Digital Photography School site has a guest contribution by Waterloo, Ontario photographer Taylor Roades who calls herself a wedding photographer/photojournalist and she has written a good piece called “Travel Photography, Backpacking and Packing Light“.
Taylor, who is a very good photographer IMHO, says she just came back from a four-month backpacking trip across China and South-East Asia has a bunch of great tips about travelling with your equipment.
Remember Taylor is a pro so she’s carrying pro-level equipment. I did the same thing when we went to Brazil a couple of years ago taking my Nikons and a bunch of fast lenses plus a video camera (This weighted a ton and was way over limit for carry-on.) and that’s what banged me into the Olympus Pen micro 4/3 system for all future travel. (Also as I’ve said here before my wife, who is no photographer but has a great eye for pictures, can use the Pens effortless and flawlessly. This is an important consideration when your significant other is 3,000 miles away struggling with having moved some control and now everything is coming out fuzzy.)
Now I travel with an EPL-1 body (bought at a discount price from Henry’s), an EPL-2 body and lenses (17mm f/2.8; 9-18mm f4-5.6; 40-150mm f/4-4.5; 45mm f/1.8; 14-42 f/3.5-5.6 kit lens and the 12mm f/2) plus an old Nikon SB-28 flash which works fine on manual and all in a Think Tank Disguise bag. (I am lusting over the new Olympus OM-D series E-M5 at $999 and maybe the new 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 or the 75mm f/1.8.)
I don’t carry a laptop anymore. It’s too much of hassle in airports and way too tempting to thieves. I obsessively worried about my MacBook Pro throughout the trip to Brazil and I’m just as happy to leave it at home.
So what do I use for storing my images? Right now I’m experimenting with 64-gig cards (by Duracell of all people) which Future Shop had on special for…wait for it: $55 and which hold 4000 RAW files (or 9,999 JPGs if that’s what you’re shooting) !! Even a tiny 16-gig card holds 1,000 RAW files. So if you brought a handful of cards plus a portable storage device such as a Wolverine for $150 or an Epson at around $400 or so and you’d have originals on disk and backup in the portable device.
Taylor says if she was to do it all over again she’d carry a Canon 5D which is still a big full-frame camera that runs around $2K and a 35mm f/1.4 plus a 135mm f/2 and 45mm Tilt Shift lens. Wow that’s still a lot of stuff to bring. Interestingly she shipped her flash back home half way through her trip. I don’t think I’d do that but I also bring a full-size carbon-fibre Manfrotto in my check-in luggage (which is chancy in some countries).
I do carry four batteries and charger plus the digital eyepiece that mounts on the cameras hot shoes and provides a 100% view of what you’re shoot just like a DSLR. I also have the tiny stereo microphone for use when shooting videos (which I don’t do a lot of yet) and there you have it.
Image quality is comparable for almost all typical vacation or travel type photography. The Pens can’t quite keep up with the Nikons at professional shoots like sporting events or outdoor jazz festivals where I’m shooting hundreds of images in a few hours but for casual quality vacation shots they are perfect.
I have shot a pro-level job with the Pens and so long as I worked within their capabilities the images were great.
If you’re young and healthy and have a great camera bag (I love Think Tank bags and the Shape Shifter is a great bag to carry a lot of pro-size equipment) then go for it but if you’re getting on and want to carry all your equipment easily then the Olympus (or Panasonic or FujiFilm) system might be perfect.
If I was to carry just one camera all day it would be my EPL-2 with either the kit lens or my favourite the 17mm pancake lens. Best of all I could carry the camera and one lens in a raincoat pocket. The shot on left was taken with the Olympus and is one of over 1,000 images shot at my Toastmaster Club’s annual summer party. Images from the party can be found at my SmugMug Pro gallery at Peter West Photo.
And am I selling my Nikons? Absolutely not and I’d like to add the D-800 and the 12-24, 24-70 and 70-200 (all f/2.8) and the 35mm f/1.4 lenses but we’re talking around $12K or more to get out of the store and we’re going to have to get some more work before this happens 🙂