Arts & Culture · Travel

A Beginner’s Guide to Travel Photography

Boy Carrying Water - Alice Pettway A minimalist approach to your gear helps you remain unobtrusive, leaving you free to capture the culture around you—free of the hubbub created by a large group of foreigners. Inhambane, Mozambique.

Filters: When you’re choosing which if any filters to bring with you, think back to the question: What will be my main creative focus for the trip? If you’re going to be hiking along a waterfall-intense river for a week, you might want to throw that ND filter into the bag. Huge skies over the Sahara desert? Going to want that polarizer. You don’t need ALL of your filters, though. Think ahead and take only what you know you’ll need.

Memory: This is the one area where you want to think less about space and more about security. Three huge memory cards may seem easier, but travel invariably brings surprises. Heat, rain, sweat, theft—any or all could take out a memory card. And if that happens, you’d far rather lose a small card with a few of your photos than a huge card with half of your photos.

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Thinking - Alice PettwaySouth Africa’s Kruger Park is filled with baby animals in December. This young baboon was captured using a handheld Nikkor 70–300mm zoom lens.

Tripod: There’s no getting around it. You’re going to need to leave your full-sized tripod home. Trade it out for a Gorlllapod.

Unless you’re in sand dunes, you’ll be able to find something to wrap it around. And if you are in sand dunes, you can always throw your pack on the ground and then put the Gorillapod on top to gain some height.

Flash: Part of the beauty of travel photography is the changing light. There are a few situations in which you might want to prioritize a flash—shooting insects in the Amazon might require a ring flash, for example—but in general, you’re probably better off leaving the flash home.


Probosis Monkey - Alice PettwayPart of the reality of backpacking photography is that accidents happen. When they do, don’t panic. This male proboscis monkey was captured using a lens with a broken focus ring (from a drop) in Malaysian Borneo’s Bako National Park.

Cleaning Supplies: The road is full of dust and rain and fingers sticky from street food. You’re going to want some cleaning supplies with you, but keep it simple. A microfiber lens cloth and a handful of pre-moistened, individually packaged lens wipes is a good combination.

At this point, you should have a well-thought-out, minimalist kit ready to go—but how to pack it? Read More »

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