Keeping your gear simple and lightweight really allows you to explore the creative process while traveling. Sure it’s great to have your entire arsenal of gear available so you have options, but there’s something really liberating about having less gear and freeing yourself for creativity and not being dependent on your gear for that.
It took me a while to figure out what gear I wanted to bring with me to Cuba. I knew we’d be on our feet a lot as well as doing a lot of traveling in and around Havana. I knew it’d be very hot. However I did want to have speedlites and triggers – even stands and modifiers!
I ended up bringing my Nikon DSLR with a few primes and a Fuji X100s. Oh, and a couple speedlites, infrared trigger and mini tripod. If I had to do things again, I would not bring speedlites, tripods, or triggers. I wouldn’t even bring my DSLR. Now, if all you have is a DSLR, then it’s a logical choice, however for me I’d just bring the Fuji X100s and perhaps a Fuji X-Pro 1.
The quality of the files from the Fuji’s is impressive and having a couple options would be nice. Those cameras are super compact and relatively lightweight – especially when compared to a pro DSLR and pro glass.
Besides gear, it’s important to think about how you act when traveling. You’re a guest in another country, so being respectful of the people and local customs is very important. And as a photographer, it’s important to know what you can and cannot shoot. Some countries (Cuba included) are very strict about not photographing police and military personnel. This is important to know because the last thing you want when traveling is a problem with the authorities!
It also helps to try to make an effort to introduce yourself to people. Make eye contact. Be friendly. Smile. Sometimes a little effort goes a long way and you can be pleasantly surprised with the connections you can make with people.
Remember, at the end of the day, your camera is just a tool. A medium for making photographs. Whether you have your entire kit, or just a nice body and lens, you still have all you need to get the job done. And it’s also cool to take time to enjoy your experience without the aid of the camera, rather then spend your entire time looking thru the lens.
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PS Here’s Greetings from Havana Part Two. I didn’t give it a separate blog post, but you can check it out here:
Visiting Cuba has been a lifelong dream and I’m so grateful I had the chance to fulfill that. I just got back from a week in Havana and I can say that it’s had a profound impact on me. Not just personally, but also on the way I think about photography.
No matter what you’ve seen in movies, photos or books cannot do justice to the energy of Havana. So much hustle and bustle, but people living a much simpler life. People aren’t checking FaceBook, Instagram and Twitter or even email for that matter every 5 seconds.Read More »
As much as I loved my Fuji X100, the X100s is that much better and is quite possibly the best camera I own. Fast, responsive, amazing color, tack sharp, great handling, spectacular low-light capabilities, flash sync to 1/4000 sec, all in one amazing little package. As most of you know, I’ve been an X100 fanboy for some time. It’s been my go-to camera for everything from portraits, to streetshots and a lot in between. It was always with me and now it’s been replaced! As great as the X100 was, the X100s is just that much better. Every gripe that I had with the X100 has been addressed with the X100s. It’s nimble and quick. Okay, not Nikon DSLR quick, but so much quicker and more responsive. The focus is fast and tack sharp. This was a huge problem with the X100. Many people were turned off with the slow and quirky focus, but Fuji nailed it with the X100s. Close focusing. I can now focus within 18 inches of my subject!!! This may be the single best feature of the camera for me! The X100 was cool for portraits – so long as you were at it’s minimum focus distance of 2.6 feet. Not quite ideal for portraits with a fixed 35mm equivalent lens.Read More »
I love the look of black and white photography. I started with shooting black and white film. Tri-X mostly in the beginning. I came to see the world in that way with the gradations of tonal contrast and how the light would fall in shadow and highlight. Black and white is about contrast. Color information makes up the gradations of tones, reds are darker, yellows lighter.
