What equipment would you bring for a month-long roadtrip?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by john_gallino|1, Jan 11, 2010.

  1. This summer I'll be partaking in a month-long abroad course at my school. I'll be flying to Portland, OR and spend the next month with a group of classmates touring six states by car. 75% of the time we will be camping outside overnight, and it's a very outdoor-intensive course with lots of hiking and visiting natural wonders and stuff like that.
    As a photographer I definitely want to bring an SLR along. I have a heavy, but possibly more weather-resistant D300 and the lighter D90. Keeping in mind that neither are insured and the D90 is cheaper and smaller, I'm leaning towards bringing the D90.
    I'll probably bring my camera equipment in my Slingshot 100 bag which includes the nylon weather cover thing to protect from rain, and has room for a camera, flash, and a lens or two at most.
    Of course with all the hiking involved, I'd like to pack as light and comfortable as possible, but I'm not sure which lens to bring.
    I currently own the very-expensive and heavy 17-55 f/2 which I think might be overkill for something like this. I have my old 18-70 f/3.2-4.5 kit lens, a 50mm f/1.8 which I don't think is wide enough for all-around use, a 105 macro, and a 70-300 f/4-5.6 without VR.
    I was also considering renting an 18-200 f/3.5-5.6 and using that as my only lens. I can't afford to buy it and don't think I would put it much use outside of this trip anyway (too slow for what I do).
    What do you think would be the best course of action?
    And as a secondary question if you care to answer, I'm a pretty terrible landscape photographer. I usually come back from a trip with very boring outdoor images. From what I hear, I'll be going to some amazing places this summer. What should I focus on to capture them best?
  2. For what you are describing the choice appears easy: D90 with 18-70 and 70-300. Am sure there is space for the 50 in the bag too. See no reason to rent a 18-200 (the cost for a month would amount to around 1/3 of the purchase price anyway). Personally, I would not go on such a trip without a wide-angle zoom - consider getting a Tokina 12-24 or a Sigma 10-20.
  3. Which gear to take or acquire depends on your photographic goals. Some people take photos while traveling, others (including me) travel to take photos. I'd be lucky to get by with 40# of gear by air or twice that by automobile.
    The 18-200 is an amazingly good lens, especially considering the 11:1 zoom ratio. Furthermore, it has VR. With so many people on board, you want to travel light and fast. I would suggest including a tripod for photos in the woods or at dawn and dusk. It is an excellent companion to the D300, and with that camera's low noise at high ISO, lens speed is not an issue. Landscapes need to be sharp, and VR is not as good as a tripod.
    The 17-55 is a great "people" lens, but not so good for landscapes (it's optimized for 15' or so). You'd want the 70-300 for more reach (more than you will probably need). Then you'd have more money to get a good tripod (which you'd definitely need in lieu of VR).
    Insurance is cheap for amateurs in the US - a rider on your (or your parent's) home owner's policy costs about 1% of the valuation per year. You appear to be coming from Europe, but look for something similar before you leave.
  4. Nah I'm from the east coast, not Europe. I definitely would not want to bring a tripod. It would be a hassle to myself and others on the trip. I'm not yet sure of what our limitations are for how much baggage each person is allowed. Besides, I don't like working with them and would probably leave it behind in the car/campsite on all the hikes.

    And I'm leaning towards the 18-200 just because I rather not have to stop and change lenses in the middle of a hike to get the shot I want.
    Maybe the 18-200 and the 50 f/1.8 or a wider fast lens for night/dark cave shots?
  5. John - I've taken many trips similar to the one you're about to take. Carrying equipment you're familiar with is a good idea. The 18-200 VR idea is not a bad one, except I'd buy the lens (you can always sell it upon your return) instead of renting it for a month. And only if you have enough time to put a few thousand shots through it to test & familiarize yourself with it before leaving. The idea of the 18-70 + 70-300 is good if you use the latter often enough to justify taking it. I would rather have a wider zoom + the 18-70 than the 18-70 and 70-300. Take a tripod. You can always leave it in the car for the more arduous hikes. If you don't have a c-polarizer, get one and learn to use it.
