I’ve done a lot of thinking and some hands-on research into what equipment is best for me to take on our Peru Through the Lens adventure … I thought I’d share my thought process with you! Don’t just take along what I’m taking, look through the reasons why and maybe you have a different need than I do, so you’ll choose something different. This just gives you some things to think about and tips that I’ve found along the way.
I plan to take both of my Canon 5D MK II bodies with me. I will use one regularly and pack the second one carefully with a lot of bubble wrap to have with me in case of technical problems.
I shoot in RAW format so my files are very large. I will need a lot of CF memory cards for this trip. I have a variety of Sandisk and Lexar brands. 1 32GB, 2 16GB, 2 8GB, several 4GB and 2GB cards. I’ve also added a 16GB Transend card to my arsenal. So far, it’s working well! In total, over 100GBs of memory. I’ll be away for about 21 days, so this should allow me to take in the vacinity of 2500 photos.
I will also be taking along my new Panasonic Lumix TS3 underwater camera. I haven’t taken it out to play with it yet, but it has GPS embedded into the photos. How cool is that?! This is mainly for my pre-Peru trip to The Galapagos Islands, but will also be great for quick shots here and there with the GPS information to pin point exactly where I was at the time!
You’ll need to have a good camera bag. I have several wonderful ones already in my arsenal, but unfortunately none of them quite made the list for a backpacking adventure. I have a fantastic roller case by Think tank, a super Lowepro backpack that I love and an older Lowepro cross shoulder bag, but it is far too small for me now. The terrain we will be traveling on simply doesn’t lend itself to having a roller suitcase / camera bag. I can’t imagine trying to ‘roll’ my gear across man-made reed islands on Lake Titicaca, or up the side of a mountain in Ccaccaccollo!
Since we are carrying backpacks with all of our stuff a lot of the time, I decided that a backpack camera bag wouldn’t do the trick for me either. So, I started looking at sling bags. There were some really great ones out there by Lowepro and Thinktank. Thankfully though, Marco at Henry’s took time to help me and try a few of them on. In the end, the sling style bags sit on your back as well, not at your side. Somehow I didn’t realize this! This meant that it wouldn’t work when I was also carrying the back pack. So, in the end, I purchased a Nikon messenger bag ($100 on sale) to carry my Canon gear in! HA HA … yes it is kind of ironic and funny, but it looks like it’ll do the trick. Now just to see if it’ll fit my laptop in it or not. So, the Nikon bag may change depending on if I can fit everything in!
UPDATE: My laptop wouldn’t fit in the Nikon bag. I purchased another bag at Future Shop – a Manfrotto Camcorder bag. I thought it would do the trick, but have since returned it as well because it just simply wouldn’t hold everything I needed. In the end (leaving in 32 hours), I’ve settled on taking my original Lowepro backpack. It is well padded, has it’s own built in rain cover, has extra space for snacks / clothes if needed and, above all, it is super comfortable for whenever I am able to only take my camera bag with me. The downfall is that when I have to carry all of my belongings, I’ll have two backpacks. My clothing one on my back and my camera back pack in hand. That part will suck but I will survive!
For lenses, the biggest thing I can tell you is to travel as light as possible, but cover as much focal length as you can. That means take a wide angle and a zoom. If you are lucky, they will cover everything in between (or close). For me, I will be traveling with my favourite lens, the Canon L series 70-200 F2.8, along with my L Series 24-70 F2.8. I think I’ll also throw in my cheapie ($150) 50mm F1.8 lens. It is small and light. I never have taken a liking to it, so maybe now is the time to dig it out and really give it a fair chance!
I also have filters on each of my lenses. I think they are all HOYA brand. Please consider investing in these before you go. Having a filter on the end of the lens protects your lens from dirt, scratches, smears and fingerprints. And I have even had a lens in a bag slip off my shoulder, hit the ground and only the filter broke, not the glass of the actual lens! Filters run $60-$100 each, but can save you from replacing a $700 – $3000 lens. Just something to think about …
If I have room, I’ll also be taking along 1 Canon 580EX II flashes ($500). Most of our photography will be done during the day time of landscapes, people, architecture etc. However, sometimes there are some really cool shots that can be done with an off camera flash, so I’ll also pack in my ST-E2 transmitter. Flash will also be good for shots in the hotels, restaurants and homestay locations where lighting may be dim. Overall, I don’t intend to use my flash much, but I also don’t want to leave it behind.
Because I am shooting with the 5D MK II, I have an added benefit of being able to take really great quality, low light images. My highest iso is 6400 and I’ve taken lots of photos in the iso 2000 range and have been happy with them. For me, this means I can take some cool natural light shots without needing a flash, including night time photos. Unfortunately most of the entry level cameras don’t work as well in low light.
I really struggled with what to do about a tripod, especially because I want to do some night photography while we’re on this trip. For my business, I have a hefty manfrotto tripod that weighs about 10lbs. Not really the type of tripod that I want to be carrying around for 12 days on my back! I looked at cheap tripods at Best Buy and Walmart and found some for $15-$20. I thought this would be great until I realized that they aren’t rated to hold the weight of my particular camera … especially with the heavy 70-200mm lens. So, (thanks Marco) in the end, I bought a gorillapod ($70 on sale) that is rated strong enough for my camera. It is small, lightweight and it’s legs wrap around poles and benches, or it can be used as a regular tripod, on the ground … at smurf height. So, in the end, you might see me lying on the ground in Lima in order to use my tripod to get an awesome night shot, but I won’t be stuck lugging around my Manfrotto just for the few shots I might want a tripod for!
On top of what now looks like a pretty hefty list of gear, I will also be packing three batteries for my camera bodies, my battery chargers, a lens cloth (maybe two), lens cleaner and tissues, silica gel packs to absorb excess moisture, a disposable rain sleeve to cover my camera in mist or rain (Thanks to Henry’s for donating these for all of the Peru Through the Lens Traveler’s!) and a poncho for myself.
Phew! As if that’s not enough, I will also be taking my MacBook Pro and a 1 TB Western Digital Elements portable hard drive so that I can store all of my images in two places to ensure nothing gets lost.
If you have questions about the gear you are planning to take, please feel free to ask and I will try my best to answer!