Gearing up for travel photography

Fisherman's Memorial Gloucester

People often ask, what gear do I bring when traveling? My response usually is, well it depends on what kind of photography you want to do and what kind of traveling you are doing. If you hiking a lot and planning on shooting landscapes then a small mirrorless camera is a good bet. I have a friend who is a working photojournalist who often hikes in the White Mountains. He swears by his Fuji X100f. This little camera looks a lot like a Leica M3. It has a 23mm f2 lens and 24 mp sensor which is a moderate wide angle at 35 mm since the sensor is an aps-c sensor. It’s light and easy to use and the lens is fast and sharp. No wonder he likes it.

Quarry Halibut Pt. State Park

Most people who concentrate on landscapes like to shoot at low ISO’s. They shoot at slow shutter speeds and use high f stops for greater depth of field. This brings in the use of a tripod. The one I use and swear by is the Feisol CT-3401 with the Feisol CB-40D ballhead. This is a great carbon fiber lightweight small package that will hold up to all mirrorless gear and DSLR gear up to a 70-200. The ballhead has a quick release system on it that works quite well. It is very similar to the arca swiss type or Really Right Stuff plate systems but I don’t think they are compatible. This tripod folds down to under 2ft. and fits in my luggage which I carry on with me. Pretty amazing.

Autumn Halibut Pt.
Autumn Halibut Point quarry. Canon 5DMk lll 24-70 f4L 

All that being said, if you are just walking around and don’t mind a little weight than a DSLR with a good zoom say 28-200 range will serve you very well. It may be all you need. More people are now feeling the pinch in their neck from the weight and are switching to the new mirrorless systems from Sony and Fuji which are outstanding. You will not be sacrificing anything by using one of these systems. For instance I have a little Canon G15 point and shoot that is fabulous. It has a 28-143 f1.8-2.8 fast lens and it does everything I need for just walking around. Does it have it few issues, sure but I have learned how to deal with them. The image below was taken with this camera.

Lobster Buoy's
Lobster trap buoy’s sit on top of their traps at Lanes Cove. Taken with the Canon G15

When I travel I bring small and light gear. I am lucky enough to have a Leica M-P 240 and several lenses. I bring with me a 35mm f2, 50 f1.4, 90 f2.8 and a 135 f4. All this fits very easily in a small bag. Also in that bag is a Sony Nex-7 and the 10-15 zoom (15mm-28mm). I use the Leica 90 and 135 on this camera as well with an adapter which gives me a range of 15mm-200mm with the two cameras. I normally just carry the Sony with the zoom and the Leica with the 35 or 50 on it. Or just one or the other camera bodies depending on what I am doing. For me this small modular system works really great instead of the giant L glass for my Canon system. That being said I may just pick up another lens like the Sony 16-70 (24mm-105mm) and not carry the Leica gear at all except for the Leica 135 f4. I fit it all in the Tenba Cooper 13 bag with my iPad. Which brings me to the big question. Do you bring a computer with you? I used to, but not anymore. My new iPad negates having to bring my 13″ Macbook Pro with me. It does fit in the back of the bag I just mentioned but that’s more weight. The iPad fits in that pocket as well and it’s lighter. I can upload raw files to it and just process the ones I want in Lightroom mobile. I can then send the unprocessed raws from my library to DropBox for safe keeping. So as you can see I am for traveling light with as many options as you can without adding weight and bulk.

Early morning Annisquam
Early morning light Lobster Cove Annisquam. Leica M9 21mm SE

The Early Riser

When is the best time to make great images? I get this question repeatedly when showing people around my beautiful island. Well obviously not all locations are lit the best at the same time of day and at the same time of year. Over this past season it was clear that certain places were better lit at different times. All that being said I am a big fan of early morning light. At this time of year especially, because you don’t have to get up at an un-godly hour. If you are up and out by 6 AM you will see dawn, sunrise, and some beautiful light horizontal to the horizon with gorgeous long shadows. Sunset is nice, and at this time of year the sun is lower in the sky all day which gives you more opportunities to shoot. Either way you look at it golden hour is the best. An hour before and after sunrise and an hour before and after sunset will get you some great results. The images will be warmer (color balance) and the lighting will give your images some texture. The difference in color will be before the sun comes up and just after it goes down because the colors are bluer.

