While the prospect of an overseas trip can be very exciting, particularly to a fascinating, far-flung destination like India, a big question arises even before you get on the plane. What photographic gear should you pack to ensure you make the most of what could be once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, without hopelessly weighing yourself down? Your camera bag or long heavy telephoto might not seem such a burden now, but it’s a different story in the baking heat. At the same time, missing a great picture as you didn’t have the right gear is heartbreaking… With this in mind, here are some of our favourite must-pack, but still highly portable, accessories.
1) Lightweight carbon fibre tripod
Some photographers regard tripods as bit old school in 2017, but a well-made, light travel tripod is a wonderful thing. When used with a remote shutter release, they enable you to get great long exposure shots, particularly first thing in the morning when the light is often at its best. Traffic and star trails, glassy water, starburst lights, motion blur, milky waterfalls – you’ll need a tripod for all these cool creative effects. Carbon fibre is a good choice as it’s light but tough, and try to get one with clips that support the legs, rather than screw-in mechanisms – they can be faster to erect when time is tight. Also, make sure you remember to pack the tripod head before leaving for the airport. A bean bag support, perfect for keeping your camera steady in a bumpy safari jeep, is another great accessory.
2) Practical lenses
It’s easy to overpack lenses, so to save weight and confusion, try to keep it simple. As a minimum you should take a decent, fast zoom. A 24-70mm f/2.8 gives you both wide angle and telephoto flexibility, so you don’t have to keep changing lenses, and a stabilised one can be a godsend if you’re lacking a tripod. Another essential is a fast prime lens for portraits, such as a 50mm or 85mm: remember, it’s often the pictures of local people that you prize most from a trip, as well as those building and landscape shots which everyone else is taking.
3) Spare memory cards and card reader
It’s amazing how quickly memory cards can fill up on location, so take plenty of spares. You certainly don’t want to run out of space in the back of beyond. And rather than having all those full cards rattling around loose in your bag, take a decent memory card reader so you can upload your images to cloud storage or your website every night. There are some heartbreaking tales of world travellers who were deprived of many of their best pictures through card loss, theft or damage/corruption, so back up your images religiously.
4) Lens hoods and filters
Lens hoods aren’t just a formality, they help to prevent lens flare, which can reduce detail and sharpness in sunny locations. It’s well worth getting one from Amazon or a photo retailer if your lens didn’t come with one. They also protect your lens from bumps and jars in crowded tourist destinations. Meanwhile a screw-on polariser helps to deepen the blue of blue skies and reduce reflections in water. Another useful filter for summer is a variable ND, which can make it easier to get long exposure effects in brighter light (try getting a ‘slow’ waterfall on a sunny day and you will see what we mean). Take a lens and filter cleaning cloth too!
5) Comfortable bag
While rucksacks have their fans, courier-style bags are great for travel as they are comfortable, roomy, very well made and make the whole process of changing lenses much pleasanter. It’s funny how the small things matter, and the prospect of having to take off your bulky backpack and root around for a lens in cold or very hot weather might actually deter you from switching lenses – and your photography may suffer as a result.
6) Decent clothing
You most definitely need a good hat as you can be shooting in bright sunlight – skin cancer rates are rising, so don’t take the risk. Baseball caps can be a pain as the brim gets in the way (and reversing them makes you look like Eminem’s dad) so try a soft brimmed bush hat, which is also unisex. Comfortable, walking shoes are also needed; as Robert Capa said, if your photographs aren’t good enough you aren’t close enough, so be prepared to pound the pavements and trails. Walking around an interesting location also tends to yield more photo opportunities than just driving through it. Decent flip flops, like Birkenstocks, also come in very handy when going in and out of temples or many places in Japan.