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Travel Photography Camera Gear

I am often asked what I use to take my photos, so I’ve compiled a complete list of everything that you’ll find in my camera bag!  I have been travelling for the last 4 years and over that time have changed a lot of my gear and refined it to what I use today. This list is intended to help give you some insight into the photography equipment I use and why I’ve chosen it. 

This list was compiled in October 2019 and I’ll aim to keep this blog post up to date as I update and expand the photography equipment I use.

A fairytale scene we created in New Zealand.
For this image, we used the following camera gear: Sony a7riii, Laowa 15mm f2 lens, Manfrotto BeFree Travel Tripod and Pixel Remote.
Edited on a MacBook Pro using Lightroom, Photoshop and Starry Landscape Stacker.

Everything that’s in my backpack as a travel photographer, Instagrammer and blogger


Camera

Sony a7riii

This is the camera that I use and I LOVE it. The Sony a7riii is a full-frame mirrorless camera, so it was a big step up for me from my previous Fuji XT-1.

Mirrorless cameras are becoming an increasingly common choice for travel photographers as they are typically smaller and lower in weight than DSLRs. This is definitely a bonus of the Sony a7riii which weighs only 1.45lbs (0.66kg). However, it does still get a bit heavier by the time you’ve added on a lens of similar weight!

It has an incredible dynamic range, allowing me to capture both the colour in the sky and the details in the shadows at sunrise and sunset. The photos below show just how good the dynamic range is, allowing me to bring out a lot of detail from the shadows and highlights.

I’ve also found the Sony Alphas series are really easy to use and love that the menus and buttons are customisable. However, it is not a budget camera and therefore I’d only recommend investing in it if you are passionate about photography, or being paid for your photos.

For most people wanting to make a huge jump up in quality to full-frame, the Sony A7iii is a better option. It is almost the exact same camera as the A7riii, but it has half the megapixels. If your photos are not being used for massive, scaled enlargements, you’ll never notice the difference and you can invest that $1000 savings into a nice lens!

Check here for current Sony a7riii prices


Lenses

Sony FE 24-105mm f4 lens

The Sony 24-105mm f4 is our workhorse lens and what I use to take about 85% of my photos! It’s really sharp across the range and covers most of what I need. At 24mm on a full-frame sensor, it is a wide enough angle to fit in most landscapes I am shooting, and being able to zoom to 105mm covers objects further away.

If you were going on safari or birdwatching, you would want a telephoto lens that can zoom in more than this. But for travel photography and most of what I shoot, it’s the perfect lens!

A variable focal length (aka a “zoom” lens) provides the versatility to capture an entire scene, or to zoom in on the details, without changing lenses. The two images below show part of Proxy Falls in Oregon shot with the 24-105mm lens. The image on the left shows the entire scene, shot at 24mm, whereas the one on the right is zoomed in to 105mm to emphasise the details.

Sony FE 50mm f1.4 lens

If you’re looking to do more portrait or product photography, then a fixed (aka “prime”) lens with a wide aperture, such as the Sony FE 50mm f1.4 lens, is perfect. This lens will give you a really nice blurred background (known as bokeh) at the wider apertures and is great in low light.

Travel photography camera geaer: Depth of field example with 50mm lens and bokeh
This was taken in one of the casinos in Las Vegas with the 50mm lens at f1.4. It’s a great lens for low light due to the wide aperture.

Laowa 15mm f2 lens

A wide-angle lens can be great for landscapes, architecture, and astrophotography (night, star, and milky way photography). I bought the Laowa 15mm f2 lens primarily for astrophotography as it is wide enough to capture an entire scene and milky way, and has a low aperture.

Travels of Sophie and WeOwntheMoment under the stars at Mt Cook National Park. An astrophotgraphy image capturing the milky way using a 15mm wide-angle lens.

Filters

PolarPro Circular Polarizer Filter

A circular polarizer filter (CPL) is an absolute game changer! It’ll help cut the glare on reflective surfaces. This will enhance your colours and if shooting water, give transparency to allow you to see beneath the surface. When buying a filter, make sure that you get the right thread size for your lens. I have tried a few different polarizers but hands-down the PolarPro Quartzline CP is my absolute favourite and worth every penny.

