Do you bring the gear?

a photographer on vacation

If you are a photographer and you finally get a vacation, what gear do you take?  I I travel a lot for work, and some people might think I’m always on vacation but  I assure you that is not the case.  But this October I traveled for vacation – to Kauai with my Wife!  One of the most romantic locations on the planet, we’ll get time together, go surfing, relax, AND get some amazing photos! Immediately my mind started setting up shots, what gear will I bring?…a wide lens and tripod for a long exposure, my zoom for the surf shots, and..and…and…my bag weighed 50 pounds before I even packed clothes!  Did I really need all my gear?  This is a Vacation, not a photo shoot.

JHR Photography Hawaii Sunset Pacific Ocean Kauai

(Of course I took some gear)

It doesn’t matter who you are, if you are going to Hawaii you want good photos.  But if your a hobbyist or a full time photographer this becomes a more complicated decision, at least it was for me.  This was supposed to be a vacation, an opportunity to spend time with my beloved, to relax (my schedule is a whole other blog), and an opportunity to break the routine.  The dilemma was I wanted to capture an image that embodied all of these things, a photograph that would be displayed to represent how blessed we were to get this vacation.  And for me, that meant having certain gear available, and timing a few key stops along the way.  So here are some of my suggestions for planning your trip.
  • Keep your priorities straight ~ Its about time, not clicks!  The real memories are made spending time with the people you want to spend time with, those mental images, emotions and  stolen moments will last a life time – the best camera in the world cant capture those, so stay focused!
  • What do you really want photos of? It is possible that a good lightweight point and shoot may capture all of your best memories. Or if you are letting people live vicariously through your Instagram posts, you may only need your cell phone.  A great example of a couple (on extended vacation) doing a great job sharing through social media are Adrienne and Andrew – I haven’t met them, but its great fun keeping up with their travel!
  • Plan time for the shots – If you’re blessed to have a spouse like mine, they will know that one of your joys on the trip will be catching that special photo, so make sure to talk about it and include them in that part of the adventure – Nothing is more romantic than a sunset walk on the beach – don’t mess it up by making every walk on the beach a photo shoot

Photographer Vacation Gear Falls

  • Less is More – So if you do bring your big camera I recommend a utility lens that will capture 90% of what you will want to shoot.  Or if you have a go-to lens that is your style, bring that one.  Remember, you’re on vacation to relax, not pack the holy-trinity of lenses across paradise – here is a good article on lens selection:  Travel Photography
  • Pack Smart – invest in a functional and convenient multi-purpose bag.  Especially in Hawaii, you will be hiking and climbing and running all around the islands.   I don’t recommend a Kelty backpack full of gear, and I definitely don’t recommend suggesting your wife carry the DSLR with a 200mm lens in her purse. There are lots of versatile and affordable options out there, and here is a good list from Adorama Photo.
  • Insure your Gear – It really doesn’t matter what gear you bring, get it insured.  Stuff happens, if you go out on an adventure and slip and fall, drop your bag, or splash into the ocean, you want to have the gear covered.  Not to mention, if some thing nefarious happens, you don’t want to lose your investment.  Check out Lenstag and this article for some good suggestions on protecting your gear:  How to Insure your Camera Gear

What Gear did I take?

For this trip, I took my D3s, 70-200 f2.8, and a kit 17-55mm, I may have had my 50mm 1.8 in the bag too, but I never pulled it out. Of course I brought the laptop, chargers, and cleaners, plus a day pack that could hold the camera and some other goodies.  Since we didn’t check any luggage, I decided against the tripod.  So was it too much?  Could I have done it with one lens? Maybe..and I’d consider this one:  the SIGMA 18-300mm f/3.5   I don’t think I shot wide open once, and the range covers every scene i wanted and then some – so I may consider it for my next trip.  But it really comes down to what my photography objective is for the trip, in my opinion, the Sigma would have been perfect.

But I’m not in the photos…

If you’re a photographer, you’re probably used to this by now.  But really, you are in the photos.  Especially if there are other people on vacation with you.  They will forever appreciate the skill and talent you put into capturing the moment.  So on our vacation, we were celebrating my brother in law’s 40th, and part of that celebration will be a book loaded with high quality photos.  Besides, I was still able to capture the 3-4 icon shots I wanted, as well as the group having fun (and with a little more style than a point and shoot would provide).  Plus as photographers isn’t this why we shoot – to freeze a moment in time into an image that becomes the memory.

Photographer Vacation Gear

(I’m in the picture – in two feet of water straddling a slick rock)

In case you haven’t noticed, there is a theme here – if its a vacation, take a vacation! What gear is necessary for a vacation?  As little as possible!  What we really need is time to relax, connect, and enjoy time with our loved ones.  I’m convinced we would have made the same memories without ever pulling out a camera.  Am I glad I have photos?  Of course!  But not at the expense of time and experiences with the people I love.