Choosing Gear for Travel
With your camera bag, do you carry a fixed... Is it the same every time you travel, or how much does where you're going to and what you're doing is...
I travel with too much. And as I get older, I figure I'm going to travel with less. So I just wanted to show. We're just off a trip. So this is what we really came with, and you guys are possibly not gonna see everything in there, whereas the camera guy from above will, with a little bit of luck. So here is my messy camera bag. Now inside, and Tony is very similar. Can you just grab that one and hold it, maybe just unzip that one for me as we're going. So I've got a Phase I XF, 100 mega pixels. And you're gonna say well that's a nice piece of equipment. I've got one, two, three, four lenses in there. This is a wonderful camera for landscapes. There's no question about it. But it's not suitable for everything, so I also have a second, I've got a little Fuji Xpro that sits in there with a couple of lenses. And so I've got sort of two ca...
mera outfits. And that is also backup, but it also means that I can photograph different subjects. For a trip that I did recently to Iran, for instance, I just took Canon gear, because I wanted to be photographing people more than landscape. And the DSLR was a bear to format. Other times, the mirrorless works out really well. What I sometimes do, or as I should say, what I often do, this is a big camera that we've got sitting there with the XF. I have a smaller version. So this is what they call an alpha or an A series in the phase one. And so the 100 mega pixel back just sits on the back there, and I want to make sure I do that properly 'cause I don't want to bugger it up. And so now it's got live view on the back, so touch the screen, take the photographs, and I move that across over to here, and I have other lenses which go on the front, and that goes into there, and so now I have a very small, compact, relatively light package that I can take anywhere.
So for hiking and things like that?
Weight is really important because if you are uncomfortable as a travel photographer, you won't go out and take photos, so there's the desire to take everything, including the kitchen sink, but the practical reality is that you should travel with what you can comfortably carry. So maybe we can grab your camera bag, 'cause you're an interesting hybrid.
Well, as I said, I think it's important to have a bit of a feel for where you're going, but sometimes you don't. Sometimes you're not quite sure what you're going to come across. And I also just wanted to share some of the extras now. I tend to travel quite heavy. And when I don't know where I'm going but I want to keep it in one bag, what I'll do is I'll carry two outfits, the same as Pete. So I also have an XF system, phase one XF with the capacity to take large format images on a medium format capture. I also carry, and you'll see I've got these packed up in nice little socks to stop them bouncing around when I'm getting on and off planes and packing them in, I always have a 28 mil lens, which is a very wide angle lens, then I've got my standard lens on the camera, but I also have a 240, which is a long lens. You can see that here. But the long lens and the wide angle give me those two extremities. So I've limited my medium format kit to keep it in one bag, to a standard, a wide, and a long lens. And most of that I'm looking for, that's gonna cover me. There'll be times when I wish I had a 55 or a 45, somewhere between standard and wide, and there'll be sometimes something between 80 and 240 would be better for. However, that gives me a good way to cover it all. At the same time, because I like shooting other things, same as Pete, carries his Fuji, I kinda like the idea of shooting the odd bit of wildlife, and that if I get to see it, the phase one is not gonna be as practical for that if there's a deer, or particularly on these last few trips, I've wanted to see a bear. I never got to see a bear, Pete. They promised me a bear. I never got to see a bear yet. But that'll come. So I've got a 7200 on a Cannon 5D Mark 4 there, I can use the 5D Mark 4 for video. And I've also go at 2470, midrange zoom. So that covers me for a lot of that people, pictures behind the scene. Of course, when we run workshops, sometimes we're taking pictures for ourselves, background shots, behind the scenes shots. The other thing... Question?
No I was just gonna say that I want obviously Tony and I are using medium format because at the end of the day we're gonna make big prints, or we want the opportunity to make big prints. That's one reason. The other reason is that medium format has a wonderful dynamic range. In other words, when you get your exposure correct for your highlights, you've got lots of detail still in your shadows. And there's a huge different there. But there are advantages of the smaller, the new mirrorless and the DSLRs in that you can probably take a few extra lenses or different bits and pieces as well with you. So it's a balancing act. There's no one way that's right. This is just our way.
And I think it's important to say, too, Peter, it's our way for this particular job.
True, that's right.
All right, so I was in Japan recently, and I took a mirrorless system, a Sony system. And all I had was the camera and three lenses. And just it was very compact, very small. Because I wasn't there to take photos, I was there to do presentations and some workshops. But it wasn't about getting out to shoot, but I couldn't travel without a camera. The other thing I think's important that people understand is I've got toothpaste. So this is the sort of stuff that often we don't think about. When you're traveling often, I've got toothpaste, I've got toothbrushes. Some places we go to, I've got gloves. I've got a beanie. We've just come from a place, I've even got a mueslix bar for eating, I'm not gonna put out. My phones in there, I've got a change of shirt. So I use... When I carry, this is gonna supply me all day. What's that?
