- Fearless Photographer: Travel
- Top Travel Photo Tips: From Ten Pro Photographers
- Lonely Planet's Guide to Travel Photography
- National Geographic Ultimate Field Guide to Travel Photography
- Bryan Peterson's Understanding Composition Field Guide
- Travels to the Edge: A Photo Odyssey
- Travel Photography: Tread Your Own Path
Taking digital photos of your travels is probably one of the major reasons you bought a camera and why you are reading this and many other PhotographyTalk.com articles about travel photography. Some of these include:
Deciding which lenses to take with you is much the same as picking and packing the most essential items for your trip. The biggest challenge in both cases is to take just enough, but also be prepared for the unexpected. You may be going to a sunny, warm beach, but finding room for a jacket or windbreaker is probably a good idea. The same thinking applies to choosing lenses. You must take into account a number of general factors, such as travel mode: car, plane, train or boat, the length of the trip, what you plan to do or see, how much local traveling will you be doing once you reach your destination, etc.
The remainder of this article presents specific factors to consider. With these tips, you’ll be more assured that the lenses you do take will be useful for most of the situations, lighting conditions, etc. you may encounter during your trip.
Primary Tip: Purchase the best lens you can afford. The quality of your digital photos is more likely to improve with a better lens than a better camera body.
The more lenses you take, the heavier your camera bag and total luggage will be. Traveling automatically increases the risk of theft, loss or damage, and camera equipment is certainly a prime target. Not only will you have to lug all the equipment with you, but also you’ll feel obligated to use it, to justify bringing all of it, so you’ll spend too much of your trip/vacation changing lenses, filters, etc. Experienced travelers live by that simple rule: less is more.
As mentioned above, you can’t foresee every digital photography situation you may encounter during your trip, and it wouldn’t be practical to take enough lenses for each of those situations. You can be sure that you’ll have a versatile choice of lenses, however, if you do some planning prior to your journey. Make a tentative list of the places you expect to visit and would like to photograph, and then read about those specific places, so you understand the conditions of their environments. For example, if your focus is art galleries and museums, then you may want a different lens than if you’re planning to hike through wilderness areas.
Versatility and lens speed are closely related. Once you have a plan of what you want to photograph and understand under what conditions you’ll be doing so, you can then pick a lens with the speed to match those conditions. As in the example above, if you plan to shoot many indoor digital photos without a flash assist, then you need the fastest lens you can afford.
Lenses are described according to their speeds. For example, a popular 18–55mm zoom lens is known as an “f/3.4–5.6 lens.” At 18mm, the largest aperture opening is f/3.4; at 55mm, the largest aperture is f/5.6. More light enters the lens, the lower the f-stop number. If you use a fast lens indoors, then you can shoot at a faster shutter speed, which reduces camera motion and blurring the movement of subjects in your pictures.
“So, Which Lenses?”
Ultimately, choosing the right lenses for your digital photography adventures is only a decision you can make, based on the tips in this article. For many people, two zoom lenses could be sufficient: wide-angle to a normal focal length, such as 18–55mm, and versatile, longer focal lengths, such as 70–300mm. If garden photography is part of your travel plans, then you may want to include a macro lens.
In the end, the three most important tips to remember are: Buy the best lens you can afford, buy a fast lens and less is more when it comes to packing.