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Ditch Your Heavy Camera Gear

I often get asked how I deal with traveling with heavy camera equipment. My answer is simple: don't!

It's time to ditch your heavy camera kit and embrace the freedom that comes with lightweight gear.

Too much gear weighs you down and is exhausting to carry around, which means you have less energy for creativity when making photos. With airlines increasingly restricting carry-on bags, it is harder than ever to travel with a heavy photo kit.

Sure, if you pare your gear down to just the essentials, you might find that miss out on some opportunities, but if you are too bogged down by heavy gear, you're going to miss opportunities as well.

Here are a few practical tips for minimizing your photo gear:

  • Use zooms instead of prime lenses.

  • Avoid lenses with large maximum apertures unless you have a specific need. Larger maximum apertures typically mean a larger, heavier lens design. So, for example, some lenses come in an f/2.8 and an f/4 version; choose the f/4 version and save some weight.

  • Instead of carting around a heavy macro lens, consider extension tubes or close-up filers if you think you might want to do some macro work.

  • Use the lightest tripod that is adequate for the type of photography you do. For example, I use a super small, two-pound Fotopro X-Aircross 2 carbon fiber tripod for most of my landscape photography. Carbon fiber is lighter than other tripod materials, but is more expensive.

  • For wildlife photography, consider using lighter weight "prosumer" zoom lenses. In recent years, the quality of these lenses has increased considerably, and many of them are light enough for comfortable handholding, which means you can also ditch the heavy tripod and gimbal head.

  • Consider using smaller crop sensor camera systems. APS-C and Micro Four-Thirds cameras are smaller and lighter than full-frame cameras, and the lenses for these cameras are also smaller.

  • If you need supplemental light, instead of bringing a flash, consider a lightweight LED unit.

  • Keep photo accessories to a minimum. You probably don't really need most of them! If you are carrying something around and barely ever use it, then maybe consider not carrying it around. For a lot of things, you can create a clever hack or workaround if you need to. For example, I don't carry a portable diffuser with me, and for those rare occasions when I need a portable diffuser, I shade my subject with a jacket or something else; it's not quite the same but it works well enough that I can get away with not carrying a piece of gear I almost never use.

  • As you get the weight of your gear down, you can use a lighter camera bag. Instead of a heavy camera backpack, I often use a lightweight shoulder bag which is all I need to carry a camera and one or two lenses, as well as some miscellaneous gear such as an extra jacket, sunglasses, water, etc. If I have a tripod with me, I either carry it by hand or I hang it from the shoulder strap of my camera bag.

Going light will make it easier to travel and hike around with camera gear. It will also maximize your creative energy, allowing you to focus more on your photography. So, just say "no" to the heavy camera kit!

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