Choosing what to pack for an extended photography expedition can be a daunting exercise. What you carry with you will dictate, to an extent, what you can shoot, and how you can shoot it. Sure, the best camera for any job is the one you have around your neck at any given moment, but that’s not exactly practical advice. We all have our priorities – it should be what we want to shoot that dictates what we take with us into the field.
Equipment doesn’t do you much good in the back of a jeep, on the bed in your hotel room, or in the bottom of your closet. You need to prioritize. The first thing to consider when deciding exactly what to take with you is what you can comfortably carry over reasonable distances; do you want to lug your 300mm f/2.8 telephoto lens on a 12-hour mountain excursion through two feet of snow, or drag a bag full of lighting equipment across sun-scorched desert? Unless you’re on an assignment that requires specialist equipment, pack what will allow you to make great photos and stay mobile. Unless you can afford to hire a team of strong-backed Sherpas to do all your schlepping for you.
We here at Flash Light have been refining our travel kits over the years, and continue to do so. Your shooting style changes, and your kit should reflect that. Let your kit play to your strengths, and design it to allow you to shoot what you want while you travel. Below is a basic kit, this varies from trip to trip and day to do. We don’t always carry this much on a day to day basis, and pick and choose before leaving the hotel.
Digital Full-Frame SLR (Nikon D800 / Canon 5D MKIII)
These give amazing low light performance and exceptional detail, making them great all-round travel bodies. They’re also not as heavy as their bigger bretheren, the D4 or 1D series, meaning you can spend more time with them in your hands.
16-35mm f/4 or 17-40mm f/4
These are a great option over their f/2.8 compatriots. Both weigh a little less and have spectacular image quality. Great for wide scenes, getting up close and personal, and tight spaces.
The do it all lens. If you only want to take one lens, make it one of these. Great for everyday shooting in all types of light.
Great for compressing your backgrounds and eliminating unwanted clutter in busy scenes. Again, much lighter than the f/2.8.
Dylan’s walk around pick. Super fast and great for environmental portraits in any light.
Small, light, cheap. A great addition to any photographer’s bag.
85mm f/1.4 or f/1.8
The portrait choice. If you’re looking for the best detail and beautifully rendered bokeh to really help a portrait stand out off the page, an 85mm should be on your packing list.
Flash with Remote Trigger Kit
We always take one on the road. You never know when you might be able to make some gold with a flash. FlashWave III radio triggers are small and light as well, so pack those in next to the flash.
Digital APS-C Sensor Compact
A mirrorless or simply a fixed lens like the Fuji X100S, these make for a great backup if your main gear goes down.
Carbon Fiber Tripod
Light, durable. We like to shoot handheld as much as possible, but long exposures often necessitate taking along a tripod. Just make sure you can carry it for long periods of time; they get really heavy.
Circular Polarizer (CPL)
Great for making deep blue skies, beautiful greens in folliage, and cutting down reflections on water. Get one that fits the largest thread of the lenses you own, then buy step-up rings to accomodate your smaller lenses to save money and weight.
Neutral Desity Filters (ND)
We use standard ND filters to cut down our exposures and create effects like silky-smooth ocean water, and graduated ND filters for darkening parts of our images, like the sky in a sunset scene.
As many as you can afford. Keep them safe. We use waterproof Pelican cases.
Back up your backups. You don’t want to lose these pictures. Keep one on your person and one in the hotel. If you can afford SSDs, get them.
13 inch travel laptop
A small, light, no-frills laptop for backing up your photos and getting back to your editors.
High powered LED flashlight
Great for those times when you’re lost in the dark, even better for lightpainting subjects at night!
Intervalometer / Remote
Timelapses, reducing camera shake, and extremely long shutter speeds. These can all be great things, and a good intervalometer and remote will give you access to them.
Flash uses his trusty Crumpler bags, while Dylan carries F-Stop Gear Mountain Series bags. Both are comfortable and easy to carry on long days in the wild.