I love to travel light. If I can keep it simple and fit everything I need in one small bag, I prefer that to carrying unnecessary clothes and photography equipment around.
The trick is to plan carefully, consider your destination, and bring no more than the essentials to make the most of your trip. It’s tempting just to take photos with a mobile phone because we always have it with us, and it takes pretty decent pictures. But if you want to take your travel photography a little more seriously, it’s time to bring out the big camera.
Over the years, I’ve sold many of my photos to travel magazines, and I don’t think I would have been able to do that if I’d taken them with my iPhone. Most of the time, I’ll photograph a scene both with my iPhone camera as well as with my Canon camera. It gives me flexibility, and I can edit and post photos on the go. Then when I come back home, I’ll put some effort into editing the larger photo files I took with my big camera.
I walk a lot when I travel. Most often, I get up just before sunrise and try to capture the scenery before the tourists, and the locals wake up and fill the streets and beaches. The morning light is also my favorite light. But I keep exploring, walking, and taking pictures during the day – despite the challenges that can arise from places getting crowded or strong sunlight. Sometimes those factors can add something interesting to a photo.
Besides the camera gear I recommend to you in this post, my number one priority is always some good sneakers or hiking shoes that I can walk in all day long. Some comfortable clothes that I can move in and that I don’t need to iron. I might bring a pretty blouse or a dress for going out in the evening, but the less I pack, the more space I have for my photography gear.
None of the things I mention in this post are sponsored. I don’t receive any products or money from recommending it. It’s just pure love from using and working with these items for years.
Here’s the TOP 5 essential gear to take with you if you want to travel light.
#1: Crossbody Camera Strap
The crossbody camera strap (or “sling” as it’s also called) is just as important as good walking shoes. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to walk with my camera from early morning to late afternoon. It’s much more comfortable to wear than the original straps that come with your camera when you buy it.
Carrying your camera this way makes bringing even the heaviest lenses easy. You can also shift the way you carry it, so the weight is either on the front or the back. It’s an excellent option if you normally get tired from walking with the camera.
I just use a plain black strap, but you can find them in many different styles. A quick search on ETSY, and you’ll find some nice ones handmade in leather.
#2: Mini Tripod
When traveling and walking a lot, I don’t particularly like carrying a large tripod, so I usually shoot handheld. But there are situations where a tripod is a good help, and this is where the mini tripod comes in.
I personally use a Gorilla tripod like the one you see in the photo above. With a tripod, I can lower my shutter speed without getting camera shake. The Gorilla tripod also works as a selfie stick. I can take photos with myself in the frame or use it with my iPhone to get super sharp images.
Another advantage of the Gorilla tripod is that I can attach it to something high up or shoot from a very low angle. It’s super flexible and can be fixed onto almost anything. And if I do video, I will attach the camera to it and hold it as a stick because it reduces shaking from hand movements.
#3: Optical Viewfinder
The optical viewfinder is properly my most used photography accessory. Honestly, it would be hard for me to do my job as a photographer without it!
The viewfinder is like a little black box with a magnifying glass, and you hold it up against the LCD screen on the camera. It blocks out all light so you can see what’s going on on your camera’s LCD screen. With a magnification of 200%, I can also check if my main subject is in focus and if everything is sharp enough.
I was first introduced to the optical viewfinder ten years ago when my sister, who’s also a photographer, gave it to me as a birthday present. When I first got it, I couldn’t really see the benefits it provided. My sister used it a lot because she often shot fashion outdoors in bright daylight. And because it can be hard to see your photos on the back of your camera in strong sunlight, the viewfinder was a helpful tool for her.
But I never got used to it, and for years it was just collecting dust until about two years ago. With age, I started using reading glasses, and in the end, I began having trouble seeing my photography work clearly when I was out photographing. So I dusted off the viewfinder, and today I use it for all my photography work. Every photo gets checked whether I work inside or outside.
So for travel photography, the optical viewfinder can be your best friend to block out all light, see details clearly and get the focus right.
If you decide to invest in a viewfinder, make sure you get one that fits your camera model. You can get it here https://kinotehnik.com/lcdvf/ (not sponsored).
Circular Polarizing Filter
A filter is a thin piece of glass you can attach to your lens. Polarizing filters are used to decide how much light enters your camera lens. They can reduce unwanted reflections from shiny surfaces such as water or glass and also boost colors providing better contrast. In other words, the filter reduces the amount of light coming into the camera, which helps control the highlights and keeps everything clearer in the final image.
How much of the effect you want can be adjusted simply by rotating the filter. This filter is excellent for landscape and travel photography because it makes the clouds stand out, increases saturation in the landscape, or decreases the reflection of water and windows.
Below you can see a few examples. Notice the color difference in the sky, the contrast/clarity on the house, and the white parasol’s highlights.
40mm F2.8 Pancake Lens
My go-to travel lens is the prime Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 lens on a full frame body. It’s super small, super light, yet razor sharp and fast. This lens has very high image quality for the price and costs about the same as the popular 50mm, but I like the wider angle of 40mm, which makes it perfect for both travel and landscape photography.
That being said, a good travel lens choice is always a high-quality zoom lens that will give you a lot more variety, but because I walk as much as I do, I prefer to carry as little weight as possible. I love the 24-70mm lens for travel photography, but it gets heavy after a few hours of carrying it.
The 40mm is a fantastic lens, considering how small it is. It’s called a “pancake” since it is very thin, so once it is placed on the camera, you get a very light and portable setup. The widest aperture is f/2.8 so we can get enough light and a nice background bokeh, mainly when we shoot on a full frame camera. You can’t zoom with this lens, so you must zoom with your feet, moving back and forward to get the right frame.
Talking about the focal length, the 40mm on the full frame is shorter than what’s recommended for portraits. But I find it to be great for when you want to include a person or animal in the frame for a more lifestyle-inspired scene in which you include a bit more of the environment around. As long as you avoid going too close up a person, you can capture some captivating portraits and compositions.
I suggest this Canon 40mm f/2.8 pancake lens to all photographers for landscape and travel photography. With a lens this small, there’s no excuse not to have it with you when you’re out exploring!
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Got a question for me? Simply connect with me on Instagram @christinagreve.
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