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Camera Gear for Travel

Lesson 2 from: Travel Photography: The Complete Guide

Ben Willmore

Camera Gear for Travel

Lesson 2 from: Travel Photography: The Complete Guide

Ben Willmore

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Lesson Info

2. Camera Gear for Travel


Class Trailer



Course Introduction


Camera Gear for Travel


What Camera Gear Should You Buy?


Gear Bags for Travel Photography


Location Research and Pre-Trip Planning


Importing and Naming Conventions in Lightroom


Processing Images with Presets in Lightroom


Lesson Info

Camera Gear for Travel

So the first thing we have here is I have a table full of gear. We have to think about what kind of gear do we want to bring with us when we travel. And, I have some images here that I'll just flip through which are just some random travel images that I've shot over the years. This'll give you a sense for some of what I might capture. But, in the past, I had traveled with this camera set up that's on the right side of my table. And, it's a matter of three lenses and one camera. And, what this allowed me to do is get a wide range of scenes and create some compelling images, but there are some qualities about this gear that our special that if you just buy an average camera or buy a very inexpensive camera, there are certain kinds of images you will not be able to capture. And, so everybody's got a different idea as to what gear you should have. And, so I want to give you an idea of just what my mindset when it comes to gear. Now what I say is specific to the way I think. And, each photo...