  6. I second Dieters proposal. It's up to your shooting style wether getting a wide angle zoom would be useful or not. However, with D90, 18-70 and 70-300 you cover a wide range without having to invest, plus in case of theft or damage it wan't cost you a fortune to replace the necessary items over time.
    I would however recommend to bring an additional p&s as (small but better than nothing) backup in case the D90 fails, and something you can pull out of your shirt pocket the moment you don't have your D90 ready (plus it's nice for fun pictures in your group). I'd recommend something like a Panasonic TZ7 (ZS3 in the states) or Canon IXUS SD980 IS. These two would also cover a wider angle than you 18-70, in case you'd need that focal length only occasionally.
    Enjoy the trip and bring some nice pics back to your gallery! Holger
  7. +2 what Dieter Schaefer said.
  8. How is your "photographic brain"? Do you mind about "creative" approaches or just want to take good pics?
    In my experience, this make a difference. If you belong to the first group, perhaps you`ll need fast lenses and wides, if to the second a kit zoom (or a 18-200) could be more than enough.
    On trips like yours I use to take a 50/1.4 or a 24-85/3.5-4.5 (FX). A very few times I `ve taken both, and usually one of them spent all the time inside the bag. I tend to favour the standard prime, which becomes too limiting indoors... but when I take the zoom I always miss the faster apertures. A 35/1.4AFS could solve this issue, but right now, it doesn`t exist.
    About landscapes, have a look at Richard Armstrong`s portfolio. I love the way he frames, and how he place the different objects inside.
  9. My experience with hiking is that wide angle is much more used than telephoto. If you want to be as light as possible, take the D90 and 18-70. If you don't mind a few more ounces, take the D300 and 17-55mm - you'll get better results.
    By all means, take the 70-300, but you won't use it much.
    Get you equipment insured.
  10. Have you considered how you will "process" your images? Carry a laptop? Lots of Memory Cards? A Portable Harddrive?
  11. 2 lenses, a tripod, 3 to 4 ND grads.
  12. Don't bother renting another lens - what you have is plenty good enough. If I were you I would take the D300 , the 17-55mm and the 105mm macro and that's all. The 105mm macro on a DX camera will be long enough for most (but not all) purposes but it will allow you to do creative close-ups.
    That said, if you want to take good landscape pictures you will need to take many of them using a tripod and chances are the best ones will all be those taken off a tripod. There is almost no way you can do without it as quite simply the best light occurs when the light is low at dawn and sunset and handholding will often be impossible. High ISO performance is much better than it used to be but all that does is delay the inevitable moment when you must switch to a tripod.
    The money you were prepared to spend on renting the 18-200mm you can now permanently invest in some graduated neutral density filters - learn to use them well before you go.
    But I can't say it strongly enough; going on such a trip without a tripod is like trying to ski without ski boots. You could probably find a way but the results would not be pretty...
  13. I would bring the D300 and the 18-70, the 50/1.8 and the 70-300. This way, you would cover a lot of range, and you would be able to shoot in low light conditions as well, without having to lug the 17-55 around (which I think is not all that much better than the 18-70 optically). The D300 has more hands-on control than the D90, which I personally find useful.
  14. Take a tripod.
  15. The D300 isn't all that much better sealed than a D300. PUt the money on a good tripod/ballhead.
    Kent in SD
  16. SCL


    You say your landscape shots are boring. Put some money into a good book, workshop or local course on the subject. Take 2 lenses maximum...you don't want to be lugging extra weight or deciding which lens to use for a shot and then pondering if you made the right choice. Are you going to shoot photos or to hike....I ask because generally hikers don't have time to set up tripods, change lenses, etc...they briefly stop take one or two shots and move on; photo shooters often take much longer to compose their shots, set up, etc. Also, most hikers don't really worry about weatherproof cameras...you stick them in your backpack with your other gear in inclement weather. Have a great trip and enjoy the wonders of the west!
