Travel Photography: The Complete Guide


Lesson Info

Gear Bags for Travel Photography

Now, let's talk about how I carry this gear, and how to just work with it. So if I come over here and look at some of my bags, I'll bring a few from up here. When you're traveling, I don't usually travel, when I'm out actually shooting, with a huge backpack, like a standard camera backpack, shooter's backpack. Instead I'm trying to make it so people don't notice me as much. They don't think, "he's a photographer." instead, they're just thinking, "Oh there's a guy who happens to have a camera that took a picture." But if they think you're either a professional photographer or that you're an overly serious photographer with a lot of gear, then they seem to be a little bit more apprehensive. And so let me show you what I travel with and shoot with. First off, before I went to a smaller camera, this looks kinda weird, is what I would travel with. What the heck is that? That doesn't look like a camera bag at all. Well this is a belt system. And let me put it on and show you how it works so ...

you can see why I use it. Because if you think about a backpack, that's how a lot of people travel, there's a mental process that goes through your head when you're wearing a backpack. And that is, if you need to change lenses to get a particular shot, your mental process is "is it worth it to pull that backpack off to put on a different lens," right? And oftentimes the answer's no and you don't take the shot because you leave the lens on your back. But if you have your lenses around your waist like this, and they're always available at a moment's notice, then you don't get into that thought of is it worth it to change lenses, you've already changed lenses and you've taken the picture. So let me show you how this works. These are made by a company called Think Tank Photo. They make a lot of camera gears and backpacks. But if I were to take a lens and I put it in here, I can do this, here's another one here, this is made by a different company, I believe it's called Spider. But I have a gear list that comes with the course. It lists the names, like the exact name of this bag. I don't know the exact name, I know the brand. But this is one that is designed for a big lens. And so if I take a big lens, I can put it in here like that, have it on. And so with this, if I go out shooting, first off when I am off shooting, if you look at me straight on, can you see how many lenses I have on me? Not usually. And if I had a jacket or something on over this, just a light windbreaker kind of thing, you wouldn't see this as much. But I can shoot and then if I want to change glass to get a different shot, all I need to do is pull this over. And there's a little cinch on it. I can pinch that cinch and pull, which makes this open. If I pulled the string instead it would tighten up to make it so nothing can fall out. But anyway, if I do this, this is how quick it is to take a lens, and if I wanna change lenses. (accessories clicking) Okay? Compare that to a backpack, you know? Just think about it, all I'm doing is sliding over, I uncinch, pull lens, and on a Canon look for the red dot, cause that's what needs to line up. And what I do these days is I press this little release button and I just turn the lens the tiniest amount so that it's not locked anymore. Then I can take the cap off of this one, spin this one, put it on, and then put that cap back on. You gotta practice that a little bit. I wasn't actually the smoothest there cause I'm not used to doing it where I'm standing, but I can do that. Now, to go to a big lens, I have this guy, and look at how quick I can get to it. So, to get a big lens on, get the red dot up so I can see where it is. This is tight. My strap right now around my neck for some reason a little longer than usual. So that's why I'm, this is usually about here. And that's why I have an extra bag over here. Cause if I put this lens in that long one, it doesn't fit, and it's hard to get out. So I have an empty one over here to put that in. Eh? Does that make any sense? Now the only thing about this is when you're walking around, the moment you pass somebody, they're gonna see all this stuff behind you, they're gonna know you're a serious shooter. And also if you're in certain areas, you could be a target. Like, oh that guy's got, whatever. Or if you try to buy something in a store and you have a bunch of gear hanging from you, they're like he's got money, kinda thing. So it's not as easy to bargain. Now when I get somewhere, I'm gonna have lunch or I'm gonna get in a car, all I do is I take the belt, I pinch it, and right behind me I can usually fit it back together. And then just set this on the car seat or wherever it needs to go. If I want to not stick out, then I switch to this. Yes, go ahead. Ben, I was just gonna ask, for a number of people are asking in the chatrooms about your concern for safety with regard to the belt pack