grapher that's out there has different priorities. For some people, you're absolute number one priority is it must be low cost. For others, it's a matter of I don't care about the cost, and I also don't care about the weight. I want to get a certain kind of shot. This is my style. I like little details like flowers and textures and everything, and that's what I shoot. And, so each person is gonna have a different need when it comes to cameras. And, I'm not gonna be able to answer what camera exactly should you get. I can't because I don't know what your situation is. But, what I can do is share with you what I consider to be the most important concepts when evaluating gear because if I do tell you about exact cameras, that information is gonna go out of date the next day a new camera's introduced. Now I will mention specific cameras in a few minutes here, but it's more the concepts related to them than the actual models. So I'm evolving as a shooter. This, as I mentioned, was my previous set up that I'd traveled with for many years. And, now I'm transitioning into this set up. Now if you look at these two, you'll notice that this set up is slightly but not all that much smaller than this one. And, that's the trend these days is going for smaller and smaller cameras. I could have another set of cameras over here. They're even smaller. There's one know as the Olympus OMD series which a lot of people use, very popular camera that you could use. But, I've chosen not to, and I'll show you why. It might be a great camera for you, but for me, my personal style of shooting, it's not right for me. But, I want to pretty much give you an idea of why that is, so you can make the choice. Do you want big camera gear, medium size, or do you want to go for the small stuff, and what are the consequences? Because going for a smaller and smaller camera isn't just like they figured out somehow to make it smaller, and it's the same as the big stuff. There is something you get from the big gear that you don't get from the little, and we have to decide exactly where we want to go with that. Does that make sense? All right, so let's take a look. First off, I usually travel with three lenses. The lenses that I try to travel with in general, I'll mention how many millimeters the lenses are like 17 to 40 or something like that. Whenever I mention any of those numbers, if I don't mention what kind of camera it's on, assume it's a full frame camera meaning a big camera. And, these other cameras, as we talk about, usually they have something called a crop factor which we'll get into. And, that means that if I ever mention any numbers that are for a big camera, you have to multiply that by the crop factor to get an equivalent, or divide it. We'll actually talk about the difference. So any generic numbers for big cameras, and then we'll talk about how to translate that to smaller cameras. So anyway, three lenses I find gives me a nice, wide range where with my widest lens which on this camera is a 16 to 35. 16 millimeters is a pretty wide view. I can get a nice, big wide scene captured within that. Medium lens here happens to be a 24 to which gives me my medium range zoom. And, then I have my longer zoom which in this case is a 70 to 200. And, those are the general range that I like to work in from abou 16 or 17 millimeters to 200. I find that range for travel lets me capture the majority of what I encounter, and I can create some really interesting images in that way. So let's look at how the various kinds of cameras when you talk about going smaller and smaller with cameras, ends up changing how things work. So first, when it comes to old school cameras, really old school cameras would be film cameras, but we've kind of gone beyond that, and then the newer style would be digital. And, now there's a transition happening from digital into a newer style which is this one. And, let's see what one of those differences is. The camera on my right has an optical view finder. That means when I look in the view finder, I'm looking at a mirror which is reflecting what is coming in the lens. And, it's just optics. It's light coming in the lens, reflecting on a mirror and going up to my eye. There are advantages and disadvantages to that. Most of them are disadvantages. Shooting with this kind of camera, takes a lot of mental ability. You have to know how to think to shoot with this camera. You have to be able to previsualize with this camera guessing what kind of exposure you need, guessing what kind of depth of field you need and other things. It's not gonna help you a lot instead you need big skills for that. When you move to an electronic viewfinder though, this one when I look in it, inside of here is a little screen just like a video screen, and when I look at it, that's what I'm looking at. Actually the light comes into the front of the lens, comes back and hits the sensor that's in here, the same sensor you take a picture with. And, that sensor supplies the image that is on the little screen inside. Now that ends up changing a lot of things. If you look at this table, here are the main things that I think about when I think about an optical viewfinder versus an electronic one. So first off, exposure. If I change the exposure with an optical viewfinder, nothing changes in my viewfinder. The picture looks exactly the same, the view. I see some number changing that tells me I'm making some changes to the settings, but nothing within the viewfinder reflects those changes. With this camera with an electronic viewfinder though, the information's coming directly off the camera sensor, and when I change the exposure settings that I'm capturing an image with, my view of the scene changes. There's a setting called exposure compensation, you've probably seen the little graph on there where you can go minus one, minus two, minus three, or in the plus range, and as I change that setting in the viewfinder, the image is gonna get darker and darker, and darker, or brighter and brighter. I'm actually getting a preview of the image. So with the old style of camera, you take a picture and what do you see people doing all the time? It's known as chimping. They go oh, oh, oh. They look at the back of their camera to see did I get the shot? Well with the more modern cameras that have an electronic viewfinder, there's no need to chimp. You might chimp to say did I catch the moment? Did the shutter go off at the exact time I thought it was, but you're not going and saying was it too bright? Was it too