Travel photography is my favorite photographic subject to capture because it really includes every other type of photography out there. But that also means as a travel photographer I have to be pretty flexible with my gear so I’m ready for the job. So what exactly is the ultimate travel photography gear list?
Over the course of my 11-year career as a travel photographer I have captured portraits, landscapes, food, architecture, real estate, and that one NASCAR race. It might seem like I’m ignoring the old saying, “It’s better to do one thing right than many things wrong.”
But this is what I enjoy so much about travel photography. I never get stuck in a creative rut because there is always a new challenge out there. In 2020 I plan to work on my food photography skills and I haven’t captured any sports photography in awhile now.
Here is a list of the travel photography gear I use along with a few things I would like to improve, everything from the camera gear to the software.
- Camera Gear
- Camera Accessories
- Camera Bags
- Computer Gear & Software
Here is a breakdown of all the camera gear I feel makes for a great travel photographer’s kit.
Nikon Z 50 Camera Body
Nikon’s latest mirrorless camera body is a powerhouse for the travel photography. Compact and lightweight, this is the perfect camera body you would want to carry around all day. With an app on your phone you can connect via Bluetooth and upload photos to social media throughout the day!
The Nikon Z 50 features a 20.9MP DX sensor capable of ISO 51,200 (extendable to 204,800). Photos can be captured in JPG or RAW. Camera also features 4K recording at 25fps and HD recording at up to 100fps.
Two things to note about this camera body. First, it has a DX cropped sensor. This means the sensor is smaller than an FX or full frame sensor and can use a smaller, more inexpensive camera lens.
The second note is that Nikon has finally changed their lens mount for the first time in decades. The new Z mount is not compatible with DX or FX F mount lenses. However, you can purchase the Nikon Mount Adapter FTZ. Most lenses will retain full functionality such as autofocus using the adapter.
Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 Lens
The Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 is a wide angle full frame lens and is the perfect starting point for travel photography with the Nikon Z 50. With a cropped sensor this lens would have a slightly wider effective focal length, giving you a bit more viewing area.
The f/4 maximum aperture is pretty good for just about all shooting situations in travel photography. If you find yourself in a museum or restaurant with subdued lighting the higher ISO range of the Nikon Z50 fill help balance out the limitations of the lens.
Nikon Z 24-70m f/2.8
I feel the mid-range zoom is the workhorse of travel photography and is my most-often used focal range. The Nikon Z 24-70mm has a maximum constant aperture of f/2.8, giving you an extra stop of light for those low-light situations and more shallow depth of field.
Sigma 150mm f/2.8 Macro Lens
Since 2012 I have carried the Sigma 150mm f/2.8 Macro lens in my bag wherever I go. In fact, I frequently carry this lens as a replacement for the 70-200mm telephoto lens. It comes down to one feature that I absolutely love about this lens: macro.
The Sigma 150mm lens is a damn sharp telephoto lens. Of course it is fixed at 150mm and I have found myself in a predicament over the years. But the macro capability of this lens is what makes it my favorite. With the Nikon Z50 I feel comfortable leaving the aperture at f/16 and dialing up the ISO for proper lighting, giving me both light and depth of field for macro photography.
If you plan to use this lens with any of Nikon’s mirrorless cameras you’ll have to buy the Nikon Mount Adapter FTZ.
Here are all the camera accessories you’ll need to capture your best photography while traveling.
B+W Circular Polarizer Filter
If you’ve never screwed a CPL filter onto a lens you are in for quite a surprise! CPL filters rotate when installed on the front of a lens and blocks a certain wavelength of sunlight. This results in deeper blues in the sky, reduces glare from reflective surfaces, and improves photography overall.
I have used filters from Hoya, Tiffen, and cheap knock offs over the years. While a CPL filter is simpler and you can get away with cheaper filters I still recommend the B+W CPL XS-Pro. The XS-Pro version of the filter is slightly thinner and prevents dark corners in your photos when shooting super wide.
Transcend 16GB Memory Card
This one time I returned from a photo assignment, plugged my memory card into the computer, and received an error message saying the disk was corrupted. I have a few pieces of software that helped me retrieve about 90% of the images. This happens, and it’s downright frightful, but it happens a lot less with these Transcend memory cards.
I have used this brand of memory card since the beginning and I absolutely love them. But there are a couple of things I want to point out about buying a memory card.
Don’t buy the largest memory card you can find. I still use 16GB memory cards and I carry about three or four extras with me all the time. It is much better to shoot photos on multiple cards just in case one gets lost or corrupted.
