Travel Photography – What’s In My Bag?

With travel season approaching, I’ve been working on changes to the photo and video gear I carry with me. There was a time when I would carry my Nikon DSLR and all of my lenses with me on vacation, but over the past few years I’ve gotten to the point where I wanted to go as light as possible and not have to carry a full camera bag around with me. It started with our Thanksgiving cruise in 2012, where I found myself shooting around 60% of our pictures with my Nokia Lumia 920 vs 40% with my Nikon, slowly edging up to the point where I was shooting 90% of our vacation shots with my Lumia 1020.

There are exceptions, as I enjoy shooting auto racing when I get the chance, and I have yet to see anything below a DSLR and a set of good lenses that can handle the speed and low-light requirements, but for everything else, the lighter I can go, the happier I am. So with a cruise on tap in a week aboard the Norwegian Escape, followed by Thanksgiving at Disney World, I figured I’d post a quick walk-through of the gear I’ve settled on.

Photo Gear

For the first time in a long time, I’m not taking a DSLR with me, even as a backup. I will have two alternate devices with me, however:

  • My Lumia 1020 with camera grip: This may be a bit long in the tooth, and might be a little slow on a per-shot basis, but nothing in the phone space beats the PureView imaging system. This thing has been a favorite of mine for shooting since the day I bought it, and that’s why this is going to be my main back-up camera.
  • Sony DSC-WX350: I picked this up on the cheap as an open box item at Best Buy a few months ago to use as a business camera  for things like ship/resort tours, so we’d have something either of us could just pick up and shoot with at the drop of a hat. The results are pretty good for a P&S, in my opinion.

I really don’t expect to have to use either unless something happens to my primary. So what is my primary? Well, it’s my iPhone 6s Plus, equipped with a few extras. A quick shot of my gear (including the backups and tripod):

Primary gearBackup gear

Of the main gear in the left hand shot, the case is a CamKix medium GoPro case with the CamKix customizable magic foam. What am I carrying inside the case? Well, a few things:

  • Shoulderpod S1 Professional Smartphone Grip: I needed a way to mount the iPhone to my Gorillapod if the situation arose. After a little searching, I knew I had to have this. The reviews aren’t wrong, the handle’s solid and really helps stabilize both still and video scenarios.
  • Moment wide angle and telephoto lenses: I spent a lot of time comparing specs, reviews and sample shots of the various iPhone lenses. I’ve used cheap lenses from other companies before, and this is definitely a category where you get what you pay for. I wanted high quality glass, and I definitely feel I got it with the Moment lenses!
  • Spigen Neo Hybrid Carbon case: Normally I keep the Spigen Slim Armor Volt on my phone (wireless charging FTW!), but it’s too thick to allow mounting of my lenses, so for the duration of the trip I’ll be using this case.

I’m looking forward to putting this gear through its paces over the next 2-3 weeks. Feel free to follow us on Facebook and/or Instagram to see how the lenses perform on our trips!

Video Gear

For land trips, I generally just use my phone for any video I take, but when we go on cruises I also bring along a GoPro to handle any situations where the camera may get dirty, wet, or may need to be mounted to me in some way. This trip will be no exception, as I want to be sure I get plenty of video from the excursion we’re doing on my birthday in St Thomas, the BOSS Underwater Adventure.  I’ll likely end up doing some snorkeling at the other two ports, Tortola and Nassau, so it’ll get plenty of use this trip. Here’s my video setup:

Video gear

The case is a Shineda Water Resistant Large GoPro Case, which fits just about all of my GoPro gear. The main items in the case that I plan to use this trip:

  • GoPro Hero4 Silver plus extra battery: I bought this a while back as a replacement for my Hero2, which I gave to my daughter to use while at college. I’m looking forward to having the LCD to frame my shots vs hoping I’m getting what I think I’m aiming at :).
  • GoPole Bobber Floating Handgrip: This is my first trip with it, so I’ll be interested to see how I like it versus the regular wrist strap I’ve used for snorkeling in the past.
  • Head strap: This isn’t the official GoPro one, my daughter took that one with her when I gave her my Hero2. This is a knockoff my wife ran across at Five Below for $5, and frankly I can’t tell the difference.
  • Random mounts: Not sure I’ll use any of them, but since the case can hold them all, I figured I’d throw them in.