dark? Because I saw it ahead of time before I even pressed the shutter. Does that make sense with an electronic viewfinder? The other thing is depth of field. Depth of field is how the near and farthest points that are acceptably sharp. On an optical viewfinder, there's a button on the front of the camera right near where the lens is. If I press and hold it, it's supposed to preview how much of the scene is going to be sharp. And, we'll talk about that more later on. The problem is when you press it, your viewfinder gets extremely dark and most people just go I don't know how to use this thing because it's so dark, and it's not fun. This camera if I tell it to give me my depth of field preview, since it's a video screen, it can keep the brightness of the screen the same. And, I can actually see how deep the depth of field is. I can seen is that far temple in the distance sharp, and is the monk that's standing a few feet in front of me also sharp at the same time without it looking really, really dark. Whereas, this one would be dark. The other thing is with focus. When I focus with this optical viewfinder camera, I'm relying on my eyes a lot to make sure I get the focus just right if I'm doing manual focus. With this camera though, it can help me. Because it's a video screen, I'm looking at it can actually highlight the areas within the scene that are sharp. So even if my eyes aren't that good, if I can't see what's in here all that well, it can highlight and say hey that part of their eyes is in focus and so is there nose. And, that's called focus peaking. And, focus peaking is gonna end up highlighting what part of the image is sharp. So when you're doing any kind of manual focus, you got help. But, then there is one thing that's bad about it, and that is because there's a video screen in here that's constantly running whenever you're shooting, it ends up sucking more and more power. And, as you go for smaller and smaller cameras, the batteries also get smaller and smaller to fit in those bodies. And, so with my big camera, I can last all day easily on one battery, not even think about it. With this camera, I carry three batteries with me. And, often times right in the middle of when I want to shoot something, I'm like the battery just died, and I have to slap in another one. That's the biggest disadvantage for that. Now I find this electronic viewfinder versus optical is kind of like the transition from film to digital. It needs adjustment mentally. If you're used to shooting film, and you went to digital, suddenly there's a lot more to learn and a lot more to think about when you did. But, after you made the transition and you forced yourself to do so, and you got used to it, you wouldn't want to go back to the old way of thinking. And, I find, for me at least, it's the same with the electronic viewfinders. So if I were to buy a camera today, I wouldn't buy one of these that has an optical viewfinder because I find I can shoot much faster and with more precision using something that gives me feedback and ends up brightening and darkening as I look in the viewfinder. I can press a button and see exactly how much stuff is gonna be sharp without having any trouble with it. So that's one thing that'll take some time to get used to if you've never used an electronic viewfinder. The other thing that's nice about the electronic viewfinder is it can show me exactly where within the scene the image is blown out. It's solid white. Does the sun have detail at sunset or not? And, how close am I to getting that? This can show me that visually. What it does is it can show stripes on the image. It substitutes in the areas that would be solid white little stripes on the screen that just say hey this doesn't have any detail. Whereas my other camera, not gonna give me any of that. So anyway that's optical versus electronic viewfinder. So these days when I look for cameras, I'm tending towards the electronic viewfinder. Then sensor sizes. Let's talk a little bit about that one. Big cameras have big sensors. This has the same size sensor as this one, but as you get smaller and smaller cameras, the sensors usually have to get smaller at the same time, and that causes some issues. And, it's good in that you have a lighter camera, but there are some technical things that happen that makes it harder to take certain kinds of photos, and I want to make sure you know about that. So here goes. First off, the image that you see here is what you might capture on a full frame camera. That means the big kind of camera. And, if I were to take the exact same lens that's on this full frame camera and put it on a smaller camera, then that camera since it has a smaller sensor, all it's gonna do is if that is the area, the big picture that that lens is projecting, that's the information it's sending to the back of the camera. With a smaller sensor, it's only gonna be able to grab that middle portion, the portion surrounded in red. And, so it's going to crop our image. And, that's why the smaller sensor cameras are known as cropped frame sensors. They're not as big as a full frame. And, in order to figure out the equivalent in lenses, they came out with this thing called the crop factor. The crop factor is a number that you're gonna have to multiply whatever lens you're thinking about. So if you're talking about a full frame camera, and let's say you just happened to be thinking about 100 millimeter lens, if you have a crop factor of two X, that means you take that 100 millimeter lens and multiply it by two. And, that's the kind of lens that it's going to be on another camera. So what happens is whenever you look at the millimeters when it comes to lenses is you get to smaller and smaller cameras. Whatever it mentions for your lens, multiply it by two and whatever that is is what you would get on a full frame camera. But, that is what a lot of people are used to because anytime you try to shop for a camera, what happens is on the spec sheets, just on the advertising for the camera itself, it usually says that information. It will say here is a seven to whatever lens, and that'll say in little parentheses that is a something to 14 something lens, 35 millimeter equivalent. That means full frame equivalent. But, what they don't tell you is that it makes it a little bit harder to capture certain types of images. Let me see if I can show you which types of images it's going to make harder to take. If you look at this particular image, do you notice that the flame in the middle is