A Peek Inside My Camera Bag: My Favorite Travel Photography Gear

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On average, I get at least one comment or email per week asking the same question: What camera do you use when you travel?

I've answered this question on my FAQ page, but decided that today I would take my answer one step further and give you a peek into everything that's currently in my camera bag.

So here we go with my favorite travel photography gear!

CAMERA

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II

I upgraded from the Olympus PEN series to the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II in the second half of 2015. I waffled back and forth over whether to stick with an Olympus mirrorless camera or maybe give Sony a try, but in the end I decided to stick with what I knew. (And, also, I wasn't prepared to spend over $5K on the Sony camera I would have wanted.)

I don't regret this decision at all, as the E-M5 Mark II is an incredible camera! Here's what I love about it:

  • It takes amazing photos! All the images you've complemented me on in the past 1.5 years have been taken with this camera.
  • It's small(ish). This OM-D model is not as tiny as my previous Olympus PEN cameras, but it's still a heck of a lot smaller than your average DSLR. It easily fits into the handbag I usually take with me when traveling.
  • I can go full manual, or use pre-set settings. This camera gives you all the control you need, but also can help you out when you're not sure exactly which settings to use.
  • It has a flip-out back LCD screen. This is super handy for video, low-angle photos, and even selfies since I can swivel it around a full 180-degrees.
  • It has built-in wi-fi, which makes transferring photos from my camera to my phone (hello Instagram) a breeze.
  • It's “weatherproofed,” meaning I don't worry as much about a few rain drops or a blast of sand as I used to.
Northern Lights in Tromsø, Norway
Northern Lights captured with my Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II and 12-40mm lens

Might I eventually upgrade to an even higher-end Olympus model (or maybe the Sony a7RII if I can ever justify the cost)? Yeah, maybe! I don't think I'll ever go full-sized DSLR, though, because I love the size and weight of mirrorless cameras. For now, I'm super happy with my camera.

Lenses

I have the following lenses for my Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II:

Olympus 12-40 F2.8 PRO lens This is my go-to lens, and is the lens that lives on my camera most of the time. It's super fast and takes really great photos.

Olympus MSC ED-M 75-300mm telephoto lens I bought this zoom lens for my trip to Africa (wildlife photos, yo!), and definitely think it was a good investment. I could have spent a LOT more on an even nicer lens, but since I will probably only use this a couple times per year, this one will do just fine.

My next lens purchase *might* be a 25mm Prime lens. But we'll see.

Bits and bobs

Other things in my arsenal include:

Extra batteries – Because you can never really have too many! (I have 3 in total.)

SD cards – Most of my current SD cards are SanDisk Extreme Pro cards.

Filters – I use UV filters to protect all my lenses, and also have a polarizing filter and ND filter, though I admit that I don't use them much!

Camera strap – I have a cute camera strip with elephants that I got from iMo.

Cable release Important for long exposures so I don't blur the photo by touching the shutter button.

LensPen This marker-sized item is a must-have for anyone with a camera. One end has a brush to remove dirt, dust, and sand, and the other will safely clean your camera’s lens to get rid of smudges and fingerprints.

TRIPODS

My main tripod is the Vanguard VEO 235AB. Vanguard makes a line of travel-friendly tripods (the VEO line), which means they're fairly compact and not *too* heavy. My VEO tripod has helped me photograph waterfalls in Iceland and the Northern Lights in Norway, among other things.

I also have a GorillaPod, a short little tripod with bendy legs that you can wrap around things. This is sometimes more appropriate to carry around since it's lighter and can be used more easily on-the-fly.

Brandywine Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park
It's tough to get waterfall shots like this without a tripod!

VIDEO

I don't do a ton of video work or vlogging, but I do have fun putting together short videos for Facebook and YouTube every now and then. My go-to for video is currently the GoPro Hero 4 Silver. I like this model because it has a video display on the back (so you don't *have* to use your smartphone and the app to see what you're filming), and still takes great video.

I also have the following accessories to go along with my GoPro:

GoPro 3-way grip This was the first “selfie stick” I bought for my GoPro, and it's handy for a variety of situations.

GoPole EVO extendable pole This see-through, extendable pole is perfect for water activities since it extends to 2 feet AND floats on its own.

GoPole Bobber This grip is my newest purchase. The Bobber floats just like the EVO, but isn't extendable at all. However, it takes up very little extra room in my bag, making it perfect to pack for those “just in case” moments.

I've also got the GoPro Smart Remote, a wrist mount, a head mount (which only Elliot gets to use because my head is too small!), and a suction cup that I've used a couple times to mount my GoPro to a car.

Swimming at Three Sisters Springs
Me with my GoPro and GoPole EVO in Florida

CAMERA BAG

With a growing amount of camera gear to carry around with me, I decided to invest in a good camera bag. I went with the Pacsafe Camsafe, which is an anti-theft camera backpack that comes in two sizes. The larger bag can hold 25 liters and easily fits all my gear (and then some), while the smaller bag holds 17 liters and is better suited to trips where I'm either not taking an extra lens or not taking GoPro gear.

I actually have BOTH of these backpacks because I couldn't decide which size I would use more often! It turns out that I tend to use the smaller one on shorter trips, and the bigger one on longer trips (like my overland trip in Africa).

Pacsafe makes some incredible bags that are both durable AND functional, and I love having the peace of mind of the anti-theft features like slash-proof material and zipper hooks to make it really tough for anyone to get at my gear.

Another Pacsafe camera bag worth checking out is the Camsafe V9 Sling Pack. This one would be ideal for hiking since it's small and slings across your back – meaning it would be mostly out of the way for short hikes.

EDITING

I don't do a ton of post-processing, but I do edit nearly all my photos. Sometimes it's as simple as straightening a horizon (I can NOT seem to take a straight photo to save my life) or making a quick crop, and other times I boost the saturation or bring up shadows a bit in order to make my photos match what I saw with my eyes.

Sunset at Camps Bay

My go-to for photo editing is Adobe Lightroom. It gives you all the tools you need to touch up just about any image, and also helps you organize your image library.

You can purchase Lightroom on its own as a one-time download for about $150, or you can purchase a subscription to Adobe's Creative Cloud Photography plan, which gives you access to both Lightroom and Photoshop for $9.99 per month, plus all the updates and new features.

STORAGE

When I'm on the road, I travel with a portable hard drive in order to back up all my photos. I have a “rugged” hard drive called the Buffalo MiniStation Extreme, which is supposed to be able to survive the wear and tear most travel tech faces (i.e. bumps, drops, and general bouncing around). I've had mine for a few years and love how it's performed and held up so far.

Once I get home, I back my photos up online. I used to exclusively use Flickr, but I recently started creating albums on SmugMug in order to better display my photography (you can buy prints from my galleries, too!).

A Coo with a View on the Isle of Harris
My most-purchased photo to date!

PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE

Lastly, I'm a big believer in learning all the things I don't know – and there are definitely plenty of things I don't know about photography!

My friend Laurence has taught me a lot about taking better photos over the years (starbursts, FTW!), and now he's compiled all his best tips into a travel photography course. The course covers everything from camera settings to image composition to night photography to photo editing, and is great for beginners who want to take their photo game to the next level.

Check it out here.

And there you have it! Everything that helps me take all the photos you see on this site. If you have any other questions about my gear or photos, leave them in the comments below!

 

Travel photography gear guide

 

 

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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147 Comments on “A Peek Inside My Camera Bag: My Favorite Travel Photography Gear

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  1. Thanks for the opportunity to win the GoPro Hero. We are going on a Disney cruise soon and I would love to use this when we go snorkeling!

      I love being able to host awesome giveaways like this! (And this GoPro would be great for snorkeling!)

    I’ve been thinking about making the change from DSLR to mirrorless for soooo long now! My DSLR is just too big and heavy (in its case with my 18-135mm lens it takes up half the space in my carry-on bag, so if I’m only travelling with carry-on, it’s a bit of a problem!) and I’ve heard such good things about mirrorless cameras from you and other bloggers whose photography I admire. They’re so expensive though, it’s a huge commitment!

    Changing the subject, I’d love to win this GoPro because my boyfriend and I bought a Hero3+ for our trip to South America but he’s kind of commandeered it so I now need my own!

      Switching over a camera system is usually a bit of an investment, but upgrading to my current setup in 2015 was one of the best investments I’ve made lately! I LOVE my Olympus!

    I’ve been thinking lately that I really need to step up my photography game! I have an Olympus TG-3 now, which is a great travel camera because it’s waterproof, but I’ve been thinking about investing in something even nicer in the near future. A GoPro would be a great addition 😉

      A GoPro *would* indeed be a nice addition! 😉

    I only use a point and shoot camera or my phone. I admire other people’s photography, but I myself am not that into it. Maybe sometime I will – who knows 🙂

      And that’s perfectly fine! I’m not sure if I would have gotten into photography this much if not for this blog. But I love it now.

    Thanks for an interesting post and for the opportunity to win a GoPro. With a GoPro HERO I would be able to capture my attempts to snorkel and kayak among dolphins, sea turtles and beautiful fishes when I get on my next adventure to Australia, leaving cold and dark Sweden for a country filled with adventures and moments just waiting for me to experience and capture. 🙂

    What a fantastic giveaway. I’m actually going on year long trip around the world so the go pro hero would be super useful.

      And this super small one is very friendly space-wise, too!

    I’d love to use it when we raft down the Current River, in Missouri. I’d also love to use it to make time-lapse road trip videos. I’ve been wanting to get a GoPro for a while.

      It would be useful for both those things!

    A GoPro would be a great addition to my travels! Currently using a Sony and a drone, so the GoPro would be great.

    Best part about this post was the camera bag! I never know how to pack everything safely 🙂

      I am obsessed with my Pacsafe bags!!

    I have a month long trip planned for this summer and I usually just take photos & video with my iphone, but I’m starting to think I should look into learning how to use an actual camera. And I just posted my first video attempt on my blog and it was so much fun I think I want to get into video too! And the iphone isn’t great for storing a lot of video storage… This article is really helpful! Thanks!

      Hopefully it gave you a few ideas, Elizabeth!

    Recently, I’ve noticed that my life is passing by without nearly enough photographs or videos to capture it. Not to say that I want to spend life behind a camera screen, but it is sad to think about looking back on my 20’s in the future and not having any photos or videos to document that time. A GoPro would be a great way to do that!

      I totally get it, especially in this day and age of social sharing. I never used to get very many photos of myself on my travels, and I really regret that now!

    Its. A good list. I’ve been struggling to decide on one camera bag. After reading this the answer is I should just get 2 bags. Lol. Simple. I love my Pacsafe hobo bag didn’t even think to look for a camera bag with them.

      Hahaha yup, why not just get two? I got the bigger one specifically for big trips (with Africa last year in mind), but then realized it was a little bigger than I needed for shorter trips. They are both really great bags, though – you can’t go wrong with either one!

    I would love to use the GoPro Hero snorkeling (my favorite activity) or on boat tours where it might get splashed! Would love to use it somewhere like Mexico or Australia!

      It’s great for those sorts of activities! I’ve used mine for snorkeling many times!

    I have an ancient GoPro that I love to take snorkeling and diving. This would be a fantastic upgrade!

      Nice! These new Sessions are great because they’re so small, too.

    I only recently started solo traveling and discovered a love of photography (first trip was to Iceland – I ended up taking an obscene amount of photos!). I make photo books when I get back and they serve as my trip mementos – I don’t really do souvenirs and these are perfect… and making the books also extend the trip in a way. : ) I thought about getting a GoPro but wasn’t sure what I would do with it – but how fun would that be as another cool thing to add to the arsenal! I was thinking of going to Scotland next (and then, of course, you started doing all these posts about it which kind of solidified it for me!), but before that, my niece and nephew will be visiting me… having a GoPro while going on some hiking adventures with them would be pretty amazing, I think!

      Iceland will turn anyone into a photographer, I think! (And Scotland, too – it’s amazing!) And yes, a GoPro is a fun extra to have, especially when you’re outdoors being active.

