What's In My Bag - Photography Gear Guide
In my post about “How I Afford To Travel,” I touch on the topic of “readiness,”—more specifically that we are never truly ready for anything. And that chasing perfection may actually prevent us from reaching our full potential. That’s particularly true in the creative realm. If we wait until we are ready (until the moment is perfect), we will never follow our dreams, indulge our passions, or push the boundaries of our experience, because all of those activities inherently involve uncertainty and risk. There is no room for “ready” in art.
Gear, or lack there of, is a common excuse people use (myself included), to not pursue photography as a passion or a career. I think there's this notion that if you don't have the perfect camera, the newest gear, or the best accessories, then you're not ready to be a photographer. I get it. I’ve been there. I always want the perfect kit at my disposal so that I can take the best photos I'm capable of. But that's a loosing battle. Gear is always improving, always evolving. And for that reason, I’ve hesitated to write this blog for a long time. In the end, “What’s In My Camera Bag,” is just a bunch of objects - tools of the trade. Those tools don't make the photographer. They are simply there to help us bring our ideas to life.
So don’t worry if some of this gear is not in your budget. Or, doesn’t make sense for the type of photography you are interested in. That’s okay! This is simply a list of gear that Quin and I generally take with us when we travel - because it works for us. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from Quin over the last couple years, it’s that you don’t need a ton of lenses, or a super expensive camera to be a photographer. All you really need is a vision, the drive to make it a reality, and a lot of time behind the lens. That being said, here's what's in my camera bag!
My first full-frame camera was the Sony Alpha A7RII. At the time I wasn’t sure if I was ready to invest in a full-frame camera, so I rented one. By the end of the rental period, I was completely hooked. When the A7RIII came out, I hesitated again - it’s an expensive camera and I already had a nice camera. But in the end, there were a few upgrades that won me over. First, the A7RIII has a significantly longer battery life - which is huge when you spend most of your time shooting in remote locations without access to chargers. Second, the A7RIII’s ability to shoot continuous rapid fire without delay is great for capturing the perfect moment during an action sequence. Finally, the dual SD Card is nice for added memory and organization.
What it’s good for: Professional Photographers and serious hobbyists looking for a compact mirrorless body option.
UPDATE: Sony recently came out with the Sony a7III! This camera is an excellent option if you have your heart set on a full frame camera, but you don't have the budget for the a7rIII, or simply don't need 42.4 MP - which lets face it, most hobbyists don't! Pair it with the Sony FE 28-70mm kit lens and you'll be able to meet your travel and adventure photography needs all in one compact little kit!
When I first decided that I was ready for a camera with interchangeable lenses, I did a bunch of research and landed on the Sony Alpha a6000. The A6500 is the most recent iteration of that camera. It has a compact and light-weight body, making it ideal for travel, hiking, and backpacking. This is a great option if you are just getting into photography, or not sure that you want or need a full-frame body, but still want the ability to switch out lenses.
What it’s good for: Travel, hiking, backpacking. Anyone looking for a compact interchangeable lens body.
An earlier version of the Sony Cyber-Shot reignited my interest in photography. I was headed to Cuba and I wanted a low profile camera that could still capture high resolution, RAW photographs. The Cyber-Shot is still one of my favorite cameras to travel with - especially when I’m trying to go ultra-light. And while I don’t use it very often for anything other than photography, it’s also a popular camera for video and blogging.
What it’s good for: High resolution point and shoot photography and videos in a camera body small enough to fit in your pocket.
The GoPro Hero7 Black is a great camera to have in your backpack just in case you find yourself in a situation where you are likely to get wet, you need an extra wide angle, or you want to shoot a quick video. Action cams in general are super small, so it’s easy to just throw one in your bag and go. I like the Hero7 Black because it has a screen, as opposed to the Hero Session which you have to connect to your phone via bluetooth to get a live view.
What it’s good for: Casual action photography and videography.
Having a drone at your disposal is a great way to find new perspectives and add diversity to your photography. They are also really fun! I like the DJI Mavic Pro because it is relatively lightweight, and folds up into a manageable size that can easily fit into my camera bag along with the rest of my gear. That being said, drones are highly regulated in a lot of places, and owning one requires an extra level of research and responsibility wherever you travel. As a result I find myself leaving it behind on a lot of my trips.
What it’s good for: Aerial photography.
One of the best pieces of advice that I ever received regarding gear, was to prioritize lenses over camera bodies. It may not be intuitive at first, but camera bodies will come and go, while a good lens can stay with you for a lifetime. Sony’s FE 24-70mm was the first major investment I made in my photography gear - and now it’s my go-to everyday lens. The range is great for everything from product shots to landscapes, and the 2.8 aperture allows for low light photographs, and a nice shallow depth of field. You can see how a shallow depth of field works in the second photo below - the subject appears sharp and in focus, while the rest of the photo has a soft blurry appearance.
What it’s good for: Pretty much everything!
This was the first lens that I got for the Sony a7rII, and I still use it all the time with the a7rIII. It’s also Quin’s go-to lens. Like the Sony FE 24-70mm F/2.8, the 16-35mm is a great all around lens that can be used for a diverse range of subjects. It’s particularly useful if you are trying to get that quintessential little person in a big landscape photo.