where my eye goes to because there's some detail there. And, my eye explores the rest of the frame, but the candles that are closest to us, you see how blurry they are? And, the candles in the background are quite blurry as well, and that little area in the middle there's only a certain little slice of it that is acceptably sharp where my brain looks at it and goes yep that's what a lot of people call in focus. Well in order to get this where I get an out of focus background and an out of focus foreground, and I can get you to concentrate on one little part of the image, I need to be able to have a narrow depth of field. Depth of field is simply how many inches or feet between the nearest and farthest point that you can see in here that is acceptably sharp. If I end up not being able to do that, I'm gonna suddenly start getting, the candles that are in the other areas becoming sharper and sharper. Let's just go to there. Now I don't know if you can tell this candle the is in the center, that is one forward of the one that used to be sharp, it's also sharp as well. So now we have at least two candles that are sharp. This one's getting to be a little bit sharper. Well this is the kind of thing that happens as you go to smaller sensors, and I'll describe why in a few minutes. So that's why if you pick up your iPhone or your Android phone or whatever it is, and you point it at anything, everything is in focus. Everything looks sharp, and it's because how small is the sensor that's inside of here? Doesn't have to be absolutely tiny especially compared to this guy? But, if you ever hear about people shooting movies, I mean real movies like two hour long Hollywood thriller movies. Sometimes they end up doing those with the same kind of cameras we go out in the field to shoot with. But, if you ever look at what cameras they're using, they're always full frame. And, there's a reason for that. That's because in the movies, they love being able to isolate something where you only get this little bitty slice of an area that's sharp and the background just fades away, and the foreground fades away, so you're concentration is on one spot. And, I find in travel photography that is something that is almost magical when it comes to what we're capable of and what we can present to people. So let's take a look at how that affect things, how the sensor size does. To do this, we're gonna get a little bit technical, but then when we're done getting technical, we'll come right back. And, don't worry. I'm gonna just bring it down at the end to something that is easy to remember and is easy to use, but the problem is the knowledge is not very common at all when it comes to general talking, when it comes to websites, when it comes to videos or anything. So let's take a look. On your camera, we have settings for shutter speed, aperture, and other stuff, but mainly shutter speed and aperture. We've all heard those terms before. You've most likely used them quite a bit. But, I find that few people really understand the most important concepts related to it. And, so I want to give you a brief little talk about it. We'll talk a lot more about it later. I'll give you formulas that will show you, and when I say formulas, I don't mean math formulas. I just mean a mental formula for how to think about what setting do we use in any situation. What setting do I use if I walk up and there's something close to me and something far away? How can I determine exactly what setting to use? Then what can I use if I run into completely different situation? How can I know exactly what setting to use in every situation. I'll tell you that in little formulas. But, before we do, I want to talk about the gear and how it really matters to me and why I've chosen certain cameras. So here goes. There's a setting on your camera known as your F stop. You've probably seen the number for it. You've heard of F 2.8 or F 22. And, all that does is it controls how big an opening is that's in your lens. And, in fact if you set your camera to F 22, and you press the little button that's called depth of field preview on it, you could look inside and actually see it close down, but only if you hold in that little preview button. Otherwise, it only closes down the moment you take the picture. So the number you have for F stop controls how large that opening is. And, that opening determines how much stuff is gonna be sharp, your depth of field. And, what happens is the larger the opening is, the more towards this side over here we have, the narrower the depth of field is. The more you can get it to be just a tiny, little slice of sharp information and everything else goes soft. And, to me that is so important when I'm out shooting because if I want to isolate one person, let's say a monk from a just flood of tourists that are right behind him, if I get the tourists completely sharp, I can see 'em. They're really not gonna look that great. But, if I can get the monk to be sharp, whatever is behind them to look like a blur of color, that can be a great shot even though there's 100 tourists blatantly walking right behind them. Does that make sense? So let's take a look at how our gear can influence this. So I'll go through just a little talk about F stops. All right, so your F stop determines how big the opening is. The bigger the opening, the narrower the depth of field meaning the more we can isolate things. Okay, then when you set your camera to 2.8, you're gonna get a different size opening depending on what lens you use. Or, if I take my lens and zoom it, it actually changes the size of the opening. And, that's not necessarily what people are used to thinking. They're used to thinking that the aperture is F 2.8, and therefore, they think it didn't change as you zoomed across because my lens is able to give me 2.8 across the whole range. But, that's not really the case. Let's take a look at why. Have you ever noticed that if you take a wide angle lens, a lens that can show you a huge amount of a scene, it's extremely difficult to get anything that's out of focus. If I take a lens that can shoo this entire room, and I try to get you out of focus, but something else in focus, good luck especially the wider the lens is. But, then if you get a long lens, if you grab for a big, long piece of glass, and you put it on your camera, you're gonna notice that the same setting, the F 2.8 let's say it is. You point this at anything and suddenly the backgrounds are out of focus. And, if you're not used to that, that's how it