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Up for Discussion: Travel Photography

As many of you know I have a trip planned next year to go to the United States.  I will be visiting Laura Macky on the west coast and then over to New York for a week.  I am really excited about this trip, but I don’t know what gear to take, how to take it, etc, so I was talking online with Robin one day, and I know he does a fair bit of this, so I asked if he would write something for us on how to go about getting your camera gear ready for a trip.  Robin, has written for me before, well part of a post, and he also has his own blog, photographybykent.

Travel Photography

Kent Tripod

What to take? What to leave behind? Unless you are attending an instructor-led workshop and have been given a list of what to bring, these two questions can drive a photographer nuts when preparing for a new and unfamiliar location.

This essay is the result of a very kind invitation from Leanne Cole to contribute a discussion topic for her blog. I was excited about the opportunity because I have been a fan of her work since I first discovered her blog. After a few exchanges about possible topics, she suggested travel photography, specifically the issue of deciding what equipment to take. That was perfect since I am wrestling with this very issue as I prepare for a journey to Antarctica in January next year.

I should introduce this piece by saying that anyone looking for a list of the top 10 essential items to carry on your next photo journey will not find it here. There are too many variables at play. Instead, I hope to suggest some ways to help fellow shooters define their own lists.

My own routine for deciding what to take has worked pretty well, but the prospect of writing this article motivated me to investigate how others handle this situation. An Internet search usually produces “The List” and, as one might suspect, there is wide variety in the lists of gear one must carry. For example, in looking at photographers who had been to Antarctica, one fellow said: “two camera bodies, each attached to a lens, polarizing filter, and no tripod.” The other said (basically): “Bring everything. It’s the trip of a lifetime.” And his list looked like he was opening a camera store.

Kent Yosemite

Include tools to find the right time at the right place

So back to the drawing board. In looking at my own approach and that of two photographer friends, I realized that our process was the same, but typically produced different results, depending on where we were going, how we were traveling, and what we wanted to photograph when we arrived. This is probably the same process every photographer follows in some way or another, although the degree of effort may vary. Putting this into a more formal set of guidelines, one could say that there are three important questions that one needs to address before leaving on a major photographic journey:

  1. What are your photographic objectives for the trip?
  2. What are the weight/volume restrictions associated with this trip?
  3. What are the on-site conditions that can affect your success?

I don’t want to get all philosophical here, but the first question deals with hope, while the other two deal with reality. Reality is usually addressed by identifying the problems for which you must find a solution. If you are successful in addressing the problems, you have a better chance of realizing your hopes.

For example, the question of one camera body or two. If one is traveling to New York City a single camera body can be OK because almost anything can be rented there should disaster strike. This is not the case, however, in a remote location such as Antarctica.

Some might be tempted to say here that since each photographer knows their personal answer to the first question we should get right down to the nuts and bolts of what to bring. Not so fast. You may think you know, but if you’ve never been to this place, how do you know what might be there waiting for your magic touch?

Kent Paris

Locals know where the best locations are.

In the old days, people would read travel books published by Fodor’s and the like to find out where to go and what to do. Today we read blogs, search Flickr and 500x for images of the general area, and pull out back issues of “Outdoor Photographer.” And let’s be clear about this. We’re not looking to duplicate the images created by others, we are gathering information about specific locations.

This, of course, is not necessary if you are gifted with incredible luck 24/7. But for most of us, educating ourselves about the destination increases the chances of coming back with some special images.

Kent Paris

Pre-trip research can pay off.

As your plans form, you should also be identifying potential obstacles. Chief among these are weight restrictions and to a lesser extent, constraints on equipment size such as a tripod. First, assess your strength and endurance compared to the physical requirements of the trip. Will you be on a “lung-buster” climb at 10,500 feet? Or just a short walk from a parking lot? And be aware that cities like New York City, Paris, and Washington may be at sea level and flat, but the miles can pile up quickly as you lug all that stuff from one shooting location to another. Know your abilities, both physical and photographic. One photographer told me: “The farther I have to walk, the less I carry. My minimum load is one camera, one lens, and a polarizing filter; no other gear, not even a camera bag.” Yet she comes back with amazing images.

Kent Monarchs in Mexico

Monarch Migration: Weight matters at 11,000 feet.

A more obvious hurdle is the airline segment of the journey. Know the luggage rules before you leave. Items that are expensive, fragile, and essential should be taken as carry-on luggage. You can place less important items in checked baggage and in some cases you may want to consider advance shipping.

Be sure to consider all aspects of getting around while on location. For example, safari expeditions usually involve a vehicle that has room for your gear, but a raft going down the Colorado River is another matter entirely (a dry bag is needed here).

Kent West Virginia

Planning for the weather is critical

Another way to come at this problem is to review the recent history of your actual shooting practices rather than what you typically pack. For example, one photographer pointed out that while he has several camera bodies and about a dozen lenses, in actual practice he uses the same body and two lenses 90 percent of the time. And of those two lenses, one accounts for 60 percent. “I’m not sure I could live without a tripod,” he said, “but I could do all right with a single body, that one lens, a polarizing filter, and a tripod.”

Finally, one should always ask fellow photographers what they take when going to your destination and why they take it. To that end, I hope readers will weigh in with their thoughts. I’d especially love to hear any suggestions about Antarctica and I believe Leanne is planning to visit New York City next year so ideas about the Big Apple also would be appreciated.

Kent Empire State Building

I hope you will join me in thanking Robin for this wonderful post. Don’t forget to go to Robin’s blog, photographybykent, I believe his planning a companion post soon, so keep a look out for it.  Thanks Robin. He has some more images for you now.

 

188 Comments
  1. These photos are amazing!

    December 5, 2014
    • Thanks very much. I appreciate your participation.

      December 5, 2014
  2. Great post. Funds permitting and given where you are going looking into Lens Rental. The 24-70 make for a great all round travel lens.

    December 5, 2014
    • Oh, I have that lens, it is the lens I use the most, love it.

      December 5, 2014
    • Absolutely. For those in the U.S., I have heard (from pros whom I respect) that borrowlenses.com is a good source for renting gear.

      December 5, 2014
      • Another good idea would be insurance for any gear.

        December 5, 2014
  3. Oh, Leanne, how exciting for you to meet Laura! I live in NY but I believe you mean NYC. I am not able to travel for two reasons … physical reasons and due to the animals I care for. I have no one to replace me, and some being on meds, must be attended all the time properly. They also being “special” have come to rely on me being home, and so, out of LOVE for them, I work to go on short photo shoots here locally. My dream is to travel, though, believe me, and in seeing an improvement with my back (the physical reason) perhaps one day when my babies are no longer here, I can travel. I have one backpack and when I do go on photo shoots, this is what I take, along with my tripod. Nothing more. I also just purchased an “easy” camera, a point and shoot, to get those shots when I need real speed. That can fit in my purse. Yes, lots to consider and I am lucky I manage to fit all my camera gear in one backpack. Now I know you have much more then I do, so I really wish you luck! (((HUGS))) Amy

    December 5, 2014
    • It will be exciting Amy, I can’t wait. Hoping to meet a few others as well. Yes, I will be in NYC, do you think you could make it for a day, there are a few of us from WP planning on having a day where we can all meet up and spend the day together, taking photos around New York. Oh yes, I do have too much gear, but hoping that I can work out what to bring with me. I will probably just bring the basics I think. thanks Amy, hope you can do it.

