Photographs from the Big Trip: What Gear to Take?

In the first of a series of articles on travel photography, SeniorTravelExpert Photo Editor, John Esser, shares his thoughts on what equipment to take to get the best photographs when taking a big trip abroad. As a Senior himself – just, he would add – his articles will take into account the advantages, and occasional disadvantages, that advancing years can bring.

John Esser - Photo Editor
John Esser – Photo Editor

Taking lots of photographs to share memories and experiences with friends and family is an important part of travelling. It needs to be taken into account when planning the trip of a lifetime, but what photographic equipment to take?

Should I buy a new camera before the trip? What gear should I take? These are just some of the questions that come to mind when perusing the travel brochures.

The answers to these questions depend on individual circumstances, in particular your reasons for taking the pictures in the first place. The equipment needs of someone wanting to make a personal record of a trip are very different to those of the photo enthusiast for whom photography is the main point of travel.

Also, as mentioned in the recent article on Safety Tips for Senior Travellers, carrying bulky, expensive equipment can be asking for trouble from sneak thieves.

When I first started travelling to far flung destinations some 30 years ago, I was taking pictures mostly for professional purposes. This involved lugging around a huge Billingham bag stuffed with medium format and SLR cameras, lenses, filters and numerous rolls of Fujichrome and Kodachrome.

Back then, airline security staff were happy to manually check though your film to avoid the risks of exposing it to X rays, and carry-on baggage allowances were far more generous than today. Even the weight of all this gear wasn’t too much of a problem as I was younger and stronger then!

Night view of Funchal Bay - Canon G15
Night view of Funchal Bay taken with a Canon G15 (supported by a mini tripod)

Things are very different nowadays, and as a result I am a lot more selective in choosing what gear to take with me. This means I carry the minimum amount of equipment necessary for me to record high quality images. The digital SLR and assorted lenses usually stay at home when I set off for the airport.

The equipment I take consists of:

• A Canon Power Shot G15 compact camera – well built, excellent lens, manual control features and ability to take RAW files (more on this topic in a future article). Other good compact cameras with RAW capture include the Panasonic Lumix TZ60 and the Nikon COOLPIX P7000.

Most of the photographs on this site were taken using the Web Editor’s Casio Exilim EX-H30 compact camera, but this doesn’t have RAW capture.

• A small camera case to accommodate the camera (LowePro produce a wide range of cases to suit most compact), spare battery and memory cards (Sandisk cards have a good reputation for reliability).

Close up of Bird of Paradise flower - Canon G15
Macro shot of Bird of Paradise flower taken with a Canon G15

• A small tripod with bendy legs (check out the Gorillapod range) that allow the camera to be attached to a convenient branch or similar for those images that capture both you and your partner admiring a spectacular vista.

• A small blower brush and lens tissues to keep everything clean.

And that’s it – all stowed in a small back pack with my sandwiches, water, travel guides etc.

One, final thought, if you are planning purchasing a new camera for the trip, do so well in advance to allow yourself time to familiarise yourself with the camera and its controls.

Happy snapping!