Travel Light….but still get the shot!

11 years, 4 months ago 8

I’ve spent most of my career trying to learn how to travel lighter, but not miss the shot.  It has led to my having several camera bags, each set up for a certain kind of trip or assignment.  For instance let’s say I’m headed to New Orleans to photograph jazz musicians in small clubs with very low light.  I would pack my low light kit, Either a D700, D800, or D4 for great low noise in low light and high ISOs along with a 24mm f 1.4,  35mm f1.4 and 85mm f 1.4, maybe a 180mm f 2.8 of I had to shoot from some distance.  The right gear for the right situation!  For me, and I suspect many other photographers the hardest bag to build is the leisure travel bag.  When I go to St Thomas with Sherelene and I don’t want to take a week off from shooting, but I don’t want her to feel that she is tagging along on a shooting assignment, I need to moderate both my behavior and the bag quite a bit!!!    Enter the serious compact camera!


Let’s consider the bare minimum you might want to shoot travel and personal photos.  I want a camera that can get me good, pretty much noise free or at least low noise, up to 1600 or 800 at least.  I need lenses between say 24mm to 28mm all the way out to 120mm or even 200mm.  I want something small and easy to carry, yet something capable of making images that can be blown up to at least 20X24 inch prints and still look great!  You might think that would be asking a lot, but today’s serious point and shoot cameras have quite a few entries that can match all, or most, of those demands.  I’ve personally shot the Nikon 1 J and V models and Nikon’s P7100, and all of these can do that beautifully.  Only the P7100 gets out to 200mm without having to carry extra lenses.  Your decision will likely come down to brand loyalty, cost, size, weight, whether or not you want to have to carry extra lenses, close focusing ability and many other factors.  I personally like the compact cameras with a built in zoom that covers a good range, but is not interchangeable.  If I buy a camera that takes more lenses, guess what, I will own more lenses!!!  Over the past several years I have used and love, the Nikon Coolpix P7100 a wonderful picture making machine, with great zoom lens, and capable of taking very high end images, it is a good size, yet are built very well.


Once you decide on a camera you need to build a small, easy to carry system, and a bag to carry your travel system. I recently picked up the Domke F-5XB shoulder and belt bag.  It’s small enough to be very easy carry and keep track of, and big enough to carry the few accessories I suggest you will really want to help your compact camera, take pictures like your big boy camera!  The image above shows the bag and what I consider to be the essentials.


1.  A Think Tank Pee Wee Pocket Rocket to hold extra batteries and SD memory cards.   I carry three extra batteries and four extra SD cards.


2.  A dozen or so, (more can be stashed in your suit case) Zeiss Lens Cleaning Wipes that you can buy at Walmart’s Optical department.  Great for lens, eyepiece, and LCD cleaning, as well as  iPhone, iPad, and any other glass surfaces that need cleaning while traveling.  I’ve even used a couple to clean up an airplane window I wanted to shoot through!!


3.  A small tripod and head.  My favorite for usewith a compact camera is the Joby Gorrilapod legs the Micro  800 (Around $30.) with a Giottos MH-1002 small ball head, (around $49.)  Remember all you want is a convenient way to do hands off shooting for night and low light shots and both of these are well made and will hold a small camera very steady. They are very small and easy to store in a small compartment in the Domke bag.


4.  I always carry a polarizer and extra lens cap, plus of course a battery charger, I carry two, so I can top off all the batteries each night.


5.  Lastly a cable release.  The Nikon P7100 used a slick little wireless release called the ML-L3 and I buy them several at a time.  


The most important thing about travel is to have a good time, make photography part of the fun and if you “lighten up” you can do that with less gear than you would have ever thought possible.


I went out to dinner in Austin tonight and then walked around the South Congress Street area, found some cool color shots!  Surprising what you can do with just a little gear and some preparation!!!


God bless,


the pilgrim




Above, the value of a small tripod!

Well guys, I will be on airplanes all day tomorrow not getting home until after 11:00 p.m.  I will blog Saturday, love you guys, thanks for hanging in there with me!


the pilgrim






8 Responses

  1. The small tripod is a nice little tool to have in the bag. I bet it would come in handy tonight, down at Nibroc!

  2. D.G. Hollums says:


    I can not tell you the number of times God has brought you to mind over the past year! And I just flat out miss you! I hope and pray you are doing well. Tiffany and I are still living in Northern KY and possibly looking for a ministry (pastor) job back in the west (Northern NM or Colorado.) As soon as I can get back to a little more stable financial foundatin, I still plan on attending on of your workshops. And I still would love to sit down and talk about the Prayertography book I continue to do research on, and hope to write some day! miss you and always remember you are so blessed and I think God upon every remembrance of you!!! send me an email. I’d still love to take you out to the best cheese burger place here in Cincinnati, and of course cook you my cheese burger here in my home!

  3. […] Finally, for those of you who are not yet following my mentor and dear friend Bill Fortney on a daily basis (shame on you!) comes an article from him on traveling light and still getting the shot you want. It deals with equipment and why you need to have certain items with you (while leaving some of the heavy stuff at home). Bill has put together a kit of Nikon equipment, but that is not the point he is making. You can substitute your favorite brand name for Nikon and still profit from his advice on what you need to carry with you and, perhaps more importantly, what you don’t. Bill knows photography and Bill knows equipment. When he speaks it is a good idea for the rest of us to listen. Click here for that link and see how your travel kit stacks up. […]

  4. Jacky Smith says:

    Your photos are amazing. Traveling light has really lots of benefits.

    Compared with carrying a few bags around, toting a single bag with you will give you the peace of mind that you need. If you are able to get a suitcase that can fit almost everything you have, you are less likely to lose your stuff and personal belongings.

    • admin says:

      You bet, especially when you travel out of the country t’s best to keep it compact, by-the-way check out Scott Kelby’s new class on Kelby Training on Travel Photography, it’s very well done, but then it was done by Scott, Duh!!!!!