Travelling Light

My next photographic adventure will take me to Italy, and then to Spain, where I carry everything I need for a month or so on my back along El Camino del Norte with my good friend Fritz. So … I’ve been spending some time streamlining my photographic equipment requirements and rationalising my workflow. The internet is full of advice, some is great, some not so useful, and it takes a lot of work to sift out the gems. I’ve had to make trade offs and tricky decisions, and of course spend a bit more money. On the eve of my departure, I thought I’d share my final packing list with readers, and outline some of the rationale for the decisions I’ve had to make.

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Equipment

Canon 5D Mk III + 24-105mm 4.0 L IS USM lens + lens hood/UV filter + shoulder strap + Lowepro Toploader bag + lens cleaning cloths
Vest Pocket Autographic Kodak (1916 model) + No 2 Portait lens attachment + original leather case + 20 rolls x 10 exp. Rerapan 100 ASA B&W 127-format film
Vanguard VEO 235A Tripod + case
Raya 22″ 5-in-1 Collapsible Reflector Disc (not pictured, only remembered at last minute)
Nextbook 10.1 tablet + keyboard + neoprene case + mini-mouse (pictured below)
Garmin GPSmap 62sc
Samsung Galaxy SIII mini phone

Storage
CF cards: 2 x Lexar Pro 64GB, 1 x 32GB (JPG file storage)
SD cards: 4 x Lexar Platinum 64GB (CR2/RAW file storage)
USB Flash Drive 16GB
Touro 1TB External HDD + USB 3.0 Micro-B to USB-A Y-cable
WD MyPassport Wireless HDD

Accessories
Canon battery charger + 2 LP-E6 batteries + power cable
Garmin AA battery charger + 6 x AA rechargeable batteries
Tablet charger with USB interface cable
Powertech Plus Smart USB Charger (2 x power outlet, 2 x USB)
Iogear CF/SD card reader with USB cable
Vello wired remote switch
Camera USB-miniUSB interface cable
Phone USB-microUSB interface cable + phone charger
European-NZ Adaptor

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Cameras

I’m going with the full-frame SLR Canon 5D Mk III, because that’s what I own, but perhaps in the future I’ll be migrating to a full-frame mirrorless. It would make a lot of difference to the weight in my pack (both camera and lenses), and the quality of the Sony alpha-7 range is now excellent. At the moment, however, the budget won’t stretch to a whole new set-up. The 24-105 zoom lens is the most versatile that I can manage, weight- and cost-wise. My tablet and phone both have cameras too, although I’m unlikely to use those much.

The 100 year-old Vest Pocket Kodak is an experiment: a cheap meniscus lens in a folding aluminium body, using small-format panchromatic film. Once referred to as the “soldier’s camera from its reputation as a favourite during the Great War, it is old school and a complete contrast to the high quality digital images from the 5D. In partnership with Carmencita Film Lab based in Valencia, Spain, Fritz and I plan to develop film en route and sharing some scans of those frames with readers as we go.

I’ve made a decision to bring a decent tripod, not too heavy, but sturdy enough to cope with the weight of the 5D (1.8kg with lens), and I’ll hopefully be able to use it for both cameras, taking advantage of low lighting conditions. The Toploader camera bag with both shoulder and hip-belt straps allows me to access the 5D safely while walking with a heavy backpack, and stow it away quickly when it rains.

Fritz will be carrying different cameras, different lenses and yet more accessories, and together we’ll be sharing our journey from as wide a range of viewpoints and angles as we can.

Storage & Sharing Images

Finding suitable storage and backup for digital files has been the most difficult part of my preparation. A Windows/Apple notebook would have been easiest, but even the lightest are too heavy to really be practical, so I’ve settled on a cheap Nextbook 10.1 tablet with attachable keyboard to use instead of the Samsumg Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet that I’ve taken on previous Caminos.

  • The keyboard and mouse make sharing images and experiences from the road much easier than using a touchpad or stylus.
  • USB ports allow direct connection of various devices like card readers and external hard drives without the need for OTG adapters.
  • My 5D is set up to store RAW/CR2 images to the SD card, and high quality JPGs to the CF card. Selected JPG images will be shared via social media during the journey, transferred to the tablet by connecting the camera directly with the USB cable, and can be backed up to the cloud if necessary.
  • Permanent SD/CF card storage and backup of large numbers of RAW images is very expensive, so I have two external hard drives, each of 1TB capacity.
  • A Touro drive, for which I’ll use a Y-cable for data transfer and an external power supply (the tablet won’t supply enough power to the drive). N.B. for the tablet to “see” any files on the Touro drive, I’ve reformatted it as FAT32, using Macrorit.
  • A WD MyPassport Wireless drive, a recent purchase which has wireless transfer capability, its own internal rechargeable battery, an SD slot for auto-back up and a cable for faster data transfer should I need it. I’m looking forward to seeing how this improves my workflow.

GPS

Do I need the GPS? Well perhaps not, but because I’m a geologist by training and a fan of maps from a very young age, I like (a) to know where I am all the time, and (b) to be able to reconstruct my journey at a later stage and locate where I’ve taken photos. It’s made a lot easier having GPS tracklogs of the route I’ve actually walked, as opposed to where I was supposed to go had I followed the directions. I’ve preloaded maps for Italy and Spain, GPX files for walks planned in Italy, the Camino del Norte and alternative routes outlined in Dave Whitson’s Northern Caminos Guide, which I have as an eBook on the tablet and which we’ll be using along with the ubiquitous yellow arrows to show the way.

Accessories

One of the difficulties with taking so many devices is that they all have different batteries, and generally their own charging devices (although more an more devices are now chargeable from a USB port). Sadly this makes having a plethora of chargers, adapters and cables unavoidable.

It will be interesting to see how this all fits together into the workflow that I envisage. I’ll report on all that at some stage in the future. For the moment, I just have to concentrate on carrying it all.

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