Travel photographers always have tough decisions to make regarding how much to bring on a trip. Because photography equipment can both take an up a lot of physical space and weigh a substantial amount, bringing too much equipment can actually hinder a photographer from being able to pack other essentials. In this article, we will discuss why the principle of packing as light as possible in order to achieve your purpose is better than over-packing when it comes to travel photography equipment.
Let’s be honest – how many of you have brought a DSLR plus multiple heavy lenses on a hiking trip before and regretted it? Maybe you didn’t even end up using the DSLR or swapping out the lenses because of how bulky and cumbersome it was. Or maybe you were traveling through a new town with a DSLR and wanted to do some street photography, but ended up not taking any photos because the large DSLR would have attracted too much attention. These are common scenarios which illustrate that it is possible that having too much equipment can limit your opportunities for photography – especially when you are on travel.
To be able to figure out what equipment you should pack for an upcoming trip, you will need to anticipate the type of shots that you want to be able to take. For example, will you be visiting an area with lots of beautiful landscapes such as waterfalls, mountains, and beaches? If so, a wide-angle lens would be necessary to capture those scenes. Are you looking to do some street photography, maybe even close-ups of street vendors without attracting too much attention? In that case, a long telephoto lens would be able to do the job. Do you anticipate a lot of hiking or walking on foot? If you do, it is probably best to go as light as possible in order to prevent fatigue.
Thinking ahead also means thinking about how safe the areas that you will be traveling in will be. In some areas of the world, walking around with a large DSLR or even a camera bag means you are walking bait, just waiting for a theft or mugging to happen. When traveling to such countries, it is best to carry as small of a camera as possible and to strap your camera bag securely to your body.
When considering the principles and questions listed above, you may find that a small point-and-shoot will cover all of your bases when traveling. This is okay! As photographers, we sometimes develop a strong attachment to our DSLRs. But it doesn’t mean that it is wise or even practical to lug our heavy DSLRs everywhere. And even if you still want some manual controls on your camera, some point-and-shoot cameras come with manual controls. For example, the Canon S120 has a control ring around the lens to let you adjust the settings while shooting. It even has Av (Aperture Priority) and Tv (Shutter Speed Priority) shooting modes for those of us who are used to DSLR shooting modes. At the lens’ widest setting of 24mm (35mm equivalent), the aperture can open up all the way to f/1.8. This enables the camera to take in quite a bit of light, which makes it possible to even do some night photography with this small point-and-shoot camera.
As you travel around with a small point-and-shoot or other small cameras, you’ll find that the size of the camera can make a big difference in deciding whether or not you decide to bring it along for the day. Ultimately, you can’t take photos with a camera that you don’t bring! This means that it is better to bring along the smallest size camera that will get the job done when you are traveling because that increases the chances that you will actually bring the camera along as you take on the world. Even if it means bringing along just one less lens, packing light will mean you have more energy and opportunities to take photos instead of wasting time and energy on unnecessary equipment. Next time you pack for a trip, ask yourself if you really need that piece of equipment!