  17. I doubt I'll have time to set up tripod shots, especially as part of a group. This isn't my trip and I can't imagine having many opportunities to shoot at my own pace.
    But with all your recommendations, I will look into tripods. Perhaps I can find one that's reasonable to bring along. What should I be looking for? Obviously light-weight, and something I can set up and take down ASAP would be best. I know Carbon Fiber is pretty expensive though, and I'm hesitant to pour that much cash into something I will rarely use...
    On second thought, maybe I should give up the landscape thing entirely, as a trip like this is not the best way to get landscape shots of the places I'll be visiting. Instead I could just try to document the trip in a photojournalist style, including my co-participants and the activities we do. I think that would be much more fun and more suited to my shooting style as well.
  18. It sounds like you are faced with my challenge--traveling and hiking with my non photographer wife. Here is my recommendation based on the last 30 years: D300; 18-70mm DX lens; a fast prime lens like a 50mm f 1.8 AF or a 20mm f2.8 AF or a used manual focus Nikon 55mm f 2.8 micro lens used mostly for landscapes or low light situations like in forests; polarizer to fit a Cokin P holder so one size fits all lenses; two tripods, one that fits in my pocket (when tripod is not available) and a regular one. I have taken a 70-210 mm or a 70-200mm , but I have used it for only a fraction of the shots. I do not think it is worth the effort/weight to take it on a pure hiking trip. If I could leave it safely in a car, that is a different story. I take a Hyperdrive to hold my images downloaded from my CF cards. (I shoot in RAW.) I use a tripod for almost all of my shots if feasible. And I use a double bubble level added to the hot shoe of the camera to keep the horizons level. Most of your tripod shots will be done in early morning and late evening light when the hiking has stopped. If I had to carry it on an extended hiking trip, I would invest in a very good backpack that would hold it properly. The backpack would have to be 100% waterproof. And I would buy a Gregory rain cover (at REI) for it as added protection even if the backpack had its own cover. Joe Smith
  19. if you want to shave weight take the d90, the 18-70 and the 50 and and leave the 17-55 at home. get some ND grads and pola filters for harsh daytime lighting. the non-VR 70-300 works best on a tripod, so you may want to consider the 105 VR instead. if a tripod is too much weight at least take a bean bag.
  20. Camping outside in the Pacific Northwet means that your equipment will absorb alot of moisture. The D300 has better moisture protection but you might choose to sacrifice the less expensive D90. Older mechanical cameras had some advantages over modern electronic marvels. Certainly bring the 50mm. It's about bullet proof. You will need all of the range you can get. I vote for a tripod. Cards are cheap and plentiful. You can fill them and mail them home. You might want to get a grip that takes AA batteries or buy a month's supply of regular batteries or set up some kind of a car charger.
  21. John: Your 12:22 entry shows that this isn't really a photo-centric trip for you. Perhaps a simple waterproof point and shoot (film or digital) will be sufficient. Canon, Kodak, Olympus have competent models. I think it would solve many of your issues.
  22. bmm


    D300 (why go on an amazing trip and not take your best camera?)
    17-55 and 70-300 (again why go on such a trip without this great lens)
    If you are worried about the obtrusiveness and set-up time of a tripod consider at least a monopod (some whip in and out in less than a few seconds)... or one of those little Gorillapod things which they now make for SLRs too. Some support at least.
    1 or 2 backup batteries and a car charger so you can charge them on the road
    Minimum 32GB card storage space (spread preferably over a number of 4GB or 8GB cards)
    My advice though is based on my deep-held view that camera equipment is there to be used - even if that increases the risk to it a little. I see no point in having your best gear back at home in your cupboard out of fear; thats the one thing even more stupid than damaging it while using it. But I know some others here are more risk-averse than I am (and of course I respect that POV even if I don't agree personally).
