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Last week I conducted a short survey of MikeOnTheStreet.com readers.
One of the questions I asked was “what do you like most about MikeOnTheStreet.com?”
And I discovered something funny — people like my writing more than they like my photography!
I’m okay with that. I love writing as much as I love photography!
Here is the single biggest compliment I’ve received in years:
80% of traveling photographers make a major mistake:
TOO. MUCH. EQUIPMENT.
We’re talking big cameras, big lenses, a huge backpack, a tripod, flashes, etc.
I call that the “I’m about to raid bin Laden’s compound” approach to packing.
But if you really want a productive, fun photo trip, I urge you to pack as little gear as possible.
Less gear means:
The benefits are huge.
You’ll have more energy to explore, less stress, and you’ll probably take better pictures.
I’m about to leave for a photo trip to London, UK.
Here’s what I’m bringing:
1) Camera & Lens Setup
I used to travel with a Fuji X100 and not much else.
When I’m on the move, I want to focus on what’s in front of me — not on rifling through my equipment bag for the perfect lens.
There’s a slight chance I’ll add my Sony 55mm f/1.8 lens to the mix for portraits, but odds are I’m sticking with 1 camera, 1 lens.
I could even be happy with a compact point and shoot.
Less gear means less weight. That means my back and legs will feel better after a 10+ hour shooting day.
It also means less stuff to worry about in the case of loss or theft.
And if you’re traveling with a family, listen up!
Far too many of you lug around big backpacks full of pro bodies and lenses, and you’re making your loved ones miserable.
They just want fun snapshots. They’re not on a National Geographic expedition, and they HATE waiting for you while you fiddle with your gear.
2) Extra Batteries
While I travel light, I always bring extra power.
I’m bringing 5 batteries with me to London.
My Sony A7 II chews through batteries really quickly, and on a long shooting day, I’ll need to switch batteries once or twice a day.
Now, I’ve never had trouble charging up batteries with adapters in foreign countries.
But there have been days where I got back to my hotel at night and forgot to charge up.
So I want enough battery power to get me through 2 days.
3) A Single Memory Card
Unless you plan on shooting lots of HD video, just bring one big memory card (click here to see the ones I use).
Quality memory cards purchased from reliable retailers rarely fail.
I’ve used Sandisk, Lexar, Sony, PNY, Transcend, and Kingston cards and have never had a problem.
Maybe I’m being too casual, but I don’t worry much about redundancy.
I’ve lost quite a few memory cards in my time, but I’ve never had one fail.
Just leave the card in your camera and you’ll always know where it is.
I clean all my lenses and filters with a LensPen, which is my favorite photographic accessory.
I leave one in each of my camera bags, so I always have one on me.
If you shoot enough, your lenses are going to get dirty — so get one and stay clean.
5) Circular Polarizer
If you want vivid blue skies in your photo, then a circular polarizer can help.
Polarizers work best when your subject is at a 90-degree angle to the sun. Just keep in mind that they can look a bit odd with extremely wide lenses.
I happily used an inexpensive Tiffen polarizer for a long time, but I recently stepped up to a pricier Hoya (still a fairly-priced product).
I don’t see any difference in image quality.
However, the Hoya is better built and easier to clean, which is huge because polarizers tend to attract a lot of fingerprints and grime.
6) A Plain Bag
Most places in the world are very safe if you take basic precautions.
The easiest way to increase your risk profile is to look like a rich tourist carrying a bunch of expensive camera equipment.
So lose the flashy camera bags.
I use my ugly, trashed Thinktank Retrospective 7.
It was a nice bag when I got it, but it looks like hell now.
But it’s got more than enough space and padding for my essentials: my camera, tablet, water bottle, sunglasses, filters, LensPen, etc.
And most importantly, I don’t look like a photographer. I look like just another guy walking around with a shoulder bag.
The Retrospective 7 also has a built-in rain cover, and really loud velcro (which can be made silent with an adjustment).
Now why is this loud velcro important?
No one gets inside that bag without me knowing.
7) A Tablet or Chromebook
If you want to maximize your shooting time and your fun time on your trip, leave the Macbook Pro at home.
Do not edit on the road.
I’m bringing my Kindle Fire HD Tablet to London.
It’s lightweight, it has great WiFi performance, and excellent battery life.
I’ll use to read and watch movies on the plane, and it gives me all the computing power I need while I’m on the go.
And since I spent about $100 on it, it’s disposable.
A Chromebook is also a good choice.
8) Water Bottle
Do yourself a favor and buy a Vapur Element collapsible water bottle.
They’re less than $15, and you won’t have to spend $4+ for a single bottle of water at the airport, or at a touristy spot.
Trust me. It will pay for itself in a day when you’re on vacation.
And when the Vapur’s empty, you can fold it down and stick it anywhere.
I never leave home without one.
Let me Repeat: Less Is More
I can’t say this enough: it’s far better to underpack than overpack.
You want to spend your time seeing and shooting, NOT fiddling with your equipment bag.
So bring more underwear.
Bring more batteries.
And leave the extra lenses at home.
If you want to grow as a photographer and artist, it’s important to have your work critiqued on a regular basis?
Because we’re so emotionally involved with our work that we often can’t judge it in an objective manner.
The great Garry Winogrand once said “Photographers mistake the emotion they feel while taking the photo as a judgment that the photograph is good.”
I can certainly relate to that!
I once took an amazing vaction to Italy and Spain and I thought I came home with a ton of great pictures. But looking back through my library, I realize that I was wrong.
But looking back through my library, I realize that I was wrong.
That trip was so much fun that I didn’t realize how bad my pictures were.
As you now, I’ve slowed my blogging down so I can shoot more.
And since I’m shooting more photos, I’m sharing more photos!
My main focus remains my Brooklyn Bridge series, and I try to shoot there on my way home at least 2-3 times a week.
Of course, my portfolio website is still broken… but that’s another story.
Here are my 20 favorites Brooklyn Bridge photos from September:
In my last weekly newsletter (you are subscribed… aren’t you?), I made an announcement that surprised a lot of readers.
I’m thinking about switching to Olympus from Sony.
I’m thinking about dropping my lovely, full-frame Sony A7 II-based system and dropping it for micro 4/3.
Now, I’m writing this article mostly for myself.
The writing process helps me break down decisions in a logical way instead of an emotional way.
But who knows?
Maybe it will help you too!