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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Minimalist Travel Photography

Travel light, travel right, travel with one backpack. Travel photography is inspiration and exciting, but easy to get carried away for what to prepare for the trip. Of course it’ll be fantastic to take all your kit abroad, but why? Try to streamline as much as possible, having less stuff to schlep around and less things to go astray in worst case. Roll your clothes for more space! With 2 important attributes of packing correctly:
  1. Weight for carryon- Airlines have different rules for carryon, which most a 10kg
  2. Size for carryon- Check for Airlines rules, I did it with Deuter Futura 38 AC (35L or lower will fit)

My backpack+ another day bag for camera gears (either Lowepro Flipside 200 or Think Tank Streewalker)
I will put my clothes at the bottom, socks, undergarments on side pocket, toiletries on top pocket
then i slot in my day bag into the middle. 

Slot in like this, easy for airport inspection, you just have to pull out the middle kernel. This combination, fit right for carryon, size and weight. 

When I travel, I do it to experiencing the raw culture of the country, more than just taking pictures of things. You need to experience and understand only then you’ll be able to capture the essence of the culture (them), a deeper perspective. I usually take it slowly, one of the reasons I usually travel alone. Photography is an artistic pursuit, but I will prioritize on my movement. I am a travel minimalist, I usually take one body, one lens (sometime 2), if I have enough space, I bring along a film camera. Shooting with one lens, it saves you the hassle of plugging in and out your camera, it forces you into meticulous observer mode, it turns you into approachable of things, then you’ll find juxtapositions or contrasts.

I worry less about which lens to bring, which body to take, I am not on assignment, and this is travelling for godsake! Nikon D700 with 50mm f1.2, I worry less about missing rare photographic shots, I should bring this, I should bring that, blah! So how do I pack lightly? Here are some guidelines, not rules.

  1. Plan your trip with research (Weather, Festival/ Event, Travel photo- to know what to expect)
  2. A day bag to hold your camera gears (i use either Think Tank Streetwalker or Lowepro Flipside 200)
  3. Cut down on camera accessories, take what you need! 
  4. Reduce selection of clothes, unless you’re going for fashion show. Are you?


I paid a hefty “price” to fine tune these travel minimalist for years. I’d been over trips bringing the whole drybox, then down to one film body with 50 f1.2. I bring everything and subconsciously I thought I must be able to capture everything! Little did I know, I didn’t enjoy my trip at all, it was a disaster. 

My favorite combination, D700 50 f1.2 and a bonus 20 f2.8, sometimes, a Nikon FE.

REASON?
  1. No more gear acquisition syndrome, OCD.
  2. Master a single focal length, your eye is your lens.
  3. It helps you on the creative side, with discipline! 

You are unencumbered and free to enjoy the atmosphere, people and culture without feeling like packhorse, worry less about security. You can free your mind from having to think about what perspective and lens to take a scene, but you find the essence in details. With one lens, and sufficient experiences, your eye naturally looks for composition that fit before even looking through the viewfinder. Over a span of 4 years, I did this in several occasions, Beijing, Tianjin, Melbourne, Tasmania, Bali, S. Korea, Yogyakarta, Krabi, Ho Chi Minh, Siem Reap, Hong Kong, and Yuanyang.

HOW I DID IT? Here a list of what I bring (exclude winter vacation):

  • Camera Gears- in day bag (Lowepro or Think Tank)
-          Nikon D700
-          Nikon FE with 2 extra film rolls (if enough space)
-          Nikkor 50mm f1.2
-          Nikkor 20mm f2.8
-          LEE Filters (0.6, 0.9, Big Stopper)
-          2 extra batteries (Battery charger in big backpack)
-          3 extra 16gb CF card 
-          Cable release
  • Clothes & misc.- in big backpack (Deuter) 
-          1 pair of shorts
-          1 pair of jeans+ belt (wearing onboard)
-          1 long sleeve shirt (wearing onboard)
-          1 pair of boots (wearing onboard)
-          5 tee shirts
-          1 pair of flip flop
-          4 pairs of socks
-          4 pairs of undergarments
-       Tripod (I'm using Benro C0680T)- travel angel!
-       Universal adapter & phone charger
-       Toiletries & medicine 
For winter vacation, I will check in my backpack (with winter clothes), carryon camera bag.

Lowepro Flipside 200 fits in Nikon D700, Nikkor 50mm, Nikkor 20mm, 3 Lee filters, 2 extra baterries, 2 16gb CF card, cable release


If you wish to fall into my trap, you should know what you’re dealing with. Life and photography, a compromise but it needs to be hard decision. Zoom lens like 18-200 it covers 90% of the shots but do you found joy in this depressing bokeh? Bokeh is my prime, I adhere with discipline, so I keep my 50mm on most of the time, but what happen if I shooting landscape, I’ll just do panorama stitches, and sometime Brenizer method. Keep it simple, find the balance, focus on what you can control. There is no right and wrong, minimalist or what not, this is an article on my packing flow, there are thousand of sites on different recommendations, find the one that suits your needs. I want to be light and free, this is imperative to me, not for everyone. 

What's your balance of travel? 

Live, Travel, Adventure, Bless, and don't be sorry. 
Enjoy the road of life, Happy Travelling 2014! 

JW. 

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