  23. The D90, 16-85mm VR and the 70-300mm VR would be a dynamite package.
  24. I ditto Dieter 2. Whenever I go out to take pics, even on shorter trips, I never catch myself saying, "Why the hell did I bring this equipment." Instead, I relax more b/c I know I have options b/c I took the trouble to carry the crap around with me.
    You'll be sorry if you don't take a tripod. Get a lightweight one and you can hook it to your backpack, and in a pinch, swing it widely and futiley at an angry bear.
    Have fun.
  25. For scenics, I find myself using a wide-angle much more than a long lens. If you're trying for wildlife, that would be different, but, for your trip, I would eliminate the long lens.
    For a light kit, with an emphasis on fun images and landscapes:
    - Either body. They are both current and will create great images.
    - 18-70 kit lens for all around use and scenics. One that can stay on the camera most of the time, that you can carry everywhere.
    - A fast lens for head shots around the campfire... 50/1.8 or 1.4 is great for this. With either the D90 or D300, you'll get memorable images that we could not have made with film.
    - A very light weight tripod.
    - Memory cards and a way to charge batteries.
    - The next thing to add, if you like, would be a wider lens.
  26. An OM-2n with 24mm 2.8 , 28mm 2.8 , 50mm 1.4 sn>1million ,85mm 2.0 , and 100mm 2.8 or 135mm 2.8 lenses in a Lowepro Omni sport case. I love retro :)
  27. Here's a variant on well known tripod advice that fits this situation, "the best _tripod, camera, lens_etc. is what you are willing and able to carry". You don't want to be cursing your equipment as you try to climb a very technical trail nor do you want to be constantly saying, "if only I brought along ...".

    If you you are hiking alot with non photographers that will dictate also what you bring along. If you can even though it adds bulk find a light weight hiking tripod otherwise you will miss some fantastic stuff at dusk and daybreak.
    Bring lots of heavy duty zip lock bags ... you really can't have too many. My final advice, if you are doing extensive hiking and scrambling simple is best. In fact if have any sort of pocketable point and shoot bring that along as a back up and for the days when you need to be as light and mobile as possible.
    And while someone pointed out bring your best (otherwise what's the point of owning it) which I agree with go back to the original sentence, overtime will the D300 weight become an albatross. BTW, I own a D300 and absolutely love everything about it except the weight. On some occasions I left it behind I just brought my Canon G11 and other times I carried the full load. It all depends on *your* goals and how much you and the others are willing to put up with.
  28. When I travel overseas and spend much of my time on foot, I want to carry the least I can get by with. That means no tripod in most cases. However, when I travel domestically and know I'll have access to a car, I tend to pack heavier. In that situation I carry a tripod. As others have mentioned the best looking photos are the low light ones. Tripods also slow you down and help you concentrate better. I have a carbon fiber Manfrotto 190CX with a 486 ball head. It is lightweight and excellent for travel.
    If I was in your situation I bring three cameras: D90 with 10-20 and 18-200mm; N90 with a 24, 35, and 50mm lens; and a Lumix P&S. I always like to bring a film camera because landscapes just look fantastic with Velvia film.
  29. If you are not really happy with your landscape shots, I would encourage you to bring your 105 Micro-Nikkor. Why not try and focus on the small stuff instead? A macro opens up a whole new world. The 105 is normally a tack sharp lens, and it has VR if you really do not want to bring a tripod or monopod.
    And, if you do not want to spend money, pair it with the 18-70 and 50. If not consider the 16-85 and/or 35 1.8. I cannot comment on which body to bring because I have the D300, but not the D90.
    Happy trails!
  30. Take the expensive stuff and leave the lesser items at home. No sense in spending all that money on good gear if you're not going to use it on something as potentially rewarding as this trip may prove to be (photography wise). If it will make you feel more comfortable, buy some camera insurance before you go.

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