      December 5, 2014
      • I will see what I can do. It depends on the when, Leanne. If I can get my husband to give the meds as they must be given, and if I can get him to feed these cats as they are used to … this might be doable. I would just LOVE to meet you and other WP photographers. To go to NYC to photograph … I would LOVE to! I’ll let you know.

        December 5, 2014
      • I will Amy, I will be starting to make more announcements on my blog as well. At this stage I will be in New York around the 3rd to the 10th or 11th of May, so that gives some idea.

        December 5, 2014
      • Oh wow, that is a LOT of time for me to train hubby. And May is so beautiful here usually as well. Oh, Leanne, I mean it, I really would love to go. (((HUGS))) Amy

        December 5, 2014
      • Well I really hope you can swing it Amy and can come, it would be great to have a day where I get to meet lots of people, and they all get to meet one another as well.

        December 5, 2014
  4. I know a lot of people use mini tripods as the weight of carrying a regular tripod around can be an issue when travelling. My Manfrotto 190XPROB was the first thing that went in my hold luggage on my recent trip to Iceland and it’s heavy. I don’t think this is something you can compromise on if you’re going to be taking landscape photographs.
    In Iceland the light levels were low, the winds high. I needed longer exposures so a sturdy tripod was absolutely essential for my trip. As Robin says though, there is no definitive list as there are so many variables. My need for a heavy sturdy tripod was dictated by my destination. Perhaps if I’d been heading south rather than north, a light travel tripod may have sufficed.
    I left nothing at home. My camera bag contained all my lenses, all my filters and camera body of course. This went on the plane with me as hand luggage and stayed with me at all times. I ended up using every bit of kit in the bag and know I’d have been kicking myself if I’d left any of my kit behind.
    I went to Iceland to take photographs so my photography equipment came before everything else.
    Great post and a good talking point!

    December 5, 2014
    • I have a great big tripod, but I won’t take it to New York, I know for the type of photography I will be doing, I won’t really need it, but I am hoping to get a small compact tripod for christmas that will be perfect for somewhere like that. thanks Chillbrook.

      December 5, 2014
    • Yes, when it is possible, it is preferable to take everything that you know you can use. But often the photographer does not control their destiny. For example, the trip I have next month to Antarctica is being complicated by some very strict weight restrictions regarding carry-on luggage, 5 kilos (11 pounds) for a domestic flight in Argentina. My two bodies and two principal lenses exceed that with a single accessory. Needless to say, some serious thought is being given to work-arounds.

      December 5, 2014
      • In which case I’d weigh up the odds. I think I’d make sure I was well insured and ‘hide’ some of my kit in my hold luggage. I couldn’t imagine not getting the shot I wanted on the trip of the lifetime. For me I think it’d be worth the risk of losing something if there was a chance I’d have a spare body or lens with me and get ‘the’ shot.
        Equipment failure is something we have to think about too. The last section of one of the legs of my tripod broke off whilst I was in Iceland. It wasn’t the end of the world as I was able to take shots from a lower veiwpoint but if my camera had failed and I only had the one body, that would be it. End of trip.

        December 5, 2014
  5. Having gone to NYC many times all I can suggest is a fast lens (a zoom works well) and don’t try the tripod! It’s too busy and crowded for that unless maybe you are in Central Park.

    December 5, 2014
    • thanks for that, I will remember that. I have a couple of fast lenses, which I had planned on bringing with me. I was hoping to use a tripod for some night shots there, that is about all.

      December 5, 2014
    • Thanks for your comments, and you are right about NYC being crowded. However, I’ve found there are a number of places they can be used there without much of a problem. I do a lot of night photography, so I try to have one with me if at all possible. I’ve never had trouble down at Battery Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park, or up around the Flat Iron Building for example. But these were mostly early morning or evening shoots and the locations were not crowded at the time. Other places, such as Top of the Rock observation deck don’t allow them but there is often a stable ledge that can be used. Another tactic is to use one of those Gorilla pods by Joby, but those generally require lighter weight cameras.

      December 5, 2014
      • I agree. I’ve used ledges and half walls to take shots that required long exposures in NYC. I was told by one store to move because their wall was perfect for a time lapse shot of Grand Central Station and they didn’t like me there without buying anything 😉

        December 6, 2014
  6. lensaddiction #

    This is so timely as I have just booked my tickets for my trip to Tasmania next year! I have travelled a bit with my gear so am pretty comfortable with it, I have a Tamrac backpack that fits a bit of stuff that is comfy and able to be carried all day – thats a really important consideration.

    I am working on increasing my walking fitness so i can do some 2-3 hr walks to get to key destinations as well so weight will certainly be a consideration there.

    Plus I am planning on investing in Lee filters so will have to account for taking those as well.

    And then you need to account for proper outdoor clothing and changes in weather and environments. Good footwear! Hydration!

    Its not just the camera gear, its you too 🙂

    December 5, 2014
    • Thanks for the points on working out in advance. That investment can make a big difference in how far you can carry your gear.

      December 5, 2014
      • lensaddiction #

        Yes thats exactly what I was thinking, if I have to walk a couple of hours to a waterfall I want to be fit enough to do it at all, and esp with a load.

        I even went so far as to get a personal trainer for 4 months, and a month in its really improved my strength a lot.

        December 5, 2014
  7. I don’t own that much gear, so it’s not that hard of a question for me. I ended up bringing my Nikon D5100, its kit lens (18-55mm) and a telephoto zoom lens (55-200mm), but mostly only actually carried the zoom lens and left the kit lens in my suitcase, since I primarily do street photography and prefer doing closeups on people in crowds rather than wide-angle shots. In retrospect I would’ve liked to have my kit lens with me and I should’ve just carried it cuz it’s not THAT heavy.

    December 5, 2014
  8. Enjoy the states when you come!
    Besides the following, read a little of good, old Walt before you arrive!

    America (by Walt Whitman):

    Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,
    All, all alike endear’d, grown, ungrown, young or old,
    Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,
    Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love,
    A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother,
    Chair’d in the adamant of Time.

    December 5, 2014
  9. Hi leanne – I just watched this you tube Video today. Some good points on what to bring for travel photography. Here’s the link if you’re interested http://youtu.be/5g0Q0dI6mMg

    December 5, 2014
    • thanks I took a quick look and he has some good advice, though won’t be taking as much as he has suggested, thank you for the link.

      December 5, 2014
  10. I took will be going to New York this weekend. Never know what to bring especially since I’m taking the train and you can’t check any luggage. Thanks for the post!

    December 5, 2014
    • If you are going via Amtrak, you can get a fair amount on board the train. I always go to NYC via Amtrak, stow my suitcase in the luggage rack at the end of the car and my camera bag in the overhead. In fact, I was on the Acela today, carried my tripod in the suitcase, two lenses, a camera body and basic accessories in my smaller camera bag, and I also had my laptop and iPad in the suitcase. the nice thing about the train is you don’t have to let your luggage be out of your sight. They do have a weight limit, but it is something like 50 pounds.

      December 5, 2014
      • Thanks! I never travel by train. Was a little worried about taking my camera stuff which I want to keep close by and my luggage at the same time

        December 5, 2014
  11. Beautiful images. Photos like these inspire me to be a better travel photographer, albeit one whose only aspiration is to better document my family’s life and record our travel experiences.