Okay, so maybe I’ve failed the whole “carry less gear” goal, but at least it’ll be lighter. Regardless, I’m very much looking forward to putting the new stuff to work! After we get back, I’ll post my impressions of how the Moment lenses performed in real-world use.

Packing for a Cruise

One thing we’ve gotten pretty efficient at over the years is packing. My wife and I maintain separate packing lists with quite a bit of overlap, which is probably somewhat inefficient, but it helps us ensure we don’t forget anything major. I also tend to go over mine two or three times *after* I pack to be sure I didn’t miss anything :). I figured I’d post our combined list in the event it helps anyone looking for cruise packing tips. Have something on your list that’s not on mine? Add it in the comments!

Electronics:

  • Camera gear: I take my Nikon DSLR, lenses and chargers in case I really need them, but the gear doesn’t leave the bag much after getting my Nokia Lumia 1020 last year.
  • Cell phone and charger. The phone stays in airplane mode, but as hinted above, the camera in it is outstanding 🙂
  • GorillaPod and Lumia 1020 camera grip
  • GoPro gear: Including charger, memory cards, dive housing, floaty back door and anti-fog inserts. The inserts are essential in places with high humidity, and you should have extra inserts to swap out during the trip
  • Power strips: We’ve been taking two of these Belkin travel strips with us the past few cruises. They work really well and we never have issues with them being pulled from the luggage
  • 2 pairs of sunglasses: I always take a backup pair in case something happens to my primary pair
  • Laptop & charger: Note that I only take this if I really need it for some reason, as I hate lugging the additional weight (photo backup is about the only reason)
  • iPad & charger: In addition, I always load up a couple of books in the Kindle app to read during any downtime on sea days
  • Load up some music on my phone to listen to while reading, or during morning runs (yea, right :))
  • Waterproof camera case as a backup in the event the GoPro has issues (this came from experience). I’ve got an older version of this AquaPac, which holds any of our phones

Clothes:

  • Pants
  • Shorts
  • T-shirts
  • Undershirts
  • Dinner shirts
  • Socks / underwear
  • Bathing suits (usually two or three)
  • Pajamas
  • A light jacket or hoodie for cool nights

Shoes:

  • Sandals (usually two pairs)
  • One pair tennis shoes
  • Water sandals, which come in handy for any excursions where you may get wet or muddy (ATV/dune buggy tours, for example)
  • Dinner shoes

Random Stuff:

  • PASSPORTS!!!
  • Toiletries
  • Snorkeling gear. We generally drive to ports, so I don’t have to worry about fitting this in to checked luggage
  • Door organizer to hold all kinds of random items. Ours looks something like this
  • Medication, including any aspirin, ibuprofen, allergy pills, etc
  • Ponchos, just in case it’s raining while you’re in port somewhere
  • Downy wrinkle releaser
  • Zip lock bags. Good for packing wet bathing suits in for the flight or ride home. Also useful for storing snacks to take off o the ship (where allowed)
  • Extra hangers – Some lines will provide them if asked if you don’t want to carry your own
  • Sunscreen
  • Hot/Cold cup with a lid. That way you don’t have to keep refilling up their little cups with water, lemonade, juice, and coffee or ice tea

  • Post-it notes – good for leaving quick notes in the room for family members

  • Cash for on-shore purchases / tipping (including small bills)

  • Nightlight
  • Highlighter so you can highlight the interesting things to do in the ship’s dailies.

  • Duct tape- Many uses for this from fixing a broken suitcase to taping the drawers closed when there is bad weather.
  • Towel clips similar to these Boca clips
  • Old used gift card in case the in-room safe is card-controlled.
  • Waterproof money/card/ID holder similar to this for beach or rainy port days
  • Lanyard for those who find it easier to carry your ship ID card around your neck
  • Hat or visor

I think that about covers it, but if I find that I left anything off, I’ll add it later! Oh, and if this seems like overkill, it may very well be, but it works for us. We did take t0o many clothes this past trip somehow. My wife ended up with almost half a suitcase of stuff she didn’t wear 🙂

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