Packing a [Relatively] Light, Versatile Camera Kit for Travel

by Sean Setters
 
While recently planning a trip to Wichita, KS to visit friends, my goal was to pack as light as possible to avoid checked baggage fees. The trip was not planned with photography being a high priority, however, I wanted to take a decently capable kit with me in case photographic opportunities arose.
 
On that note, Delta allows one personal item and one carry-on bag for free. My work laptop bag filled the "personal item" allotment. As such, my Lowepro Nova Sport 35L AW became a dual service bag in that it not only carried my camera gear but my clothes as well.
 
Unfortunately, that led to compromises as I couldn't take as much camera gear as I'm used to having available and I had to be very selective in the clothes that I packed.
 
Having never been to Wichita, I wasn't quite sure what kinds of photographic opportunities to expect. Therefore, I decided to structure my kit to be as versatile as possible while remaining [relatively] small in footprint.
 
Clothes aside, here's the gear I packed into the Lowepro Nova Sport 35L AW:
 
I choose to bring the 7D II instead of my 5D III because the crop sensor camera allowed me to pack a wide range of focal lengths in a smaller amount of space compared to a full-frame compatible set of lenses (not to mention the weight savings over similarly-capable full-frame lenses). As this wasn't a photo-centric trip, I decided not to pack an LC-E6 battery charger (assuming I wouldn't exhaust two LP-E6s in three days).
 
Here were my thoughts behind the gear choices:
 
  • The EF-S 10-18 IS STM would fulfill my wide-angle lens needs; the EF-S 55-250 IS STM would cover telephoto needs.
  • The EF-S 24 STM and 40 STM pancakes would be perfect for shooting video while adding very little weight/bulk to the kit. The 40mm lens would also fill a gap in my uncovered focal range and could serve as a decent, loosely framed portrait lens with a 64mm full-frame equivalent focal length.
  • The Sigma 24mm f/1.4 Art would serve as my indoor, low-light lens. I anticipated that we would be spending a decent amount of time in our friends' apartment hanging out and catching up (we don't see them often).
  • The 580EX flash would allow me to augment the light in a scene if needed. Bounce flash can produce very flattering light in indoor settings (assuming you have neutral-colored walls/ceilings to work with). And with the 7D II's pop-up flash acting as a master flash, I could even use the flash off-camera if needed. Including flash gels would also allow me to change the color of the flash's light to more closely match the ambient.
  • I opted to bring the tiny Feisol Mini Tripod so that I'd have some type of support solution in the kit. I envisioned using it for group photos or possibly lightning shots (when combined with the Miops Camera Trigger).
The Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS STM proved especially useful on a visit to the Sedgwick County Zoo because of its small size, long focal range and effective IS.
 
Giraffe Mane at Sedgwick County Zoo

Bird at Sedgwick County Zoo

Galapagos Tortoise at Sedgwick County Zoo

The EF-S 55-250 IS STM also proved useful in another way. Having not anticipated the need for a macro lens, I hadn't packed one. However, as our friends were recently engaged, I was asked to capture a shot of the engagement ring. Being engaged to a railroad rail quality engineer, the happy bride-to-be wanted to incorporate the railroad into the shot.
 
Luckily, we found an abandoned pile of railroad spikes about 20 feet away from a portion of track at a long-abandoned railway station. Without a macro lens at hand, I used the 55-250mm lens to create the image below.
 
Engagement Ring on Railroad Spikes

And here are a few images I captured using other lenses in the kit:
 
Trees Beginning to Bloom Wichita KS

Buildings Wichita KS

Museum of World Treasures Wichita KS Portrait

Museum of World Treasures Wichita KS

Overall, the gear worked well for the trip and was not a burden to travel with. I used everything except the Miops trigger (no lightning on the trip) and I was able to capture images in a variety of situations. And for what it's worth, my most-used lens on the trip – the Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM – is currently on sale at the Canon Refurbished Store for a ridiculously low price.
Posted: 5/5/2016 9:05:15 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
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