It’s summer and time for vacation traveling. If you’re flying to your destination and renting a car, getting your photo gear packed efficiently can be a major concern. Having just returned from such a trip, I’ll pass along some info regarding what I took with me. First of all, I took just one lens with a wide zoom range for my SLR and left the specialty lenses at home. Since I was in scenic areas, I made sure to take along a circular polarizer. This is essential in producing deep, dark skies and reducing reflections. This is the one filter that you need for every lens in your bag.
I shot 90 percent of my photos with the SLR, but also took along a compact point and shoot for times that I didn’t want to carry a bag.
I brought a Quickpod, which is a small, boom-style extending mounting pole which enables you to mount your camera and extend it away from you to take self-portraits in front of whatever view you like. Using this, you won’t have to ask a stranger to take your picture again! Mine is light-weight, so can only be used with a small camera. It has a small mirror, so you can frame your shot with it, however I found that feature to be useless. You have to use trial and error and practice with it to get your head in the shots. Mine was around $20, but you can spend up to $50 for one that can handle a two pound DSLR.
I also took along a remote wireless shutter release for my DSLR. I decided to get one for doing long exposure photography (to prevent camera shake when tripping the shutter) and to take shots of wildlife where I can be away from the camera. But it also is great for doing self-portraits. I set up my tripod and my wife and I climbed up on a rock in the middle of a creek to get shots that I couldn’t have done otherwise. Phottix makes a variety of these for $25 -$45, which is a fraction of the cost of one made by the major camera companies like Canon or Nikon. The pro units usually work only on IR, but these cheaper ones use radio waves which give you a much longer range. I chose the Phottix Plato which uses the broader 2.4 GHz frequency, so I can be hundreds of feet away if I wish. They come from China and are a bit flimsy, but mine worked flawlessly at a cost one quarter of what the pro companies ask.
Another little tripod is called the Gorillapod and is marketed by a company named Joby. These are extremely light-weight, flexible tripods made of many articulating ball-and-socket joints which enable the user to wrap the legs around things like poles or tree branches. They also can be stood on a table and used like a normal small tripod. Mine is made for a small point-and-shoot and cost around $18. They have sturdier units that can handle cameras and camcorders up to 11 pounds.
For serious photographers who want to make an investment in a tripod, you may want to look into one of the units made by Vortex.
These are very compact, extremely light weight professional tripods designed for hikers and mountain climbers. They have as many as 5 leg sections which allow you to fold it to under 15 inches and to extend it out to nearly 5 feet. I saw these couple of weeks ago while browsing at Fry’s Electronics and was very impressed. They range from $80 to $300 for a light-weight carbon fiber model…love the carbon fiber, but guess I’ll be sticking to my old steel legs for now.