A side by side comparison showing a polarized vs. non-polarized image
A side by side comparison showing a polarized vs. non-polarized image

PolarPro Neutral Density Filter (ND16PL)

A neutral density (ND) filter will allow you to take long-exposure photographs in bright conditions. This is particularly useful when photographing waterfalls or bodies of water that you want to smooth out during the daytime.

The images below were both taken at Mono Lake, California, shortly after one another. The photo on the left was taken using a Polar Pro ND16/PL filter to allow for a long exposure. This gives the image a softer feel as the water is smoothed out. The image on the right was taken with a shorter shutter speed and without an ND filter. It shows the more turbulent movement of the water.

It is also worth noting that many ND filters will only limit the light being allowed in. The Polar Pro Quartzline we use, however, is also a polarizing filter, allowing us to cut the glare as seen above and create long exposure simultaneously.

PolarPro Defender

Though technically a lens cap replacement, the PolarPro Defender is being included in this section because it was designed to protect your expensive filters from dings and scratches. Even the highest quality, hardened glass filters are extremely susceptible to this; I’m embarrassed to say the number of CPLs and NDs I’ve gone through that seem to somehow end up scratched up from innocent attempts at putting the lens cap back on in a hurry, or having the cap pop off while in transit.

The defender is great because it goes AROUND the lens, meaning you never risk scratching your filters, nor will it ever pop off accidentally. It is also a LOT harder to lose than those bloody lens caps that somehow always end making a run for it!


Other camera accessories

Manfrotto BeFree Travel Tripod

A tripod is an absolute must if you are travelling solo and want to be able to capture images of yourself, or if you are hoping to do any long-exposure, low-light photography or time-lapses. I love the Manfrotto BeFree Travel Tripod as it’s affordable and sturdy, but not too heavy to carry around while travelling. If you have a smaller camera, then you will be able to get away with a lighter tripod, such as the Manfrotto Compact Action. I previously had this tripod and it was great. While it is just about able to support the weight of the Sony a7riii with a lens, it wasn’t particularly sturdy and I wanted something more reliable in adverse conditions. The tricky thing when choosing a tripod is that while most of us would prefer to travel light, weight = stability.

Remote Shutter Release

While some cameras have built-in intervalometers, the Sony a7riii is missing this function. I have a remote shutter release, which also acts as an intervalometer. This small device allows me to program in shooting times at the press of a button. As an example, I could set the camera to take 1 photo every 10 seconds a total of 5 times. The camera will then capture 5 images with 10 seconds between each. Not only is this useful for capturing photos of myself when travelling solo, but it also a necessity for creating time-lapses, like the one above.

Microfibre cloths

I always have several microfibre cleaning cloths in my bag and pockets and usually lying around!! They are kind of like hair ties or socks; eventually, they just disappear. It’s therefore worth buying a few so that you’ve always got one to hand. You don’t want to find yourself stuck with spray from a waterfall or speckles of dust all over your lens without anything to wipe it off, and using your shirt risks scratching your lens or filter!

Spare Camera Batteries

No matter which camera you have, you’re going to want to ensure you have at least one spare battery (personally I carry two spare batteries for my Sony). You don’t want to be stuck on location, with an epic shot in front of you, only for your battery to run out. Trust me, I’ve been there.

I also carry a spare battery for my GoPro as I find the battery life on it to be fairly short, particularly when recording videos.

Travel blogger and photographer captures the ultimate selfie in front of Duomo, Milan, using a tripod and remote
I captured this photo in Milan using my tripod and remote. However, my memory card filled up right before I captured this shot… luckily I had a spare one. Although it took a bit of coaxing to get all the pigeons back after I’d already chased them away!!

Memory Cards

Similarly to batteries, you also don’t want to run out of memory. I have a 64gb high-speed SD memory card for my Sony a7riii. The size and speed that you need will depend on a few factors. I shoot entirely in RAW and the Sony RAW files are around 40mb per photo. On top of that, I also often shoot in burst mode, shooting several images per second, so write-speed is important for me. However, if you’re shooting in jpg mode and only shooting single images at a time, you could get away with a slower, smaller memory card.