and people stealing. Does that? I've been to over 20 countries with it. Yeah. Including very impoverished areas, and I've never had any gear stolen out of it. It's very easy to tell if somebody is messing with my stuff, because I can feel it, it's right on my waist. And as long as I cinch it, the problem with these can be if you get lazy and you don't pull that little thing that's there, then if you have to climb on some rocks or get really low on something, one of those pouches could end up at a weird angle and your lens, with gravity, could try to follow. So you always gotta remember to pull the little cinch that's on it so the lens is in there. Also, there's a little flap in there that can cover the top of the lens so that if you get a light rain it wouldn't get in there. And there's even a bag that you could pull over the outside. The bottom has a zipper where a bag can pull out, a rain bag, if it's heavy rain. But now let's take my mirrorless camera, still a full frame camera, and put it in a bag. This bag was actually made by Sony. It's their sling bag, I don't know the exact model number, but I think it'll be in our equipment list PDF. So you can look it up, or if you Google Sony sling bag it would be similar. Do I look like a photographer right now? No, I look like a guy with a little convenience pack or whatever, a European shoulder bag. (audience laughter) With this, I just have a zipper to get to it, and I have my camera and I have a total of three lenses. It's not as fluid to change lenses, cause I have to aim and amend a little bit more with this. But it's still really accessible. And if I want to I can swing it back like this. And now you don't notice that I have much with me. This though, if you're gonna walk all day with this, this shoulder is going to get a little tired. So at lunch I'm gonna end up switching over to the other side. And also there are little panels here. This is where I usually have a map of the location that I'm going to, if I happen to run into one. This is where if I happen to use any filters. This is a filter ring to adapt them. There are other things, I can store them in there. And I have another pocket over here which I actually have some filters in. And so it's pretty convenient, and that does not make me look like a shooter. It makes me look like just a guy walking down the street. An alternative to that is, I will often just get a normal backpack to walk with. And this is gonna have my lenses and glass in it. When I'm in certain areas where I just wanna look like a normal person walking around, not as convenient to change lenses, I hate having it in here, but sometimes it's the way to be stealthy. I'm not saying that's the only way. I'm just showing you a few options that I use and I find to be useful. There are a few other accessories that I very much like to have with me and find to be useful. (accessory scrapes on desk) We can talk about these in more depth later on as far as seeing images that were made from them. But this little pouch, which fits on that belt that I showed you, the belt slides right in here, the Velcro closes and there's a snap so it can stay pretty secure, is what I use for holding filters. If I open this up, I use a total of three filters. And the filters, just in case you wanna know, we'll talk more about it when we actually work with images, are a polarizing filter, which allows me to cause skies to become darker or to reduce reflections. I then have two neutral density filters, just like sunglasses, they're just tinted. One is about a two-stop neutral density and the other one is closer to ten. And those can be useful. Imagine if you had a dark filter you put in front of the lens of your camera. What's it gonna cause to happen? It's gonna make it so less light goes in your lens, doesn't it? And because a lot less light will go in the lens, it's gonna need to have a much longer exposure to get the same brightness that you would have without the filter. Does that make sense? Well if I have one that's known as a ten-stop one, that's gonna be really dark, I mean really dark. It's gonna be hard to see if I have an optical viewfinder. If I have an electronic one I can see fine, cause it shows me the end result. But, what if I have tourists, and I hate the tourists just mobbing all these places? Well if I put that ten-stop neutral density filter on and I take a picture, my shutter speed is gonna be slow. They're gonna become a blurry mass of people, which actually makes them contribute to the scene, because now there are humans there, first off. Humans are a good thing, it's just when they look touristy they're not always great. And they're gonna be blurred, so you'll see some motion. That gives it a little bit more energy. And it gives it scale, where I can say oh yeah, compared to a human, everything else is this big. But having that with me allows me that option. It's one of my ways of dealing with tourists. And we'll have a whole section