What’s In Your Camera Bag?

27871282612_8a010a8ab5_k

I visited Cuba, Ocean City, NJ, and Denver, CO over the summer. The three trips presented the opportunity to revisit what equipment I carry in my camera bag.

The real challenge for me — just like every other photographer — is to figure out which lenses to pack and which ones to leave behind, as well as what accessories do I really need. There will always be a photographic opportunity that the limitations of a travel bag will prevent you from meeting. It won’t allow you to bring all of your equipment. This is when the photographer must prepare well for the journey.

Think Scale

Walk This Way 1200

First of all, I use a sizable journalist camera bag, the Oberwerth Heidelberg. It’s an ideal bag that allows me to carry two Nikon full frame DSLR bodies, three lenses, a speedlight, and a variety of other equipment. The pockets give me plenty of room for smaller devices like triggers, flashlight, chargers, raincoat for the camera, extra camera and AA batteries, and a cleaning kit. Finally, I carry a collapsible tripod in my carry-on bag.

I usually bring one utility lens, a fixed Sigma 35 mm or Zeiss 50 mm that can be used for all situations. Then the other two are specialty lenses that I use for specific situations. One is usually a long lens, either the Meyer Optik Trioplan 100, my Nikon 85mm, or Meyer-Optik Trimagon 95, and the other is my Nikon super 14-24 mm lens that I use for architecture shots like the above staircase.

27932918051_f062447929_k

This combination of lenses lets me scale down and go out on individual shoots with one body and one lens (utility) or a combination of my long lens, and the utility or the wide angle lens.

Now I have to be honest. I am a big man, and I used to be able to carry my bag everywhere, all day fully loaded with no problems. But with my middle-aged back issues, it’s too heavy for long periods of time fully loaded. So now I think what I can bring in the bag for the whole trip and what can be unpacked at the hotel, and repack based on situations. For long trips I might even pack a second smaller camera bag like a Garmisch for short day trips.

Usually, I leave my back up Nikon body at the hotel or house rental. Then I decide which lenses to leave behind. In addition, I unpack back-up triggers, any extra filters, several AA batteries (leaving two in the bag in case I need to change the ones in my meter or flash), chargers, and extra camera bodies. All of these might be useful in the bag, but they won’t make or break most photographic opportunities (barring a camera fail).

I almost always keep the flash in the bag unless I know I am only capturing landscape/cityscape shots. You never know when you can use the flash for a portrait or to provide fill light, particularly if you have to photograph in the middle of the day. I also keep the camera’s back-up battery, extra SD cards, and the camera rain jacket.

Why One Utility, One Long, One Wide?

Diana 1200

The utility lens has obvious value. I always bring a lens that can address most situations. If the situation is wide, and I only have a 35 mm or a 50 mm, I can always stitch together two or three pictures. On the other hand, if I need a tight photo I can always crop in or move unusually close to the subject.

The long lens is helpful for a variety of situations. Yes, portraits and close-ups like the above shot I took with a Nikon 85 mm are obvious. But even in a landscape situation you need to focus in on specific areas of the subject. The opening sunrise photograph of the Ocean City, NJ beach was taken with a Trioplan 100. Could I have moved closer with a 35 or 50 mm lens? Sure, but the sun would have looked horribly small in comparison.

27378415873_e5c6571c42_k

The above parent/child elk photo was also taken with a Trimagon 95 mm. While an unconventional use of the portrait lens, it was another situation where a tight focus was needed to capture the animals as a primary focal point.

Finally, the 14-24 mm works well for me as I like capturing all sorts of architecture and corrosion shots. So this is something I use more frequently than most would. It is for my own art. You may have an art lens (like the Trioplan 100) that you prefer.

Don’t Forget the Tripod, Triggers and Flash

27868430500_c52ebbc745_k (1)

Many people choose to forgo the flash, trigger, and/or tripod on their trip. I think that’s a big mistake. If you are serious about making your vacation or trip a photographic adventure, you will want these items.

Without a tripod and trigger, you lose the opportunity to take great low light photographs (like the sunrise/sunset pic) with long exposures. It also becomes difficult to photograph portraits and people unless you have a flash. Even in broad daylight, you want fill light like the above shot (taken with a 35 mm lens), which was shot at two in the afternoon. The sun can come top down and provide really harsh light and dramatic shadows and hooded eyes. You’ll either need a bounce or flash (used above) to resolve these situations. A flash is less awkward.

I’ve been out on enough photography trips to know that I need a second body (yes, I had one fail in the middle of a trip). I have also needed a rain jacket for my camera when a storm blows in. It’s understandable to see why some choose not to bring these items on their travels. Those are individual choices.

But no matter what, don’t forget to bring your tripod, triggers and flash. Yes, they weigh more. In my opinion, these items provide the difference between good and great photography portfolios for your travel journeys.

What would you add to your travel kit?

You can learn more about Geoff Livingston and see galleries from his Cuba trip on geofflivingston.photoshelter.com.

Originally published on the Meyer Optik blog.

Cuba: A Visual Treasure

Super Small

Just one day remains for folks to pre-order my first photography book, a joint effort called Cuba: Seven in 10 (currently on Kickstarter). We successfully passed our fundraising goal so the the book is on!

