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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Minimize To Maximize

A National Geographic pro on how to lighten up on your gear and keep focused on getting the best photos

This Article Features Photo Zoom

When you’re a world photographer like Jay Dickman, bringing only the most essential gear will make long trips all the easier. Above: A cave entrance frames traditional marine festivities at Bue Marino Grotto in Sardinia.

He who would travel happily must travel light. —Antoine de Saint-Exupery, 1900-1944

Olympus Zuiko Digital ED
50-200mm ƒ/2.8-3.5

Oh, if only Antoine had been a photographer. Traveling as a photographer and the word “light” generally aren’t spoken in the same sentence. And who can blame the travel photographer? Heading out to remote locations for that once-in-a-lifetime photo op, why not carry everything, plus the kitchen sink? After all, you may never go there again, it may be a chance to photograph a culture that’s rapidly disappearing, or it’s a small group of islands about to be developed by a giant hotel chain. Why not be prepared?

Acratech Ultimate ballhead

Gitzo G-1228 Mountaineer Reporter MK2 tripod
Remember why you decided to chase the sunset around the globe, or at your local state or national park—you wanted to capture that image that best defined your vision of that place and, if that image was good enough, it would become that defining image that your audience’s imagination would recall upon mention of that place.

Here’s the oft-used equipment list of what to take: cameras (at least two large bodies with battery packs); lenses (don’t forget the favorite—you may need that super-fast wide-angle, and why not that fast telephoto, and what about backups?); lighting (that fills a case); tripod(s); a computer; card readers; cables; chargers, batteries.... Antoine, where are you?

A sea turtle’s head breaks the surface of a small tidal pool at Bartolomé Island near the Galápagos.
My Equipment For Photo Assignments
On a shoot, I’ll take only what I feel I’ll need and let that particular shoot provide those guidelines. Wildlife requires long lenses; around water, either a waterproof camera or housing. If sports will be involved, a camera with a fast fps rate and a fast “super-telephoto.” The same for a shoot based around wildlife. I make a list of what specific equipment will be needed. If it’s a general shoot, based on people in their environment, then the two lenses and two bodies are about all I need. I’m a firm believer that traveling light will empower the photographer, as the emphasis then is on the process of capturing images and not dealing with a ton of gear.

The number of shoot days also will dictate what extra gear I’ll take. If the shoot will last for more than a week, I try to take one or two backup bodies in addition to the two working bodies I’ll be using. My basic kit would include the Olympus 7-14mm, 12-60mm and 50-200mm lenses (with the 2x factor on the Olympus E-system, all these focal lengths are effectively doubled to get the 35mm equivalent). If I can’t get done what I need with these all-around lenses, I’m falling back on equipment as a crutch. If my assignment concerns sports/wildlife, then I carry the 35-100mm ƒ/2 and 90-250mm ƒ/2.8. If working in low light, the killer-sharp 35-100mm ƒ/2 and 14-35mm ƒ/2 probably would replace the 12-60mm.


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