Photography was and is always an important part on my cycle tours. If cycling is sort of my 'daily job', then photography is my 'leisure activity'. It is the creative compensation in my normally very physically and performance-oriented life on the road. In this article will will try to write what I personally carry with me on a cycle tour and how I use it.
Travel photography is always a balance between having as much stuff as possible for every situation at hand and actually having to carry that all with me. If the whole equipment has to be transported on a bicycle even more challenges arise. The constant vibration on dirt roads, lack of a power supply and the always present dust are the main problems for the equipment.
This is the equipment that I currently travel with:
- Kamera: Sony A7R
- Memory card 64GB, 2 spare batteries
- Lens 24-240mm, (10-18mm)
- MacBook Air 11"
- 2 external HD 500GB & 1TB
- Table tripod MTT2-P02 by Manfrotto
There are of course plenty of possible cameras that you can take on tour. The main challenges for a camera on a cycle tour are:
- Dust: Especially on dirt roads, dust is everywhere and gets everywhere. Preferably it likes to settle on the camera sensor itself. As a result you get ugly spots on all of your photos. They can be corrected rather easily in Lightroom for example. But if you have lots of photos this is very time consuming.
Most current cameras have a vibrating sensor. This works actually quite well.
- Body: More important than the latest technical features is a sturdy body. On a long trip a camera will have to endure a lot...
- Long lasting batteries give you the freedom not to be on the lookout for the next power socket all the time.
Im Moment tut sich bei den 'mirrorless system cameras' einiges. Diese Kameras sind massiv kleiner (weil sie keinen Spiegel haben) bieten aber oft gleichwertige Features wie die grossen Brüder. Zudem sehen diese Kameras auch weniger auffällig/teuer aus, was oft auch kein Nachteil ist. Es gibt bereits verschiedene solche Systeme. Hier ist die Entwicklung im Moment voll im Gange.
Of course I would like to have for every opportunity the best lens with my. Good lenses are big, heavy and expensive (no matter for what system). In practice the following choice has proven good for me:
- A super zoom (18-200mm). With this lens I probably take 80% of my photos. The most important advantage is that I do not have to change lenses very often and as such have less problems with the dust.
- A quality wide angle lens (10-20mm). Great for landscapes and indoor photos where there is less light.
There are always situations where a tripod is useful. Normal tripods are way to bulky and heavy. I have chosen a little table tripod. I need it for shots of myself, time lapse sequences and night shots. There is a lot of cheap table tripods on the market that are mostly rubbish. The one I use is stable and has a full-fledged ball head.
The main reason I carry a laptop with me is photography. But I only use it if a have power supply.
- As often as possible I download the photos from my camera and organise them on the laptop. In this process I only keep the good shots and so save disk space.
- Now i process the photos. Only if I can do that while I am on the road already I can improve and learn from what I did. What was not good with the last shots? What else should I try out?
- At last I use the laptop to backup my photos on my external hard-drive.
The laptop mainly needs to be sturdy. I have broken quite some laptops on the road already. So far it was always the body (cover, joint, keyboard) and never the electronic inside! Of course it should be little, lightweight and have a long lasting battery.
They should be little, sturdy and as lightweight as possible. Currently 2.5" drives with USB 2.0 or 3.0 are best at that and need no extra power supply. You may think that discs could easily crash on a cycle tour. I have carried quite some discs with me already but never have had a disc crash yet. SSD are even smaller a more sturdy, but much more expensive.
When editing my photos I start with deleting all photos I don't want to keep, that is usually about ⅓ of the files. They have to be technically OK (focus, exposure). To judge that I need to see them at 100%. Only if I have no alternatives of an otherwise interesting or important shot I will keep it. If I have taken lots of shots of the same subject I will keep only the best 5-10.
Editing my photos while I am on the road is very important to me. At first I avoid a huge photo back-load that I would have to process after the trip. With tens of thousands of photos that would be a huge effort.
Even more important is that I can judge my work and learn from the mistakes I made. I can experiment with different shutter-speed, aperture and ISO values, control the result and hopefully improve the result. I also have a chance to notify the dust spot on the sensor and clean it before I take many more photos with it.
Digital images can be transported very compact. In a worst case scenario on the other hand a huge amount can quickly disappear and be lost for ever. The big advantage of digital data is that you can make unlimited copies. Making backups at home is important. Not making backups while on the road is foolish. Data can be lost in many ways: A laptop/disk can get stolen, lost or it can crash. I copy my photos on two external disks that I do not carry in the same panniers.
Sending photos home
Every 6 - 12 month I try to send my photos home. Per month I usually take about 500 - 1000 shots. With 30MB per photo I get 90 - 180GB of data every 6 month.
- Easiest would be to simply upload the files to a server. But this option is not realistic with this amount of data and would take forever.
- CD and DVD drop out because their capacity is to little (only 155 photos fit on a DVD). In 6 month I would need 19 - 38 DVDs
- An external hard-drive is the cheapest media for this amount of data.
I usually buy a cheap hard-drive locally where I copy all my photo onto and send it home by post. Often I find other swiss travellers that take home my hard-drive and there send it by post. Of course I only delete the photos locally when I know the hard-disk has arrived home and still works.
I only use my laptop if I have a power supply. With the camera I have oranized it that way, that I can go without a power supply for about 4 weeks. This means I have enough memory cards and batteries for 4 weeks. In practise I carry 2 spare batteries and a 32GB memory card. That way, even if I try to spend as much time camping in the wild, power supply was never a problem. Every couple of weeks I always find a power socket where I can recharge my batteries.
I can charge my batteries while I ride with my dynamo. But I use this only for my camera batteries (not the laptop). Details can be found here.