Camera Gear: Pack Light & Choose Right

I have been leading digital photography workshops (group and private) for about 20 years. One of the things I’ve observed is that photographers often pack too much gear for a particular shoot – that is, they take all their gear with them, as opposed to taking only the gear that’s necessary in the field for a particular shoot.

Often times, all that gear slows down the picture-making process – because the photographer has to dig out a lens or accessory, or fumble around in the pockets of a camera bag for a piece of gear. All that gear can also weigh down and slow down a photographer.

I am not suggesting that you leave some essential gear at home when you travel. Pack all the stuff that you think you will need (as well as important back-up gear). I am just suggesting that you probably don’t need all your gear with you each and every time you leave your hotel, motel or lodge for a shoot.

The key to carrying the right gear it to envision the photographs you want to make.

That’s me on the far right in the opening image for this post. My friend Hal Schmitt took the picture on our Death Valley photo workshop earlier this year. The image below is the shot I took when Hal took the photo of me.

As you can see, I am hand holding my Canon 5D Mark III and 24-105mm IS lens. In my tote (Rick Sammon’s Light Controller and Tote) is my Canon 17-40mm lens, as well as the reflector and diffuser that are included with the tote. In my photo jacket I have my Canon EX-RT 600 speedlite, Tiffen polarizing filter, extra camera batteries – and snack bar and bottle of water. I am totally self-contained.

I had fast and easy access to my gear. In addition, because I hate sand getting in my gear, I did not have a backpack to put down in the sand, as did some of the other workshop participants.

Whey do I hate sand so much? Well, a few tiny grains of sand in a focus or zoom ring can be trouble.

Another benefit to traveling light in this sand-dune situation: although it was cool walking out to the top of this sand dune in the morning, it was hot on the way back. Less gear = an easier walk back to the car.

Screen Shot 2014-06-16 at 12.45.37 PM.png

When I was photographing in a glacier lagoon on my Iceland workshop with my friend Tim Vollmer, I also traveled light: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 24-105mm IS lens and an Op/Tech rain sleeve, available here. As was the case in Death Valley, I did not have a camera bag that needed to be put down. I could mover around – and compose my photographs – quickly and easily. I was self-contained.

The image above was taken in the glacier lagoon with the aforementioned gear.

Yes, I had other gear back in the van, and still more in my hotel room, but for the photographs I envisioned making at and in the glacier lagoon, even the panorama above, I knew my 24-105mm lens, my favorite lens, could do the job.

Note: Since my Iceland workshop I often use Mindshift backpacks, which offer easy access to gear without taking off the backpack. 

So my friend, the next time you go out for a shoot, consider your gear carefully. Pack light; choose right.

Packing for a trip is also important. Here’s a post on The Art of Packing.

Here is a shot of me in Old Havana, Cuba. Once again I have fast and easy access to my gear so I am ready for just about any shot.

All my gear is listed on My Gear page.

I have a few spots open on the Death Valley workshop that Hal and I running in 2015. Click here for info.

Explore the light,