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Travel Photography packing the gear

Whilst I was working on my “How to create simple panoramic photographs” post I realised that I was writing about how to approach panoramic photography without a tripod. The truth of the mater is tripods are generally heavy and lately I have done without it. I ended up writing this travel photography post without realising it and thought I’d share it first. So here is why I did not carry a tripod very often.

Traveling with photography gear is painful, it’s heavy and most airlines limit you radically on luggage weight both checked-in and on board. My photo bag when fully loaded weighs about 17kg far exceeding the limits add a tripod to this and we are reaching the 20kg. I used to sacrifice clothing to be able to take more gear. I since learned that more gear does not make for better photos and is more cumbersome than it is worth.


So I plan my trips and the gear I’ll take. The first item to go has been my bulky heavy tripod for a lighter Carbon fibre model. The second was my big bag a Thinktank Airport Acceleration V2.0, I still have it but I bought a smaller one,  the Thinktank Rotation 360, it is comfortable, accessible and relatively light but most importantly convenient. What it brings to the party is it’s size, it forces me to think what I will be shooting and plan for it.
The only items that are always in my bag are:

  • A camera body, for now a Canon EOS 7D
  • A camera strap, a Blackrapid RS-4 Classic, I recommend it or something similar.
  • A few lens cloth, micro-fibre works but there are new great clothes around (I steal from my optometrist, it’s cheaper)
  • A pen and small note pad
  • A couple of tripod camera plates for the strap.
  • Spare camera batteries
  • Spare CF cards
  • Lensbaby Scout with the the Fisheye, Soft Focus and Sweet 35 Optics (Light an versatile)
  • A circular polarising filter

I regularly go down to Cape Town, I noticed that though I took my 100-400mm (1380g) and my 70-200mm (1310g) lenses (that is close to 3kg), I never used them because when I am in Cape Town I mostly shoot landscapes, seascapes and cityscapes so I mostly use my 16-35 wide angle lens. So I pack it now, I also use a 24-70mm (950g) lens enough to warrant it coming along for the trip. The only additional item over and above is a flash. This reduces my weight dramatically.

I also go to nature and wildlife parks, the bag configuration changes radically. The 100-400mm (1,380g) comes along for the trip but not the 16-35mm (635g), I will also take a 100mm Macro lens (625g) with a ring flash along, to shed weight I do not take my big flash (475g).

And lately, when I go photo walking, I only take one lens and sometimes the some Lensbabies along. Which lens you will ask? It will depend on the photo walk, but chances are that is will either be, more often than not, a 16-35mm (635g) or sometimes a 24-70mm (950g) though I suspect this will now be the lighter 24-105mm (670g) as soon as I get my elusive EOS 5D. Also, I will be taking my tripod on future walks, simply because it will force me to compose and think more, particularly with my HDR work and that the EOS 5D’s burst speed and 7 photo HDR bracket will not compensate for my moving anymore but that is in the future.

One last lens I think I should have with me always is the fantastic canon EF 50mm f/1.4 prime (290g), it’s not heavy. I keep on leaving it behind because on the EOS 7D it more an 80mm and it does not really work with what I do, with the EOS 5D coming this might just change.

The bottom line is that it all adds up and the spine can take so much.

First Impressions: Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens

I am not easily impressed by anything nowadays, call me blaze if you will. Through a series of unforeseen, though not unpleasant, events I became the owner of a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM lens today. So, as one does, I mounted it on my camera, a Canon EOS 7D, and shot the first thing that came in sight. I knew off hand that the photo was going to a total fail, no light. I cranked up the ISO to 3200, set the lens to f/4 not expecting much at all, After all, anyone that fires a shutter at 1/15 sec at 50mm handheld should be shot for sheer incompetence.

Was I in for a surprise!!! It’s not tack sharp but… I’ll let the photo speak for itself!

Shot at f/4, ISO3200, 1/15 sec at 50mm with a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM

I shot this less than 20cm away, I even got a nice low depth of field! The IS is impressive!

Here is a crop of the cover, it’s not 1 to 1 but you’ll get the idea.

Shot at f/4, ISO3200, 1/15 sec at 50mm with a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM (Croped)

Even my finger print is visible!

I was in for another surprise, here is the same image processed with Lightroom 4 (noise reduction at 100% only)

Shot at f/4, ISO3200, 1/15 sec at 50mm with a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM (Croped and proccessed)

I’ll do some more testing but I have the feeling this is going to be my go to lens when I get my new camera.

Some Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V photo results

Whilst in Cape Town I took some photos with the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V as I did not take the big Canon EOS 7D. As I explained in a previous post an SLR is not always practical, in fact an SLR can be a real problem, particularly when traveling on business or simply going to a function. The question is are compact any good? Do they cater for these situation? And is the quality reasonable enough to be taken seriously? I will let you decide.

These are a few of the photographs I took at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, for the sake of realism I have not modified these photographs other then resizing them.

Springbok Steak
Old ship cruise

Panoramic photograph with the Nautica docked.


This photograph of the Ferris wheel was cropped and sharpened slightly for dramatic effect. In this case, the camera and I were not in agreement with the lighting requirements so I put it in manual and forced it to do my bidding.