Photo Equipment — Traveling light…

Gang of new friends aboard our vehicle of travel in Greece with Overseas Adventure Travel - one of our few non-independent trips
Gang of new friends aboard our vehicle of travel in Greece with Overseas Adventure Travel – one of our few non-independent trips

Traveling light was the subject of an article in the November issue of Outdoor Photographer. Curiosity led me right to that article by Don Mammoser, first, piqued by the lead – traveling in 21 continuous months with only one lens.

Coincidentally, just the other day I grabbed my most versatile lens and Camera Body and slung it around my shoulder. I had been trying out various combinations equipment and camera bags and had found a couple that worked pretty well, but the single outfit around my neck & shoulder was the lightest most comfortable yet. And it just so happened that Mammoser’s lens was similar to the one I used last week.

Mammoser’s was a Tameron 18-270mm for Canon body. Mine was the Nikon equivalent, the Nikon 18-200mm F4.5- 5.6 VR.

I acquired my lens just before our trip to Greece in 2008, partially prompted by an article by an international photographer who felt the ideal outfit was the Nikon D40 and 18-200 lens – both for lightness and versatility.

The 35mm equivalent works out to 28-300, a range that wasn’t even available until six  years ago. It’s not the fastest lens available but compensation for the slower speed lenses comes in many forms.

Vibration Stabilizer – allows one to gain 2-3 stops more speed – great for lower light conditions.

Higher ISO setting – pushing the sensors speed to 400 or 800 (two more stops) is doable without much adverse effect. Pushing to 3200 or 6400 may create noise, but is still doable.

Tripod use – allows for stable platform at low ISO for the sharpest images. However, on two trips to Europe years ago, my tripod never came out of the suitcase. It was always back in the hotel when many of the opportunities were found – wandering back alleys and street cafes. Also, if using a tripod in many foreign locations, we become pegged as professional’s on assignment and often asked for our permit – not always a pleasant occasion. They are not allowed in most cathedrals, and they are certainly more cumbersome to carry.

So, unless a very specific use requires one, it might be worth reconsidering or traveling via a rental car. But the good new is that today lighter carbon fiber tripods are available. Also  a Benro Travel Angel tripod that we added to our equipment – it breaks down smaller and weight is reduced using Magnesium/aluminum composit.

But wait, another option is to add a small and lightweight 6-8″ tripod for those mood shots at sunrise and sunset. It can be hard to replace mood. Just place on a wall or tie to a tree.

Freiburg Woman was photographed using the 24mm f2.8 Nikkor lens with Ilford XP2 400 film in one of the most frigid winters we experienced. Streets of Ice. Bob Grytten Photo
Freiburg Woman was photographed using the 24mm f2.8 Nikkor lens with Ilford XP2 400 film in one of the most frigid winters we experienced. Streets of Ice. Bob Grytten Photo

One could think another way, the lowly and fastest lens – the 50mm f/1.4 or f/1.8. The barrel is so short that it automatically gains a couple of stops in speed, usually required for the physical length of the lens. We’re not use to seeing like that lens, although the 50mm more closely replicated how we do see. But it would also force us to restrict our options of focal plane, and that can be a most interesting thing.

On one winter trip to Germany and other areas, I lost faith in my 35-70mm f/3.5 -4.6. The barrel seemed loose. So, I switched to my 24mm f/2.8, shooting the rest of the trip with it – about 70%. It was utterly enjoyable – limiting but satisfying.

Sometimes we become too engrossed in the comfort of knowing that we have all bases covered – we’re not forced to adjust and look for ways to improvise. Having to work within the lenses limitations can be truly uplifting.

In all cases keeping the eye on the real journey – experiencing the unexpected and joy of travel.

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