I have found that even shooting large RAW files, I rarely fill up my 64gb card in a day. However, I always clear my card at the end of the day to an external drive so that I can reformat it and have a fresh 64gb to shoot with the next day! Which brings me to my next essential…

External Storage

If you value your photos/videos, it is absolutely essential you have TWO external storage devices. All of your memories are being stored on these devices, which are prone to breaking and theft, so the importance of having a backup that you keep separately at all times cannot be overstated.

Cloud storage is going to be the best first option for most people. It cannot be dropped, broken, or stolen, and can be accessed anywhere with high speed internet. The downside for travel photographers like myself is that I am in remote places where internet is slow or not available at all. As it is vital to keep my memory cards clear, cloud storage is simply not a viable Plan A for my lifestyle. However, if you spend most of your time in one place or only travel developed regions, this will be your safest bet! With an Amazon Prime account, you can download the Amazon Photos app and get unlimited photo storage, including RAW files.

The next best option, and the one I personally employ as my Plan A, is a solid-state drive (SSD). It is a small USB device that can hold tons of data but is much faster and exponentially more durable than external hard drives. I made the move to an SSD after my external fell a short distance from the kitchen table… that small fall was enough to break it and undo a day’s worth of work (which could have been MUCH worse). The downside of the SSDs is that they cost a lot more than external drives, but the security, size, and speed advantages make it completely worth the price.

The last option is an external hard drive. These are the cheapest option by far, but I only use these as my back up drives at this point. The reason is simple; they are extremely, shockingly delicate. Under that cheap plastic case is a spinning disc with a small metal pin (think of a metal record player). If the power is lost during use or they are mistreated during transport, that pin can come down onto the spinning disc destroying your data and/or getting pressed and stuck. Just like that, you’ve lost it all, and recovery is incredibly expensive. I do still use an external as my BACKUP drive, but only because I had already purchased it.

Travel photographer on a boat with camera in hand

Camera Wrist Strap

I’ve personally never liked the neck-straps that come with most cameras. I much prefer having a wrist strap as I feel like the camera is more secure. My wrist strap is fairly basic, but I bought Adam a really nice, customized leather wrist strap from Mesa Dreams on Etsy. It looks great and they were wonderful throughout the whole process. You will also want something easily detachable for shooting from a tripod in windy conditions.

GoGrove Camera Bag

It took a long time for me to find a camera bag that both looked cute and was functional. Cue Adam having a very good boyfriend moment and finding me a GoGroove Camera Bag for Christmas two years ago! I struggled with a lot of other camera bags as they were too big for my frame, but I love this one.

It is not necessarily the highest quality and over time the stitching is coming undone in areas and some of the pull tags on zippers have come off. However, I am certain I have put this bag through much more than anyone else ever would. It’s been used almost every day for two years with typically 5-10kg of gear in it and has not been particularly well cared for! I’m actually considering buying another one to replace the one I have as I still can’t find a bag I love as much!

Travel photographer and blogger with camera backpack with all camera gear in the snow
My GoGroove backpack has definitely been through some rough conditions!

LowePro Camera Bag

LowePro specialises in camera bags and cases and offers a variety to choose from. Adam uses the Lowepro Fastpack 250 and has for 4 years now. It has a bit more space than mine, more padding, and also has excellent functionality. One of our favourite features of the LowePro camera bag (and mine listed above) is the easy, side access to the camera. I’d highly recommend the LowPro line for any guys out there, or even as a girl if you have a bit more gear to house!


Underwater Photography

GoPro Hero 7 Black

The GoPro Hero 7 Black is a great camera for any adventure activities you do. Unlike its predecessors, it is waterproof to 10m without any external housing. It is also a great tool for video and underwater photography.

The image below was captured on a night dive in Kona, Hawaii, using the GoPro Hero 7 with underwater housing.

A majestic, spirit-like manta ray swims into the light during the nightly manta dive at the Sheraton Kona.
A manta ray majestically swimming into the light.

