Travel Photography tips – Supports and accessories

The size and weight of conventional tripods makes them less suitable for travelling, but there’s a variety of alternatives that can take their place.

Many manufacturers now carry travel-friendly tripods in their ranges, which are typically designed with legs that fold upwards towards the head for compactness, and these are often very good alternatives to more conventional models (particularly as many extend to similar heights). Usefully, many of these can also fit within hand luggage.

Travelling light Joby Gorillapod

Joby GorillaPod Hybrid with ballhead

A more portable option is a Joby GorillaPod. Although these cannot be positioned to the same height as a regular tripod, their ability to be wrapped around railings and posts and stood on top of walls makes them flexible in places where these are in abundance. Even the more advanced models weigh very little and take up barely any space inside luggage.

If your camera has the option of being charged via its USB port, a powerbank that you may use to charge a phone or tablet would be worth considering. Travel adaptors with built-in USB ports are also available quite cheaply, and those with two USB ports can power up your phone and camera (or powerbank if you have one) at the same time. This also means that you only need your camera’s USB cable, rather than bulky chargers, and gives you the option to continue charging when
you’re not near a socket.

Travelling light Gorillapod shot of Sydney

You don’t always need a tripod and a separate cable release for long exposures. This 25-second exposure was taken with a Gorillapod, using the camera’s self-timer option to trigger the exposure

A relatively modern smartphone can also take the place of a larger tablet, guidebook, map or laptop. If you’re heading to a relatively popular destination, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to download an offlline map with walking tours and suggestions, but if you can’t, you may be able to download and save the relevant area through Google Maps, with the advantage of being able to mark places you plan on visiting in advance for easy recall.

You may also want to edit your images on the move so that you can share them while you’re away, and for this you may find the control offered by free apps to be sufficient. Apps such as Photoshop Lightroom for mobile, Snapseed and VSCO offer a great range of control, and they are also free to download.

Essential accessories

  • Manfrotto Advanced Travel Backpack, £80: With enough space for a basic camera set-up, together with tripod straps, a laptop compartment and a separate chamber for other items, this bag is a winner.
  • Skross Pro Light USB World, £20: This adapter works in more than 200 countries and has two USB ports for added convenience, so it’s great if you plan to cover a number of destinations in one trip.
  • MeFOTO BackPacker Air, £100: This 900g tripod can be extended to 151cm, which is impressive when you consider that it folds down to just 26.5cm.
  • Joby GorillaPod Hybrid with ballhead, £35: Small enough for most bags and strong enough to support camera/lens combinations up to 1kg, this is a viable option for those capturing long exposures.
  • Delkin SD Weather Resistant Tote, £8: This case offers space for eight SD-type cards, and Delkin also promises crush proofing and weather resistance.
  • SanDisk Cruzer Blade flash drive (128GB,) £27: This is a significantly smaller alternative to a hard drive that hardly weighs a thing, with enough space for plenty of images.

Travelling light image stabilisation system shot

If your camera or lens features an effective image-stabilisation system, you may want to consider leaving your tripod at home

Baggage restrictions

Although many bags now come with labels that claim compliance with airline baggage regulations, these dimensions are not universally agreed upon between carriers, and can even vary with ticket classes. It’s always best to check what your specific ticket permits on the airline’s website beforehand, and remember to do this for any other airlines you may use during your trip (or on the way back if you’re flying with a different airline).

One of the most popular options for travel is a bag that either offers separate compartments for photographic equipment and non-photographic items, or one that can have its interior customised to provide the best balance between both.

Battery regulations

Rucksacks and sling-type bags are perhaps the most common options, but a combination of a larger shoulder bag and a smaller bag that fits within it is another option.

Airlines have also recently imposed new regulations for travelling with lithium-ion batteries. In general, any spares should be taken in hand luggage rather than checked baggage, and kept in their original packaging or packed separately in a case or plastic bag, with tape over their terminals to prevent them from short-circuiting.

  1. 1. Checklist
  2. 2. Essential accessories
  3. 3. On a budget
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