10 Travel Photography Essentials

There’s nothing quite like a vacation, road trip, adventure, or combination of the three to get your creative juices flowing. Sometimes hitting the road is exactly what you need to get yourself out a creative rut. New surroundings– especially if they are outside your comfort zone– have a way of injecting your photography with the shot of adrenalin it’s been missing. When you’re planning these excursions, though, there are certain essentials you need to pack– items designed to protect your gear and images, while making sure that your shot of adrenalin isn’t wasted.

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Camera Bag

Okay…I know. This should go without saying, but there it is. Obviously, you’re going to be packing your gear in something. My point is, however, that your bag is not a place for cutting corners. You need to make sure that your precious cargo is protected, not only from falls, but from the elements as well. Rain covers, water-resistant bottoms, high-quality zippers, reinforced seams, comfortable straps. Not all bags are created equally, so regardless of whether you prefer shoulder bags, backpacks, or rolling cases, make sure that your bag is up to the task. Shown below– my Think Tank Airport Commuter Backpack.

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Laptop and Card Reader

Backing up your images at the end of the day or the end of the shoot is crucial– doesn’t matter if it’s business or pleasure. If you haven’t had a card fail on you, it just means that karma is waiting a bit longer before jumping up to bite you in the ass. Play it safe and make sure you bring along a reliable card reader. The new Lexar Professional USB 3.0 readers are my current favorites, based on build quality and transfer speed.

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External Hard Drive

Yes– I’m one of those abundance of caution kind of guys. By the end of the trip I have daily folders saved on the laptop, but I plan for the worst and hope for the best. I wouldn’t be the first photographer in the history of air travel to be separated from his laptop. Running a second backup and keeping the two packed separately during the trip home will make sure that at least one of them will make it back safely. The Silicon Power Rugged Armor A80 or the G-Technology G-Drive Mobile are both excellent, 1 TB storage options. If running a second backup is not going to be an option, make sure you have enough memory cards to not have to clear them until the trip is over.

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Travel Tripod

I didn’t realize just how much I would use a travel tripod until I actually had one. The list of reliable, light-weight, travel-compatible tripods seems to be longer than ever and keeps growing. The good news is that you don’t have to spend a small fortune for peace-of-mind. You can…but you don’t have to. Just make sure to do your research.

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Triggertrap Mobile

One of the best tripod companions around, the Triggertrap cable and app bring together the best parts of a cable release and intervalometer. Modes include: standard trigger, motion trigger, time-lapse, distance-laps, face-detection trigger, customizable HDR, star trails, and more. Features vary somewhat between iOS and Android versions, so make sure to double-check if you’re looking for something specific. Individual components are available on Amazon, but check the website to make you get what’s right for your camera.

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SurgePlus Outlet/Charger with USB Ports

Whether you are in a hotel room for the night or stuck in an airport on your way from Point A to Point B, one thing is certain– there are never enough outlets for everything you need to plug in or charge. Pulling this Belkin Travel Surge Protector & Charger out of your bag in an airport and sharing the electronic wealth is bound to make you some new friends. If traveling abroad, don’t forget the proper converter to go from the strip to the wall.

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Batteries…Lots of Batteries

Rechargeable batteries are awesome, but the uncertainty of travel and surroundings sometimes means planning for those situations when you have no place to plug in. Speedlights suck up the power of AA batteries like a man stranded in the desert guzzles down water. While using throw-away batteries may not be as eco-friendly as I would like, having them on hand for an emergency is just good planning. If you still insist on going strictly rechargeable, be sure to check out JP Danko’s article on the rechargeable challenge.

Mobile Battery Backup

Unfortunately, getting away from it all isn’t as easy as it used to be. Now it’s more like getting away from most of it. Whether it’s business or family, it’s a good idea for somebody back in civilization to know where you are and be able to reach you. Being able to keep your phone charged when out in the middle of nowhere is important– assuming, of course, that the middle of nowhere gets a cell signal. This Anker Astro E5 15000 mAh dual USB portable charger and external battery backup will power several different phones and tablets. This model will fully charge your iPhone seven times.

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Rain Cover

Professional-grade cameras and lenses can withstand a little precipitation with no ill effects, but if your luck is like mine, it’s never just a little precipitation. It’s usually something a little more biblical. The Think Tank Hydrophobia is the perfect solution, providing protection from the rain, snow, or other wet environment, while still allowing access to all of your camera’s buttons and controls.