Each photographer gets to present 10 photos. To be honest with you I have no idea how I am going to whittle down my choices to such a limited amount of pics. Cuba is a visual paradise with incredible photographic opportunities! I already have dozens of worthy pics and still have one third of my pics to edit. I know the other six photographers in the project — Charles Butler of Union 206 Studios, Nana Gyesie, Dwight Jefferson, Joe Newman of DC Focused, Pablo Raw, and Jon Sterling — were also amazed by Havana.

I have included a few pics below to give you an idea of what I am talking about. From stunning street shots and incredible people to beautiful cars to amazing architecture, Cuba has it all. 27760624312_9f68c1cd7d_h

The shot immediately above epitomizes all that is good with Cuba and all that troubles it. The people have a great warm spirit to them, and the architecture and colors are beautiful. At the same time the passage is poorly lit with the exception of the area where the table is, and you can see corrosion, a result of neglect in the post Soviet era.  The warmth overpowers the negatives here, and that is my sense of Cuba. Hard times may be upon the people, but they will persevere and thrive.

Please find a few more pics below. You can also view my public galleries on 500 Pixels, Facebook, or Flickr.

I hope you decide to pre-order the book today! My offer to give folks a complimentary license from my photography portfolio after the Kickstarter ends still stands. Regardless, thank you for being an interested friend.

Smokin!

A portrait of a young woman in Havana.

Central Havana 2016A shocking scene on a Saturday night in Central Havana. This is the side of Cuba most don’t see.

27774290702_6d19e5d467_h

And then there is the beauty of Havana.

Kickstarter for The Next Book – Cuba: Seven in 10

i-nsn4J33-X3
Image by Joe Newman.

My next book will be a team photo effort from seven Washington, DC photographers in Cuba. Cuba: Seven in 10 (see our Kickstarter page) will feature 10 photographic takes on Cuba from each shutterbug, representing our personal interpretations of Havana and Cuban culture as it is exists now before the American tourism rush.

The end result? Cuba viewed by Seven in 10 frames each. This should make for a great photo book.

How long until Cuba’s amazing culture is changed forever by this new influx of American dollars and influence? In many ways, the zeitgeist of Cuban culture is in its twilight before entering a new phase as a destination for vacationing Americans.

The other six photographers in alphabetical order are Charles Butler of Union 206 Studios, Nana Gyesie, Dwight Jefferson, Joe Newman of DC Focused, Pablo Raw, and Jon Sterling. We are asking for pre-orders and support on Kickstarter beginning today.

13320795_490894977772854_3396976295159880805_o
Geoff Livingston (me, on the left), Pablo Raw, Joe Newman, Dwight Jefferson, Jon Sperling, Charles Butler, and Nana Gyesie.

The actual trip will happen on June 9-15, and you should definitely expect some behind the scenes photos on my accounts. We also launched a Facebook page where we will post pictures during and after the trip.

Please contribute to this excellent effort. It’s going to be an incredible visual journey, and one that interests most Americans who enjoy travel.

Also, I want to give a shout out to Joe Newman and his new travel company Focused Photo Adventures. The entire trip was arranged by Joe and his company. Also, the header image was contributed by Joe.

What do you think about Cuba?

Bokeh World, Pop-Up Show, and Cuba

26395160955_f8fb42b9d7_k
Trioplan 50 photo by Tamara Skudies.

One of my favorite projects this spring has been supporting my client Meyer-Optik’s Kickstarter for the Trioplan f2.9/50. The Kickstarter seeks to return the legendary camera lens with incredible soap bubble bokeh, as seen above.

This lens has a rich history dating back 100 years, so as a photography nerd I love the project. Apparently, so does the market as we have raised almost $600,000 from 900 backers with less than seven days remaining in the campaign!

As part of our efforts we ran a photo quest challenge on photography social network 500 Pixels called Bokeh World. The theme celebrated the lens’s soap bubble bokeh. To participate, 500 Pixels users were encouraged to incorporate bokeh into their photography with the three best pics winning new Trioplan f2.9/50 and f2.8/100 lenses.

The Bokeh World contest received an overwhelming response. More than 35,000 photos were submitted! It was pretty hard whittling down that selection to just three winners. Here is my favorite, Lilia Alvarado’s Life Is a Carnival. What an incredible photograph!

26369228953_f56af100e6_k

The Trioplan 50 Kickstarter continues through next Wednesday. I hope you decide to back it.

Pop-Up Photo Show this Saturday

The Pacific Ocean at Night

For those of you in the DC area, I am co-hosting my first photography pop-up show at Broadway Galleries in Alexandria, VA this Saturday. The event will be held from 4 to 6 pm, and will feature some really big prints of some of my more well received night photos.

Refreshments will be served, so have a snack and a bite. If you come, you’ll have the opportunity to provide feedback and tell me which types of photos you like most. Or just come and talk shop with me. I hope to see you then!

Cuba

12601744583_67faa3b2d1_k
Image by mokastet.

Now that Obama has formally established relations with Cuba again, artists and photographers are flocking to the Caribbean island. Just look at the big deal National Geographic made last week about being on the first U.S. cruise to Cuba in 60 years.

The hype and fury comes with good reason. In five years Cuba will not be the same, especially after U.S. interests invade and establish businesses.

Well, guess what? I’m going to Cuba this June as part of a larger project with six DC Focused photographers. We’ll be announcing our project after Memorial Day so stay tuned!

What’s new in your creative world?