works. And, I'll show you why. Here's why. The F stop you have on your camera is not a direct description of how big that opening is. It's not a direct description of it at all. Most people think of it that way, but it's not the way it works. If it was a direct description, wouldn't it make sense that a big opening would be a big number and that a small opening would be a small number, but it's not. Instead the small number is a huge opening, what's up with that? That doesn't really make sense. Well let's see why that is the case. To determine the actual opening that's in your lens, what you need to do is look at your lens and say what am I shooting it at? Am I at 100 millimeters? Am I at 200 millimeters? What is the length of my lens? And, if you want to figure out how big the opening is, this is what you do. You take the length of your lens. Let's say it's 200 millimeter, and you divide by the aperture setting you're using, and it tells you how big is the opening. Most people don't think that way though, but that's the way it works. I wish they would tell you that everyday they talk about aperture settings, but they don't. And, let's see how it affects things. So if you want to determine how big these openings are, what we end up doing is we take the length of our lens, and we end up dividing by the aperture, or the F stop, and it tells us how big the opening is. I have a typo here. This used to say 100, but I hit the delete key by accident it looks like. But, 100 divided by 2.8. If you look at it, these numbers are considerably different. And, what that means is, as I get to a longer lens, the same number actually means a smaller and smaller opening. And, so what does that mean? It means the longer the lens is, the more I'm gonna be isolating things, and let's see how that affects different cameras. So remember that thing called a crop factor? Do you remember how if I get a small camera, it's got a small sensor? And, that crops into what a big camera would've captured. And, so they come up with this thing called a crop factor. And, the crop factor says if my lens on this little camera has a number on it, I need to multiply it by the crop factor to figure out what it would be like on a big camera. What equivalent view it would give me. Well if I do that, and I say that I need 100 millimeter lens on a micro four-thirds camera. That would be like an Olympus OMD or other small cameras, the popular cameras these days. I need 100 millimeter lens. If I multiply it by two, it's the equivalent to a 200 millimeter lens on a full frame camera. But, if I do the math to figure out how big those openings are, if you look at the sizes, they're not the same. So even though the numbers that you see, the F stop numbers, are the same numbers, they're not the same openings because you need to take the length of your lens and divide it by that. So if you want to prove it, what you can do is go on the internet, do a search, depth of field calculator. If you do that, there are dozens of websites where you can do the math. You don't have to do much, and here what I did is just typed in what kind of set up I was thinking of. Here is a lens I might have on my big camera to get narrow depth of field, this big, long lens. At the longest setting, it's 200 millimeters, and that's what I'm gonna end up wanting to shoot with. To get the narrowest depth of field, to really isolate things, F 2.8 that's the biggest opening I can get in that lens to narrow it down the most. And, I just need to pick a distance of how far away my subject is. I could pick any number. And, up here there's a lot of numbers up here. Ignore most of 'em. Just look at this. This number tells me how much would look sharp, one and a half inches. Then on a crop frame sensor, I still have an F 2.8 setting, but in order to get an equivalent view, an equivalent amount of information in the frame, I need to use 100 millimeter lens. Remember we have the crop factor. 100 millimeter times two means it acts like the 200. But, if you look up here, look at how much stuff is gonna be sharp. Full frame over here, inch and a half. Smaller camera, smaller sensor, twice as much information is sharp. What that means is that monk I'm trying to take a photo of, and I'm trying to get the tourists that are directly behind them to be so out of focus that you can't even tell they're there is just colorful stuff behind them, I'm not gonna be able to do it as much here. So if we want to be able to get this same amount of narrow depth of field, just an inch and a half in focus, what would we need to have on our little, small camera? Well here if I moved these dials around until we got the number to be the same. See over here it says and inch and a half? And, that's the exact same as on the full frame camera which is on the far left. Well down here look at this number right there. Do you see F 1.4? That's what you need on a crop frame sensor, a small sensor in order to get the same little isolation. So what do you need to remember? And, you look at brochures and websites, and you compare cameras. If you ever have a camera that's got a small sensor, it will tell you what its crop factor is. And, it'll tell you the equivalent lens it would be on a 35 millimeter camera. But, what they never tell you is what the equivalent F stop would be on that same camera. And, the F stop determines how much can you isolate things when you're shooting. And, so only thing you need to know when shopping for cameras when it comes to comparing different sizes is that crop factor you have. Use it also to figure out the equivalent F stop. What that means if I have a lens here and this was on a small camera and it says that this is F 2.8 glass, but that same camera says it has a two X crop factor. Take F 2.8 and multiply it by two, and that tells you what it would be on a big camera. You can also divide what you'd have on a big camera by the crop factor to figure out what would it need to be on a small camera. And, so whenever comparing the specs on cameras, always look at those when comparing to say if I'm considering a small camera, and I'm comparing it to a large one, do that little bit of math when you're comparing.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Lightroom Presets Quickstart Guide
Lightroom Preset Sampler
Pre-Trip Planning
Actions Sampler Guide
Travel Photography Handbook
Actions Sampler
Lightroom Keywords
Big Set of Lightroom Presets
Practice Images
Travel Photogtaphy Mobile Guide
Gear List
Lightroom Tips and Keyboard Shortcuts

