Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Travelling Light

My normal backpack is almost 30 lb. these days and the limit for carry on is 22 lb. So far no one has weighed my backpack or tried to squeeze it through the little test gear they have at the terminal gate but one of these days.

This weekend I was in Victoria for a conference and in rushing to pack I couldn't find my small backpack and in frustration travelled with my S3IS, thinking I'd have little time to photograph anyway.

As it turned out Butchart Gardens was lovely and I deeply regretted not having the 1Ds2 with me.

This raises the question of what would or should travelling light look like? Obviously it depends on what you might be able to photograph and how tight your packing limitations are and how far you plan to hike. If we assume though that you want to cut the weight of your pack in half and that you want general coverage with your lenses, here's some thoughts I have about next time.

I shoot landscapes, not sports and not wildlife so I don't need really long lenses - forget the 300 mm. lens. Most of the time I can live with 24 mm. as the widest lens and if I really needed 17 I could rotate the camera and shoot three well overlapped images with the 24 and stitch them. SO I don't need my 17-40.

For a really light load, I could travel with my old and quite trusty 28-105 - sure it's not the sharpest lens I own, but it's actually not that bad and on a full frame camera covers a good range. Had I a 30D or XTi I'd go for the 17-85 IS as the ideal travel lens.

If I could take a mini-trecker, then I would take my 24-70 and 70-200 and poss. the 1.4 ex. I'd take the Epson 2000 to save cards to and forego the laptop unless I was taking it with me anyway.

I would not consider any of the 28-200 and bigger lenses, whether Canon's or someone elses as being not sharp enough to even consider. Sure people have lovely 4X6es from them but I really wish my shot on the blog yesterday from Butchart Gardens had been shot on my good camera. As it stands it barely makes an 8X10 print but it's such a lovely scene it really deserves a 4 image stitch on the 1Ds2 and print to 36 inches. I even briefly thought of flying back to Victoria for the day just to take the one picture - almost sure I could sell the image for more than the cost of the trip - but weather and falling leaves and not being sure I could repeat the shot I probably won't.

As to using a lesser camera than your best one - unless it was very close to your best (say an XTi instead of a 30D - though why bother), or a 5D instead of a 1Ds2 (weighs half as much and is half the size), it probably isn't worth while.

For really light travel options while maintaining quality, what about travelling with a film camera like the Mamiya 6 or 7, or even my old Zeiss Ikonta which can slip easily into a coat pocket.

As regards tripods, I consider them essential - I know that at Butchart I was exposing for up to half a second at f8, ei 80 so it's absolutely essential for the kind of work I do. What I actually did this weekend was to pick up a light weight 'digital' tripod for beginners, made by manfrotto, four section legs so it would fit in my suit case, centre column because it doesn't quite make it to eye height without. Sure it isn't the most robust tripod on the market, but it is light, small, portable, and in the absence of a breeze or really long lens, does the job. It even came with a small ball head and quick release plate and a carrying bag with shoulder sling. Sure it doesn't have multiple position legs, but it does get fairly low and has a reversing centre column for really low work and it sets up quickly.

I'd leave at home extra filters and gadgets. I'd take some lens cleaning tissue and that's all - I'd live with any dirt on the sensor for the duration of the trip. I'd still have to take the spare battery but as long as the batteries on the 1Ds2 last, I'd probably leave the charger at home. For cameras like the 10, 20, 30D and Rebels whose batteries give out part way through a day's shoot, I'd carry two or three - they aren't large, and the charger, which likewise isn't large.

So, for lack of this foresight, I don't have the ability to print my image large, next time I will be better prepared - anyone know where I left my mini-trecker?

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