OUR CAMERA / VIDEO GEAR
Our Camera / Video Gear
An Inside Look at My Travel Photography Equipment
By Ken Faught
I have been a professional photographer and writer for most of my life and have even worked on assignments for Fortune 500 companies. I cherish my unique skillset and the fact that it has allowed Vanessa Doleshal and I to create this fun travel blog. I feel very fortunate and want to share with you the equipment that I carry for travel photography.
As you are reading this, please note that I am a working professional, and these are the tools of my trade. I have invested in a lot of high-end photography equipment because it allows me more control over my images. I have over five times the amount of gear shown, most of which is specialty equipment for studio photography, action sports video, and fashion. However, the equipment listed below is pretty much my standard for every vacation or assignment. Is this overkill? For most hobbyists, yes. You don’t need things like drones, backup cameras, and all the expensive camera lenses. Most people can get away with a lot less, and I have listed some good Travel Camera Packages at the end of this blog that offer the best value under $500, $750, $1000, $1500 and $2000. And if you want to learn about the different type of cameras and various categories on every budget, check out the story I did on Best Travel Cameras – The Ultimate Guide: From Beginner to Pro. So let’s get started!
My Travel Photography Gear
MY CAMERA BODIES
I began my professional career with Nikon, but I now use a Canon 1DX Mark iii and a Sony A7R iii as my two primary camera bodies. The Sony has incredible colors and a lot more detail, while the Canon has a lot more functions for action sports and is more ergonomically functional. The drawback is that I only carry one set of lenses and they both have two different mounts. This requires me to use a Metabones adapter for my prime Canon L-Series lenses.
My Sony A7R III features an incredible full-frame sensor that produces huge 42.4-megapixle images with incredibly rich colors. The camera is relatively small and ideal for travel. The camera also costs less than half my Canon camera, so this is a huge plus.
My Canon 1DX Mark III is a massive beast that can shoot 20 frames per second. I need this for action sports photography and love it’s auto focus capabilities. I pretty much use this as my backup camera for travel. To be honest, most people don’t need either of these cameras, and would be quite happy with the results from less-expensive models. I have created guide to called Best Travel Cameras For Every Budget that you will probably find helpful.
I also carry a GoPro Hero 9 Black which I chose as the Best Action Sports Camera For Travel. This is such a powerful tool and weighs very little. It’s a specialty camera, but one that is worth every penny. The GoPro is waterproof, so it’s ideal for snorkeling, SCUBA diving, Jet Skiing, waterskiing and snowboarding. I also use it for motocross, mountain biking, hiking, bungee jumping, flying and for four-wheel off-road action. I won’t get into all the GoPro camera accessories here, but I do recommend you check out my guide The Best GoPro Accessories (We Use Regularly) as it will show you a variety of clamps, head straps, mounts, tripods, handheld sticks, suction cups and other cool gadgets.
MY CAMERA LENSES
I carry five camera lenses for world travel. I buy the absolute best Canon lenses in what the industry calls Prime. This means they are the sharpest and quickest (think aperture) that are available.
The 8-15mm f/4.0 lens is a specialty lens that I don’t use often, but it’s one of my absolute favorite. This lens allows you to create 180-degree circular fisheye images and converts them into a rectangular picture. This can create incredibly interesting objects because the lens distorts everything. It’s definitely will change your travel and vacation photography, but it’s the last one on my list that I would buy if budget is a concern.
The Canon 11-24mm F/4.0 is another specialty lens, but one that provides a wide field of view without the fisheye effect. Although this an my 8-15mm fisheye overlap in focal length, the images that are produced in this overlap range are radically different. It’s this type of equipment that can separate average travel photographers from the best travel photographers.
The Canon 16-35mm F/2.8 lens is my number one piece of glass for travel photography. Its focal length is ideal for more than half my shots, and you need something like this in your camera bag and on every vacation.
The Canon 24-70mm F/2.8 is a really good lens for taking pictures of people and for landscape. This focal length is really important for travel photographers and great for providing a perspective that people can relate to as it replicates what the human eye sees.
The Canon 70-200mm F/2.8 is an incredible tool for a lot of my work. You can pretty much bet that if I am shooting Vanessa Doleshal in the ocean, and in a bikini, that I am using this lens because of how it compresses everything in the background. It’s also great for nature photography as you can get closer to animals without scaring them off. Occasionally I will add Canon Extender EF 2X III that will change it into a 400mm f/5.6 lens.
MY CAMERA TRIPODS
I carry three travel tripods because they all have different functions.