Polar Pro FiftyFifty Dome

Have you ever wondered how people capture images with half the photo above water and half underwater?! Well, this is how; dome housing. The Polar Pro FiftyFifty dome is an essential part of my camera gear, particularly in tropical climates. I love the creativity it has allowed.

Olympus Tough TG-5

Two of the big advantages of the Olympus Tough TG-5 over the GoPro and most compact underwater cameras is that it can shoot in RAW and provides a zoom. For a small, compact camera, it has excellent image and video quality. It is not only waterproof to 15m, but is also shock-proof, crush-proof and freeze-proof. It’s also very durable, making it a great option for adventure activities. There is a newer model, the Olympus Tough TG-6, available. However, with the exception of a higher resolution screen, they seem to be almost identical.

Underwater photograph of Sophie and a turtle captured with Olympus Tough TG-5 in Bali, Indonesia

Aerial Photography

DJI Mavic Pro Drone

Having a drone has opened up so many opportunities when it comes to photography. It has allowed us to photograph an entirely new dimension and see the world in such a new way. We have the DJI Mavic Pro but would love to upgrade to the DJI Mavic Pro 2 and would definitely recommend getting this one if you’re looking to buy your first drone. The Pro 2 has a larger sensor size and Hasselblad camera, providing better resolution and image quality.

Drone photograph taken with Mavic Pro of black sand beach in Hawaii
Photographing with a drone opens up a whole new perspective.

It is worth noting that drone laws are becoming increasingly prevalent and more strictly enforced, making it difficult to fly in many places. Always check local laws before flying.

Polar Pro ND16/PL

I have the Polar Pro shutter collection which includes ND8, ND16 and ND32 filters for the drone. However, I primarily use the ND16/PL. As a photographer, the polarizer element of this filter is the more important feature. As previously mentioned, it enhances colours and cuts the glare that is magnified in aerial photography. For videographers, the ND function is essential to allow an appropriate frame rate.

Travel photography gear: Mavic Pro with PolarPro ND16/PL filter
Mavic Pro with PolarPro ND16/PL

Spare Drone Battery

The most restrictive factor that I’ve found to aerial photography is battery life. You will only get about 20-25 minutes of flight time per battery and it usually takes about 45 minutes to recharge it. Therefore, I highly recommend getting at least one spare drone battery so you can swap it out immediately and keep flying while the other battery is on charge.

We opted for a non-DJI model battery after one of ours crapped out on us. We read a lot of reviews for each and it seemed the only difference was the price tag. However, if your drone is still within warranty, using a non-DJI battery may invalidate the warranty so make sure you check that first.


Editing

Apple MacBook Pro

I find that Apple products are a bit like Marmite; you either love them or hate them. For my American friends, marmite is a disgusting savoury spread made from yeast extract and it has notoriously divided the British! Any I digress… I hated my first MacBook Pro, having only ever used Windows, but I have grown to love it and now can’t use anything else.

Photo editing software can be very demanding and therefore you need a computer that can keep up. The MacBook Pros have excellent processors that keep your computer speed up even when running photo editing software. Additionally, the retina display of Macbooks ensures your display quality is consistent at varying angles and exterior lighting conditions, which is essential for editing photos. The latest models with touchbar also have a number of photoshop shortcuts, making processing even easier.

Travel photographer editing photos on Apple MacBook Pro using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom at a rooftop bar in Spair
Joining work and play at a rooftop bar in Spain.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

Every single photo I take is edited with Adobe Lightroom and often Photoshop too. The desktop version of this software requires a paid plan, however, the mobile version of Lightroom is available for free and has almost all the same functionality. Personally, I prefer the desktop version but if you’re wanting to edit photos on the go, then this is a great option.

Starry Landscape Stacker

We started using Starry Landscape Stacker just over a year ago and it has definitely helped to improve the quality of our astrophotography. It essentially merges a stack of 10-50 images (depending on how many you take) to reduce noise in the photo, while keeping all of your stars. If you are looking to take photos just for a blog or Instagram then you can definitely skip this. However, if you are looking to print your night images on a larger scale, then this is definitely some software to consider.

