My Gear

What you pack in your camera bag when you travel (or at home) will determine the breadth of images you can capture. You don’t want to bring the kitchen sink but you do want to have the right tools to give you the flexibility to be as creative as your imagination allows.

Below are the essential components of my camera kit. I don’t bring everything with me on every trip, I usually consider the situation (street, portrait, wildlife) and pack accordingly.  Below I talk about what I own plus how and why I use them.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

(I have no paid relationships with these brands. However, if you buy something using the links below  I receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you.)


Camera Body

Canon 5 D Mark 3

When I first decided to purchase a full-frame DSLR, I made my decision between Nikon and Canon very simply. Which one felt better in my hand. I know that people will argue the virtues of their favorite brand for days, competitions abound, but that was it frankly. I held the two bodies and the Nikon felt wide for my palm. I figured it would be a strain to hold on to it for a long period of time.  That was three years ago, and I love my Canon. I’ve put it through it’s paces. It’s scraped and worn ( I had a little issue with a stone wall during a storm in Cuba) and it’s been great. And I’ve loved the images I’ve taken since then so that’s pretty much the most important, right?


Lenses

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM

This baby is a wonderful lens. It has a beautiful bokeh that makes images really pop. The auto focus is fast and it has image stabilization, which rocks. It’s a f2.8 so it works well in low light situations. This is the original version, version 2 is even better I’m told (though a tad heavier, and this is not a light lens by any means), but I haven’t shot with it. I’m good with this until it falls apart.  It’s great for portraits, street photography, nature and wildlife as well. Landscapes if the area you want is far away. Believe it or not, I’ve used it for some macro photography of flowers, though I admit, it wasn’t easy.


Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM

This was my *starter* lens, so to speak. I wanted something versatile and yet still give me great shots without breaking the bank. I still wasn’t clear how far I wanted to take this hobby, which is now a full-fledged passion.  It’s an f4, so I have to watch it in low light. I use it a lot for street photography (it’s one of my lighter lenses) and portraits.  I’ve used it for cityscapes and flowers as well.

That said, I have my eye on the 24-70mm f2.8 lens (below). It’s versatile, will pair well with my 70-200mm, and fast. The image quality is outstanding. I’ve used it a few times on trips and I want one. It’s on my to-get list for sooner rather than later.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Standard Zoom Lens


Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM Wide Angle lens

You can never really go wrong with a prime lens. I was nervous about being limited at first—not have the flexibility of a telescopic lens—but I found that the limitation was a good one. It forced me to really think about how to approach a shot and be more thoughtful with composition. The fact that it’s a f1.4 means I can really be creative with depth of field. I use this a lot for street photography when I’m in more of a *photojournalistic* mood. I think it’s because I originally bought it on the recommendation of some photojournalists I admire. It’s a fast lens too, so, again, it’s great for low light situations.


Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L ll USM Zoom Lens for Canon EF Cameras

I love this lens (though recently it was dropped—not by me—and the lens is shattered.) Big sad-faced emoji….. It’s wonderful for big imposing landscapes like mountain ranges and astrophotography. I also used it a ton in Cuba. I found the 16mm was perfect for inside homes and down narrow alleyways, and the 35mm was perfect for classic street photography. The fact that it was a fast lens too, made it one of my favorites. I hear the updated version is phenomenal. My v2 had a little bit of warping and focus issues at the sides, I’m told the v3 (below) is flawless.

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM Lens


Tripod

Benro Carbon Fiber Tripod

Carbon fiber tripods will inherently be more expensive. They’re also considerably lighter than other metal tripods and you’ll appreciate that when you’re lugging it around. Also, flip-locks, flip-locks, flip-locks! Don’t get the legs that you have to unscrew. What a pain. Especially if you’re not paying attention and the leg sections come apart (been there). Screwing them back together is a nightmare. Trust me.


Camera Bags

Lowepro Pro Runner 200AW Camera Bag

This has been an awesome bag. It’s perfect for walking around NYC when I want choice of lenses, provides plenty of protection and isn’t too large. I use it for travel, when I know I only need one body and a couple of lenses.


Lowepro Passport Sling Camera Bag

This bag has is a bloggers’ best friend. I learned about it from a blogger and I know a few other bloggers that own it. It’s expandable, comfortable, and perfect when you’re bipping around and don’t want to use a backpack. It has room for extra camera gear (batteries, memory cards, etc) but also for my wallet, sunscreen and other *everyday* stuff.


Tamrac (Gura Gear) G-Elite 26 Backpack (Charcoal) 

I’m a big fan of Gura Gear brand. For awhile it kind of disappeared. The owner bought Tamrac and originally they decided to phase out the Gura Gear name. However, recently they’ve decided to bring back the brand and I couldn’t be happier. The bag above if officially a Tamrac but has most of the design elements I love from the Gura Gear bags I’ve bought in the past: It’s got a lot of room, but isn’t two big of an overall profile. There’s a front flap that allows you to see everything at once that can also be opened one side at a time for easy handling. There are interior and exterior pockets, a slot for a 15″ laptop (this was crucial for me); you can hook a tripod to the outside; there’s a rain cover; and if you want to hide the straps and waist belt you can.  My only complaint is that this new bag is a little deep. I was able to put the bag under the seat in front of me, but not in a small plane’s overhead bin. I could before this updated design. It’s not a deal breaker for me but it was a little annoying. (Full disclosure: the company sent me this bag but the sentiment is my own.)