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Gaffer’s Tape

This is one of those bits of gear that I never go anywhere without. I’ve used it to prop open automatically locking doors. I’ve used it to hold branches out of the way without breaking them. I’ve even used it to temporarily replace a broken fan belt. It’s magical stuff and you should take it everywhere. Sometimes, I’ll wrap long strips around a tripod leg so I don’t have to pack the whole roll.

Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list. Needs vary, depending on workflow, destination, and personal preference.  Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments.

Parasailing photo: Copyright Guyer Photography, all rights reserved.

 

  • http://Www.jennifermccallum.com/ Jennifer McCallum

    This is a very comprehensive list! The only two additions I would make are an umbrella (to keep any rain from getting on your lens, even if you’re using the lens hood) and a smartphone app like PhotoPills or TPE. Either software can let you know the position of the sun/moon at almost any time, which is very handy when you’re in unfamiliar territory. Both have a bit of a learning curve so I would watch the video support before your trip.

    • Jeffrey Guyer

      Good tip on the apps, Jennifer!

      For rain, I prefer the cover mentioned in the post. For me, shooting with an umbrella would mean not having both hands available.

  • Paul A

    If going abroad – travel adaptor. In fact, take 2 just in case.

  • Professor_K

    I’d also like to suggest Sundroid for sun/moon/planetary times & positions.

    Anyone have a pointer to a good comparison of travel tripods?

    -K

  • $48565746

    I’d like to chime in with a very small, inexpensive, but very precious item that is essential in anyone’s bag:

    A USB charging cable. One that ONLY charges.

    Hear me out. Most of the USB cables you get with your gear, and you can charge your gear with, are full USB cables. That means not only power but also data lines. These cables are perfectly fine if you use them on your own plugs; your notebook, your wall wart. They are, however, downright dangerous to use on a public charging port such as the ones in airports and internet cafes. You never know if it is ONLY a charging port or if you invite a stranger to have a look at your USB device, or even worse, modify and manipulate it.

    Case in point: Beijing Airport offers public charging points that also offer USB sockets. Now you wouldn’t plug your phone into any Chinese computer, let alone one provided by the Chinese state, would you? And still I see people happily plugging in their phones and other USB devices into their ports, thinking all they do is charge them.

    The solution is simple and inexpensive: Get a charging cable that ONLY has power lines. They are literally the cheapest cables you can get. And without the data lines you don’t run the risk of someone else getting access to your USB device.

    If in doubt, try it out. Plug your device into your computer using the cable. If your computer doesn’t recognize the device, and doesn’t even try to, you’re good. For example, these are the ones I picked up in a Japanese hyaku-en shop, they cost 105 yen (not even a dollar last time I checked), and they do the job perfectly fine.

    • Jeffrey Guyer

      Excellent tip! Thanks!

  • Christopher Stivala

    Good, I have all that. now I need time and weather to corporate. really great post, good ideas but could easily be made 20 things you need for travel photography. Your missing a few very important items. Just a few here, lens pen, polorizer, silicon bags and flash to name a few. Yes I carry too much but would rather get the shot then wish I hadent left something behind.

    • Jeffrey Guyer

      Thanks, Christopher. Yeah…the list could go on and on. I was trying to stay clear of the actual camera and attachments (flash, filters, lenses, etc.), opting instead for some of the things that we don’t always stop to think about.

      • Christopher Stivala

        Funny thing is I carry most of your list in my everyday shooting bag, guess im a mobile studio hehe. A really handy thing to have is a small face towel and ziplock bags.

  • http://scottwyden.com/ Scott Wyden Kivowitz

    Great minds think alike? I published a very similar article earlier in February: http://scottwyden.com/8-travel-photography-accessories-forget/

    • Jeffrey Guyer

      Whoa…cue the Twilight Zone music. Apparently we must be channeling each other, Scott. I’ll make sure to check your blog from now on before clicking “publish.”

      • http://scottwyden.com/ Scott Wyden Kivowitz

        If you ever want to collaborate on an article in the future let me know!

  • Guest

    Great minds think alike? I published a very similar article earlier in February: http://scottwyden.com/8-travel-photography-accessories-forget

  • Marc

    too much gear. grab one lens that you really love and go out and see things…if you are so obsessed with grabbing all kinds of gear, card readers, memory, back up memory, etc. you will not have time to actually go photograph things. Challenge yourself to see a city with one lens…like prime 35, 50, or my favorite, 85mm..imho

  • http://islandinthenet.com/ Khürt L. Williams

    Loved the article. I’m putting together a travel photo bag for the summer. What do you think of the LaCie FUEL?