    December 5, 2014
    • Thank you very much for the kind words. Family documentation is important also, and has it own set of challenges which could make for a whole other Discussion topic😊

      December 5, 2014
  12. Hi Robyn you covered this subject very well! Leanne, I think you asked the right person for advise, even if Robyn didn’t really have a definitive answer, with all the questions he asked I am sure you will figure out the answer taylored to your shooting style.
    I love NYC it is an amazing place to visit. I visit the Brooklyn Bridge every time I go, it is like a big magnet for me, sunrise is the best time of day.
    I do a fair bit of travelling, everything fits into a backpack that goes with me on the airplane. In the bag, one camera, 3 lens, flash, flash diffuser, 10 stop neutral density filter, and lunch! Never leave home without food and water!
    The tripod is in the checked luggage along with spare battery and cleaning kit. To be honest I use one lens (35 – 105 zoom) 80 percent of the time, some days the other lenses don’t leave the hotel room! I really only use the tripod for night or low light situations. Now you have my two cents worth, I hope it helps.

    December 5, 2014
    • Thanks Janice, I thought he would be a great person to ask.
      Oh yes, I want to do it really early in the morning too, hopefully less people. Great two cents, thank again.

      December 5, 2014
  13. Oh I love it. I know the exact spot Robin stood to take that Big Sur waterfall picture.

    December 5, 2014
    • Yes, it’s McWay Falls, and while pretty well known to folks in California, those of us on the east coast have to do a fair amount of search to find places like that. For those who are interested in waterfalls on the west coast, I would recommend subscribing to the blog “Waterfallswest.com” the fellow who publishes it does an amazing job in keeping information current, providing mapping details, and great photos to boot.

      December 5, 2014
  14. Amy #

    Magnificent photos!

    December 5, 2014
  15. Great photos. Years ago when I traveled it wasn’t so bad about taking a lot of camera gear. Now travelers have to consider the security measures so I would say be careful about scanners and also that security and customs officers don’t have the same feeling about your equipment. Make sure you carry a cellphone as well with a good camera on it. There are times when carry a heavy camera pack is not possible but the cellphone can take good photos as well.
    My two cents worth.
    😀

    December 5, 2014
    • Thanks for that Raewyn, I was thinking for taking two back packs, one with most of my gear, the other, a smaller one, I will put that in with my other luggage, that way I don’t have to take some gear with me each day and can use the smaller back pack for the day trips. That’s the plan.

      December 5, 2014
  16. I’m glad he mentioned renting in NYC. If you find you don’t have enough room in your baggage or too much weight, you could rent a lens or two in NYC as well as a second camera body. In the past I have rented lenses and had them shipped to my travel location. I kept the box and packed the lens back up and used the label that the company sent. Dropped it off at a UPS location and it was great! That’s how I ended up wanting my 105 mm macro lens so bad, rented one first!

    Tamara

    December 5, 2014
    • That is great advice Tamara, I will have to remember that. Though I am hoping my brother in law can swing it that I might get to try out some lenses while I am there, which would mean I wouldn’t have to bring as much stuff. Thank you.

      December 5, 2014
  17. Great information and blog post.. Thanks Leanne and Robin for a lovely piece. I’m going to share on my social. 🙂

    December 5, 2014
    • You’re welcome Susan. 🙂

      December 5, 2014
    • Thanks for sharing the post, Susan. I’m glad you liked it.

      December 5, 2014
  18. Thanks Leanne and Robin. Nice to see more of Robin’s beautiful images:)
    Very topical as we head off ourselves. A good point Robin makes is thinking about the environment you will be in. For us sailing brings the added challenge of salt… So adding to the ‘must take list’ a decent lens cleaning kit and a good protective bag to store your gear when not in use.

    December 5, 2014
    • I must admit I wouldn’t have thought of that, great advice Chris, thanks for sharing it.

      December 5, 2014
    • Yes, same here. I’ve not had the good fortune to be a sail boat with a camera, but I’m sure there are a lot of special issues that you have to consider. I know I’ll need a dry bag when we are buzzing around in those Zodiacs in Antarctica. Any specific thoughts on that?

      December 5, 2014
    • Oh yes a dry bag is a must if you are going anywhere near water. Should have remembered that one! What I have done also is to buy a neoprene cover to snuggly fit my camera and most often used lens. It provides a bit of padding and protection to the gear before stuffing it in the dry bag. Optech USA make these in different sizes. I swear by them.

      We have a few dry bags of different sizes and thickness. Sea to Summit make lightweight ones and can be purchased at mountain stores. Marine stores also make dry bag backpacks which are good for carrying more gear. Hope that helps!

      December 5, 2014
      • Excellent. Very helpful. I will definitely check those sources. Thanks so much for the leads.

        December 5, 2014
  19. Ohh New York! I lived there over the summer. I have a few blog posts about my experience if you’re interested: http://itsjpei.wordpress.com/category/places-to-go/nyc/

    December 5, 2014
    • Thank you, I will check out the link.

      December 5, 2014
    • Thanks for the lead, I will definitely check them out.

      December 5, 2014
  20. Jackie Saulmon Ramirez #

    Pre-trip research is a good tip, learning about the weather is a must. You want to insure your equipment in case it gets lost, damaged or stolen. Plan your time of day shots if you can, shadows can work for or against you. You are going to do an amazing job on New York. 🙂

    December 5, 2014
    • Thank you Jackie, though I will have someone showing me around, so hopefully all I have to do is take photos, how hard will that be? I will have to take out travel insurance, not sure my current insurance would cover me for the states.

      December 5, 2014
      • If it’s like mine (with NRMA) it doesn’t, just for Australia and New Zealand. I did a survey of the Australian travel insurance companies and found QBE offered the best coverage, including for cameras.

        December 5, 2014
      • I will have to find out about that. thanks.

        December 5, 2014
    • Good point on the insurance. I’m not sure what the rules are in Australia, but my understanding for US companies, a standard travel policy may not cover loss of equipment in all situations. I have a special rider on my homeowners policy for my expensive gear, but I had best verify that it covers me in far off places such as the end of earth.

      December 5, 2014
      • I will have to remember to look into it as well, I’ve just updated my insurance policy, so I should find out.

        December 5, 2014
  21. Fantastic photos. Thanks for the introduction to Robin 😃. Great post!

    December 5, 2014
    • Thanks very much. I appreciate your comments.

      December 5, 2014
  22. I am really looking forward to your visit! I think what is really neat is the two coasts are quite different. It will be really neat to see what you think and how you photograph each coast. I think over here it will be more nature and over on the East Coast it will be more city. Even though San Francisco is a city LOL. Robin’s pictures are amazing and I do follow his blog. Thank you for all the travel tips! Maybe someday we will come to Australia!

    December 5, 2014
    • Me too, can’t wait to see you in the flesh, so to speak. It will be great seeing each side, the middle might have to wait for another trip. Haha, but we won’t be doing much in the city will we, more outside of it. I hope you can come here one day, I would love to show my place.

      December 5, 2014
      • Yep in the flesh! And yes, not too much city….you will love it here I know. I hope my passion for this area rubs off and you enjoy it. One of Dave’s dreams is to go to Australia and NZ. he wants to see the opera house in Sydney. It’s like the GGB to you. Me, I’ll take the Malee! 🙂

        December 5, 2014
      • I think I will too, I’ve heard that San Francisco, at least is the closest US city like Melbourne, so it will be interesting to see it. Why does everyone want to see the Sydney Opera House, it hasn’t ages well, I see it and just think it looks dated now, maybe one day it will grow out of it. I love the Mallee, it is more unique I think.

        December 5, 2014
      • Dave loves opera and he always has to see the opera house wherever he goes and since that’s one of the most famous ones, for him, I think that’s why. Me…well…based on your pictures I’d be happy in Melbourne and the Mallee (two L’s) lol.

        December 6, 2014
      • It is funny that it is probably one of the most famous ones in the world, but the acoustics in it are really bad. I have never been in it, but have been around the outside of it a couple of times. I think you would love Melbourne, we have a Opera house here, but we call it an arts centre. LOL The Mallee (two L’s two E’s lol) is incredible, I think, though I am sure there are other places similar.

        December 6, 2014
      • Funny that the acoustics are bad. I know he’s still want to see it. Every place has its beauty though. At least I think so. Maybe some day I’ll see the Mallee after you help save it. 🙂

        December 6, 2014
      • Yep, apparently really bad, I hope he gets to see it one day. that is true, that is something that has taken me a while to understand, every place does. I hope you can get here one day and I can show you the Mallee.

        December 6, 2014
    • Thanks, Laura, Good to hear from you and I know you will be showing Leanne some great locations in California. I love your images from the area on your blog. The San Francisco area and the Northern California coast have so much going for them, it is hard to believe.

      December 5, 2014
      • You’re welcome Robin. And oops I said “your” in my post. I always do that when someone hosts another person. Your post was so complete and thorough. We will be traveling again in the near future so I might need to refer to it again. I just know Leanne will love it. I have a feeling…. 🙂 I’ve got some great places on my list for her!

        December 6, 2014
  23. Good ideas for thinking about where you are going and what your goal(s) are. Thant really is the key as to what to bring – I tend to bring a bit more than i need but certainly not everything in my arsenal.

    December 5, 2014
    • Thanks for your comments. I usually have a couple things that turn out to be unnecessary as well. And occasionally one or two that would have been nice to have but were left behind. But in the end, it all comes down to playing the cards you have in hand as creatively as possible.

      December 6, 2014
      • Exactly – I use that same analogy when I talk about my Urbex shooting – which is why I stress to people to KNOW their equipment before heading out.

        December 6, 2014
  24. Reblogged this on William Karam Kassab.

    December 5, 2014
  25. How fun to see Robin’s contribution here. I follow both of your blogs ~ photos are always amazing and I appreciate all the helpful hints. Hope your trip to the US is fabulous and I’m looking forward to seeing your photos.

    December 5, 2014
    • Hey, good to hear from you. I really like your blog. I can’t believe we haven’t bumped into each other around DC since we both do a lot of shooting there. Thanks for the comments.

      December 5, 2014
  26. Reblogged this on Giai01's Blog and commented:
    xem

    December 5, 2014
    • Thank you. We appreciate it very much.

      December 5, 2014
  27. Reblogged this on tolmima.

    December 5, 2014
  28. Oh my beautiful.

    December 5, 2014
  29. Robin

    For Antarctica, two bodies are important because bodies can fail in the cold, especially amateur bodies. I had a Nikon D3s and a Nikon D3 and had no trouble with them. Once you are on the ship, there’s no need to be travelling light because you can get what you need from the cabin. The logistics of carry-on luggage and where else you may travel may affect this though.

    For lenses, I think the main requirement is a long telephoto. I took a 300mm f2.8 plus a matched 2x teleconverter. I also took a monopod that I mounted on my belt to avoid hand-holding the big lens. (You can’t use a tripod or monopod on the deck of the ship). Overall in Antarctica I used:
    …>>…14-24mm f2.8: 11%;
    …>>…50mm f1.4: 3%;
    …>>…105mm f2: 24%;
    …>>…180mm f2.8 4% (but it died, otherwise would have been more);
    …>>…300mm f2.8: 43%;
    …>>…300mm f2.8 + TCIIIe: 14%

    Lens protection is also desirable so you can shoot in adverse weather without losing camera or lens. I used Think Tank Hydrophobias. Also, a dry bag is essential: a small one if you’re travelling light; one you can wear as a pack if you have a full system.
    Links to images from my Antarctic trip in 2011: http://murrayfoote.com/category/itinerary/

    In India, where I wanted to keep a low photographic profile and in South-west Canyonlands plus New Orleans where I was expecting to sometimes be walking most of the day, I took a more compact Fujifilm system with fewer lenses.

    Choice of backpack is important if you have more than minimal equipment. I returned a Tamrac some years ago because I found it very conducive to back strain and there is an article by Thom Hogan who found the same thing. These days I use a Mindshift Gear Rotation180 Pro, or for my full Nikon system, a Guragear Kiboko (now an outdated model).

    Leanne

    I went to New York in 2011. I was not sure how safe it was going to be so I just took a Fujifilm X100 which worked surprisingly well. New York turned out to be safe enough and if I went back I would take more, though a Fuji system rather than my full full-frame Nikon system.

    The Subway (= Underground) in New York is great, the museums and galleries are great and you’ll be doing a lot of walking. So light and compact is likely to be the way to go. No harm in bringing a tripod but you’ll probably only use it on specific outings, mainly at night. I took a magnetic gorillapod and used it once or twice.

    Links to New York posts: http://murrayfoote.com/2012/11/21/new-york/ (if you haven’t already seen them)

    December 5, 2014
    • It hadn’t even occurred to me that I couldn’t travel with my camera, I kind of think of this as a trip of a life time, so I don’t want to have to worry about that sort of thing, I will have to talk to some people.
      Thanks for the link.

      December 5, 2014
      • No, I didn’t mean to say that. New York 25 to 30 years ago was quite dangerous. Someone I know was warned when he was about to walk down the wrong street in the middle of Manhattan. I wasn’t sure at the time how much it had changed. But it’s not like that now, one of the safer cities in the US. Take what you like. You’ll be fine.

        December 5, 2014
      • Oh that is good to hear Murray thanks for the clarification.

        December 5, 2014
      • One other thing I forgot to mention is remember that B&H is in New York. Consider what equipment you may want because you won’t have to pay freight – and you can go in there and try everything out, which is an experience in itself.

        December 5, 2014
      • Oh yes, I have a list, though I have to be able to bring it home as well, but I do have plans on going there as well.

        December 5, 2014
    • Thanks, Murray for the extensive details. I have been following your blog, but only this year when I got into the blog world. so I didn’t know about your 2011 trip. It’s late here but I will definitely look up those links and will most likely get back to you with a question or two. But as you indicate, the airline restrictions look pretty daunting on the domestic flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia. How did you manage to get all that gear to the boat?

      December 5, 2014
      • Feel free to ask any questions, Robin.

        Usually, airlines don’t actually weigh carry-ons. The only time I’ve had to surrender mine is in small regional airlines in the Orkneys and Shetlands and since there’s only a few passengers that’s no problem. I’ve more often encountered them concerned with dimension restrictions, possibly where overhead lockers are particularly small. BA actually doesn’t have weight restrictions for carry-ons though that doesn’t help you in Argentina.

        When we flew from Buenos Aires to El Calafate, our travel agent’s representative organised the baggage for us so I don’t know whether that made any difference. El Calafate to Ushuaia has a bit of a reputation for checking carryon weights. They weighed mine and pulled me over. The officer got me to open the bag then just rolled her eyes and let me through.

        I have a friend who was travelling with a party from El Calafate to Ushuaia. One of that party foolishly approached Customs and told them how important it was that their valuable photographic equipment stay as carryon even though it would be overweight. All the carryons of that group were consigned to the hold.