Looking for photography tips?  You may find something helpful here.

Learning Street Photography from Renowned Photojournalist Peter Turnley 

8 Reasons You’re Taking Bad Photos – And how to make them better

A Lesson in Light from Famed Photographer Timothy Allen 

Transform Your Travel Photos with These 6 Mobile Apps

Seven Questions to ask Yourself Before Choosing a Travel Photography Tour

Pro Photographer Shares 9 Tips for Taking Great Portraits when You Travel 

 

 

19 replies »

  1. What kind of a camera would you recommend to a beginner who wants to get into photography – but also wants a camera that is fairly easy to use, not too heavy and not super-expensive? I’m looking into a Sony a6000 mirrorless. I just wondered if you had any other recommendations. Thanks.

    • I haven’t used it so I can’t speak from firsthand experience. That said, I’ve heard good things about it. It also kind of depends on what you mean by wanting to get into photography. What do you see yourself doing? Ie.. Just for great vacation photos. You want to shoot and hopefully sell them someday? Where do you want to take your skills?

      • Good question. At the moment, I am looking to take great travel photos and build a travel blog. Right now I’m blogging as a hobby, but I am hoping in the future it can lead to some side income or other writing opportunities. I want to make the leap from the quality of photos I can take on my phone to the quality of photos I can take with a camera without to much of a learning curve and without too much of an initial investment. The two specific things I want are to be able to take zoomed in photos and low light photos that look good. I am thinking that I might buy other gear in the future (like different lenses), but I want a camera body that I can use for a long time.

      • I’m hesitant to suggest anything I haven’t used but it sounds like a mirrorless will do well for you. I’ve heard good things about the Sonys in low-light. That said, if you really want to up your game in photography, you’ll probably need to invest down the line and you’ll definitely want to have a couple lenses at least. But to get you started, its probably a good option. In passed, I’ve used the Panasonic Lumix cameras and loved them. Mirrorless too. But they don’t have the hype of the Sonys or Fujis.

  2. Very nice gears…and i love all your pictures…
    Im just curious
    , do you also use any pocket camera? Im not good in using SLR camera, but I really want to take good picture with minmalist gear, such as pocket camera. And I would like to know if you’re having one and taking good pics with it. Thanx…

  3. Hi!
    I also like photography, but unfortunately not so professionally like you!
    I will follow you because your stories and photos are very good.
    If you would like to know something more about Switzerland…please feel free to visit (and maybe follow) my poor blog about the “Confederation”.
    All the best!

  4. Hi Susan, I’m interested in the Lowepro Passport Sling Camera Bag that you have. I like that fact that it doesn’t look like a camera bag. I have a 5Dmk3, 24-70 f/2.8 (only 5mm bigger all around than your 24-105) and a 70-200 f/2.8. Although I think it might be a bit heavy, do you think that the camera and both lenses would fit?

  5. I just stumbled upon this blog and I already love it. It seems as though not only do you travel and say LOOK AT ME! but that you view from the eye of a truly sympathetic, open, and wise journalist. It seems you travel to give and take and not just take. Beautiful blog and I look much forward to reading much more!

    • Hello! Welcome to the blog. I’m thrilled you stumbled upon it. I do try to be open to each place and do it justice. No image would work if I just took and didn’t give a little something back. Thank you for your kind comments and I’m glad you’ll be back.

  6. Hi, Susan. I came across your blog on Facebook. And I must admit I love your images and admire your work, in particular wildlife shots in Kenya and Tanzania, as I live in Tanzania between Serengeti and Lake Victoria for the past 25 years. Being a total and true amateur and Canon gear user I take courage, reading your way up the level you are now, that I can and should also improve myself, even if my windows of opportunity in the wildlife are mostly limited to times when I host guests and take them to Serengeti, Ngorongoro or Lake Victoria for a day or two. All the best in your future endeavors!

    • I envy your proximity to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro. Incredibly beautiful places. I hope some day to return. Don’t worry about working up the canon ladder. At the end of the day it’s about your eye and your heart. Some people take breathtaking images with iPhones nowadays.

      Thank you very much for taking the time to comment and review my blog. 🙂

  7. Hi Susan, Got the link to your blog, from the article you wrote for WildEye. Very interesting… I’ll be travelling with WildEye next year. Any suggestions on the lens for the migration safari? (I’m a Canon user too!)

    • Hi! That’s great, what trip will you be taking with Wild Eye? I’ve found that using the 200-400mm with the 1.4 has been the most versatile for my needs. That being said, it’s very expensive to buy. Renting has been a great option, and while not the cheapest that way either I haven’t been disappointed in the investment yet. Wild Eye has a 200-400mm, among other lenses, it can rent you, but I would put whatever you choose on hold asap if you decide to go through them. It makes things quite easy since you don’t have to lug the heavy glass with you when you travel.

  8. Thank you for your post. I started getting into photography after leaving Peru as well. I have a long way to go and still working on how my camera works. I bought a few books for beginners. And every night, i would watch , “YouTube” for tips on photography. I will sign up for classes, for sure. But thanks for you inspiration.

Would love to hear from you!