This is taken from a hotel shower, but when it's raining, it's perfect for a quick cover on your camera. And that was courtesy of Mike Langford. He comes from New Zealand where it is always raining. We've got a flower brush.
And a few other things like aspirin and so on. So what I'm trying to get at is your camera bag doesn't have to just be about your cameras. It's important to remember that there's gonna be other reasons you need to go to your camera bag and having them there just in case of emergencies and that I think's really important. Staying comfortable, staying warm, staying healthy, is an important part of travel.
Okay, so Tony let's see what we've got on here and we'll just flip on through.
I'll just put these behind us.
Camera type, lens range, I do think wide angle is important and a telephoto is important, definitely. Flash, I'm not a flash person, but some people are.
And a tripod, if you're doing landscape, is essential. Filters, so I use a number of... I use the Nissei ND filters and the polarizing filter, which I take with me. A spare camera. If your camera falls over, what's going to happen? Obviously lots of batteries, lots of fresh cards, camera bag types.
Just on that spare camera, we've just shown our bags and we carry different camera systems, but in a way they're a backup for each other, 'cause we've always got a camera. For some of you it may not be the case, and if you're starting out, and you're building a system, a lot of professionals coming out of a domestic profession that travel a little bit, they're gonna have two cameras that are the same. And that's fine. They might have two Canon cameras, two Nikon cameras, whatever it is. And you'll basically carry them together, and you can interchange your lenses. And the beauty of that is you only need one set of lenses.
So computers, Tony. So one of the things that I love about travel photography is taking the photos in the day and then in the evening sitting down with a glass of red wine and processing my photos and seeing how I have gone. I mean from a professional point of view, it's a good idea to do that as well, because you need to keep the mark of how you're going on the shoot, but just from an aesthetic point of view, just from and enjoyment point of view, I love the fact that I can see what I'm doing, do a quick edit and capture one and just see how I'm going. And you know actually process a few photos as we're going. I find that it's part of the love and enjoyment of travel photography.
I think that feedback actually feeds your soul a little bit. Like you go out, you get back, you're tired. It's been a long day, you hiked a couple of mountains. The weather wasn't perfect, but you got some shots. To look at them and say, wow, this is what I've got, drives you along the next day. It's also good to show your traveling companions, particularly if they're family or people who aren't into photography. They can say well you were standing out there, it was cold, it was dark, nothing looked very interesting, and you got that? Can't wait to see what you do tomorrow.
Well, I hope they say that at any rate. So the other things I guess we should talk about is our digital workflow. So one of the thing that we have seen happen from time to time is photographers will come up to us and say I've just overwritten all of the photos that I took over the last week. And you just feel for them. So you need to be very methodical in what you do. So if you've got three memory cards, label them A, B, C. And try to go away with as many memory cards so you don't need to delete them ever. But if you can't do that, then have a computer and a backup drive, so you can make two copies of them, and don't delete anything until you know that you've got them happening. I mean I download every photo that I've taken at the end of the day, and put them onto my computer and onto a separate drive as well. It's just a matter of making sure you do it methodically, and then if I do run out of memory cards, then I go back to the very first one, but only after I've checked my two backups. In fact, I'm actually a little bit more problematic than that. I have two backup drives plus my computer. So I really have three. Is that paranoia? But anyway, I'm covered. But are you much the same?
Yep, very much. So I'll basically come back at the end of the night, and even though you're tired, I think it's really important to make sure that you have a process or discipline to download the photos and make sure they're in two places at least. So I put them basically onto two separate hard drives away from my main computer, then I put one in my traveling suitcase and one stays with me at my briefcase or my laptop or my camera bag.
And at the time that you're ingesting the photos, as you're getting the photos off the card and onto your computer, whether it's in Light Room or Capture One, you can use the metadata where you can put your name, but you can also put a description for where you were, which is quite useful.
Copyright, all that sort of stuff. And that can be part of the process, so that once your photos are coming into your Light Room, Capture One, Photo Shop, you're ready to roll.
The other thing I'll point out that I've learned over the years, is that often I get back home and think okay I'm gonna start working these pictures, and I get home, and I get busy again. And I know that for a lot of people who travel, that can happen. So if you can get into part of your discipline, and we talked about it when we said download a few and put 'em on your phone. I think it's nice to go through and even start rating them. Just before you go to bed, go through. And so when you come back late, if you run out of time or you get onto the next project, you can look back and go when I look through there, they're the ones that struck me at the end of the day, so that's a good starting point for your hero shots.
I think that's a very valid point is that it comes back to the first comment, that traveling with a computer is really, really fun, it's really useful. It adds to the weight. So if you can work it out somehow that you can leave your computer behind in the car or something like that and it won't get stolen, then it's certainly worth doing. But I also have these little backup drives so that at the end of the day, if I go out to dinner, and my hotel room has got my camera and my computer, I take a copy of those files with me in my pocket, so that if the horrible thing happened that they were stolen, I've still got the photos. I can replace my cameras, I can't replace my experiences. So that's why I disappear. So we're getting pretty close, Tony. Before we go, before we go on a trip, what do we do?
Book a ticket.
Book a ticket.
Don't laugh, done it. Forgot to book the ticket.
Plenty of storage cards. Maybe you need an extra couple, 'cause if you can get through the whole shoot, the whole week, the whole fortnight, the whole month without changing memory cards, it means you'll never need to overwrite them, and therefore you won't lose anything. And they become an extra backup as well, with your computer. Have your sensor cleaned, or if you're good, you can clean it yourself, take your sensor cleaning stuff, because when you're traveling, changing lenses all of the time. When I travel by plane, I try to get most of my equipment into the backpack that I'm traveling with, so that when I get off the plane, if my main luggage doesn't turn up, I've got enough to still take photos with. So I'll often put a couple of spare lenses that I have in my camera bag into my checked luggage, and I'll take my charger for the camera and put it in my carry on luggage, so that when I get to the other end, if my bags don't turn up, at least I've got a carrying kit with me that's going to work. Might not have everything, but at least I'm taking some photos.
And I do exactly the same.
The final thing I was gonna say, if you use two cameras, synchronize the dates and the time on them, so that when you put them into your catalog or your session, you can do it in a time order and that just makes it easier to run through.
The other thing I do when I'm numbering, so when you input, sort of ingesting the photos into your database, if I'm using two different types of cameras, I'll often have, say, it might be USA17P would be a file off the phase one, and then USA17C might be off a Canon camera. Then I can keep the numbers going sequentially, so if I wanted to look at them when they were taken at different times, different cameras, but I can also very quickly identify whether it's a medium format shot, large file, whether it's more of a record shot just in your numbering.
So Tony, we're more or less at the end of this little section, I'm not too sure whether we've got a couple of questions...
We might have.
Or whether we need to... Shall we take a couple of questions?
So a question came through, just a couple logistical things, from DC Photo Guy as well as Dennis Duffy, wondering about releases. When you're photographing people as you travel in Bhutan, or wherever it is, do you travel with releases, is it necessary to, depending on what the outcome of the image is gonna be?
I suppose it's different things in different countries, to a certain extent. In Australia, I can use all of those photos in an editorial capacity with no trouble. If I want to use those photographs for advertising purposes, then I would need their permission. I probably couldn't get their permission, even if they signed a model release that says you can do it. Lawyers told me that model release isn't going to stack up, because they had no idea of what I was going to use the photos for in the first place. And morally I would feel a big awkward about doing that anyway and using them in an advertising context. Because if we're advertising Wheatpix to eat, breakfast cereal, and they don't like that breakfast cereal, then it's not a good connection. So I don't take model releases but then I don't use the photographs in locations or in situations where I would need a model release, either. And that's something I've been aware of all of my life. And over time I've just decided if people want to buy-- if advertising agencies want to buy people photos, they just won't buy 'em from me, and then I don't have to worry about releases.
I had, in the recent trip, we bumped into a guy who walking across America, Forrest Gump style. He'd been going six months on the road. I stopped and we pulled over and Christian went and had a sleep under a tree, and I sat with him for 20 minutes and asked if I could take his photograph. We did that and I said look, do you mind me using this photograph for other things? He said, no, no problem, whatever you want to use 'em for. I said if it's okay with you, I'm just gonna get you to... And we actually--I had a copy on my phone of one that we can through our institute. I didn't have one with me at the time. I think I've got two in my suitcase, but it was buried. I said look, how do you feel about if we just write it down on a piece of paper? So we had a little piece of paper. We wrote through, it kind of was a letter of intent. At the bottom of it, we both signed it, we dated it, I wrote in there what possible uses were, and everyone was happy. I took a photo of it on my phone. Took a photo with his phone. He had a copy, I had a copy, we had a hard copy.
And I think that engagement is fantastic, and that's the way you should do it. The problem happens across when you're shooting in Bhutan or Iran, and the people don't... I shouldn't say that. I don't speak their language, and I can't communicate, necessarily, what I want. And even when you ask your guides to do it, the guides are trying to help you, and so I just think you've gotta be careful how you do that. I think you did the right thing.