With any camera sensor over 20MP you pretty much have to have a fast memory card. The Transcend 16GB Class 10 writes at 90MB/s. If you don’t know what all that jargon means it just means it writes those really large RAW files to the memory card really fast.
Pixel Remote Shutter Release
If you ever capture long exposure photos from dusk til dawn or photos of waterfalls, you will need a remote shutter release. You can always pick up a remote shutter release from Nikon and there are even apps that will now allow you to control modern cameras remotely.
But the Pixel Remote Shutter Release is so much more than just a way to trigger the camera wirelessly. I have been using these for years and love them beyond anything. The Pixel is a full intervalometer, meaning you can program the remote to trigger the camera for timelapse videos, star photography, or use it as a simple remote.
Manfrotto Element Traveler Tripod
Manfrotto knows a thing or two about making outstanding tripods. I have used various Manfrotto tripods from inexpensive models I picked up at Best Buy to an outrageously expensive model that stands at a comfortable height.
The Manfrotto Element Traveler Tripod is one of my favorites, but that’s because I’m 6’1″. One problem I always had with tripods was a very short height, usually around 54″, that meant I had to hunch over to peer through the viewfinder and set the composition. This tripod has a max height of 64.6″, meaning I can use it very comfortably.
This complete package with tripod and ballhead for under $150 is a fantastic deal and makes for a great travel tripod. It weighs just 3.5 pounds which surprisingly puts this aluminum tripod on par with carbon fiber tripods.
JOBY GorillaPod 5K
A few years ago I hopped on Amtrak for a day trip into Chicago. I always like having a tripod with me, but the very last thing I wanted was a cumbersome metal tripod strapped to my camera bag.
That’s when I bought my first JOBY GorillaPod and I’ve had at least one with me ever since. The GorillaPods have three spider legs that can wraps around things like the arm of a chair, a railing, or a tree limb and effectively create a tripod anywhere you go. At about 12″ tall you can also use it as a tabletop tripod.
The JOBY GorillaPod 5K is the heftiest they offer with a weight capacity of 11 pounds. That’ll handle just about any DSLR or mirrorless camera with any lens under 200mm.
I have always believed you need the right camera bag for the job. I am a bonafied camera bag hoarder with more than two dozen bags currently occupying space in my home office. Here are a few of my favorite camera bags for different types of travel photography.
Lowepro Slingshot Edge 250
The Lowepro Slingshot series of bags has been my favorite go-to for street photography since 2018. I started out with the Lowepro Slingshot 202 which is perfectly suited for professional level DSLR cameras.
The Lowepro Slingshot Edge 250 is a slimmer version meant for mirrorless cameras and I absolutely love it! The single strap bag can hold a mirrorless camera body with lens attached, two additional lens, and still have room for accessories like filters and remote shutter release.
One thing I love about the Slingshot Edge 250 is the top compartment. There is a padded sleeve that can hold up an iPad Air tablet, however I found it too small to hold my iPad Pro 11″ with case. The compartment has enough room for a few extra accessories.
A tripod can be clipped to the back of the bag and can hold a pretty good sized tripod. Either side of the bag has an expandable mesh pocket for holding a water bottle, like my absolute favorite CamelBak Chute, or you can add a smaller tripod like the GorillaPod.
Lowepro Flipside 300 AW II
When I need a camera bag for a day hike or carrying a lot of gear I always turn to my Lowepro Flipside 300 AW II. I started using the Flipside Sport 300 years ago and kept it for nearly five years. The updated version is pretty awesome and works well as an all-around camera bag option.
The purpose of this camera bag that I have loved so much is that it’s flipped from a normal bag. The opening of the bag rests against your back which means when you need some gear you set the back of the bag on the ground and never get yourself dirty again!
The Lowepro Flipside 300 AW II is large enough for holding professional level DSLR gear. It’s actually a bit roomy when used with a mirrorless camera system. The internal adjustable compartments can hold a mirrorless camera with lens attached, 3-4 extra lenses, and every type of accessory you can imagine.
The inside of the bag’s lid has a padded compartment for a tablet, which is the perfect place since this part of the bag never rests on the ground. There is an expandable mesh pocket on either side of the bag for use with a water bottle such as my absolute favorite CamelBak Chute.
Computer Gear & Software
One thing that makes a travel photographer different than other types of photographers is the necessity to download, backup, and edit photos on the road. Over the years I have experimented with several different methods of working from hotel rooms, bed and breakfasts, and the back of my car.