        Just be low key, don’t signal that you’re carrying a huge weight and you’ll probably be fine. If it does get weighed and you do get pulled over, tell them it’s not insured if it goes in the hold; that may help. If you’re not hugely over weight and wearing the right sort of coat you can put lenses or bodies in your pockets because whatever you’re wearing doesn’t get weighed. Then just put them back after you go through Customs.

        December 5, 2014
      • … and my carryon on that trip would have been around 16 kilos.

        December 5, 2014
    • Thanks for the excellent additional comments, Murray. Very helpful information, all of it. I found the dimensions for carry-on on the airline’s website, so I’ll make sure I have a bag that complies. The pockets idea is great, I can easily do that. 16 kilos!? Wow, very impressive that you were able to get past them with that. And you are definitely right about B&H, as several others have also noted. The store itself is worth a visit, even if you don’t plan to buy anything.

      December 5, 2014
  30. Leanne, the guest writer blog thing is a great idea.
    There are some great images from Robin too. But as a novice photographer that doesn’t have a specific photographic agenda, assignment or even style your guest has not really answered the question for someone like me. I don’t know what I’m going to shoot, landscapes, concerts, street images….. I also don’t want to be bogged down with kit.

    While I don’t want to spam your blog or carry out some sort of shameless plug (I’m new to photography folks so there is not much to see)… I would love to hear your opinion and the opinion of your guest on my recent posts as a novice photographer wanting to travel light.

    By the way, I thought I would not be too keen on NYC but I loved it and felt incredibly safe just strolling about into different neighbourhoods at all times of the day. Have a fab trip.

    http://jimjimmyjamesdotorg.wordpress.com/2014/11/18/travelling-

    light/http://jimjimmyjamesdotorg.wordpress.com/2014/11/27/travelling-lightwith-a-light/

    December 5, 2014
    • Thanks very much for your comments. At the moment I am on a trip to New England and am catching up with the readers’ comments between meetings (rather be shooting than attending meetings, but that’s another story) so I will check out your links and get some thoughts to you as soon as this event is done. You make a good point about over-planning, it’s great to go with the flow. But being aware of potential opportunities gives you additional options as you move through an area that is new to you. As for traveling light: one camera body, one zoom in the 20-80mm range, and a polarizing filter. The benefit of minimal gear is you can react quickly to those many brief moments when they present themselves because you have no choice but to use what you have in your hands. I don’t think Cartier-Bresson carried a lot of gear and he did OK.

      December 5, 2014
      • A filter was the one thing I thought I could do without. Wrong!

        Wished I’d seen your article four weeks ago.

        Thanks for taking the time to reply.

        December 6, 2014
  31. Since I only have one body and no filters, my ‘camera bag’ is pretty basic (as they go). I take my body and my smaller lens (an 18-250mm) attached to each other in my bag, and then pack my bigger lens very carefully in check-in baggage or in carry-on. I usually don’t bring a tripod because space, but on a recent trip sincerely regretted this – finally I improvised on location with stacks of books to capture the stars I wanted to.

    December 5, 2014
    • Conventional wisdom is that it’s not good to put lenses in check-in baggage because they’re visible by x-ray and might get stolen.

      December 5, 2014
    • Murray makes a good point on packing lenses in checked baggage. I’d be wary of that. However, you can get a reasonably stable tripod in a standard suitcase. Just measure the diagonal dimension of your suitcase, find a tripod that when collapsed is just a tad shorter without the head (I have a 4-section model that is about 27″ when collapsed) and place it on the top of your clothes. If the security guys are disturbed by an x-ray showing what could be a pipe bomb, they will see it as soon as they open the suitcase. The one time I packed it underneath everything, the bag was delayed, arrived in London after I had already departed for France, and finally caught up with me 2 days later in a small village in Normandy. The airlines spent a bundle getting that suitcase reunited with me. Fortunately, no major shooting opportunity was missed but I learned my lesson.

      December 5, 2014
  32. I am going to Maui in January and am debating what to take also. I very much enjoyed your landscape images and those of each city. Shipping equipment is a good idea as is renting it.

    December 5, 2014
    • Thanks very much. Have a great trip to Maui. Should be a ton of opportunities for you there, no matter what you take.

      December 6, 2014
  33. What to take to New York ? A credit card and the address of B&H Photo !!

    December 5, 2014
    • But what do I do the 10 days before I get there?

      December 5, 2014
      • Borrow Lenses has a number of pick-up locations in the San Francisco area as well as courier service and shipping capability. Here is the link: http://www.borrowlenses.com/page/pickuplocations.

        December 6, 2014
      • That is good to know, though I do want to take my own stuff, am hoping to get a lend of some things when I’m there, but will see. I think I am a creature of habit and I think I will stick with about 3 lenses, that are really the ones I use all the time. Thanks

        December 6, 2014
    • 420 Ninth Avenue New York, NY 10001, USA. About a 2-mimnute walk from Penn Station

      December 6, 2014
  34. Robin’s advice here is spot on, research where you are going, think about the type of shots you will take, pack what you need. Most of my travel is to the mountains so a good bag that I can strap a tripod to (but not too heavy) and I will carry usually three lenses and also my filters with me. If I am in the towns or take excursions to a city usually it is one camera and one short zoom lens.

    December 5, 2014
    • Thanks, Ben. Your point is well taken. What you take depends to a large degree on where you are going

      December 6, 2014
  35. leecleland #

    Just adding my tuppence halfpenny worth to all the great comments on this great post by Robin. I’ve just returned from 6 weeks O/S from Australia. Carried 1 body, 3 lenses plus X2 teleconverter, 2 batteries and filters and laptop in camera bag – weight 12 Kg. I figured if I was pulled up about the weight I’d take out the body attached to the big lens (4Kg off) and show the laptop which I’m allowed as a separate item anyway. Never had a problem even on small internal flights in Turkey. Flash and tripod were in my checked in luggage. I used my 24-70 f2.8 for 90% of my shooting both in rural and city. But glad I had the other 2 lenses with me.
    I also had a medium sized handbag/satchel which had iPad, change of undies and toothbrush plus cords for phone and laptop and all that paper that you need to carry travelling to show who you are and where you are flying to and from.
    Just check about batteries – coming back into Australia they must be in your carry-on luggage NOT checked in.

    December 5, 2014
    • Thanks for the good info. Your experience with that amount of weight is encouraging. the 24-70 f/2.8 is my main choice as well. Thanks also for the tip on batteries. I always have carried them on board, so never checked on the rules. I’ll look into that for sure.

      December 6, 2014
  36. Great post… My kit is still small enough at the moment to go for “I just pack everything”, but I guess that will change in the future. I am really jealous about the traveling plans of both of you 😉 I had this urge to travel (far away) anyway since a few days but I can’t really afford it, money and time wise… So I will be left with looking at your pictures and dream about going away.
    As for advise to Robin and the Antartica trip: You should pack a good zoom lens to be able to capture the wildlife without disturbing it. I was never there myself but I have colleagues (and friends) who went there and one of them was telling me the other day it was her biggest regret that she didn’t have a good enough zoom to capture what she liked to. Otherwise enjoy it! It is on my bucket list as well and I am still hoping that someday I will be able to go.

    December 5, 2014
    • Thanks very much. The longer zoom for Antarctica sounds like good advice. A lot of the travel literature warns about approaching the wildlife (which is common sense in any location). I’ll include my tele-extender (suggestion from Murray) which is a lightweight option for when they take us out on the Zodiacs.

      December 6, 2014
      • That sounds like a good plan 🙂

        December 6, 2014
  37. Fabulous!