Early morning light in Ipswich. Warm light, long shadows, and texture. Not the best photo composition wise but it has the three elements I like to work with the most.

This image was made in Ipswich while out for a walk while having my car worked on. It has all three of my points for today’s post. Warm light, long shadows, and texture. In my next post I will be talking about composition. Here’s a tease. Most of my images have a central focus. The image above does not. It has some leading lines but but that’s it. So we will get into a discussion of a few things that I look for when composing an image.



Canon G15 for Travel

So you think you can’t make great travel photos with a point and shoot! You are dead wrong. I have an older Canon P&S the G15. I love it. Yes the sensor is small and it’s only 12 mp but it sure does a great job. Here is the story behind this photo. I was having my car worked on in Ipswich so I decided to go for a little hike down to the Ipswich River to see if there was any water in it. Along the way I made some shots with the G15 and a circular polarizer that I have for it. Instead of using the Canon filter adapter for the G15 I use the Mag Filter adapter which allows me to easily attach the polarizer. When I got to the river and discovered the gorgeous morning light cast the waterfall area in complete shadow, I was a little disappointed. But being a photographer, I know I must be able to solve problems. The EBSCO building was in beautiful sunlight and was throwing a great reflection on the river with some nice warm light. I wanted to capture that but I also wanted the foreground and the small waterfall. A nice blue sky would help but it was kind of a weak blue.


The difference between the foreground and the background was at least four stops. So I had to compromise. I overexposed the background by about a half a stop without blowing out the highlights. This would make the file workable in Lightroom. The next problem was the waterfall. I wanted it to have a more silky look to it than the exposure was calling for. At 1/25th of a sec it looks kind of weird. I really wanted something around 5 sec. but I didn’t have an ND filter with me. Lucky that the camera has one built in! So I was able to slow the water down to 1/4 sec which is much better. Then I needed to make the sky nice and dark blue so I put the polarizer on which also takes a stop worth of light away. So the exposure is now down to 1/4 sec @ f 8 @ ISO 80. This is workable – well kind of. The problem now is that it’s a slow shutter speed that I can’t hand hold even resting it on something. I brought my little Gorilla Pod with me to steady it up just a bit by wrapping it around the top of the safety fence on the bridge. Oops I forgot my cable release, now what do I do. I searched for a bit in the function set menu and found the timer function and set it to 10 sec. This was to account for the vibrations of me pushing the shutter button. With all the problems solved I was able to get a nice image I can work with since it was made in raw format in adobe rgb. When I pulled it into Lightroom I had a nice easy file to work with. I used the gradient tool to lighten the foreground and warm it up a little and that was about it. Another successful photo with the Canon G15!

A Unique Opportunity

Recently we had a great opportunity to make some great images. The sun and the moon rose right behind the Twin Lights on Thacher Island in Rockport. Of course at different times of day. I was fortunate to have some very nice people from Pennsylvania along on a full day tour. We got up early and were greeted with a fabulous sunrise that was a wowser.


I love the layers of color in this image. Then as the sun got higher the colors begin to go more yellow.




Then to make this such a great opportunity we came back around sunset. Of course the sun was going down on the other side of the island but we were looking for the Harvest Moon to come up right next to the North Tower.


I love it when the geese cooperate.


In my opinion this lighthouse is so cool. I love the little house and the granite bricks the tower is made of. The best thing is that anyone can find this out when these great opportunities happen. I use TPE on my phone. The app shows where the sun and the moon are going to come up and go down and where it lines up. Great stuff.