Apple Mac Mini
Apple makes some pretty awesome computers for graphic designers and photographers, but one thing they don’t make is a good photo editing monitor on their laptop. I used to travel with my MacBook Pro but quickly realized the monitor doesn’t have the color range necessary for properly editing photos. I ended up using an external monitor with external keyboard and trackpad, essentially turning the laptop into nothing more than a base computer.
Now I travel with the latest Apple Mac Mini as my “portable desktop computer”. The Mac Mini is powerful for everything I need to edit photos and conduct daily business while on the road. Along with all the accessories below I can walk into any hotel room and have the computer set up in less than ten minutes.
LG 27″ 4K UDH Monitor
I was actually surprised just how wonderful this monitor would work with editing photography. The LG 27″ 4K UHD monitor is already set up for 4K viewing which is nice if you are heading that direction. It has a pretty good capability of displaying a wide range of colors properly to make sure you can see your photos while editing.
The monitors uses a USB Type C connection, which works well with the Apple Mac Mini, and two USB 3 ports for adding additional devices.
Lexar Memory Card Reader
I think my absolutely favorite accessory is the Lexar Professional Workflow Hub. This fantastic device allows you to connect up to four memory card reader modules into a single USB 3 hub.
I use three of the slots for the SR2 SD card reader that allows me to download photos from three SD cards at once. The fourth slot is reserved for the UR2 MicroSD card reader with three slots for MicroSD cards. This allows me to download all my GoPro footage quickly and easily.
With this workflow I am able to plug in all my memory cards from a day’s work and set them to downloading and backing up automatically without having to switch cards.
Seagate Portable Hard Drive
I have always loved using the Seagate Portal Hard Drives. These slim hard drives are pretty fast with a USB 3 connection.
Similar to my philosophy about camera memory cards, I don’t put all my eggs in one basket with these hard drives. I prefer having multiple 2TB hard drives and I always create at least two backups of my photography while traveling.
An alternative that a lot of other travel photographers rave about is the LaCie Rugged Hard Drive. I have to admit these are the most rugged external hard drives I have ever come across. Wrapped in a protective case these hard drives are rain, dust, and shock resistant. The built-in USB-C cable makes them a little faster and easier to work with.
Wacom Medium Tablet
I can’t remember the last time I used a mouse at a computer. I’ve been using Wacom tablets since 2009 and couldn’t possibly see myself editing photos without one.
The Wacom Medium Tablet is just the right size for travel photographers. The tablet has a work area of 8.7″x5.8″ which works pretty well with single-monitor setups. The pen supports 8,192 levels of pressure and never requires charging.
Gator Case Tote Bag
How in the world do I get around toting a 27″ monitor, Mac Mini, and all these accessories? Gator Cases makes these really awesome travel cases for monitors and televisions.
The case I use is for monitors between 27″ and 32″. The thickly padded case protects the monitor while I’m traveling across the country. The large pouch on the side of the case holds the keyboard, trackpad, Wacom tablet, and all the cables.
Most photographers I know use Adobe Lightroom for downloading and managing their photography. I started out with Lightroom and dabbled with it a time or two in the past decade, but I always return to Camera Bits Photo Mechanic.
Photo Mechanic is a powerful photo management tool for Mac and PC. The software allows you to quickly download, backup, sort, and manage photos. The IPTC Stationary Pad allows you to add captions, keywords, and loads more information. Shortcuts allow you to change filenames, create copies, and move photos in batch.
Camera Bits is currently beta testing (I’m one of the testers) a new version called Photo Mechanic Plus. The “Plus” means they’ll finally be adding a photography cataloging system similar to what Lightroom uses. It was the missing piece in what I already feel is the best photo management program out there.
Adobe Photography Suite
When Adobe decided to move toward the Create Cloud plans their was a collective gasp amongst the photography community. Photographers who had been using a three year old version of Photoshop because they didn’t want to pay for the up to date version suddenly realized those days were over.
The Creative Cloud plans aren’t all that bad, especially for photographers. The Photography Plan includes Lightroom, Lightroom Classic, and Photoshop for just $9.99 per month.
Facebook and Instagram are great for sharing photos, but what if you needed to get those professional photos to a client in a hurry? I have been using Photoshelter since the very beginning and I don’t see myself ever closing down that site.
Photoshelter is a powerful website for hosting and displaying your growing photography archive. They have several pre-designed templates for creating your online home. The templates are only slightly customizable including areas like logo, header, and menu, but beyond that all the sites are pretty much alike.
The greatest feature I enjoy about Photoshelter is the ability to quickly create password-protected albums for clients where they can download whatever resolution and quantity of photos I set. It has been the best way to get the final proofs to clients for the past ten years.