The Essential Kit - What's in your bag?

Way out West-0749

Bill from Wisconsin writes:

I bought the .pdf from you and I was interested as to what you carry for equipment?  I currently travel with my nikon d200 and the 2.8 17-55 lens. any advice is much appeciated.  

Heya Bill, Thanks for the inagural question, let's get this blog rollin'!

This question is a popular one!
My first reaction is always "No! No! It dosen't matter what camera you have! Go to the gas station and buy a disposable happy-snap camera!"

This is reaction is immediately followed by "Mmmmmm... 17-55mm f2.8..."

Of course you've got to have something, and once your photographic skills run into the limitations of your gear, there's nowhere to move but up!

Yep, you've got an excellent bit of kit there. I am a sucker for quality photo gear as much as the next guy. I love to see what other photographers are shooting with.
(For those who are new to photography, those "f" numbers you see just let you know how much light a lens will let in. This is called the aperture. The smaller the number, the more light a lens will let in. 2.8 is pretty dang good. I'll explain this more thoroughly in another post. I'm sure I can cram a motorcycle analogy in there somehow...)

I'm not going to suggest any specific models, there are much better sites for that.
Right now, with the 17-55mm, you've got the wide angle view to normal view covered.
I think you could use something longer to compliment that focal length.
Try out something between 100-200mm. Could be a zoom lens or not.

Don't worry about "gaps" in your focal lengths. Unless you've recently stepped in wet concrete you can just walk closer or further from your subject to frame it right.

Another thing to think about: Motorcycle travel involves compromise. Quality vs. space vs. price...
I really want an 80-200mm f2.8 but the damn thing is nearly a foot long and four-inches across. That's a lot of space in your panniers, not to mention that the price is worth a month's travel in Mexico!
My theory is to buy the best you can reasonably afford - I like to buy used - and to put whatever money is left over into your gas tank!

Here's what I carried on my Cross-Canada to Panama trip. More or less. Let me explain...

I carried the mighty Nikon D200 more than 20,000km from Montreal to Palenque.
Where it conked-out from either the vibration or humidity. Dunno.
I put that camera through a LOT. I don't blame it for waving the white flag.
A month later I was very lucky to be able to borrow a Nikon D70s from another rider for the remainder of the trip.
It's a downgrade, sure. But it beats not having an SLR at all!

For the lens selection I went for cheap, compact, and fast. (fast: meaning big, fat, wide aperture)
28mm f2.8 - My regular everyday lens. Slightly wider than normal. Great for most photos.
85mm f1.8 - Long, but not very. That 1.8 aperture is fast. Heaps of light get  through there. Great for shooting people in dim light.
11-16mm 2.8 - WOW that is wide! like looking through an apartment peephole, but without the fish bowl look. Great for interiors of trains, planes and Myan Ruins. OK, that one ain't cheap...

Lots of gaps everywhere. No zooms (11-16 is hardly a "zoom")
It's a big jump from 28mm to 85mm.
85mm ain't very long!
Doesn't matter.
I'm happy with the 10,000+ images I brought back from my trip.

But this one is the real hero. My Lumix LX-2 took more than half the photos on my ride report. It's always in my pocket. I can pull it out anytime I'm on my motorcycle. I don't even have to take off my helmet to use it, unlike an SLR, where you have to look through the viewfinder. It was a great backup and I was able to shoot for a month while I was without a working DSLR. I shot from Chitchen Itza to Antigua Guatemala with this lil' thing.

That's it! two cameras, three lenses and a very expensive paperweight!

3 Response to "The Essential Kit - What's in your bag?"

  1. Charmin Says:

    Very good advice.

    I think is very good maybe to have an entry level DSLR and a Point and Shoot camera with you for your trips, when possible.

    I am new to DSLR, but I have been shooting a lot with Point and Shoots before.

    Here I share some pics about one of my off road trips.

    The space in this case is the most important factor. Enduro bikes two days in the bike crossing three states, and a lot of fun and action.

  2. Ebbs Says:

    I've got the Nikon 18-200 F3.5 and 50mm 1.8 I love the 50mm but tend to use the 18-200 more because to be honest, I'm lazy and don't move.

    but judging from your photos both here and in the trip report, I'm gonna stick to the 50mm as much as possible and move my FEET rather than the focus.

  3. Anthony - Motojournalism Says:

    @Charmin, That's the combination that works for me too. The point and shoot does very well for many situations and when you know you have a great subject it's worth taking the time to bring out the SLR.

    @Brandon, I started out with a Nikkor 18-70. It was good to learn with, but eventually I found it was just too slow (small aperture) for the low-light photography that I like to do. I found that changing lenses seemed like a hassle at first, but now it seems natural. I can picture in my head what a photo will look like if I use my 85mm or my 28mm. You get to "know" your lenses after a while

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