canon 70-200 f/2.8 is also fantastic for landscapes in which you want to isolate a small section of the scene.
Someone once asked me if I could carry only one lens what would it be? My head would say my 24-70mm Canon lens but my heart would go for the 50mm f/1.2. The great thing about prime lenses like this is that, as a photographer, you have to move and get up close to what you are photographing. This becomes especially powerful when photographing people as it helps build a connection with your subject. It is also fast enough so that you can photograph in low light conditions without having to bump up your ISO too high.
For anyone interested in travel photography, one of the most important parts of a destination is the local food. Although not essential, macro lenses are great for photographing food as they allow you to get really close and pick up the beautiful details of what is on the dish. The Canon 100mm f2.8 IS is my macro lens of choice.
One of the common misconceptions about flashes is that they should only be used in low light settings. However, they are extremely useful when you need some fill flash (for example: if you are taking a portrait of someone in intense light which is causing harsh shadows on their face, a flash can help minimize the shadows). For this reason I always carry my Canon Speedlite 580EX II flash with me.
A tripod is essential if you are planning any shots which require long shutter speeds. But a tripod is also what’s going to support all your expensive camera equipment, so choose it wisely. The Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 is a sturdy carbon fiber tripod which is lightweight to carry. I also use a Manfrotto 327RC2 light duty grip ball head to connect my camera to the tripod.
All of my lenses are fitted with a Hoya Pro 1 Digital UV filter. This helps protect the lens glass, especially in very harsh conditions such as the desert. I also carry a range of Cokin Neutral Desity filters and Graduated Neutral Density filters which are extremely useful for landscape photography.
Memory cards, hard drives and laptop – I take enough memory cards with me so that I can cover each day I’m away on a separate card. I also take a few additional ones in case I need more than one in a day. However, at the end of each day I still back up my card on two separate 250GB hard drives so that all my photos from that day are saved in 3 different places.
Lens and camera cleaning kit, spare batteries and chargers – You should get into a habit of giving your camera and lenses a wipe at the end of each day and charge your batteries so everything is ready for the next day.
This is the basic set of equipment that I carry with me wherever I travel, and I add to it as I see fit. For example, architectural photographers might want to take a tilt and shift lens, or wildlife photographers a 400mm lens. But remember try to only take what you are going to need.
What’s in your camera bag? Tell us in the comments below what is in your essential kit.
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