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Musings on travel photography gear

This summer's plans will include three weeks in Europe, with stops in Amsterdam, Munich/Bavaria, and the Amalfi Coast. I'll be on my own for the first week, traveling with a friend for the second week, then meeting up with Jen for the last week in Italy. The fundamental tension on this trip will be trying to travel light (i.e., backpacking) and wanting to make the most of the photographic opportunities.

I'm torn on what photography gear to take. On one hand, I'm tempted to go the minimalist route and bring only with my new (as in haven't shot with it much yet, although I've had it about 6 months) FujiFilm X100. It's a portable package with great image quality, and the 23mm lens (full-frame field of view similar to 35mm) would be a reasonable choice as a single focal length to carry around (okay, maybe it's a bit long).

On the other hand, this migh be a once in a lifetime photographic opportunity (hopefully not!), so it would be a shame not to use my Nikon system (D90 with a range of lenses), which includes lenses from 10.5mm up to 300mm (on DX). Of course, the idea of having my backpack filled with heavy gear isn't so appealing.

I've been ruminating on this a lot recently (more than any reasonable person should think about such things), and here's the gear I'm currently planning on bringing:

  • FujiFilm X100 (23mm f/2)
  • Nikon D90 with the three lenses below and maybe the small SB-400 flash. Not sure how much I'll need an external flash, but it's compact and won't take much room in my bag.
  • Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8...This seems like the "must have" lens for the trip. Going wide will be key in the narrow European streets, and this might be the favorite I have (here are some images with it, and also I used it a lot when we were in Hawaii last year). It's the obvious first choice to take.
  • The second lens choice is a bit odd: I'm definitely taking my Nikon 10.5mm fisheye. I just love the unique perspective this one gives, and I ended up using it a lot when we were in Rome a couple of years ago. It's a really compact lens, so even though it's a pretty specialized piece of glass, it's easy to justify bringing it. Given it's size, it's basically a freebie (in terms of size/weight).
  • Nikon 50mm F/1.4I've pretty much decided that I should only bring one other lens besides the stuff listed above, so it has to cover the "long" end. But how long is long enough? When we went to Hawaii I carried a 70-300mm lens, but really only used it for a few pictures of sea turtles (that you weren't supposed to approach too closely). I'm really glad I had it for those shots, but otherwise it pretty much went unused. As far as I can tell, I won't be encountering any sea turtles (or other wildlife), so it's probably not worth carrying that one. The 105mm macro is another possibility; there surely will be some close-up opportunities and it would be a good telephoto to take, but it's big/heavy and still would probably see limited use compared to the other options. It's coming down to either a 50mm or 85mm lens. My guess/hope is that 50mm (on DX) will be enough reach. If not, I can always crop later. Plus my 50mm f/1.4 is small, light, cheap enough that I won't be devistated if something happens to it (as opposed to my 85mm lens, which would be more costly to replace), and fast enough for some low-light shooting. I'll throw a close-up lens in my bag and attach it to the 50mm if I want to do any pseudo-macros.
  • One additional lens I'll have access to is the Nikon 18-105mm that came with my D90, which I used a lot when we were last in Rome. Jen now has that one on her D3100, which I assume she'll be bringing. Maybe she won't notice if I hide another lens or two in her bag...

D90 with fisheye lensSo, that's the plan/rationale, at least for now. If once I start packing my bag I find there's more room, something else might get slipped in there :-)

Interestingly, I've put all this thought into it, and now that I think about it, this is exactly the same lightweight kit I took when I last went to Oregon, sans the fisheye, and when we went to Seattle (again, no fisheye, and this was also before I got the X100).

On the computer/editing side, I'm only taking my iPad (no laptop). I previously mused about getting a Hyperdrive to back up all my pictures, but that's more weight and expense than I want to deal with. Instead, I'll make sure I'm stocked up on SD cards, import pictures onto the iPad for previewing and basic editing, and then upload the best shots to Dropbox to save them to the cloud. I was pleased to find that the iPad can import/export RAW files.

Reader Comments (2)

interesting choice of lenses. i've never gotten the feel of super-wides, but usually travel with a tokina 12-24 f/4, nikon 18-200 (not sharp much past 150mm) and the great, lightweight and sharp nikon 100-300. none of these are very fast, and the 18-200 is heavy, but focal length wise, they are a good combo. i'll give your choices more consideration.

I love the Tokina 11-16:

April 11, 2012 | Registered CommenterBen

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