The Manfrotto BeFree MKBFRA4 tripod features a ball head and can support 22.1 pounds. It has a maximum height of 64.6 inches, a minimum height of 3.5 inches, and a folded length of 16.9 inches, and weights just 4.4 pounds. A solid, lightweight travel tripod is essential for every landscape and architectural photographer. I use this camera to control depth of field, reduce camera shake, add intentional subject blur (like people walking in the foreground while I want the landscape to be tack sharp or water blurring in a waterfall), and in most lowlight situations. Tripods allow you to get max depth-of-field and are perfect for star photography, sunrises, sunsets, the Northern Lights. We also use them for selfies and vlogs.
I use the Manfrotto PIXI Mini Table Top Tripod for areas where there is not enough room to put a large tripod, and also carry it when I don’t want to carry my entire camera backpack. It’s 7.3 inches tall, can carry a 2.2 pound camera and lens, and only weights 6.7 ounces.
This lightweight Joby Gorillapod Mini Tripod features a very forward-thinking flexible design and weights 1.55 pounds. The thing I like most about this adventure tripod is that it sets up incredibly fast and is so simple to use.
MY CAMERA ACCESSORIES
I carry a lot of camera accessories on every trek just because I want the confidence of knowing that nothing will inhibit my ability to get the photos that I want.
Lexar and SanDisk Memory Cards
Because I carry three different cameras, I need a lot of memory. The bummer is that each of these brands use different-format cards, and that sucks, to be totally honest. Sony, Canon and GoPro each use different sizes, so I have to buy a bunch of different ones. This means I spend a lot of extra money, but there’s simply nothing I can do about it. I use SanDisk Extreme Pro cards because they are class 10 and can write at 300 megabytes per second. For my Canon 1DX Mark III, I usually use Lexar or SanDisk, depending on what is on sale.
I have been using Lacie External Hard Drives for a long time and I guess I am just brand loyal. They seem really durable and dependable and can hold up to 5 TB of data. From a workflow standpoint, I usually download all the images onto my MacBook Pro and then back them up immediately on the portable drive. Then when I get home, I put them onto Adobe’s Creative Cloud.
I have used all sorts of straps in my career, but I really enjoy the BlackRapid system. For sports photography I use a double-shoulder model so I can use two cameras conveniently, but for travel I use the lighter weight single-shoulder strap. I love the fact that you can quickly disconnect the camera and use it without a tethering device. This is unquestionably the most-innovative camera strap system on the market, but you will need to take the ¼-20 screw out every time you want to use a tripod, but it’s worth it in my opinion.
For external flash systems, I haven’t found any better hot-shoot mount flash than Canon’s Speedlight 600EX II-RT. I have used several generations of this model line, and love that you can use multiple flashes and they all “talk” to each other and the camera. They also have a built-in adapter so they will also mount on tripods that use a ¼-20 screw-type fastener.
Rode VideoMic – External Microphone
I have about 6 different external microphones, but I typically travel with the smallest one I own, once that I originally purchased for my OSMO. For travel, I use the Rode Video Micro Ultracompact Camera Shotgun Microphone. The quality is surprisingly good, and a great option for vlogging.
Sony, Canon & GoPro Spare Batteries
I carry several spare batteries for all of my cameras and highly recommend you doing the same.
Camera Lens Filters – Polarizing, ND and Gradient
Lens filters are a great way to change the look of your photos. I use Polarizing filters to darken my skies and to reduce glare. I use neutral density (ND) filters to cut down on the amount of light and increase color saturation, while I use gradient filters to change the color of the sky or the majority of an image. Last I looked, there were about 62 different companies that produce different filters and I have the most experience with Tiffen, Cokin, and Lee systems. Quality of these is important since your lens will actually be shooting through the filter, so invest wisely!
Vello Shutter Boss II RC-S211 - Remote
I use my Sony for a lot of time exposures because I love the picture quality more than my Canon. To reduce vibration caused by manually releasing the shutter, I use the Vello Shutter Boss II RC-S211. There is also the Pixel TW-283 that is wireless and has a 100-foot range, but I have a tendency to avoid more battery-powered devices when I am on vacation or traveling.
Cliff Bars – Energy Snack
I am a big boy and like to eat. Cliff Bars are my thing. Enough said!
Camera Cleaning Kits
This is a critical component of any camera bag, and the good news is, that it doesn’t cost that much and is pretty easy to use. I have broken this down into four different components:
-Microfiber Cloth – These are great for cleaning your lens, and I usually carry a couple in my bag and one in my pocket. I have also found camera lens cleaning kits that come with the cloth, lens cleaning fluid, a blower, and a brush.
-Camera Lens Cleaning Blower – I use a hand blower to spray off lose debris on the front of the lens before I use the microfiber cloth. This prevents scratches on the front element of the lens that could be costly to repair.