on dealing with tourists. How do I make it so tourists go away from my scene? One of them is if you don't want them to go away, you blur them, and that's with one of these filters. The other filter, the two-stop one, I use for water. If I want a silky feel in water, so there's a waterfall or anything else, and I don't wanna see the individual droplets, instead I want it to look like the silky look photographers often create, that's the two-stop one will usually give me that. Alright, any questions about those filters? Yes. [Female Audience Member] Hi. I see that you have what looks to be a carry-on luggage bag. Are you gonna talk about that later or can I ask a question about it? I wasn't gonna mention that much. I do have a normal camera bag, roller bag down there. And I will put those other systems inside of that when I'm flying. Because on a plane it's not convenient to grab that belt shoulder strap thing and put it in the overhead bin, you know. Instead I use a normal camera roller bag to put that into for when I'm actually flying out to some location. So my question is. Mm-hm. Let's say you've got all your camera gear in there, and you're hopping on a plane like that dreaded thing happens where they're like, oh just joking, you can't actually have a carry-on with you, and your camera is in there, what would you do? Is that really safe enough to throw all your gear in and let them, you know what I mean? Oh, check it? Not to check it, but do you know how when sometimes you get on a plane and you have your carry-on and they're like, you can't have a carry-on, the flight is full, and then they take it to check it? Sure. Um. Would you pull your camera out, which gear would you choose to pull out? Sure, well first off, I find that the majority of the time that they say that, they're kind of just in a standard way of talking and they're not, they don't mean that every single spot is actually empty. They're just trying to alleviate some possible problems, and so there almost always space there. So I will let them know that in here there is, I might whisper it to them. "There's like twenty thousand dollars of camera gear in here, and it's not designed to be checked, can I please do it?" And oftentimes, doing that will allow them to have a carry-on. And also I'll check it if I have to. And if I did have to check it, I would pull out the body of my camera, at least one lens, whatever lens is the most versatile one, in case something happens to that gear, and anything else that looks the most fragile. If you ever have a jacket with you, pull out the jacket, start filling the pockets with lenses and things. Because there's not a limit on bringing an extra jacket on. And you can get away with it sometimes that way. You do have to be careful with bags. I have the international version of this bag. Because international standards, the bags are a little bit smaller, and if you don't get the international version, you can end up with some issues trying to fly in certain parts of the world. But for me, I haven't needed to check that bag much with the international size, even on small propellor planes. Most of the time I can either fit it in the overhead bin or under the seat. And it's been extremely rare, although the airline people will argue with me that that will not fit. And I said, "Let me try please." And when I try (rustling noise) I can get it in, yeah. While we're on the subject of packing gear, do you also pack along your laptop, or is that something that you get to once you get back to your hometown? No, I do bring my laptop, and along with my laptop I bring two hard drives. I shouldn't even call them hard drives because hard drives are usually spinning discs inside a case. What I bring are two of these. And in my gear list I believe it mentions these, and if not, in the PDF it will mention them, I can also mention it here. This particular brand is OWC. That stands for Other World Computing, if you wanna Google it, and I believe this is called a mercury, or not a mercury, hold on. It's called an Envoy Pro, and this little thing is 480 gigabytes. It is called an SSD drive, and an SSD drive is the newer kind of drive that's much faster and also less fragile than old style spinning hard drives. So if this gets dropped, it might still break, but it's at least not like a record player playing where if the read head crashes it would screw things up. So anyway, I bring two of these. Therefore I use one as my primary image, and this one says mirror on it because it's my backup. Anytime I'm done processing images, I copy them over onto this backup one, so I have them in two locations. One of these would be in my laptop bag, the other one would be in my camera bag, so if the two bags get separated I'm not gonna lose my images. So yeah, laptop, two of these. Great, we'll take a couple questions from online. Can you tell us again the name of, the brand name, well I'll just, Think Tank Photo is the belt pack that you