Packing for a Landscape Photography Trip

Posting the American Southwest Photo Gallery generated some interest in my packing strategy for this landscape photography trip. I just happened to shoot my backpack before leaving, so I'll share that picture along with a list of what I packed and some other travel photography tips with you. I'll also include my American Southwest "Grand Tour" itinerary.

My primary carryon bag for this trip was the Lowepro Photo Trekker AW II Camera Backpack - loaded with contents described below.

Lowepro Photo Trekker AW II Camera Backpack Loaded with Gear

Shown in the top row of the above backpack are:
5D Mark II battery charger, spare 5D II battery and well over 200GB of CF cards
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L II USM Lens with hood reversed
Canon TS-E 17mm f/4 L Tilt-Shift Lens
Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Tilt Shift Lens with hood removed

The middle row includes:
Canon EOS 5D Mark II with a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens attached
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III body
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 L IS USM Lens with hood reversed (slightly stretching the depth dimension of the case)
Canon EOS 1D Mark IV body, a hot shoe spirit level and a hand towel

The bottom row includes:
Arca-Swiss Z-1 Ballhead in Optech Case
Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon T* ZE Lens with hood reversed
B+W circular polarizer filter
Charger for the Canon LP-E4 Batteries
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens with hood reversed
Giottos Rocket Air Blower

In the backpack, but not seen in the photo are Visible Dust Sensor Cleaning Swabs, microfiber cloths, plastic bags of various sizes (for gear protection), more filters (UV and ND) and a change of clothes. I had to be able to shoot for nearly two weeks with what arrived in this bag and my laptop case (a Think Tank Photo Airport Check In) if my checked luggage did not arrive.

Aside from my laptop and power supply, my Airport Check In included more filters, spare LP-E4 batteries, paperwork needed for the trip, cell phone charger, wifi hotspot and 3 external backup hard drives (Western Digital My Passport 1TB Drives in this case).

I also checked a Pelican 1510 Hard Case. Gear in this case included a Canon EF 17-40mm f/4.0 L USM Lens (in a Lowepro Lens Case)(checking lenses is not a great idea), a Canon 1.4x Extender, a GPS, filter wrenches and misc other gear.

A Gitzo GT3541LS Mountaineer Carbon Fiber Tripod traveled in a Gitzo tripod case in my primary checked bag along with a pair of Lowepro Toploader Pro cases filled with clothes.

Having three camera bodies allows two to be used simultaneously with one available as a backup. Worst case, if two cameras are rendered inoperable, the third will save the day. When not working directly out of my backpack, I carried the second camera on my back in a toploader case. Here it was out of the way, but readily accessible. When working out of the backpack, a camera and some of the lenses went into the Pelican 1510.

The assortment of lenses I had available gave me a few best-in-class landscape primes (with the TS-E L lenses giving me additional unique features) and redundant (aside from the 24-105) zoom lenses covering ultra-wide to moderate telephoto focal lengths. These particular lenses shared two filter sizes (77mm and 82mm) with the exception of the 70-200 f/4 IS (and the non-filter-compatible TS-E 17 of course).

Backup goes beyond the gear itself. The images you capture must be backed up throughout the trip. Every night on this trip, I backed up the images shot that day to the laptop - and then to two external drives. One external drive remained with the laptop and the other stayed in my rental SUV. I used the CompactFlash cards until full and then labeled them and kept them in my pocket until I shipped them home (every few days).

American Southwest Grand Tour Itinerary

The American Southwest itinerary I followed is considered the "Grand Tour". You can probably piece together this itinerary from the American Southwest Photo Gallery, but I'll make the task easier for you:

Day 1
Very early AM flight into Las Vegas
Drive up the Las Vegas Strip (just to see it)
Hoover Dam
Grand Canyon for Sunset
We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express just south of Grand Canyon National Park

Day 2
Wiped out from the 23 hour day 1 - slept in
Hiked much of the Grand Canyon south rim trail
Shot sunset from Yavapai Point

Day 3
Shot sunrise from Yavapai Point (one of my favorite Grand Canyon locations)
Explored the South Rim east to Desert View
Arrived in Page, Arizona
Checked in to Lake Powell Resort
Shot Lake Powell in the late day sweet light

Day 4
Guided photo tour of:
Sheep's Head Slot Canyon
Upper Antelope Slot Canyon
Rattlesnake Slot Canyon
Owl Slot Canyon
Shot in Toadstool Hoodoos in the late day sun

Day 5
Shot late morning at Horseshoe Bend, Grand Canyon
Spent the afternoon around Pareah Town Site
Spent the rest of the day hunting for an ideal location for late day photography

Day 6
Spent the morning in Lower Antelope Slot Canyon
Spent the afternoon and evening in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park
Drove to Holiday Inn Express in Moab, Utah

Day 7
Spent most of the day in Canyonlands National Park
Shot sunset from Devil's Garden, Arches National Park

Day 8
Drove scenic route 128 north along the Colorado River
Spent the rest of the day in Arches National Park
Shot late day sun from about 2 miles into trail to Double O Arch

Day 9
Capitol Reef National Park
Explored the very scenic Rt 12
Spent the evening in Bryce Canyon National Park near the Sunrise Point area
Stayed at Ruby's Inn just outside of the park

Day 10
Shot sunrise at Sunset Point
Hiked Queen's Garden and Navajo Trails
Hiked Mossy Cave Trail and vicinity
Explored park viewpoints from Rainbow Point to Bryce Point
Shot late day sun from Bryce Point
More exploring after sundown

Day 11
Zion National Park
Hiked significant segment of Angel's Landing Trail
Hiked from visitor's center to Canyon Junction
Stayed at Zion Lodge

Day 12
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
Pipe Springs National Monument
Redeye flight out of Las Vegas

Day 13
Arrived home late morning

Visit the American Southwest Photo Gallery for the photo tour.

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