    December 5, 2014
  38. Reblogged this on Random Shots.

    December 5, 2014
  39. Leanne, this is my take on travel and cameras. I went through several hundred photos one day checking focal length of the shots and found out 90% were taken between 40 and 100 mm. Then I matched that information to one lens. That made it easy, one body, one lens, two filters, spare battery and charger, extra SD cards. I could even do this without the filters and and 3 spare cards if needed. The only adder might be a P+S sized camera to stow in your luggage for those odd occasions where your full frame must be left behind. So far this has worked quite well, traveling in the UK, Holland, North and Central America. A phone can replace the P+S as well. Total weight is just under two kilos.

    December 6, 2014
    • I was thinking, that since I shoot nearly everything here with the 24-70mm that would definitely go with me. I think I might take the 14-24mm and maybe the 80-200, and that might be it. I figure, after what so many people have said, that if I need anything else I can hire it. I will take lots of memory cards, as I want to use those of storage. and a few other things, I’m starting to see I don’t need everything. I have a good phone with a good camera, so I would have that with me too I think. Thanks Robert, the man who has made travelling light an art, am I right?

      December 6, 2014
      • Leanne, I think your lens choices sound really good, especially as your full frame allows you to crop if needed

        Yes, we only need about 8.5-10 kilos of clothing and personal effects plus camera and computer, assuming warm to cool weather. I came to Panama with 10 kilos including camera/computer but needed to buy some clothing so added about 1.5 kilo.

        If I had a do-over I would have a Canon G1-X with viewfinder or a Sony Nex system instead of a full frame and save another kilo minimum. I wouldn’t bother with a crop sensor Nikon or Canon, as they are almost as bulky as our full frames.

        You might get stuck in an airport for 12 hours or more (I have been stuck that way several times, including a few sleep-overs) and whatever you carry on you must carry all that time. You can get to hate a decision to take it all if that happens.

        December 6, 2014
      • I think the good thing about the way I am travelling, well I hope, is that I only move about 3 times, so while I have all that gear with me, I don’t have to have it with me the entire time. So I will be based at Laura’s in San Francisco, or near there, and then I can leave what I don’t need each day there. I am not going to take a computer with me, I might take a tablet to use, but at this stage, I don’t want to take the computer. People I am staying with will have them, so I can use theirs. Already sussed out that one. I also thought I would take a smaller camera bag for day trips in my check in luggage, so I will have two bags, though will probably buy the second bag there and bring it home with me.
        For me this trip is a photography trip, so it is important to me to take the DSLR with me, I spent 7 months in Denmark and really didn’t take images, didn’t have a good camera, and it is something that I have regretted so much, I’m not going to do that again.

        December 6, 2014
      • Leanne, just getting back online here, but it looks like you are forming a pretty good plan for what to bring on this trip.Like you I will not be taking the computer on the Antarctica trip. But that was an easier decision for me since there is apparently very little connectivity where I’m going. Also, like you, a bunch of extra memory cards will serve as a temporary back-ups until I get back.

        December 6, 2014
      • Thanks Robin, I think so, getting a good idea of what I should take with me. My laptop weighs a tonne, so there was no way I was taking it with me. I will also be staying with people who will lend me their computers to copy photos and such. Oh yes, can I afford one card for each day, that is the question. Glad we both got heaps out of this. It has been good.

        December 6, 2014
      • Robin

        I’m not sure that connectivity is the key issue here. There may be lots of time on ship for post-processing images. Also, with a hard drive and external drives for backup you don’t have to worry about running out of cards or be deleting images you might later find out weren’t so bad. Personal choice but I’d always take a laptop.

        December 6, 2014
    • Thanks for the input, Robert. As Leanne has already stated, some very useful thoughts there. I like the way you have a known priority list based on your actual shooting experiences.

      December 6, 2014
    • Thanks, Murray for reminding me about using laptop for processing during downtime on the ship. That capability has always been pretty important in past travels. I’ll see what I can figure out about that.

      December 8, 2014
  40. Good article. I do not own much equipment since I have learned today et rid off the items I did not use. I travel as light as possible. Usually carrying one body and lens.

    December 6, 2014
    • Thanks very much. A bold approach in these times, but you have no agonizing decisions to worry about as you plan a trip. A lot to be said for that.

      December 6, 2014
      • I try not to get caught up on the equipment race. I own an old 20-35, a 50 and. 85… The rest i rent depending on assigment. If i carry my M, its just with the 22. My bag is pretty light

        December 7, 2014
  41. Nicely done

    December 6, 2014
  42. Great post. Before I went to Namibia in August, I purchased a camera backpack from Clik Elite that has room for a body, two lenses, and accessories in the bottom and several pocket for personal items in the top. If anyone goes that route, make sure the pack has a good padded waist belt. It is amazing how much stress using the belt takes off your back. There is also a sleeve for a smaller laptop. I solved my worries about file storage by using an ASUS tablet/laptop which met my internet needs (when we had wireless) and has a500GB hard drive the keyboard. I could backup my files each evening. I did take a monopod which never left my suitcase. On the safari days of the trip we weren’t allowed to exit the vehicle in Etosha National Park and on the days we did activities like climb sand dunes, it just didn’t make sense to haul it around.

    December 6, 2014
    • I am going to take my big bag with me, but hoping to use a smaller pack while at places. I am not going to take a laptop, I think I will be able to get computer use from people I am staying with, thankfully. thanks for the tip.

      December 6, 2014
  43. Lots of good tips for you here in these comments, Leanne, but one recommendation I’ll add is to check some of the sites in NY that are potential areas of interest. There are a number of sites that restrict the use of tripods officially (though if you’re shooting early in the morning no one will generally question you too much). For example, here in Chicago, the attractions in Millennium Park, such as the Cloud Gate Sculpture (aka “the Bean”), tripods aren’t officially allowed. Have fun in NY, and thanks to Robin for sharing his lovely work!

    December 6, 2014
    • I suspect that while I will take a tripod with me, I won’t use it that much, I don’t here, I only use it in low light, so really during the day I won’t use it, I think it will be more for night stuff really. Thank you.

      December 6, 2014
  44. Interesting post on an eternal question! My travel tends to be by motorcycle so equipment is pared own to a minimum whilst still enabling me to cater for pretty much any situation I might want to take photos in – for example, I don’t take a macro.
    I pack a shoulder bag that will take a body and two lenses (mostly 24-70mm and 70-300mm), a polariser filter, remote release and spare batteries/cards and this sits on the pillion seat. I also pack a 17-35mm which I can swap for one of the other two lenses when city walking if necessary. I prefer the shoulder bag as it’s discreet; I don’t walk around with my camera on display and it’s easier to get it into/out of a shoulder bag. I also take a full set of filters (grads and ND) which I carry in a general rucksack when not riding. I also always take a tripod; I use my usual head (Manfrotto 460MG chosen for compact design) and have a travel tripod (Velbon Ultra Rexi L – fantastic piece of kit!).
    Have a great trip and don’t get hung up about the one photo you couldn’t get!

    December 7, 2014
    • I will remember that Noeline, thank you. I know I will get some amazing images, and I will have the experience to go with it.

      December 7, 2014
    • Thanks, Noeline. A motorcycle! I imagine that can get you to some interesting places. Your approach sounds like it’s well thought out. The point about not having the camera on display is a good one; as another reader pointed out, keeping a low profile is useful for many reasons. A folded compact tripod tends not to attract attention, at least in my experience. I’ve never been hassled for just carrying one even when I’m in a known No-Tripod Zone.

