Packing for a Photo Trip and the Rookie Tripod Mistake!

Sep 24, 2018

What photo gear do you pack when you are heading off on holidays? I’m done hauling 25-kg camera bags full of kit that I never use! I spent way too many trips with a sore back, feeling hot, and too exhausted to open my bag and change lenses. I understand that this is not an uncommon story! 

Resisting the urge to pack every piece of gear you have, just in case, is hard. Our trip in June was no exception, especially given the fact that there were three stages to our journey. Firstly, we had three days by ourselves in Paris. Next, it was onto Normandy for a photo workshop with Valérie Jardin. Then finally over to the UK for some family time where we spent a few days outside of London and the remaining week in Scotland. Besides choosing which lenses to pack, my big dilemma was the tripod? Would it be worth lugging a tripod around France and the UK? And if I took it, would I actually use it?

The Kit that Made the Cut

My gear consisted of two cameras and two and a half lenses! I couldn’t leave home without my Fujifilm X100F! It didn’t let me down the last time I was in France, so this was a no-brainer. With its 23 mm f/2 prime lens, it would be my fast, wide, go-to, combination for street, travel, and landscape work.

Since moving to Fujifilm from Nikon 18 months ago, I have fallen in love with prime lenses. One of my favourite lenses is the 50mm f/2. This lens, mounted on my X-T2, would be a combination that would work well for street, family pictures, and even some landscapes. It would also let me shoot in the rain since the combination is weather sealed.

So far, so good. My bag had room for more so I decided to take my 50-140 mm f/2.8. I wanted a lens where I could pull in some landscape details, and that was weather sealed. I knew it would be a tad heavier to carry around than the 50 mm, but it would not be as heavy as my old equivalent DSLR combination.

The “half” lens I took was a DIY pinhole lens. Since it didn’t have any glass in it, I didn’t think it rated as a whole lens! Although I only planned to use it a few times, I knew it wouldn’t weigh me down or take up space in my bag.

Of course, I also took all the miscellaneous stuff, like batteries, chargers, electrical adaptors, memory cards, a rocket blower, etcetera. All in all, I thought I showed tremendous restraint!

The Tripod

Now the million dollar question, would it be worth packing my tripod? Although the main focus of my photography would be travel and street, there were a couple of situations where I knew a tripod would be an asset. Firstly, I hoped to be able to shoot some night scenes. In particular, on Mont Saint-Michel. Also, while in Scotland we would be doing a lot of hiking and landscape photography. In both these instances, a tripod would be valuable. Decision made, the tripod would come along!

I have a lightweight, compact, travel tripod made by Sirui which easily fit in my suitcase. As an aside, it is a great tripod! Very similar to the Gitzo’s, but at a much better price point! And I chose to take my small travel ball head (also a Sirui) instead of a larger one. I knew that I could get away with the small one since my Fuji gear is so much lighter than my old Nikon kit.

Hindsight

So did I take too much gear on the trip? When it came to lenses and cameras, images shot with my X100F account for approximately 61% of all my shots. That’s not surprising since I love this camera so much! Pictures shot with my X-T2 and 50 mm f/2 combination make up 37% of my images. That means I took 98% of my shots with these two cameras and lenses, leaving only 2% for the rest! One percent of them were made using the 50-140 mm f/2.8, 0.4% using the pinhole, and the remaining 0.6% were taken with my iPhone.

So should I have left the heavier zoom behind? Possibly. However, I did get two of my favourite shots in Scotland using the 50-140 mm lens. I didn’t end up with any keepers taken with the pinhole though!

Oops, Rookie Tripod Mistake!

So what about the tripod? Well, I tried to use it! One of the highlights of our tour was spending a night on Mont Saint-Michel. I was very excited to get some evening shots of the Abbey from the dyke and causeway. Since we didn’t want to drag suitcases along busy, cobblestone streets and up narrow flights of stairs, we consolidated our kit into a small overnight bag. The rest of our gear would spend the night safely locked up on the bus. I had a change of clothes, my toiletries and camera gear in my backpack. Paul graciously offered to carry my tripod for me. However, when it came time to use it, I realized that I had left my ball head on the bus! Oh well! Live and learn! Sorry, Paul! Good thing the excellent high ISO capabilities of the Fuji cameras allowed me to handhold in the dusky light!

I Have a Lazy Side!

I had the best intentions to use my tripod several other times. One evening in Honfleur the evening light was magical. And in Bayeux, I should have grabbed it to get some night shots of the Cathedral. However, in both cases, laziness got the better of me! I did manage some nice shots in Honfleur using ISO 6400 and steading the camera on a wall. However, a tripod would have allowed me to compose better and ISO 200 would have created superior images. In Bayeux, the need for sleep won over taking night shots and I ended up heading back to the hotel instead. By the time we got to Scotland, I was so used to carrying minimal gear, that I chose to leave the tripod behind.

Priorities

The enjoyment of a trip is paramount. I don’t resent in the least bit not having gone back to the hotel to get my tripod, or heading to bed rather than shooting. You don’t need to capture everything. That night on Mont Saint-Michel, I had a great time. Yes, I was upset with myself for forgetting my ball head. However, I loved sitting and watching the sunset. It was our last night as a group, and just relaxing and enjoying the time together was priceless. It is a memory I will keep with me forever. And forgetting my ball head didn’t put an end to shooting! I was perfectly content to capture some travel and street shots at higher ISO’s rather than landscapes on a tripod.

Less Gear = Better Experience

Although I never used my tripod, I didn’t cart it around with me either. It was dead weight on the flights but didn’t leave the hotel. Notice that I said “I” didn’t carry it around. Paul may feel differently about the tripod minus ball head mistake on Mont Saint-Michel!

Being able to move around during the day using a small bag made for an excellent experience. Not once did I feel I was carrying too much gear or that I needed to have more. I loved being able to shoot wide with my X100F and get closer with the 50mm on the X-T2 without having to change lenses. This was the ideal combination, and I know I will use it again. As for my tripod, I apologized to it for neglecting it on our adventure. However, I will give it lots of love in two weeks when I head to the Sierra Nevada area for some dedicated landscape photography!

I shared some shots from Paris on my last post, so I’ll leave you with a few more from Normandy here. Thanks so much for reading, and cheers until next time.

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