Unless I’m specifically shooting black and white film, I shoot RAW. And I see in color. The great thing about shooting RAW is that you can create a digital negative in a multitude of ways without ever compromising the original image. There is so much information in a RAW color file.Read More »
I love film and shooting film. I started shooting film as a kid and shot film thru college until I moved to digital. I still have my very first film camera, a Pentax ME-Super, however that camera doesn’t see as much use as some of my other film cameras that I tend to use on a regular basis. Shooting film will slow you down.Read More »
I recieved so many portfolios from you guys and they keep coming! I’ve been really enjoying looking at your work and as much as I’d like to talk about EVERY portfolio, I can only get to a few. Please know that if I don’t choose your website, it’s not because I didn’t like it, however I chose portfolios that I felt stood out. We all have room for improvement. I know I have tons of room for improvement. In fact, that’s what keeps me going with photography. The fact that I’m always working on my craft and can always challenge myself to grow, to improve, and to work harder. I have friends that I trust to look at my work and give me feedback. Some are in the industry and some I just trust their eye. So please know that my critique of your work is only my opinion. It’s not personal, so plesae take what I say with a grain of salt.
I’m not only looking at your work, but I’m also looking at your website. I’m looking to see how it flows, how it’s laid out, the interface, navigation etc. There are many things that I value in a good website and there are things that I find really annoying. And I’m not alone. Most folks have a very short attention span when it comes to the web. If your website doesn’t function quickly and is well laid out, chances are people are going to move on.Read More »
Backup. Everyone seems to stress about this. Lots of people say they’ll get around to it, but wait until it’s too late. Hard drives will fail. Yes, let me repeat, hard drives fail. It’s not a matter of if, more a matter of when. So it’s imperative to not only backup your photos, but to have a solid backup strategy in place. Something that is robust, redundant and automated so you can Set it and Forget it. Seriously, we are all so busy with our lives, the last thing we need is to manage our backup every day.
I would recommend that everyone have at least one full duplicate of your photo library. That means if your primary library gets corrupted or compromised, you have an exact duplicate to work from and restore another backup. I like to take things one step further and have triple redundancy. That means I have three exact duplicates of my photo library. They’re all on external Hard Drive RAID’s so that if at any time one of them goes, I can just start working off the other and still have a third backup as a safety. Ultimately, I will assign an off-site backup but that’s another conversation…Read More »
One of the most essential pieces of gear for every photographer is a tripod. There are so many different choices out there and many of these choices are based on what you shoot and where you shoot. I do a lot of location work and travel with my gear, so for me, it’s important that my tripod be lightweight, yet sturdy. Also, I’m 6’1″ and need a tripod with good height. I want the legs on the tripod to be extended to a height that meets or exceeds my height with the camera attached and don’t want to rely on the center column for that additional height, I want to use the legs for stability.
Belive it of not, up until now, I never really made the “investment” into a proper tripod system. I have a decent pistol grip head and carbon fiber legs, but they’re decent at best and were just not cutting it, so I finally decided to bite the bullet and make the investment. I looked at a ton of brands, but my buddy Peter Hurley couldn’t stop saying great things about Feisol, so I checked them out and wow, am I glad I did.
I ended up getting the Feisol Elite Tripod CT-3472LV, which is a carbon fiber tripod that has a self-leveling center column. I paired that with the Feisol Ball Head CB-50DC which also is carbon fiber and seems ideally suited for the tripod. I actually even reached out to Feisol to consult them about my decision and they were so helpful and responsive.
I have relationships with the companies that make most of my gear and feel this is very important as a professional photographer. I want to deal with a company that not only makes good product, but is also responsive and supportive of their core customers.
I’m not sponsored by Feisol, so I have nothing to gain by promoting their product, however I really believe in their product and company and wanted to share my thoughts with you guys. Buying a tripod is a long-time investment. A good tripod system will last for years, hopefully decades, so buy right the first time. And remember that the tripod is holding your precious camera equipment, so definitely not worth skimping on a tripod if you value your gear.
Please subscribe and leave your questions and comments below.Read More »
Lighting tools are essential to controlling your light source. I love lighting modifiers and with my strobes, I always seem to use an Octa Box as well as a beauty dish. With a studio strobe, you have a lot of power to use an Octa Box as they typically are large modifiers, however I recently picked up a brilliant lighting modifier that I can see replacing my convertible umbrella for editorial portraits and beyond.
I shoot a lot of portraits and often do editorial portraits around New York City. When I travel to these shoots, I’m flying solo with a minimal amount of gear and typically on the subway. Anyone who’s been to NYC knows that the subways are totally jammed and that there’s a ton of stairs and walking involved in getting around town. As versatile as a convertible umbrella may be, it’s a pretty large and long object to be carrying around hanging out of a backpack.Read More »