With that said, SLS is only available for Mac users! If you are using a PC, Sequator offers a similar service.

Milky Way image of Milford Sound captured using a Sony a7riii and edited using Starry Landscape Stacker to reduce noise.

Power Bank

I don’t leave home without a power bank! Between editing photos, being present on social media and mapping my way with Google Maps, I rarely get through the day without needing to charge my phone. I love the Anker PowerCore power bank as it’s not too heavy and can charge my iPhone about 8 times. It’s also handy for charging the GoPro and drone remote while on the go.


Summary of my most used photography gear


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16 Comments

  1. October 5, 2019 / 1:40 pm

    Such a great post!!! thank you so much for all of these tips!

  2. Kay
    October 5, 2019 / 6:34 pm

    AH THIS IS GREAT! I just got the Sony A7Riii and I was looking for a good filter! Thanks!

    • October 8, 2019 / 8:23 pm

      Ooh do you love it?! I really can’t recommend the Polar Pro filter enough! I’ve tried a few others and none have come close.

  3. October 5, 2019 / 8:34 pm

    As a fellow travel photographer, I love this list! So many good items, and I wish I had an unlimited budget to get them all. I’ve been using a polarizer for a while, super useful for glare and haze though I find the colours better with yours. I would love to get a drone one day too, thanks for your recommendation!

    • October 8, 2019 / 8:23 pm

      It took a while before I found a polarizer that I loved, but this one has been great. A drone is always a fun addition too šŸ™‚

  4. October 6, 2019 / 11:48 am

    Wow, your photos are fantastic!! I love seeing unedited vs edited too, because it shows how much editing actually goes in to some photos. Thanks for sharing such a comprehensive list, I’ve never really looked at filters but the results make such a difference.

    • October 8, 2019 / 7:54 pm

      Thank you so much! Filters are definitely worth investing in, they really do make such a difference!

  5. October 6, 2019 / 12:08 pm

    I loved all the recommendations! I still have to buy a drone and Iā€™m following your advice 100% – I love your photos!

    • October 8, 2019 / 7:53 pm

      Thank you so much Diana! A drone is an absolute game-changer!! You’ll love it I’m sure.

  6. October 6, 2019 / 3:36 pm

    Thanks for sharing your camera tips! I find it really interesting to see what kit travel photographers use. Having just got back into blogging and photography after a break my kit is probably overdue a refresh so I’m going to be looking into some of your recommendations!

    Hannah

    • October 8, 2019 / 8:22 pm

      Welcome back!! Buying new gear is always so exciting!

  7. October 6, 2019 / 3:56 pm

    I looove this post, Sophie, thank you so much for sharing your tips with us. Looking for a ND for my camera these days so I’ll look into your tips this week šŸ™‚

    • October 8, 2019 / 8:21 pm

      Thank you Tina! Oooh let me know what you end up with šŸ™‚

  8. Tom
    October 8, 2019 / 7:46 pm

    Amazing shots. However you seem to be the subject of most of them. Are you using a tripod with a timer for these? OR is someone else the photographer here? Underwater and drone shots must require a helping hand no? Can you comment on your process for when you want to be in the shot?

    • October 8, 2019 / 7:52 pm

      Thanks so much!! And great questions.

      It’s a combination of other people (mainly my partner Adam) and tripod. I used to travel solo so took all my own photos on tripod. When I don’t have Adam with me (and sometimes even when he is there!), I prefer to take shots with a tripod whenever possible rather than ask someone else as I can then get the exact shot I want!!

      I edit all of my own photos though, no matter who takes them. I use the remote I mention in the blog post to get the shots I want of me. I’ll usually set my camera up on the tripod with the composition how I want it, snap a bunch off and readjust if necessary. I can be difficult to judge well how it’ll look with me in it or exactly where I’ll need to be.

      For underwater, yes those are all handheld so have been taken by other people. Either a mermaid friend or Adam. The drone are either self-taken on a timer (which is inbuilt on the drone remote) or by Adam. Feel free to ask away if you have any other questions šŸ™‚

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