What camera gear to bring on a short or long trip.
There was a time when I spend my holidays stooped under a gigantic backpack full of camera equipment. Every piece of gear I owned was in the bag and I was ready for every kind of photographic event… After a few years I realised that I was missing out on most of the occasions. I was either trying too hard to find the right perspective, deciding what lens to take or waiting for that perfect moment, just a tiny little better than just a second before. Now many years later that burden is gone. In fact, I’m not even focussed on getting the best photos all the time. They just just happen. Of course I’m a seasoned photographer and I know my basics very well. I’m not looking for the right settings anymore, when I pick up the camera my fingers are already turning and dialling the wheels and knobs on the camera. I document, I don’t stage my holidays.
When we leave for a trip we tend to leave for at least two weeks, the longest we’ve ben out is a month and a half, this summer we even hope to make a two month journey. For now we like to travel by car. We travel all over Europe with a rooftop tent on top of our pickup truck or on the trailer we carry along.
We travel for long periods and prefer to camp as much as we can in wide open nature. If it’s not allowed to camp free we look for a camping that comes as close as possible to that experience. I’m not going to get deeper in our travels and how we are organised. If you want to know more about that read my article on Overlanding Essentials. And if you want to read and see my travel journals head over to www.nikocaignie.be/travel.
Anyway, what to bring? This is a very personal question because everybody has his own preferred cameras, lenses, … I cannot decide that for you, i’ll just give you a peek into my pack list and what purposes I use it for. What I do can tell you is that you pack to much! For example, I used to bring 5 batteries with me… heck I don’t even use that much batteries on my professional shoots! Why would my holiday be any different. Anyway, here’s a short list of what I pack. On big trips I take all of the listed items, on shorter trips a selection.
- Sony A7iii with a 35mm 1.4 lens: This is the core of my toolset. I love the Sony, just because it’s an unbeatable fine piece of machinery. And equipped with the 35mm it’s perfectly suited to capture day to day life on vacation. A 35mm has the same field of view as human sight, so that is ideal for documentary photography. Also not having a zoom lens makes you photograph more actively and creates interaction with your subjects. It also forces you to choose, whether to take things in or out of the frame. This is very much my to go lens for travel photography. Sometimes I pack a 12–24mm wide angle lens to do wide landscapes or long exposures but in the end I hardly use it, mostly because of the drone. So the Sony A7iii just hangs around my shoulder all day or is at least an arm length away from me. And I just enjoy life, the kids, my wife and nature. Whenever I see something that is worth documenting I grab the camera, snap 2 or 3 shots and put it away again. Photographing has become a reflex that hardly interferes with our daily routine. I can also film with it. I usually bring an ND8 filter with me to capture things that need to be filmed.
- Ricoh GRiii or Sony RX100 III: I wrote an article about these two cameras: The hunt for ‘That perfect camera’ (in dutch sorry) but that’s not relevant here. These cameras, one or the other never both, are either for when we go on short trips: weekends with friends, day trips, … Or when we go hiking: I don’t like having a big camera with me. Both of the earlier mentioned cameras fit in your chest pocket and if you’re a little bit of a photographer you can make stunning images with these. Also very nice to do some street photography with those small cameras.
- DJI OSMO Pocket: Now here’s a nifty little tool that changed a lot for me. As mentioned before I sometimes use the Sony A7iii to film but that brings a lot of hassle to the game. The footage made with the Sony needs to be graded, stabilised, edited, … that’s way to time consuming when we get back. I need to work, earn money to pay for all these vacations ;-). The OSMO pocket however is already stabilised, is so easy to use and the quality is just stunning. Indeed you also end up with a lot of clips that need to be selected and edited but one way or the other I don’t feel the need with those clips to have a storyline. I just pick a subject and glue the according clips together: road, walks, animals, … And the OSMO Pocket is so small, it always is in my pocket, ready to pop out and grab a take or two.
- DJI Mavic PRO 2: Another game changer in the photo & video game. I just love the ability to have a perspective on things that are very rare to see, a drone grants itself perfectly for that. I’m a licensed drone pilot and I know what i’m doing and respect local laws and privacy. I also prepare my drone before I leave on a trip. I make sure it has the latest firmware, I check local laws and no fly zones. I used to film a lot with the drone but lately I prefer photo. Probably because of all the editing and grading of the video clips. Of course the Mavic comes with some weight and size. I got about 5 batteries, a bigger remote, … So I only take this with me on big trips. I used to takes this with me on hikes, go figure…
- iPad Pro: I’ve never been a big fan of the iPad. In the early days it was clumsy laptop that had to much restrictions, it was more like an overqualified e-reader to me. That changed drastically with the Pro versions and the evolution of photo and video apps that came along with that. Since I have the iPad pro with enough space to store and edit photos, this is my to go device. On rainy days I use Lightroom to edit some photos, Adobe Rush to do some minor clip editing. Also I tend to write a lot on the iPad. I write long travel reports and I start writing them already when we are still on the road, when the memories and emotions are fresh.
- GNARBOX: Talking about game changers: this is the “gear find” of the year for me. Thanks to the GNARBOX I can back up my files, review, edit and manage them all from my mobile devices, wirelessly! I wrote an extended article about that head over there if you want to know more: “The cherry on the pie for my back up game!”
- Smartphone: “The best camera is the one you have with you.” That says it all. I’ve captured some of the most amazing stuff in my life just with a smartphone. And I was happy to have it with me. It’s about creating and keeping memories, not about the kind of device you capture it with.
- Battery pack: This is for when we go hiking or are long away from electricity. Just to load the smartphone in case of emergency. Or when I’m comfortable next to the campfire writing and I don’t want to plug my iPad in the car charger. We have solar panels on the car so electricity is never a problem. But I alway take an Anker battery pack with me in case of.
- Peak Design Everyday Sling bag: Everything mentioned above fits perfectly in this Sling bag, except for the drone of course. It’s a small to medium sized bag, that doesn’t get in the way while exploring. And when I need something, I just wave the back to my front, grab what I need, take some snaps and put it all back on my back. It couldn’t be more easier.
- Extras: I don’t pack many extras anymore. As said: two batteries, a ND8 Filter, a big plastic bag to but the sling bag in in case of rain, a shoulder strap and a battery charger.
Also important, when you document so much you better do something with it. I have a streamlined flow to get and keep all those photos and videos in our daily life, even long after our trip. Read more about that here: