What’s in the Bag?

My Social Media feeds have been reminding me all week that I’m usually somewhere warm and tropical at this time of the year. Eight out of the last ten years I’ve been away with the camera. Each year there is the usual angst about what to take and what to leave at home. As I never put camera equipment in the hold of the aircraft it means everything has to stay in the cabin. Airlines have got stricter about the weight of cabin bags and often weigh them. Jeanette and I have the same discussions about how we carry all the equipment and contingency about if we are challenged. Wearing the hideous photo vest stuffed with lenses is usually considered and thankfully never deployed. Fortunately, I’ve never been challenged so have managed to keep all my gear together. Other times we have worked with two camera bags, one each, but usually, it is just the one bag, my trusty Lowepro Computertrekker AW. When packed fully it weighs 18kg, which is 13kg over most airlines hold baggage allowances. The Computertrekker AW is an old bag and no longer in the Lowepro range. When fully packed it can still fit under the seat in front, whilst not all of my equipment fits in it it looks small compared to others in the range. I have liked this bag so much that when I wore the first one out, I managed to find a cheap new one in the USA and had it shipped over.

This is just some of the gear that I took to Costa Rica & New York City in 2016. Two flashguns for a session with hummingbirds, a macro for invertebrates, two tripods; a heavy one for birding and a traveller for New York landscapes. An intervalometer in for long exposure and nightscapes. Two portable HDDs to back everything up to via small netbook The two tripods went into the hold along with battery chargers, spare batteries & the flashguns.

Even though this was 2016 there have been changes to the kit. The G16 has been replaced by a G5X, the three Mark II TCs have been replaced by a single 1.4 Mark III and one of the flashguns has gone. Added though is an additional lens my EF 24-70 f2.8 II. Why so much gear? I don’t go birding dawn till dusk and I like to change what I do, landscape, a bit of macro as well as the birding and if I can, a nightscape.

A picture of the Milky Way over the African Savannah
The Milky Way over our safari camp in the Masai Mara taken at 1:00am whilst listening to a pack of Spotted Hyena, migrating Wildebeest and a lion roaring, all whilst a large Leopard was 200 metres away. Canon 1DX with 17-40 f4 ISO 6400 @ f4 30 seconds exposure.

Although the 17-40 f 4 L lens is a little too ‘slow’ for nightscapes, ideally a 14mm f2.8 or something faster is needed, this image shows just why I can’t leave my 17-40 at home. It is this lens that I took one of my sharpest ever images with, The Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Ok, so the 17-40 stays in the bag, but why the 70-200 f2.8? On the face of it a valid question, however when I have been on safari it is the lens that I use about 50% of the time. The image below shows an Asian Leopard taken in Yala National Park, Sri Lanka February 2018 with the 70-200 + 1.4x TC.

The 500mm is always the first lens in the bag and mainly used without a TC, but sometimes they are useful, even the 2x TC. I’ve read so many people online review and say the Canon 2x TC is useless and not worth having. I have always had a different opinion. the image of Black Grouse fighting below justifies why it was in the bag. It left the bag because Canon no longer has the spares to service them, so I sold it.

An action shot with autofocus using the 2x TC Mark II

Finally the macro, EF 100 f2.8 L IS. Well, this is the second lens in the bag. The fun I’ve had with this lens has been fantastic, means I would no longer travel without it. This Jumping Spider was taken in Goa in some roadside leaf litter and one of my favourite all time images.

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