What should I take with me?

I am in a fortunate position where I have accumulated over many years a varied selection of lenses and gear, each tool with it's own ideal job and it's limitations too. It is pretty much unfeasible to take everything with me all the time, as it is a lot of weight, so for every time I go out with my camera I have to select the best tools for the job. This is how I choose what gear I will take with me, and what not!

It does not matter where I go, or what I do, it is always an opportunity for photography. So in order to be as prepared as possible, I ask myself the following 6 questions:

What?

What images do I want to make? This is the primary consideration and will dictate my lens choice(s). Do you want close up wildlife portraits? Wide sweeping landscape shots? Shallow depth-of-field portraits? Or do I want to set-up a studio? The first step is knowing what images you want. In some cases this means creating a shot list or list of every shot I need to tell the story.

Where?

The location plays a role in what I will bring. If you are going to be extreme conditions like a rain forest, or just shooting in the rain, you might prefer to bring you weather-sealed lenses. Another consideration is getting to the location. If I have to fly there usually is a weight restriction in what I can bring as carry-on (and I prefer to keep my gear with me). This is another limitation you need to consider.

When?

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Time. How long will i be away shooting. This is aimed more at things like batteries and memory cards. If I am going for a quick walk round the block, I probably won't need to take spares, but if I go a 5 day safari, spares, chargers and maybe a laptop to back the shots up on is advisable. So When will you return?

Why?

The purpose of the shoot? Generally, I will always try my hardest to get the best images I can. It does not matter if it is for me, my client or my (fictional) dog. But, it this criteria can help you priorities. Is the shoot the primary objective or is it secondary?

For example, if it is a professional shoot, then the images are the primary objective and the highest quality is absolutely called for, then you know you have some hard limits when it comes to the best-of-the-best gear. But, it you are at a family event and the images you make are just as a keep-sake (very good ones) than you might forgo that extra lens, as the images are not the primary objective of the shoot. Don't forget to live this life you are capturing! :)

Who?

.... will be carrying it? Will you be the one who will be lugging this gear around with you? Or, will you be in a jeep all day on safari? Will you be trekking, or cruising on a boat? This is usually the point where I dramatically reduce my choices, especially if it involves a lot of trekking! Yes I would love to have my 500L with me while we trek through the jungle, but I have to consider how much I will use it vs how much it weighs! :) On the other hand, I have been known to increase my gear if there is a lot of vehicles involved (and space of course). :)

How?

By foot? In a car? or in a hide? How I will be shooting can influence what I take. For exmaple, if I am in a hide, I will want a big sturdy tripod for my big lens. If I am by foot, I will need my camera strap (that I don't leave on my camera).


This seems like a lot, and it is. I don't go through it in details every time, as over the years you get to know your gear and have mental lists of what you would do/take. But for those other times, when I am doing something or going somewhere new, I do use it to make sure I have chosen the best things I can.

It is not fool-proof

No matter how you prepare, you will inadvertently bring something you don't use, or not bring something you wish you had. It is not a plan to give you 100% coverage, but I find it covers 99%. That 1%, i remember and might sway my decisions next time! :)


An example : going to Malta!

As you read this, I am hopefully sat on the beach in Malta. I am taking a weeks break with my family. But before I go, this is how I decided what to bring:

WHAT

I will be taking family pics mostly, but I also want to take some landscapes, travel and time-lapse shots too. When we visit a town/village, I will want to quench my street-photography urges! :)

  • I will want a wide angle, and a normal range of lenses
  • Possibly a polarized filter for when shooting in the day-time
  • A tripod is essential for time-lapse!

WHERE

I will be shooting on the beach, while trekking, and in towns. We will be flying so have a 10kg carry-on limit.

  • Water-proof camera for the beach
  • Light-weight for the trekking and carry-on restictions
  • Something small and unobtrusive for the street

WHEN

We will be gone for a week, and won't be backing up as I go along (don't want to take the laptop), so will need lots of batteries.

  • Will need A LOT of memory cards for 1 week trip with planned time-lapse
  • Spare battery and charger too

WHY

Mainly for us, but possible travel story too. Time-lapses are experimental and will go into my stock archive.

  • High-quality images preferable
  • Take lots of images for our own memories

WHO

Either my wife and I will need to carry the gear plus our son's stuff, and possibly our son too.

  • LIGHT WEIGHT PLEASE!

HOW

We will be shooting by boat, foot, car maybe...

  • Restricted by what we can carry

THE RESULT :

From my answers above, I have narrowed down my kit to this:

  1. 5D Mark IV - for time-lapse, and high-quality images
  2. Canon 24-70 f/4L IS - Standard walk-a-round lens, with Macro function. Suits 80% of all situations. A small and relatively compact lens.
  3. Canon 16-35 f/4L IS - Great for the landscapes and close quarters in towns. I will probably be using this for the time-lapse work.
  4. Canon 40mm f/2.8 STM - it is so small and tiny, not taking it is almost foolish. Great for street and will be my low-light lens if needed.
  5. GoPro Hero 5 Black + Flotation handle - Family fun, beach, pool...  also might use for some time-lapse.
  6. 4 x 64gb card, 4 x 32 gb cards...  lots of cards. They are small, and I do no want to be without space!
  7. 1 spare LP-E6N battery for the 5D IV + Charger - When 1 is in use, the other is charging. I can take around 1200 shots with a single battery, so no problems normally.
  8. Battery bank - great for phones, but mainly for the GoPro. It can charge when not in use where-ever we are.
  9. B + W circular polarizing filter - Great for when shooting in mid-day light to bring out the colours.
  10. My hacked Travel Tripod - for time-lapse and self portraits.
  11. Padded insert - This fits into lots of my bags, so can switch and change as needed for carrying my gear.

I hope you found this useful...  let me know what you pack for your trips in the comments below!

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