    Thanks so much for the opportunity to win a GoPro!! Later in March I have a trip planned with a few girlfriends down to St. Kitts and Nevis. I’m planning on going scuba diving, snorkeling, and hopefully finding some other adventures that a GoPro would be perfect for! I’m also planning a trip to Scotland and the rest of the UK next summer and fulfilling my dream of hiking on the Isle of Skye!! A GoPro would be so fun to have for that trip because it sounds like the terrain will be pretty rugged and carting around my DSLR might not be a smart plan. I’m also hoping to get to Wales on that trip after reading your blog post about adventures in North Wales (um, gorge hiking?! Yes please!! who knew?!!? That looks AMAZING!!!). So point of story, I’m an adventurer and I’d LOVE to have a GoPro to help me document!! 🙂

      Sounds like a GoPro would definitely be perfect for you! (And having one is basically a must if you go gorge hiking in Wales!)

    Oooh fun giveaway and awesome tips! 🙂 I’ve always loved your photos, I’m constantly working on improving my photography skills. I’d definitely use a GoPro for snorkelling and doing some more travel videos as I don’t have anything that takes fantastic videos.

      GoPros definitely take some great video!

    I’m always jealous of your awesome adventures. It’s nice to see what kind of cameras and accessories you use. I’m hoping to go on some adventures this year while in Europe for work. I’m sure my pictures won’t compare to yours, but I’m still fairy proud of the pictures I take.

      Europe is filled with lots of cool cities and adventures!

    Quick question, which plan do you use one SmugMug? Thanks!

      I use their Portfolio plan since I try to sell photos through the site.

    Fun to see what gear you use. I’ve never used a GoPro but would love to play around with one, especially under water.

      They’re great little cameras for underwater adventures!

    I’m going on a Carribean vacation this spring and a GoPro would be perfect to capture snorkeling and parasailing.

      Both excellent activities for a GoPro!

    Great ideas for an upcoming 6 week trip to Australia and New Zealand. (And … I just love those Heiland Coos!!!!)

      (How could anyone NOT love Hieland Coos?!? 😉 )

    I love these kinds of posts! I find it so interesting to see what other bloggers are using. Definitely need to get a Pacsafe bag in the future, I’ve heard so much about it!

      I love reading other peoples’ gear posts, too! And yes, Pacsafe makes really great bags – well worth the price tag!

    I wish I had a GoPro when I went to Iceland! Definitely will look into getting one for when I go on my next trip

      They’re a lot of fun if you want to take video, or some super-wide-angle photos!

    I’ve been looking to upgrade my camera this year and the Olympus ones sound pretty awesome! And I’ve debated on a GoPro for probably, three years now, I feel like I need to finally commit!

      This Olympus one IS awesome! I couldn’t be happier with my decision to buy it.

    I’d capture underwater images while snorkeling.

    Really enjoyed this post. I’m always interested in seeing what others have in their camera bag. If I had a GoPro I would use it for capturing video in the pool and river.

      You could make some really fun poolside videos with this GoPro!

    I would take it to the beach with us!

    I’ve always admired your photos – it’s fun to get a little “behind the scenes” of how the magic happens. 🙂 Biggest revelation for me in this post: the lenspen. So practical! As for our adventures with a GoPro – we are taking our first trip to Europe this Spring, and that would be a great time to break it in. 🙂

      YES the LensPen is so practical, so affordable, and I’m not sure how I ever traveled without one!

    Amanda, thanks for another great post! I have been so interested in upgrading to a real camera, but I didn’t want to invest in something I wouldn’t use, or yet another hobby that goes by the wayside —except this one would be really expensive.
    I like be riding my bike and we were just paddle boarding today. A GoPro would have been perfect.
    I’m going to go back through this post and take notes. ???

      I’m not sure I would have spent so much money on a camera if it weren’t for this blog – but I don’t regret it! I love my Olympus a lot.

    And that hint on the cable
    release for long exposure shots! Who knew pressing the button could blur the shot. (Photographers do of course??)

      Haha yes! Any small movement of the camera can blur the shot when you have the shutter open for that long!

    Thank you for sharing with us you camera gear! I’m a newbie in the blogging world, and I looove taking pictures. Recently I bought an analogue camera, and it’s so fascinating not knowing how your picture turned out only after a few days 🙂 It would be cool to use a goPro to take some nice adventure-videos 🙂