Great, thank you. A couple more, I think we can squeeze in, quick answers.
Sure, fire away.
From David, who asks, how do you, or do you, record notes of each individual photograph in order to remember its emotional or visceral impact since you were talking about you come back and then post, you recreate what that feeling was for you?
Do you remember it all, or do you take notes?
Okay, so what I do, is I, we've been through, we'd spent five days on the road, we'd been down the parkway, we'd end up in Jasper, we'd seen some amazing locations, and then we're driving back and I'm thinking, God, there's so many feelings, so many emotions that I've experienced over the last couple of days for this whole journey, and when I'm back home, it's gonna be totally foreign. And I'll have my pictures to look at, but I want to remember what it is, the emotion that I want to infuse in that. So I will write down words, and they don't have to make sense, they don't have to be poetic. There's just words. And basically if I can be so liberal, Pete, what I said on the bus and one of the students was watching me, she wanted to hear it. And essentially what I did is I wrote this, which was about Banff. So we're driving through. So if you can imagine, those of you who are choosing to listen, you might want to close your eyes and just see what comes through visually. So I wrote "A rocky way," 'cause that's what it felt to me. "where crowns of ice and heavens hang to meet the Earth" 'cause the clouds were hanging on the top. "A river's birth, to streams of blue and jade "and green and so many colors in between." So I'm a poet, okay. "From lakes pristine with twice the scene," 'cause a lot of the lakes have a reflection, so there's double the scene, "and here and there while waters fall." When you see the running waters run, they smooth off silky and they almost fold on themself like a piece of fabric. "While waters fall, time honored paths. "Now shorter days and colder ways announced "by hints of golden blaze." Autumn, fall is coming. And we were looking for the golds and the reds. And he's laughing 'cause he knows that I love doing this. "Searching clouds veil distant peaks." The clouds were moving and I'm watching them and they're just searching. And then every now and then the peak would come out and then would disappear. "Holding fast to secrets past, and arrow straight "a million trees hold memories of fire and ice." We were going past these stands of forest where there'd be just thick green with snow, and then there'd be burnt out scars. And just those mirror blacks silhouetted. And I wanted to remember that. "Beneath the gatherings of white, a bear's goodnight. "And winter dreams. "And winter dreams." And that was my visceral experience. Now I don't know if that's gonna help, but even if you just wrote three or four words, even if you just pick the ones that remembered. I'll go home and I'll remember the emotion I felt. It's when I'm looking at my pictures of reflected lakes, when I'm looking at those 240, those long lens shots of a peak coming out the clouds, that's gonna be the heart behind my pictures. Thank you for listening to my poem, Peter.
It was great, I was impressed. And my answer is yes, I write one word. (laughing) But I also do take notes. And what you say, I don't write like Tony does.
Everyone's different, and that's the point.
But I will write key words, and I often use thesauruses to get different looks and different subtleties of words, et cetera. But words will come to me, and I also see things that happen and I write down references to remind me. If you're gonna create a book later on, or an exhibition, these ideas are important to collect and not to forget. So I commend that as a great idea.
And one last thing I'd add is I've often had the intention of writing a journal as I travel. So each night, you'll get there and I'm gonna write in the journal. But you're up at 4:00, you're on the road or you're traveling, when you get back, I see nods in the audience, you download your card, you do the light, and you think I'm gonna be up in five hours, I'm gonna write in a journal? We have a powerful instrument. You go on there and even if you just do audio record, do it in the car. Do it while you're sitting there in your bed, and just go what happened today, and talk about it. Talk with your partner that you're traveling with. Do it in the car, it's actually quite strong and you can hear it all. And I've got records of every day's travel in the American West with Christian, just talking. You'll be amazed how much you'll remember and that will help you.
Good luck listening to that. (laughing)
Well, with that rude finish, (laughing) I think we'll go to the last photograph. We were on a valley floor and we're photographing, we'd just finished, and I was just picking up, moving back toward where the rest of the group were, which including some pretty luminary photographers, some of them close to us here at the moment, and I looked down and I saw the sun just touching the top of this tree. And it was just that vivid red, very similar type of tree to the ones you shot--well it is the same type of tree, and the light was coming through, so I slowly creeped up there while everybody wasn't noticing, and I got this shot. Perfect shadow, perfect light, et cetera. Of course, when everyone saw it, we had to go back the next day and everybody got it. So be aware that even as you're packing up and you think the light's gone, the light might be gone where you were looking, but look around because there'll be little pockets of light, little pockets of shadow where something else happens that wasn't there before.