Ratings and Reviews


This was simply an amazing experience! Without a doubt the best investment of time and money I have experienced in quite awhile. Ben's complete command of the subject, the practical tips, suggestions and reference information was outstanding. I have enjoyed point and shoot photography for some time and recently decided to invest in some decent DSLR equipment (Canon EOS D70). I have a trip to Cape Town and Johannesburg South Africa rapidly approaching and thought it might be a good idea to take some classes and make an effort to get up the learning curve ASAP to take advantage of this travel opportunity. "Discovering" Creativelive and Ben Willmore's class was literally an answer to prayer! There is nothing like sitting at the foot of wisdom, taking notes, and having numerous "ah-ha" moments! This was great....looking forward to more classes. Thanks for the high quality effort!

a Creativelive Student

Genius! Ben is a brilliant master teacher - focused, clear and holds back no information. The best! This course has condensed the equivalent of 10 courses into one. He is a perfectionist in his approach and knows how to present the material. He is the leader in photoshop and photography "par excellence". Highly recommend any of his courses. Save your time and start with the best - everyone loves Ben!!!!

Nichole Sams

I feel the title of this class, Travel Photography, is much to limiting for what you are really going to get. As a wedding photographer, who dreams of traveling, I attending the class live in Seattle, and was hoping to get some inspiration for on location shoots. What I got, however, was a WHOLE LOT MORE. I would recommend this class to anyone with a camera and Lightroom. What I learned about how lightroom works and how to integrate it with photoshop is invaluable. I actually think they should charge WAY more for this course. The bonuses with purchase from the keywords (we are talking every key word you could possibly imagine) and the presets (holycow everything you would ever need) are worth exponentially more than the course price itself. Ben is a gentle easy going teacher and nice to listen to. His ease of teaching pretty complex ideas was truly wonderful. If you are reading this you must buy this course, it is well worth it!

Student Work