Photography is a very, very large field. A continent. Yes, within this large continent, I am a trained photographer, but just in a specific tiny little nook. Hence, whilst backpacking around the world, I would be hard pressed to call myself a professional photographer – because I don’t know jack about travel photography. Where I feel most at ease is in a controlled environment, with a consenting subject and a well-defined and researched objective, as well as unlimited time to get to my ends.
Travel photography is quite the contrary of that. It’s a fleeting moment. A blink of an eye where the last thing on your (on my, anyway) mind is pulling my camera out of my backpack and shooting. Oftentimes I find myself walking past something amazing with my camera under my arm, thinking to myself “wow, that would have been a great photo!” without actually ever taking it.
The fact that I would never in a million years consider myself a professional photographer when it comes to travel photography is one of the reasons why I travel with relatively crap equipment. That, and the fact that there is just no point at all lugging around state of the art equipment and either not being able to do it justice, break it, or have it stolen. Besides, I like to remind myself that photography has its worth in the eye of the photographer, not in the 5D Mark II; I know, it’s hard to believe. And the fact that I own a DSLR does not mean that I wish to have a shallow conversation with you about how much better your EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM is than my EF-S 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6 IS, chubby old man, but I digress. My 24-105mm is safe at home while I roll around in the dirt with my toy cameras.
Below is what I carry with me while travelling. I don’t actually have a camera bag, as I find them too bulky and plain ugly. I simply roll my cameras and lenses in sarongs in my backpack. Another good reason to carry only cheap-ish stuff.
1. CANON 500D
I bought this from Craigslist in Montreal for $100 before I left. Not only does it offer all of the options my other more expensive DSLR cameras have, it’s also a lot more compact and shoots 1080p video, which I use for my Youtube channel when I feel fancy. I know it can be very hit and miss buying used electronics from classified ads, but a little digging and a close inspection on purchase can lead to finding little gems such as this. As this model is now discontinued, I’m linking to the equivalent most recent model here. The Canon Rebel range is a no-nonsense choice for travel camera.
2. CANON EF-S 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6 IS and
CANON EF-S 55-250mm 1:4-5.6 IS
I bought these two lenses second hand at MBK in Bangkok for around $200 altogether and, along with the GoPro, I really feel like I’ve got all my angles covered. Granted, they don’t have the biggest aperture in the world and it can get a little frustrating shooting in low light, but the 500D does surprisingly well at up to 1600 ISO with correct exposure. The 18-55 is the one I have on most of the time and it feels like a good all-rounder for most well lit situations. I think it’s the default bundled lens you get with this camera body. The 55-250 is great for shooting wildlife in bright daylight, but takes an awfully long time to focus and hates shooting backlit scenes. This all does the job very well for me though.
3. CANON POWERSHOT ELPH 300 HS
This little camera is always in my back pocket when I’m too lazy to lug my big equipment around and is what I shoot most of my Youtube videos with. It also takes decent pictures when the conditions are right. It’s like my DSLR’s little sidekick.
4. GOPRO HERO 3+
We once had a very crap underwater camera. It caught water when we were snorkeling in Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia, and everyone suggested we get a GoPro to replace it. We beat around the bush for quite a while about this, partly because of the exorbitant price and because it all felt a bit gimmicky – all the proprietary cases, filters, poles, straps, chesties and what have you. But then we started looking at photos and videos from all the smug GoPro owners out there and conceded that the photos were pretty awesome. So we caved in, and since that day have had the GoPro smug face plastered on non-stop.
5. GOPRO ACCESSORIES
We have the floating handle, the head mount, the red filter for scuba diving and the fing-longer (what do you call that? monopod? selfie stick? telescopic wand?) (did I just make that up?) I think everyone should call it a fing-longer.)
6. POLARIZING FILTER
This is the one single piece of equipment that could have the biggest impact on your travel photos for the least money. I’m not going to lecture you on how to use it or how it works here, but a polarizing filter will make the sky of your photos look amazingly blue and the water as crystalline as you see it with your own eyes – just by spinning the filter around. A truly worthy investment.
I always go over my photos in Photoshop, adjusting the color balance, dodging and burning here and there, sharpening where necessary, straightening the horizon, cropping, erasing annoying details (a pimple, a shitty old diaper on an otherwise pristine beach, etc) and lightly applying filters once in a while. If you are a beginner with Photoshop, I suggest you try and tame the beast a little: EASY on the filters, vignettes and crappy vintage effects. It’s like an old ugly face: you ain’t gonna make it prettier by drowning it under an inch of makeup. Try this: once you’re happy with the result, turn the opacity of your retouches down to 50% and let the original photo breath through a little. Let me paraphrase here: use a light hand.
8. ODDS & ENDS
I use a card reader to copy my files onto a hard drive regularly. Each of my cameras has a 32GB Class 10 SD card. I also have two 1TB external hard drives on which I keep everything copied and backed up, which I keep in separate locations to be safe. My retouches are done on an 11 inch MacBook Air with only the trackpad. Sometimes I wish I had carried my tablet and stylus…
So there you have it! All this fits in my small daypack and is relatively lightweight.
What do you think? Modest or over the top?
Also! Without further ado, here are the lucky ducks who have won themselves an Utama Spice giftset!
Congrats! I will be in touch with you. Thanks to everyone who entered 🙂