use? Uh-huh. Yeah, Think Tank. Okay, awesome. Do you take any type of stabilization? Monopod, gorilla legs, for slow shutters? It depends on where I'm going and by what means I'm traveling. The last dozen countries I've been in, I actually went to on a cruise ship. Because I've found, I work on a cruise ship, I'll teach classes on a cruise ship. And to me, that gets me to these locations without it being expensive. You know, nice set up, huh? And in doing so, the problem with that, what I really dislike about it is, we're often in a location for one day, and we're getting back on the ship before it's dark enough to really get into the situation where I need a tripod. And if I wasn't traveling that way then yes, I would consider bringing a tripod. You just need to think about how light and small is that tripod. Because whenever you carry it with you, it's going to slow you down and it's not gonna always be pleasant. So I look for the smallest, lightest kind of thing. I shouldn't say the smallest, but smaller, lighter. You know I don't want a really cheap one, I want one that's high quality. You'll find some where the legs kind of reverse. Usually the legs come down and hit the ground, and if you could bend those legs 180 degrees, the other direction, they can fit together more compactly. It's a design you'll see on a lot of tripods and I rather like that. So yeah, if I was gonna fly to a location and I'm traveling all the time, knowing I'm gonna have those evening and morning opportunities, a tripod would be great. [Female Audience Member] Great. One more question, this one's from Sharon Russell. When you were talking about using the bigger Canon lenses on the smaller Sony bodies. Yeah. Can the smaller body actually handle the weight of those larger lenses? Well it depends. If you're just connecting this large lens to that body, in general it can handle it. The thing you need to be careful of is if you ever put a long lens on a tripod. If you ever put a long lens on a tripod, do not use the standard tripod hole in your camera. A long lens will almost always come with a tripod collar. It's a little attachment that goes onto the lens. So you're actually attaching the lens to the tripod, not the camera. If you attach the camera itself, and you have this really long piece of glass extending off of it on a tripod, that's gonna stress the body, even this body, the big body. And so that's what should generally be avoided. But otherwise I don't usually have a problem with that on at least the ones that I've tried. I'm sure there are some that have cheaper mounts though, that could be an issue. One more follow up on that from TwidLife. Are you using an adapter on the Sony for the Canon lenses, and if so, do you still have autofocus? You do have to use an adapter. And right now, I'm using the, I mean the last time I traveled, I used Sony glass on a Sony camera. But if you looked at the recommendation that I gave, that I would actually purchase if I were to purchase a camera today, which I have up here, lists a Sony camera with Canon glass. The reason I can switch here and start using Canon glass is, this is a newer version of the camera that I had up here. The original Sony A7 was the first full-frame, mirrorless camera, which means a full-frame camera that has a small body. The body is the same size as the even smaller cameras like the Olympus OMD series, which are very popular. If you put the two bodies side by side, they're pretty much the same size. But the difference is, if I put Canon glass on the Sony camera I have with an adapter, the autofocus is really slow. But this new version, that's not the case. The new version, they've improved the autofocus, where when you put a different brand glass on with an adapter, that the autofocus is fast. And many people are saying it's as fast as using the camera that the lens is designed for. And that's why I would do this setup.

It takes the perfect combination of gear, exposure, and creative thinking to produce travel images that stand out from the rest. Learn the how to bring the critical ingredients together in Travel Photography: The Complete Guide with Ben Willmore.

Fresh off a seven-country, two-month international trip, Ben will share everything it takes to create exciting and memorable travel images. You’ll learn how to:

  • Deal with everyday tourists in your shots 
  • Select the best lens for each situation 
  • Organize the chaos of a scene into a compelling image

Ben will cover everything you want to know about selecting, packing, and protecting gear. You’ll also develop an efficient digital workflow that fits the fast-paced lifestyle of travel shooting.

Don’t go on your next travel adventure without the insights and skills you need to capture high-quality images, fast processing – join Ben Willmore for Travel Photography: The Complete Guide.



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  • 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!