Quin actually also owns the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM, and while many consider that lens to be higher quality, he prefers the F4 model because it is significantly smaller, lighter, and less expensive than the G Master.
What it’s good for: Landscape photography.
This is the most recent lens that I acquired, and it has already saved the day a number of times! Although Quin and I were skeptical at first, there were just enough times when we wished we had a wider lens than the Sony FE 16-35mm, to make it worth the investment.
What it’s good for: Ultrawide perspective on close range landscapes.
Quin owns this lens, and recently it has been used to capture a number of my Instagram posts, so I decided to include it here. Again, the decision to purchase this lens, as opposed to the more common (and arguably higher quality), Sony FE 70-200mm F.2.8 GM, was based primarily on size and weight. This lens has an exceptionally large range, and can be used to create a number of different effects. At its widest the lens easily captures large landscapes, while zoomed in it can capture subjects way off in the distance.
Zoomed in, the lens is also useful for creating compression - giving old perspectives a new look. Compression is essentially the phenomenon of background elements (like mountains), appearing much larger in the composision than they actually are. The bellow photo is a great example of compression at work.
What it’s good for: Great when you only want to carry one lens, and you aren’t sure exactly what you are going to need.
This is the cropped sensor lens that I use for the Sony Alpha a6000 and 6500. You can purchase either of those bodies with kit lenses, but after doing some research, I decided to forgo the kit lenses, and splurge on something with a little higher quality glass. To this day it’s the only lens that I have for the a6000 series, and I’m still happy with the range of photographs it can capture.
What it’s good for: Great all in one lens for your cropped sensor a6000 series body.
I was really torn between the 13-inch and the 15-inch MacBook Pro. The 15-inch is undoubtedly better for processing and editing photos and videos. But, at the end of the day, it didn’t fit into any of my bags, so I went with the 13-inch. While the larger screen would be nice, I’ve been happy with my decision. If my content was more video based, it would be a different story.
What it’s good for: Editing photographs.
Adobe Creative Cloud
My photography took the largest leap forward when I made the switch from shooting jpeg, to shooting RAW and editing with Adobe Lightroom CC. That simple change made a huge difference in my ability to edit photos, while preserving the quality of the original image. I pay an $11USD monthly fee for the entire Adobe Creative Cloud tool suite. I currently only use Lightroom, but it includes Adobe Photoshop, and a number of other potentially useful programs.
What it’s good for: Editing RAW images.
Camera Accessories & Other Gear
F-Stop KASHMIR UL
I’ve had a lot of trouble finding camera-bags that are both functional for caring gear long distances, and built to fit my small frame. The relatively lightweight Kashmir UL is the first backpack I’ve found that was designed with the active female shooter in mind. It’s honestly still a little big on me, but hey, at least they're trying!
The Lotus model is Quin’s go-to camera bag, and he swears by it for traveling, hiking, and everyday use.
What it’s good for: The active photographer that needs a backpack that can work as hard as they do.
F-STOP INTERNAL CAMERA UNIT (ICU)
Like many other camera bags, if you decide to go with an F-Stop bag, you will also want to purchase an ICU. These individual storage units come in a number of different sizes, and can be customized to fit your gear.
What it’s good for: Organizing camera gear, while keeping it safe inside your backpack.
When I’m not hiking long distances, I use the 21 Liter WANDRD Prvke Series backpack. Built out of durable and water-resistant materials it’s an awesome travel/camera/everyday backpack. I particularly like the Prvke’s functionality, with easily accessible storage compartments and an adjustable roll top.
What it’s good for: Strong on form and function the WANDRD Prvke is a good everyday backpack.
I seriously love this camera strap. It's super comfy, and the ability to easily remove it from my camera has been a game changer. My issue with camera straps in the past, was that sometimes I wanted the strap on, but other times, it just got in the way. Now, I don't have to compromise!
What it's good for: Carrying your camera.
The truth is I avoid using tripods whenever possible. I find that they really cramp my style, and just add a lot of extra weight to my bag. That being said, sometimes they are a necessity, and right now the MeFOTO GlobeTrotter is the one in my bag.
What it’s good for: Self-portraits and long exposure shots.
Polarization filters are specially adapted glass that can reduce glare when turned at an angle to a light source. Quin and I use polarized filters a lot when we are shooting water. The polarizer allows us to cut through the reflection, and give more detail to items in the water. You can see the polarizer in action by comparing the two photos above. In the first photo, my reflection and the reflection of the mountains is fairly dominant. In the second photo, a polarizer was used used to cut through the reflection to reveal details under the water's surface.
What it’s good for: Cutting through the reflection on water.
Generally, when I take photos of myself, I use the built-in 10 second timer on my camera. However, sometimes I want a little more control over when the shutter goes off, and that’s when I use the Vallo Freewave Wireless Remote Shutter. I’ve also used the remote for long exposure shots when I don’t want to risk causing vibrations by pushing down on the camera’s shutter button.
What it’s good for: Self-portraits and long exposure shots.
I always travel with my portable hard drive, and I like the Lacie Rugged Mini because I’m not particularly gentle with my gear. I frequently transfer data in the field, so it’s nice to have that extra protection. I also have a number of backup hard drives at home, just in case anything happens to my data while I’m traveling.
What it’s good for: Copy and transport data (images) in the field.
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