What do I need for travel photography?
Travel photography allows you to capture all the wonderful sights and experiences you have whilst away. Many people will argue the experience itself is enough however photographs are useful to jog your memory about those little things you may have forgotten. When I go travelling I would like to take all my kit bag of lenses and all other photographic equipment I own, however it just isn’t possible. Travel photography requires you to travel light and with minimal equipment, which in turn means you have to make some compromises.
Minimal equipment doesn’t mean your travel photography images have to be compromised and it is possible to take everything you need for every eventuality. Minimal equipment means you have to pack smarter for your travel photography adventures.
The Olympus EPL1
You are obviously going to need a camera for travel photography. Ideally you should take the smallest, lightest and most compact digital camera you can find. Digital SLR cameras are big, heavy and cumbersome and whilst it is possible to take a digital SLR for travel photography, it is not the best option.
I like interchangeable lenses, I like digital cameras that give me total control over the aperture and shutter speed and I like digital cameras with great image quality and compact system cameras are, in my opinion, best for travel photography. My travel photography camera of choice is the Olympus EPL1, which does everything I want it to and more.
The Panasonic 45mm - 200mm zoom lens has an effective focal length of 90mm - 400mm which makes it a very useful lens for travel photography.
You are obviously going to need a lens for your travel photography and in the ideal world it would be great to take all the lenses you own for your travel photography. In reality, this is not possible as digital camera lenses are very heavy and take up a lot of room.
Travel photography requires a lens or group of lenses that covers all focal lengths to ensure you don’t miss any opportunities, and this means that zoom lenses are best. My travel photography lenses consist of thres lenses. I use a 14mm – 42mm Olympus zoom lens, a 45mm – 200mm Panasonic zoom lens and a Panasonic 14mm f2.5 lens. When you consider the 2x crop factor of my EPL1 I have a lens that covers almost all focal lengths from 28mm, for those wide angle landscape shots, through to 400mm, for those shy animal shots.
Many people argue zoom lenses are inferior to prime lenses and the image quality is not as good and I agree, however the image quality of modern day zoom lenses is very good. As I have previously stated, travel photography requires compromises and my two zoom lenses don’t weigh too much or take up a lot of room so I am happy to forgo a bag full of primes lenses.
The polarizing filter and the neutral density filter are two essential filters and are great for landscapes and seascapes, both of which are primary subjects of travel photography.
Filters are another must have travel photography accessory. Many filter effects can be added at the processing stage therefore many photographers argue filters are not needed in the digital age. This is not the case and there are two types of filter all photographers should have in their travel photography bag, and these are the polarizing filter and the neutral density or “ND” filter.
Both the polarizing filter and the ND filter are most useful in landscape and nature photography and the main subject of travel photography is usually landscapes. You need to ensure you have a polarizing filter and an ND filter that fits every lens you have with you. The best way of doing this is to buy a polarizing filter and ND filter the size of your largest lens and buy step down rings to use the polarizing filter and ND filter on your other lenses.
Lens pen and cleaning cloth
The lens pen and cleaning cloth. Two essential things to keep your lenses and filters spotlessly clean for travel photography.
Travel photography will often take you to places that are sandy, dusty and dirty therefore your lens is going to get filthy. A dirty lens is going to degrade your travel photography photographs therefore you need to ensure you keep your lenses clean.
The best accessory to keep your lens clean is to use a specific lens pen, containing a brush and a cleaning tip, and a lint free cloth. These are inexpensive and will ensure your lenses, and filters, are always clean allowing you to get the most out of your travel photography photographs.
A tripod is another must have travel photography accessory to have. The primary subject of travel photography is landscapes and seascapes, both of which are shot using very narrow apertures to maximise the depth of field and ensure front to back sharpness. A narrow aperture will result in a slower shutter speed which increases the chances of blurry photographs through camera shake. A tripod is the best way to avoid the effects of camera shake.
Tripods are typically large and heavy, which is not good for travel photography. My travel photography tripod of choice is the Vanguard Nivelo 204BK. This travel photography tripod weighs in at less than a kilo, packs away to a length of 30cm and extends to 1m in height. I have to admit the Nivelo 204BK is not the sturdiest of tripods and I wouldn’t put a digital SLR camera and heavy lens on it but it is more than adequate for my Olympus EPL1 and travel photography lenses.
Macro close up filter
The Raynox close up filter is an excellent close up filter for macro travel photography.
Travel photography allows me to get close and personal with insects, flowers and other fauna that are not native to my home country and all of these are great macro photography subjects. In an ideal world I would take dedicated macro lens, however this is not possible in travel photography.
An ideal compromise is to use close up filters, which are effectively a magnifying glass for your lens, for macro and close up photography shots. Close up filters are small, lightweight, cheap and readily available, therefore they are perfect for travel photography. An alternative is the extension tube, although I prefer the close up filter for travel photography.
There are many close up filters on ebay and I would suggest you give these a wide berth. Whilst these close up filters are cheap the image quality when using them is very poor. My close up filter of choice is the Raynox. The Raynox is reasonable priced, easy to use and the image quality is simply superb. What’s more, the Raynox is small, light and the only thing to have for macro travel photography.
Memory cards are essential for digital photography. Make sure you take plenty with you.
Travel photography is going to involve a lot of photographs therefore you need to ensure you have plenty of memory cards. It is possible to buy memory cards that have huge capacities, up to 32GB, and whilst it is tempting to buy one card and use nothing but this I would avoid against it.
It is safer to use a number of smaller capacity memory cards. If you only have one memory card you are going to have problems if the memory card fails or becomes corrupt. In addition to this if you lose the memory card you lose all of your travel photography photographs. If you have several memory cards with a smaller capacity you have a back up memory card should one memory card fail. Providing you don’t lose all of your memory cards you will always have some travel photography photographs to take home to show your family and friends.
The Panasonic slave flash. A flash gun is a useful bit of kit that all photographers should have in their travel photography bag.
A flash gun is a very useful piece of equipment that is essential for travel photography. A flash gun will be useful for;
- Adding some fill in flash for portraits
- Adding some much needed light for macro photography
- Adding some light for night time and low light photography
Batteries and charger
Olympus battery charger. remember to take all the plugs so it can be used in all countries.
Travel photography means you are going to be out and about therefore you need to ensure you have sufficient battery power to keep your camera working. Some digital cameras run on normal AA batteries which are readily available the world over. If your travel photography digital camera uses these batteries you are not going to encounter too many problems.
However, many digital cameras have their own unique battery which needs to be regularly recharged. Because of this a battery charger is a must have travel photography accessory, as is a range of different plug attachments so it can be used in all countries.
Batteries. If your camera takes these AA batteries you should have no problems in making sure your digital camera always has power.
The restrictions of travel photography means you will have to make some compromises with the amount of equipment you can take, however there are ways and products to get around these. Just because you have to restrict the amount of photographic equipment you take it does not mean your travel photography photographs have to suffer. I find all the photographic equipment I use for travel photography perfect for my needs however there are alternatives out there. So, if you are going on vacation and want to do some travel photography I would recommend you have a look around at the photographic equipment available that is going to ensure you can get those travel photography photographs that will remind you of the trip forever.