A Photographer's Virtual Checklist

The process no longer starts with “What do I need to take?” I like to think I’ve establish a firm habit for traveling seeing that if you don’t, what you think you’ll need can add up to just about everything as far as packing for a vacation is involved.

The scenario for us unfolds fairly the same way where my wife is the person skillfully packing away her clothes while I’m the guy in the background whole hasn’t started his share because he’s too busy cleaning his lenses and ensuring all batteries to each device are fully charged for the big trip.

In a couple of weeks we’re going on our third cruise vacation for the year. Suffice to say that when you cruise recurrently and you have one sole credit card that happens to be owned by that same cruise-liner, the company will offer insane amenities and make it incredible difficult for you to say no when they offer you $400 deals on a 7-day getaway to the caribbean.

Clothes packing is never an issue but it’s the photographic portion that I unquestionably emphasize more on. My gear is far from the exceptional arsenal that I drool over but it’s the collaboration of each piece that make it adequate for where I am in my expertise and for the sake of this trip as well.

Taking a photograph of what I own works for me as a digital checklist and since friends often ask for suggestions on what I believe they should take with them from a photographer’s perspective, I figured I’d share what’s just enough for me in terms of gear.

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1. Camera Bag: The greatest piece of advice I’ve received regarding camera bags is that there’s no such thing as the perfect bag. The only thing you can do is think ahead on what you have plans on buying so as to determine how much space you’ll need to accommodate for it once you have it.

I own the Kata DR-465 which has accompanied me on every travel for the past 3 years and the immediate attraction came from its simplicity, its lightness, its ergonomics, its stylish profile and quite frankly because it doesn’t have that “steal me” quality written all over it. The only thing I regret is not having opted for the DR-466 model instead which has a 15” laptop compartment, so now I settle with carrying my MacBook Pro in a Brenthaven case. I’m always one to want to see the results of a shoot immediately so not having my laptop is not an option.

2. Solmeta Geotagger N2: When you’re keen on a product, being able to speak fluently about it is a natural process and I’ve realized I haven’t fully reviewed this gadget yet aside from the mention that I own it. Price-wise is less than the Nikon GP-1 unit, hence the selection and yet it still achieves exactly what it suppose to which is to embed your images with the latitude, longitude, altitude and time information of where your photographs was taken.

I had mentioned before that “if you’re the kind of traveler who believes getting there is half the fun, geotagging your photos is just another excuse you need to explore places that you might not otherwise think to visit” and this is certainly true.

3. Timer Remote Controller: This is essentially a remote switch with timer control and exposure count also known as a intervalometer and I bought it for shooting time-lapse photography yet I’ll admit to not having done much with it. Instead I’ve been using Timelapser.app on the iPhone because it crunches everything you would normally have to accomplish on your desktop in the app itself with the option to export it as a Quicktime file.

4. Raynox DCR-250 Macro Lens: Sometimes it’s the things that are not so obvious that make for a compelling photo. The Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 Macro lens is currently on my wishlist but so far I’ve managed to snap respectable photos with the Raynow Macro lens attached to the Canon G11.

5. Nikon 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6: After having invested a good chunk of money on your DSLR, it’s normal to be hesitant on coughing up some more on high-quality glass. I’ve done just well with this kit lens on the D90 so far.

I always agree when people say it’s not the camera that determines the photographs which is a separate topic in itself but assuming you already understand that important aspect, the fact of the matter is that without good glass, you’re not going to see that body live up to its potential.

I’ve been wanting to replace my kits lens with the mighty Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 but I can’t justify its hefty price tag yet so the alternative has been to rent it, which I’ve done in the past from Borrowlenses.com. Give some lenses a spin before committing to owning it.

6. Canon Powershot G11: If a DSLR is your main camera, I always suggest taking another one that would render the same high image quality minus the bulkiness of your main one. The G11 retails for about $460 but I snagged a mint condition one for $250 on Craigslist and it’s the camera of choice for those impromptu outings. It shoots RAW and the articulating LCD screen is what makes it a perfect companion for shooting stealthily.

Part of being a photographer is having the ability to take those mundane moments and presenting it in a way that makes others appreciate what they might have missed. Rather than complain about long waits at the airport, having the G11 strapped on my hand makes those situations just as much as memorable as our destination.

7. Nikon D90 with Battery Grip & Nifty Fifty: The only acquisition I’ve made lens-wise has been the 50mm f/1.8 and it’s on the camera 90% of the time. Image quality is sharp and purchase seemed obvious as a first prime due to its price and the many excellent reviews everywhere.

At this point, nothing feels more abnormal than holding the D90 without the Multi-Battery pack attached. It never comes off, it’s built from that same strong impact plastic as the camera and that monstrous feel is what’s become standard to me when shooting. It’s most prized contribution of course is that extended time you’re able to shoot given that I’m packing 2 fully charged batteries inside.

A bit of advice regarding the batteries. The actual Nikon model is more expensive but it’s worth it as oppose to choosing an aftermarket brand. The aftermarket model I owned would always drain quickly and that shortcut ended costing me more because buying the authentic one was the only solution afterwards.

I’m really enthusiastic about our upcoming trip and at the end of the day, I think the single greatest hurdle for producing great pictures can sometimes be our own inability to see great photographic opportunities all around. In that respect, the slogan that “your camera doesn’t matter” is well justified because I’ve managed to do just fine with what I own which is not a lot but just enough.