Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Can a photographer travel light?

I'm not very good at light packing - you should see the contents of my everyday shoulder bag - I could quite easily find myself marooned in the Alaskan wilderness, and use what's inside to build a shelter, protect myself from the elements, rear and slaughter reindeer, set up a chanel no.5 beauty salon for passing bored Inuit women and live quite happily for a very long time.

On Christmas day this year I wont be sitting around having the usual xmas feast and frollicks as most people will be enjoying in this country, I'll be on an aeroplane heading off on an adventure to explore Peru and Ecuador for a whole entire month! I know my mind should be on the excitement of traveling, the amazing things I'll see, the new cultures I'll experience, the warmth of the sun on my skin, the gorgeous Spanish language I hope to finally master, a holiday that has been a long time coming...relaxation...but no, I'm kind of obsessed with the photographic opportunities that it will afford me. Wide angled landscapes of the Andes, Machu Picchu, the wildlife of the Galapagos, the faces of Quito. Worried that I don't have the photography skills to capture it how I want, the right equipment to do it, and most of all on my mind is that I don't want to lug heavy camera equipment around with me.

Right now I have my kit lens (canon 18-55mm), a macro lens that is incredibly satisfying in a phallic sturdy lens kind of way (canon 300mm), and my wide angled sigma which is a dream, but obviously, I need a new lens. Nothing new there, I always need a new lens! You see what I don't have is a decent telephoto lens to take. The kit lens doesn't really reach all the right places. Was wondering if I could get a good all-in-one I could take with me to lesson the load. I don't want a mega long ultra extending lens - I'm no wildlife photographer, but just something to give a bit more reach would be good (always left feeling a bit frustrated with the 55mm). Yes, I hear you, 'it's not how big it is, it's what you do with it that matters' ....*NewsFlash*...size...does...matter.

The friendly guys at the Station Camera Shop in Reading (one of those really great camera shops that let you try and buy) have suggested a Canon 55-250mm (c. £202.00) or a 55-200mm Tamron (c. £70) - unfortunatley my budget won't stretch to go down to 18mm or up to 300mm (sniff). So I tried. The Tamron was surprisingly good for the price, light as a feather but it does feel plasticy, and it doesn't have image stabilisation which means I may need a tripod at times. The Canon on the other hand does have the IS, has that extra 50mm and also the bit that connects it to the camera is aluminum, more durable. But to be fair the difference in image quality on a rainy day was pretty non-existent - and it is an extra £130 more...dream trips to S.America don't come cheap. Both lens' though won't go down to that 18mm mark which means I should really take the sigma and kit lens too, then there are the filters, the lens hoods, the memory sticks, extra batteries and cards....

Today on the DPS Blog popped up a post on 5 Tips to Travel with One Lens. It's traumatising enough I will have to leave the laptop con photoshop behind, no post-process playing until I get back. Can I really bring myself to travel with ONE lens in addition? Surely the psychological effects will be too much to deal with creating stress and anxiety which could easily be avoided by carrying an extra kilo or two. Perhaps I can justify taking the whole shebang if I just pack a change of knickers and my Lonely Planet.


Anonymous said...

Take a look at the Sigma AF 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 DC OS; I bought one about a year ago and it's become my go-to lens for light travel. Plus, Amazon is showing a good price right now.

David said...

I'm getting ready for six weeks in Argentina (leave Thursday) and am going through the same ordeal. I got really frustrated with the bulkiness of it all last week and got a G10. I'm trial packing now to gauge the impact of also bringing the digital rebel and a couple of lenses. And maybe a tripod. And definitely my laptop. And since I'm bring all that stuff, there's no point in leaving the polarizer and split neutral density filter.

I think the answer to your posted question is .... no.

Holly said...

I feel your pain! I have a quick trip to Uganda next week for business and I have to tell my Tokina 11-16mm f?2.8 and my Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 that they can not come. I will be taking the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 only (but might grab the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 at the last moment). I am fighting the urge to buy a new lens either the new Tamron 18-270mm or the Nikon 18-200mm but the urge is strong and I might not be able to hold back.

For me the key is - short trip - site visits limited to health centers I have been to before and most of my time in the capital city. Photo ops are street scenes and people.

I was in Peru 18 years ago and there is a wide range of scenery. I would take a telephoto with a range like the Nikon or the Tamron which both are f/3.5 to 5.6 I think, and one low light lens like a 50mm f/2.8 or 1.4. You will want something that is not so big when you are in urban places both because it screams "rich person" and is intimidating to people. (and don't be surprised or otherwise offended if people ask you to give them money when you take their picture - keep some small change in you pocket and give with a glad heart!)

Ed said...

Hello--I read your post on DPS and wanted to recommend a camera bag: I just purchased a Domke F-3 backpack, which holds my XT/350D with battery grip and 17-85 IS lens attached, 70-200 f/4L with hood reversed, Tokina 12-24 with hood reversed, 50 f/1.8, filters, 430EX flash, battery chargers, water bottle, Palm PDA, mobile phone, small books, memory cards, snacks, etc. But, best of all, it doesn't look like a camera bag. And if you wanted to take only 1 or 2 lenses, you'd just have that much more room to carry other things. My travel lens is the 17-85 IS. It's gotten a bad rap due to the harsh distortions at 17mm and CA's, but it's surprising ly sharp and colorful and once you realize the flaws are easily fixed with software you begin to appreciate its benefits (IS, USM, metal mount, small size/weight). Best of luck and have fun.

Dan (Smoothfoote) said...

Peru and Ecuador!

Good luck, I wouldn't worry too much about choice of lens, I have found that whatever lens you have you can find creative and satisfying ways of capturing whatever place you're in.