      December 8, 2014
      • My bike is about the best ‘travel accessory’ I can think of! It certainly can get you to some amazing places but somehow it seems to make you more approachable and people will always come over for a chat – a good way to meet the locals 🙂

        December 8, 2014
  45. Sure enjoyed this post, Leanne!

    December 7, 2014
  46. Hi! I only got to skim through this post since I’m on the go, I’m not sure how relevant this might be or if it’s already been thrown out there, but here is some stuff for New York:
    -Keep in mind HOW you are traveling as well. If you’re doing public transportation, make sure you always have a way to keep an eye on your bag! I’ve personally never had a problem, but I’m always super aware of these things. Sometimes I still wiggle around a little bit like I’m dancing so I can always feel what’s going on with my bag; call me crazy but sometimes I get a little nervous carrying around my Nikon baby. But that’s the same anywhere you travel. Once you’re in the city, the subway system is somewhat confusing (I suggest downloading an app like HopStop to get around). I use the subway for everything from getting to work and or flying home for holiday- I think the rule is you have to get whatever you’re bringing with you through the gate with you or else they might try to charge you an extra fee (backpack? Fine. Suitcase? A bike you rented for the day? Probably going to have to pay a little extra). If you do all of your exploring my foot, make sure you keep in mind that you might be walking up and down stairs just in the subways stations. Some stops are two-levels below ground. Heavy equipment and stairs tend to wear you out quickly. But then again, there are usually elevators and/or escalators. When I go across the city for the day, I always try to make sure I bring a backpack, it’s easier to carry around the 5-mile island and easier to get around with public transportation. And wear good shoes!
    —-for traveling: If you’re doing to be here for an allotted time, sometimes it’s best to get a “time-value” metro card and just purchase a week of unlimited rides. You can get bus transfers too if the place you want to go isn’t by a subway stop (that’s why I love the HopStop app, it will tell you walking, bus, and subway routes…just save the routes so you can access them when you’re underground and lose service). Also if you’re out and about and it gets late and you just want to get back to wherever you’re staying, there’s an app and service called “Uber.” It’s pretty much the competition to cab services, you can pay right on your app, you just have to watch out for what they call “peak” hours and charge you up to like 3x’s the fee (which sometimes is still cheaper than a regular NYC cab).
    -If you want an amazing high view of the city, I HIGHLY suggest going to the Top of the Rock at night (Rockefeller Center). It’s like $35 but it’s TOTALLY worth it from both my tourist and my local experience. Beautiful shots of the city and so much light to capture. It gives the city its own kind of life. But obviously with low-light-long-exposure you’ll definitely want a tripod.
    -There are some bars and restaurants that would be ideal to find if the have roof access. Or even if you know people that live here, try to see if you can sneak on their roof.
    -Staten Island ferry is free and it brings you RIGHT past Lady Liberty.
    -There are quite a few places to get pictures of Manhattan from Brooklyn, like by Bay Ridge and by the Brooklyn Bridge. Capture as much as you can! If you’re going to be here in the warm months, Coney Island has a little amusement park that I love taking pictures at because it overlooks the water. I’ve just been told by quite a few people that you don’t necessarily want to be there at sundown.
    -Battery Park area and the Freedom Tower have some really cool buildings. Chelsea had a cute market (Chelsea Market) that is quite the place to be on weekend. Chelsea Pier also has a cool view of the Freedom Tower, as well as a park with lots of fun people to photograph and get to know. If you really want to get to know the city, I’d take a walk through the 9/11 memorial. You learn a lot about the people of New York without even meeting them.
    -Central Park is everything it’s made out to be. The “Imagine” mosaic is cool during the warm months because there is always someone there that decorates it. There are also people playing their music and showing off their talents, too. If I just want to get out of my apartment, that’s usually my go-to place.
    -A lot of people only think of NYC as Manhattan, but don’t be afraid to check out the outer boroughs. We have a lot of life to offer out here! 🙂
    -There thousands of photographers here as it is, and the way life and “privacy” is with smartphones and technology, people generally aren’t afraid of you if you ask them if you can take a picture of what they’re doing.
    -Unfortunately, unless the weather calls for 100% sun, plan on having to bring an umbrella and/or gloves. Be careful setting up by the water or on the rooftops, it can get VERY windy.
    -Lastly, if you ever find that you’re lost, if someone doesn’t walk up to you first and ask if you need help based on the confused look on your face, don’t hesitate to ask! We might have the stereotype of being mean, but we aren’t THAT bad, we just don’t get much sun beyond the warm months. We have a lot of pride when it comes to the city. And if you ever are unsure about the safety of an area you find yourself in, don’t hesitate to ask either! If you find yourself in a coffee shop planning out your next route, don’t be afraid to ask the barista! They’re used to it. I live here and I still find myself asking sometimes.

    I hope this helps you with a few places to visit on your adventure! Bring as much as you can with you to NYC, just plan out what you need for the day. You can always run back and switch out cameras or drop off your tripod. Once you make it past day one, you’ll see the city isn’t as overwhelmingly large as you think and it’s pretty easy to travel around. Plus we never sleep anyways so you’re not losing TOO much time if you take 45 minutes to hop on a subway and drop off equipment. If you want to capture more of the people that the architecture, sometimes I literally Google “Free things to do in NYC on xx/xx/xxxx.” There are a lot of pop up markets and fairs that you find a lot of people at as well as a lot of the art and beauty being cultivated here. Good luck and enjoy the City!! 🙂

    December 7, 2014
    • Wow Savannah, this is a comment and a half, brilliant, I will have to email a copy of it to myself. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this, I do really appreciate, I think I will need some time to really go though it all.

      December 7, 2014
    • Fantastic comments Savannah. Even though I have been to NYC many times, you’ve added significantly to my knowledge base. Good points all around, and only a couple of supplementary thoughts. You are dead on with the Rockefeller Center. The shot of the Empire State Building in this post was taken from the Top of the Rock. Their official position is no tripod but I’ve seen people get away with it. If the guard stops you, there are flat ledges that work well as a stable platform. One can get timed entry tickets online to avoid the lines at the ticket window and the unofficial guys trolling for unwary tourists. If the timing is key (e.g., sunset, twilight) it’s a good idea to build in some slack time because it takes a while to go through all the lines, security checks, etc. before you actually reach the observation deck. Thanks for the tip on the HopStop app. I used a similar tool in Paris and it was invaluable. I might say that while the subway is the fastest way to get somewhere that is too far to walk, sometimes I like to take the bus when going to areas new to me just so I can see what’s going on above ground. As you suggested, the Brooklyn Bridge area is a fantastic area for Manhattan skyline plus all the other stuff that seems to be going on there. I’ve not been down to Bay Ridge, however. Any specific spot you would recommend? And lastly, might I also take advantage of the email address you posted for Leanne? Thanks again for all the great information.

      December 8, 2014
      • Yeah absolutely to the email! I was exploring Bay Ridge a few weeks ago and it’s 77st St off of the R train and walked towards the water, there’s a pier within a few blocks of there that had a great view of the south part of Manhattan as well as Lady Lib in the background. But I’m sure any of the few stops before that would get you a good view too. I just so happen to be down there for the shopping scene.

        December 8, 2014
    • Oh, I meant also to support your suggestion on finding some “free in New York” blogs. One that I recently started following is: http://almostfreenyc.com/ and it might be worth checking out.

