Cait+Tiff are nowhere to be found, there is clearly a bounty on their heads. Good thing they have friends to takeover for a few days.
Jen is our amazing photographer friend. She heads to tough places and manages to stay bright and colourful despite all the difficult things she might be around! Thanks Jen for giving us a breakdown of what you carry and how you carry it when you’re abroad for work and play!
Before I pack, I think through what I’m going to shoot. If there’s any possibility that I’ll shoot video, I’ll throw my tripod in my suitcase. If not, I know my shooting style well enough to realize that I hate using tripods and will never, ever pull one out if I’m not shooting video.
I love gear, but I also love my neck and being as pain-free as possible. I’ve had neck problems since I was in junior high (if only those would have been the worst of my issues in middle school!), so taking care of my body and keeping heavy weight off my neck and shoulders is my top priority. I always bring a bag that fits well, especially if I have more than 30 minutes of hiking anywhere on the itinerary. Sometimes it can be 3-4 hours. I need a bag that displaces the weight from my shoulders to my hips, and since I’m 5’10” it was really hard to find. It’s not fashionable, but I’m so thankful for my F-stop gear Loka. Finally something that carries my gear as comfortably as a very nice backpack intended for long treks.
Vacation is all about shooting what I love and not worrying about client requests back in the home office. I travel with one body and a 24-105 lens. I might bring a flash and remote triggers if I’m feeling fancy or going to an urban area where I want to play with light. But if I’m out in nature, it’s my workhorse 24-105 lens, the camera body, and cheap pop-open reflector/ filter. I’ve used prime lenses in the past, but right now I’m loving the freedom that comes from not worrying about switching lenses.
The most important thing is to get out and shoot what you love and try new ideas. I just went on a fantastic camper van vacation in New Zealand and shot a bunch of landscape pictures. I realized it isn’t my thing. I will not wake up early to catch the golden hour at sunrise unless I have to for work – I love my sleep too much, and I can get plenty of golden hour light at sunset, thank you very much. I find joy photographing people, animals and man-made spaces, and it was good to solidify my first loves by taking hundreds and hundreds of landscape photos that, although technically correct, were lacking the creative spark I’ve seen from great landscape photographers. Noted.
I also want to list a few non-gadgety things that keep me sane photographing in the tropics.
* A crushable, packable sunhat. Must have a brim that flips up and stays up if I have a flash on the camera. Right now I’m loving this one.
* Quick-dry pants – I’m so embarrassed to write this on a blog with a fashionable audience around the world. Please be nice anyway when we meet in person. Somehow I manage to get sopping wet or muddy once or twice on each of my trips; I get caught in a downpour, fall trying to cross a river on a downed log, or end up laying down right on a pile of cow poop trying to get the perfect shot (yes, this happened). Having pants that dry overnight is critical. But don’t get the kind with zip off legs. A) they look even more ridiculous than regular quick-dry pants B) you will WRECK your knees kneeling on the zippers if you’re photographing from a low perspective, and C) you will never, ever actually zip the legs off – hello, mosquitoes – and you look silly for no reason.
* Sunsleeves – Another nerdy thing, but I don’t wear them to keep my skin lovely when I’m old. That’s already a lost cause. I do it because sunburns hurt, and I’m much nicer to be around when I’m not nursing a wicked burn from the previous day.
* Insect repellent – Natural mosquito remedies usually don’t work in dense tropical vegetation and I’m doing my best to avoid dengue, so yes, I’m slathering my skin with chemicals. Deet works best, but it also eats away at plastic. That’s disturbing on many levels, but a big one is MY CAMERA BODY IS MADE OF PLASTIC. Not a good combination. Instead, I use a picaridin-based repellent. It works almost as well as DEET and doesn’t erode the handgrip on my camera.
* The biggest smile I can muster. In Asia, smiles go a long way to building relationships. Fortunately I don’t have to try too hard to keep the smile on my face during a long, hot day shooting – I have the best job in the world, and I can’t believe that I get to spend time with some of the most wonderful and kind people you can imagine.