-Lens Cleaning Brush – I use a lens brush to clean off big particles on the lens, things like mud, that I couldn’t remove with the blower.
-Speck Grabber – I use a speck grabber to clean the sensor on the camera. In order to do this yourself you need to be patient, have good lighting, and be very detail-oriented. Also, make sure to read the manufacturers instructions before starting this process.
I shot this photo of Danny Carlson for a dirt bike magazine when mountain bike manufacturer Cannondale tried to enter the motorcycle market. I used a 17mm lens, was about 6 feet from the bike, and used an on-camera flash to add fill. I always carry a flash because it adds an entirely different element of creativity to my photos.
I chose to place the model in the bottom left side of the image so it would evoke an emotion.
Had I centered her in the shot, the results would have been unimpressive.
Having the right location is everything but having the right location and the right camera gear can be magical. I shot this photo in Key West, Florida during the golden hour. I loved the background and all of the colors.
Drones like DJI’s Mavic line are a specialty tool that require a lot of training to use effectively. There are also a lot of rules, regulations and laws that you must be aware of before flying, especially around people. When I am not travelling, I use the FPV (first-person view) goggles. I have been a fan of DJI since I bought my first Phantom and later the larger Inspire. When I’m on assignment for video work, I will use the DJI Ronin and Osmo, but don’t casually carry them abroad because of their weight.
I have owned three commercial photo studios but would rather shoot outdoors.
I chose a fast shutter speed of 1/640th to freeze the water droplets. I experimented with slower shutter speeds, but I didn’t like the effect. I had five lenses with me during this shoot, but I choose my Canon F/2.8 70-200mm zoom lens. Having options is a must for serious travel photographers.
A light-weight compact tripod is a must for travel photographers. I shot this in my hometown of Corona, California, and used the tripod to help me achieve the depth-of-field I wanted.
I used an off-camera flash on a light stand to capture this picture of a Honda CBR on the famous Bonneville Salt Flats just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. This was during my land speed racing days, and it was pretty much pitch black when I shot the photo. I used a tripod and a ½-second exposure to get the morning glow just before the sun crested the horizon. I popped the flash to expose the bike and the salt.
DJI Drones – The Ultimate Photography Gadget
I love my DJI Mavic and every drone that I have ever owned. As a private pilot, I have been hired to shoot photos out of a helicopter and from single-engine aircraft, I love the perspective that it provides. Aerial photography is absolutely incredible, and it has never been more affordable. And the quality of image-stabilized 4k video that drones can deliver is stunning. The Mavic drone can fold up, has a 20 plus minute battery life, and is designed for the travel photographer.
Although I prefer my first-person-view (FPV) goggles, I don’t take them on trips where I have to fly. Instead, I use the standard remote control, but I do use a sun shade. I also carry a few spare batteries and a car charger,
Camera Kits That Won’t Crush Your Budget
The Best Camera Packages For New Photographers
I have had this theory for a very long time, and it seems very applicable here. It’s my Costco theory, and it’s not meant to offend anyone. When I am looking for something new that I am not familiar with, let’s say a new big screen television, I always look to see what Costco sells. I don’t expect them to have the best (which they may have), and I don’t expect them to have the cheapest (which they may have), but what I do expect is that they have the best value. They typically have great quality merchandise that offers the best bang for their buck. So here is my list of Best Camera Packages and I have broken them down into five categories.
Best Travel Camera Package Under $500
Best Travel Camera Package Under $750
Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Digital Camera with 16-50mm and 55-210mm Lenses with Accessories Kit (Black)
The Canon EOS Rebel T7i DSLR Camera and two-lens kit is our best value under $1,000
Best Travel Camera Package Under $1,000
Best Travel Camera Package Under $1,500
Best Travel Camera Package Under $2,000
I shot this photo of Vanessa in St. Barts for sunglass company Bomber Eyewear. I position her closer to the rocks, so I could blur them using depth-of-field. To accomplish this, I used a telephoto zoom lens (data shows set at 125mm) and a f4.0 aperture. Notice that she is tack sharp while objects in the foreground and background are out of focus.
I shot this at the Motorcoach Country Club in Palm Desert, California, during a mini vacation. I rarely use lens filters because they tend to get over used, but when used correctly, the effects can be very dramatic.
guide to the best Hawaiian
I used a 28-70mm f/2.8 Canon zoom lens set at 70mm to capture this shot. This is from the Playa Grande Ridge hotel which has an elevated pool that overlooks the famous marina in Cabo San Lucas.
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Hi! We are Ken Faught & Vanessa Doleshal. We love adventure travel, photography & share our journey with YOU! Our goal is help you plan that perfect trip & keep inspiring you to take the next one.