      December 8, 2014
      • I’ll have to bookmark this on my phone for the next time we don’t know what to do on the weekends!

        December 8, 2014
    • Thanks again, Savannah for the extra info on Bay Ridge & the email permission. BTW, I downloaded the HopStop app last night and discovered it also has a service for Washington, DC (pretty embarrassing, actually I didn’t know about it). So I can test it out locally first.

      December 9, 2014
  47. LB #

    What an excellent article, Leanne. I really enjoyed that it wasn’t so technical, but more philosophical in terms of how you travel, where you travel, what you typically use and might use. Since much of my travel is by motorcycle, I appreciated his focus on the practical matters as well.

    December 8, 2014
    • That’s wonderful to hear LB, I’m sure Robin will like hearing that as well.

      December 8, 2014
    • Thanks very much for the comment, I’m glad you liked the approach.

      December 9, 2014
  48. Thought provoking without a doubt. I recently was faced with the challenge while preparing for a month long travel. In general I was happy with which gear I took along but I still over packed and the lens I’d hoped to use most was used the least, lol! Glad you shared this open forum!

    December 8, 2014
    • Interesting it turned out that way, but better to have a few too many things than to have forgotten something really important. Thanks for your comments.

      December 9, 2014
  49. Another thing to consider are probably your travelling companions and the purpose of the trip. For example, if you’re going on a romantic holiday with your partner, then you probably won’t want to be taking a whole studio with you. One camera body and maybe 2 lenses should be enough. In that sort of situation, I usually just have a fast prime attached and nothing else on me when I’m out-and-about. You might miss a few shots because you don’t have the right lens, but you’ll actually be able to enjoy your holiday that way, without spending half of it changing lenses.

    Fantastic article, by the way!

    December 8, 2014
    • Thanks very much. And you raise an excellent point about who is coming along with you. When the purpose is pure photography, such as going solo to a workshop, it’s pretty much 100% photography day and night; therefore lots of gear. But if one’s partner is along, their reasons for the trip deserve equal consideration. A very important point to add to this discussion.

      December 9, 2014
  50. I would go absolutely no where without a GoPro, and a few easty to pack GoPro Accessores, on top of one’s standard travel photography gear. But that is a highly personal preference. I think a more important thing to carry is an attitude of openness and greeting each place with fresh eyes of a newcomer. You will see things others are blind to daily. Enjoy.

    December 8, 2014
    • Thanks, Rudy. Interesting point on GoPro and it is becoming an increasingly important tool. I haven’t bought into it yet, but it’s on my evaluation list. Your second point is critical. Too much planning can be dangerous if it shuts one’s mind to unanticipated possibilities that present themselves.

      December 9, 2014
  51. My travel tip is always travel as light as possible. If you don’t need it, leave it at home. Particularly when you get here to the USA, TSA (airport security) doesn’t care much about your gear or inconveniencing you. They do cast a wary eye for those who are carrying a lot of stuff. You don’t want to unpack/repack your stuff at an airport security checkpoint – it’ll irritate you and irritate those behind you in the security line. If you have additional gear in your checked baggage, do insure it as others have mentioned.

    If there is a pre-trip purchase, get a battery grip for your camera if you don’t have one. It’ll double your shooting time and make holding your camera more comfortable, especially in the vertical position. The grip is flexible in using either Li-ion battery packs or AA batteries.

    December 9, 2014
    • Thanks, David for the comments. Your experience with the TSA folks is a little different than mine; I’ve occasionally been asked to open my camera bag after passing through the scanner but the physical set-up on that side of the screening is such that the other passengers can proceed without delayed. Although I did purchase a battery grip for my D800, I’ve stopped taking it with me; I’ve found it too bulky compared to having 2-3 extra batteries in my pocket. But I can see that it could be worthwhile for those who find it more comfortable when holding the camera.

      December 11, 2014
  52. Beautiful images and great discussion here. You mentioned three important factors when traveling and photographing. Thank you!! Great article..If I may contribute…
    I usually travel to at least four different countries per year and yes, I learned that it is important to be light and flexible!
    For sure, I always bring tripod – usually the travel version. I hate heavy lens, the lighter the better. Lenses that must be on my camera bag for traveling are: portrait and wide angle.
    Since most of my travels also combined with scuba diving, of course I bring as well underwater casing and camera. Luckily now I use the same camera for both underwater photography and terrestrial photography. This year, finally I have the courage to I leave my DSLR home during my travel. I bring along my micro four third camera and their lenses – they are simply awesome and easy to carry around..if only they have great external flashes maybe I will give up my DSLR equipment 😉

    December 10, 2014
    • Thanks, Indah. You’ve opened up yet another set of considerations for traveling photographers: what to include for underwater shooting. Also interesting that you have moved to the 4/3 format. Their greater portability is certainly an asset. Is there any downside to using it vs. a DSLR? Thanks for your comments

      December 10, 2014
  53. Ron #

    Wonderful photos. 🙂

    December 11, 2014
    • Thanks, Ron. Good to hear from you.

      December 11, 2014
  54. Amazing advice (as usual in the Up for Discussion posts 🙂 ). Additionally, on top of insurance that has been largerly recommended here, I’d add “registering your gear in a mobile app like Lenstag”. It’s one of those apps you hope you’ll never have to use, since it allows you to declare your gear, along with serial number, so that if it gets lost or stolen, and resurfaces somehow in some dark corner of the world, if people check the serial in Lenstag, it will appear as “stolen” and you will get notified immediately. It has helped a few people find back their stolen gear so far. Definitely something you should look into as well 🙂

    December 18, 2014
    • Wow, that sounds like a great idea. I’m going to look into that. Thanks for the suggestion. If any other readers have had experience with this app, it would be useful to hear about.

      December 18, 2014
      • The only “catch” is that their database is “crowdfunded”. So the more people register their gear in it, the more efficient it gets. But they already had their first success story back in March, where Lenstag was used to successfully identify stolen gear, and help make it back to the actual owner: http://petapixel.com/2014/03/31/exclusive-lenstag-recovers-first-item-stolen-lens-returned-happy-owner/
        Additionally, once your gear is there, they also have a feature where they will tell you if they see one of your pics surfacing on the web (if the uploaded picture still has the original EXIF with the camera serial number on it). You should really give it a try, it’s completely free 🙂

        December 18, 2014
  55. Enjoy the trip, it sounds fantastic.

    I have just bought a Fuji X-T1 which would make a super travel camera with say the kit 18-135 and a 10-24 if you feel like splashing out.

    The images here are super too.

    December 22, 2014
  56. Great photography and well written post!

    December 30, 2014
    • Thanks very much! We appreciate your comments.

      December 31, 2014
  57. Hi, Leanne: Well, I’m back from the trip to Antarctica and have started a series of posts on the trip. As you will see, the many comments and suggestions made by the readers to this post were very helpful.

    February 22, 2015
    • I have seen your posts, looks amazing, I’m looking forward to seeing more. Maybe you should do a follow up guest post, tell people what was really helpful 😉

      February 22, 2015
      • Thanks, Leanne: I appreciate the feedback coming from you, especially. Your idea sounds like a good one and I could put something together to publish right after I finish up this series. Would that be OK?

        February 22, 2015
      • You’re welcome Robin, kinda glad you are back, I missed you, but looking forward to reading about your trip. Yes, when you’re ready.

        February 22, 2015
      • OK, sounds good. I’ll be in touch.

        February 25, 2015
      • That would be great, thanks Robin.

        February 25, 2015

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