Arts & Culture · Travel

A Beginner’s Guide to Travel Photography

A lot of photographers think that only someone with funding, oodles of equipment, and porters to carry everything can shoot in remote locations—but that’s just not true. Everything you need to capture amazing photos on the road, be it in rainforest or sprawling city, can easily fit in your backpack alongside all your other travel gear.

I know this because I regularly travel the world with one backpack and a satchel, into which I fit all of my camera equipment, my clothes, documents, personal items, and anything else I’ll need on the road. I’ve visited 23 countries and lived on four continents, and this setup has never let me down.

[ALL PHOTOS BY ALICE PETTWAY. CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENLARGE]

Green Hummingbird - Alice Pettway A 70–300mm zoom lens—like the one used to capture this hummingbird in Colombia’s Valle de Cocora—works well when you’ll be shooting wildlife but don’t want to lug a larger lens.

The key is to prioritize your equipment with size and weight in mind. Ask yourself the following questions:

What will be my main creative focus for the trip? If the answer is capturing animals on a South African safari, then the extra weight for that 200–500mm might be worth it. But if you’re going to be trekking through the Ecuadorian highlands, you’ll probably want to opt for lighter, more versatile lenses.

How can I combine lenses for the most versatility? Once you’ve decided which lens you absolutely can’t live without on your trip, you’ll want to figure out which one or two other lenses would most increase your versatility. A 70­–300mm, for example, would pair nicely with a multi-purpose zoom like a 24–85mm and a macro lens. If you’re going to stay mobile, you’ll want to keep it to no more than three lenses, so choose carefully.

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Giraffe Beetle - Alice PettwayThis male giraffe beetle, endemic to Madagascar, was captured in Ranomafana National Park with a handheld 105mm Micro-Nikkor lens.

Once you’ve chosen your lenses, you’ll need to think about peripherals. Again, size and weight should be top of mind as you make decisions. You might find it helpful to list what you’d normally carry in your camera bag and then make modifications:

Batteries: Day to day, you might carry one extra battery, but when you’re on the road—especially in remote areas—you’ll want to consider the possibility that you either won’t have electricity or won’t have electricity stable enough to risk charging your batteries. The safest bet is to have two or three days’ worth of battery power at hand. And of course you’ll need to pack your battery charger and any necessary plug converters for the countries you’ll be visiting. Read More »

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