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Urban Travel Photography

Posted by Matt on November 10th, 2007 filed in Camera Care, Digital Photography Hints & Tips, Outdoor Photography, Taking Photos, Travel Photography, Urban Photography

Rainy South Bank
London South Bank
– by Matt Hobbs

As a photographer who regularly travels around, I often find myself trying to match my hoard of photographic equipment to the increasingly limited luggage allowance. Not only that, but on short trips where you take only a carry on you have to be aware of what might cause upset at security checks. So here are my hints on what I pack for taking photos in urban locations.

For Short Trips

Here’s what I bring along for short, weekend trips where you want to travel light:

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  • A Camera (or two): You need a camera that is good enough to take photos you’ll enjoy, but light enough so you don’t break your back. Personally I cheat a little here and take two cameras: my Canon 20D, and my Canon G7. The 20D is professional enough to take instant, amazing photos in every condition – it’s a joy to use and quick to shoot so you don’t miss those special moments, the downside is it’s bulky and fairly heavy. So for those situations where I just need a camera that slips into my pocket I have the G7 which is still flexible but much smaller.
  • A Zoom Lens:If you’re bringing an SLR you want to try and keep to only one lens that deals with a range of situations. A zoom that goes from 28-140 is a pretty good bet for covering most subjects, and getting close to the action far away.
  • Travel cases: As you’ll be travelling light your cameras will most likely be in your carry on, or a small additional bag – they still need protecting from bangs and bashes though. So try and find a soft, padded case that is not too bulky. Normal SLR cases tend to be stiff and padded, great for protection, not so good for space saving. You may find it helpful to make your own bag hybrid with a thin outer case and bone rubber padding inside.
  • Chargers, Plug Converters & Spare Batteries: There is nothing worse than going on a trip and forgetting your charger. Other than going on a trip abroad with your charger and forgetting a plug converter… I also take a spare battery for my SLR as they’re small and handy for when you do forget to re-charge the night before. Another option here is to have a camera that takes normal AA batteries, allowing you to travel light and buy new batteries at your destination – although that isn’t so handy for the environment!
  • A Small Tripod: This is a nice to have rather than a must have, but it can be handy for those moments when you want either a long exposure of a night skyline, or a picture of yourself. Get the smallest tripod you can that supports the weight of your camera, either fixed legs or check out the great Gorillapod with its flexible, gripping legs.

For Longer Trips

For longer trips you want to bring everything from the previous list and maybe some of the following, depending on your needs. Most likely on a longer trip you’ll be checking luggage, so keep bulkier items in your checked bags but pad them well! I always keep my cameras & lenses in my carry on for safety.

  • Photo Storage: If like me you take a lot of photos then you have to have somewhere to put them. Either buy a truckload of additional storage cards, take along a small laptop (don’t forget the power supply) or consider buying a dedicated hard drive storage solution – you can even buy plug ins for the video iPod to use that as storage.
  • A Bigger Tripod: If you do bring a bigger tripod, make sure it’s the lightest one you can find. There’s nothing worse than lugging a solid metal tripod around with you just for one or two shots – a light carbon fibre tripod will be just fine.
  • Additional lenses: For those of you taking an SLR, consider bringing some different lenses along – either for extra zoom, closer macro shots or faster prime lenses for low light – whatever works best with how you take photos.

Again note this is my personal list and yours should vary to match what you most like to take photos of – especially in terms of lenses. Also if you are travelling outside urban areas then you need to consider availability of additional batteries/charging sources and also storage for your photos.

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