With less than a week until departure its time to think about packing…
A week today I will be on the plane headed for The Falklands, having already visited Santiago. I am so excited about the places we will see and the experiences that are to come but at the moment the most important thing is making sure that everything that needs to go with me is checked, cleaned and ready to go.
This trip is all about the photographic opportunities that both South America and The Falklands will present. But trying to be ready for a variety of different situations while still keeping my camera kit to a size that is suitable of airline carry-on baggage is something of a headache!
My plan for this post is to provide details of the gear I am packing and why as I figure it might be helpful if you too are planning a photographic trip somewhere in the future.
I decided to take 2 camera bodies, in order to have backup and flexibility. I am packing a Nikon D750 and a Nikon Df.
The D750 is an amazing camera, the focus system comes from the D4s, it shoots at a reasonable 6 frames per second and the sensor is large enough to crop down to DX and still have plenty of mega-pixels. This is the ideal camera to take for shooting wildlife when we get to The Falklands.
The Df is another fantastic camera, perfect for the sight-seeing days. The sensor is lifted from the top of the range D4 and seems to have some sort of magic built in to its 16 mega-pixels. There is just something you can’t quite put your finger on about the image quality of this sensor. I also really like the handling of the retro dials and hope to get chance to shoot some street photography in Santiago during our stop overs in Chile each way.
My first thought was what tele-photo lens I would take for wildlife shooting. I had a few options to consider:
The Nikon 70-300 VR would be the lightest option but had a limited maximum aperture and only a 300mm focal length. My other thought was to rent an exotic 300mm prime lens to take with me, but after considering the cost, weight and lack of flexibility I decided this was not a sensible consideration.
In the end I decided to take the Nikon 70-200 VRII, heavier than the 70-300 and with a shorter focal length this may seem an odd choice but with an f2.8 aperture this lens provides a far more flexible aperture – and with the option to use a 2x Tele-Convertor which would give a 400mm focal length with the same aperture as the 70-300.
In addition to the tele-photo lens choice I also wanted wider angle options, for landscape and street photography as well as for more general documentary shooting throughout the trip. I considered packing the “one stop shop” option of the Nikon 24-70 f2.8, but this is a pretty large heavy lens and would probably be far too conspicuous for street shooting.
I decided the best option was a selection of prime lenses, but our “working” lenses for weddings are all large Sigma Art series primes, these have amazing image quality and f1.4 apertures but are very large and too heavy to really consider.
This prompted me to look into more compact alternatives, we already had a backup 50mm lens in the form of the Nikon 50mm f1.4G, an ideal companion to the Df! After a brief internet search I had found some good cheap options in the form of older Nikon lenses from the 1980’s. I ended up sourcing second hand version of the Nikon 20mm f2.8 and Nikon 35mm f2.
Both of these lenses have now been out performed by more modern lenses, but looking at the reviews they are only a fraction less capable than their more expensive (and heavier) younger siblings. Given that size and weight were the biggest concerns, this slight loss in image quality was more than acceptable.
Having used these lenses for a few weeks to ensure they are in good condition and working I have to say that they are very good performers and the huge savings in terms of size and weight to pack are well worth buying these lenses to form a solid set of travel primes.
As well as cameras and lenses there is a whole host of additional accessories that I also need to take with me in order to be prepared for different genres of photography.
I decided to invest in a set of Lee Neutral Density Filters, this included a Hard and Soft 2-stop Graduated filter and the Lee, Big Stopper for long exposure photography. With a selection of step-up rings I can use a single 77mm Lee Filter Adapter to connect this to all the lenses I am taking as well as being able to fit a circular polarizer into the mix if needed.
I also needed to take a decent tripod with me for landscape photographs (and those Big Stopper long exposures). This also needed to be light enough to carry around for whole days out and to be able to pack into my luggage allowance.
I opted for a Manfotto 190CX PRO, a 4 section carbon fibre model which was small enough to fit into my main hold bag for the international flights and small and light enough to be easy to carry around each day while shooting.
The only other items that needed to be packed are spare camera batteries with their chargers (the one drawback of the Df using a smaller battery is it means another charger to pack!), USB cables and a remote shutter release.
Being away for a long time I wanted to be able to carry out some editing during the trip. This would allow me to review images each day and revisit locations if I was unhappy with any aspect of the shots. It would also allow me the option to post some of these blog updates while away – internet connection permitting!
I considered taking my MacBook Pro but didn’t really want to carry our primary business machine half way across the globe and back with the risk of damage. I also considered taking just our iPad Air, but after trying out Lightroom for iOS on a recent workshop the fact that it is unable to work with camera RAW files made this a very limited solution.
In the end I decided that the best solution would be to take my Microsoft Surface Pro 3, which I normally use for my non-photography business ventures! The Surface form factor is exactly the combination of Laptop and Tablet that combines the above two devices into one. Hopefully this will be able to play some in-flight movies, keep up to date with my emails and social media updates as well as editing in with full desktop editing applications.
I cannot wait to get packed and get on the way now, really looking forward to having time for personal photography. It will be strange to be shooting for my own enjoyment and at a slower pace waiting for the wildlife and landscapes to present the right moment. I will try to post at least a couple of updates while I am away if the internet connection permits!
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