Over the years, professional photographers develop a feel for what they need to pack for any given trip.
Minimalists pare their equipment to the essentials, adjusting their shooting style to what will fit in a small travel bag.
Specialists pack their bags to match the circumstances they'll encounter, ensuring they have a flexible enough setup to meet just about any situation. On one shoot they might sacrifice some low-light shooting for the ability to pack a telephoto lens, while another trip might find them with lots of flash lighting equipment but no tripod.
Pessimists pack everything. Laden with bags and boxes of gear, pessimists can shoot in the field with the same flexibility as in the studio, if only they can find everything they've packed.
For most trips, packing like the pessimist is extreme overkill. You'll be forced to drag your gear around wherever you go (or risk having it lifted from your hotel room) and won't really be able to find anything when you need it.
That's not to say there's no reason to travel this way. Ever see a catalog or magazine shot of a beautiful model on a beautiful beach wearing beautiful clothes? Chances are the photographer brought trunkloads of photo-graphic gear. Of course, there were several assistants, a makeup artist, a wardrobe manager and an art director.
Do yourself a favor. Pack as light as you can for any trip without sacrificing your ability to capture the perfect photograph. How do you do that? Read on!
This is the most romantic but perhaps the least functional style of travel photographer.
The minimalist traveler usually chooses a small shoulder camera bag, the smallest prosumer or pro dSLR camera body, and one or two lightweight lenses. Many minimalists will opt for a prime lens with a big aperture rather than a combination of zooms.
The minimalist's bags will often feature the most slimmed down selection of gearextra batteries, a filter or two, a few compact flash cards, and some lens cleaners.
At the upper end of the minimalist approach are photographers who take a main pro dSLR body and a secondary prosumer or compact digital body, as many as three lenses, a strobe, and a small selection of accessoriesnothing too heavy, but enough flexibility to get the job done.
Most photographers fall into the category of specialist, picking gear according to the trip's length and subject matter. A specialist will often pack two pro or prosumer dSLR camera bodies and a backup point-and-shoot, flash units for each camera, and a nice range of lenses.
A large shoulder bag, a backpack bag, or a rolling bag is usually the primary packing solution for specialists, though they might bring a primary gear bag along with a smaller shoulder bag or hip bag for daily shooting.
Specialists pack enough accessories to keep shooting for days at a time but not so much that they're bogged down. Pockets of their bags will have card readers, batteries, filters, and cleaners. Specialist can handle emergencies, thanks to the tools they packed, and cover their gear bags and cameras with plastic sheeting when it rains.
You can spot the pessimist from miles away, dragging crates of gear packed with every conceivable camera body, every lens, and every photographic accessory ever built.
Some shoots call for this approach, but usually only for the hard-core working photographer. When a trip calls for the pessimist packing style, opt for several hard shell cases and a shoulder or backpack bag. And make sure you bring an assistant.
Figure 2.17. Some photographers insist on packing everything but the kitchen sink when traveling, and usually need an assistant or a chiropractor. (Photo by Reed Hoffmann)