Every Traveler Has a Photography Kit to Match the Soul—Here’s mine

Surely nothing is as serene and spontaneous than a vacation, road trip, adventure, or arrangement of the three to get your creative juices flowing. Sometimes hitting the road is exactly what you need to get yourself out of a creative rut.

New surrounds, especially if they’re outside your comfort zone, have a way of injecting your photography with the shot of adrenalin it’s been missing.

When you’re planning those excursions, there are certain essentials you need to pack, items designed to protect your gear and images, while making sure your shot of adrenalin isn’t wasted.

There are plenty of gear lists out there, but this comprehensive packing list for travel photography is for people who want to make sure they have all the rudiments for a photo adventure, from the camera to creature comforts.

You don’t want to carry 100 pounds of gear or forget that Allen wrench you’ll need to fix your tripod. And why not have some great podcasts to help while away the time waiting for sunrise?

Bag it well

This should go without saying, but your bag isn’t a place for cutting corners. You need to make sure 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, ensure that your bag is up to the task.

Bag it well: My Think Tank Airport Commuter Backpack.


Laptops and card readers are essential

Whether it’s the end of the day or the end of the shoot, it’s crucial to back up your images. 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.

Lexar Professional USB 3.0

Play it safe and make sure you bring along a reliable card reader. The Lexar Professional USB 3.0 readers are my current favorites, based on build, quality, and transfer speed.

Carry an external hard drive:

Yes, I’m one of the cautious kind. By the end of the trip, I have daily folders saved on my 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. When you run a second backup and keep the two packed separately during the trip home, you’ll 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 a second backup isn’t an option, then have enough memory cards until the trip is over.

Tripods are a life saver

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 seem to be longer than ever, and they keep growing. The good news is that you don’t have to spend a small fortune for peace of mind. Simply do your research to find the one that suits your needs.

Tripods are a life saver

Travel photography apps

One of the best tripod companions around, Triggertrap’s cable and app bring together the best parts of a cable release and interval meter. Modes include a standard trigger, motion trigger, time-lapse, distance-lapse, face-detection trigger, customizable HDR, star trails, and more.

Travel photography apps

Features vary somewhat between iOS and Android versions of these image-editing apps, with individual components available on Amazon. So, check the website to make you get what’s right for your camera.

Travel surge protector & adapter

Whether you’re 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. If you use the belkin travel surge protector and charger and share the electronic wealth, you’re bound to make some new friends at an airport. When you travel abroad, don’t forget the proper converter to go from the strip to the wall.

Don’t forget to pack a motherload of batteries:

Rechargeable batteries are awesome, but the uncertainty of travel and surroundings sometimes means planning for situations when you have no place to charge. Speedlights suck up the power of AA batteries like a stranded man in the desert guzzles down water. While using throw-away batteries may not be as eco-friendly as I would like, it’s just good planning to have them on hand for an emergency.

Eco-friendly batteries

Portable mobile chargers

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. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea for somebody back in civilization to know where you are in case they need to reach you.

It’s important to keep your phone charged when you’re out in the middle of nowhere, assuming, of course, that the middle of nowhere gets a cell signal. The Anker Astro E5 15000 mAh dual USB portable charger and external battery backup will power several different phones and tablets, and this model will fully charge your iPhone seven times.

A shelter from the storm

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 environments, while still allowing access to all of your camera’s buttons and controls.

When in doubt, pull the tape out

This is one of those bits of gear that I never go anywhere without. I’ve used it to prop open doors that lock automatically,  hold branches out of the way without breaking them, and 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 that I don’t have to pack the whole roll.

Travel Photography Checklist

The checklist is based on some collective experiences over multiple photo workshops and photography trips at home and overseas. It contains what’s consider the bare minimum, plus a few nice-to-haves.

If you’re traveling on assignment or to unusual locations, you’ll likely need other gear, accessories, and paperwork, too.  And if you’re checking bags or traveling in your car, you can add extra clothes and other items.

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