Choosing your travel lens kit

When packing your camera bag to go on a trip, it can be a challenge to decide which lens is the best to capture those special moments with family and friends without feeling like your gear is holding you back. 

This October my family and I spent a week in Sedona, Arizona, and currently the only lenses I own are primes or single focal length lenses. 

So when packing them up I was looking forward to seeing how they would perform in a faster paced setting and an environment where scenes are constantly changing. 

One thing I noticed right away is that when using prime lenses, it’s nice to have a bag design where you can easily access your lenses, filters, and other Accessories so you don’t feel like you’re holding up your group or missing shots. .

I was using the Wandrd PRVKE 31 which was great to use with its side access door and easily fold down dividers to access different parts of the camera cube and do it on the go.

However, I would have liked a bag more like the Think Tank Photo Cross series of bags which allows you to open the entire side of the bag allowing you a better view inside the bag and easier access to your gear.

I guess you could always use the PRVKE for travel days and then the Photo Cross for adventure and exploration days. 

Another thing I noticed is that while switching lenses back and forth might seem annoying at first, you start to learn what focal length works best for a situation and what kind of emotion that focal length will provide for an image. 

The focal lengths I mainly used on my trip were 24mm f2.8, 50mm f1.8, and 135mm f2.5.

I used the 24mm while we were on the road moving quickly as it was great for shooting video as it reduced perceived vibration. It was also great to provide the scale of the landscape and my subject, usually my family.

It was also a good focal length when walking around town and wanted to capture the larger setting and feel of an area. 

Because the 24mm does everything so well and is my preferred focal length, I had to tell myself not to forget to use the 50mm because it’s a focal length that doesn’t look exciting but always offers some nice surprises.

When taking pictures of my parents on top of the mountains, shooting a landscape, taking candid shots of people on the street, and whatever else, 50mm is a dream. 

Having a good 50mm in your bag is a must. There’s a reason it was the go-to kit lens for film cameras because it can do it all.

I always enjoy using this focal length for video work because it allows the viewer to focus on the subject while still understanding the environment they are in. 

Now, until a few years ago, you would have thought that using a 135mm lens for landscape photography was a bit strange. After watching some YouTube videos and seeing sample photos, I was sold on the idea.

So I was really excited to give my 135mm a try and it really blew me away. 

Just being able to capture a scene and order it really allows you as the photographer and your audience to better understand the moment you want to capture. 

I loved how I was able to isolate a mountaintop partially covered by shadow, a small valley with a single hill in the center, or a looming rock wall with a unique cloud pattern.

I didn’t use my 135mm much, but when I took it out, I always felt like I was going to get something I never thought I’d shoot before. 

Well, after this trip, I’ve come to some conclusions that I’m not sure are helpful, but at least they give me some options.

One is that I really enjoyed shooting with prime lenses while traveling due to their more compact and lightweight nature. Plus, it’s also much easier to plan your shots when you know what a scene will look like through a given lens. 

Second, I think having a constant aperture zoom lens that has my preferred focal lengths, like a 24-70 f2.8 or f4, and a 135mm would be really nice travel gear.

Finally though I think the best part of all of this is the experimentation to find what works best for you and your photographic experience.

These are the things that make shooting with a DSLR or mirrorless camera more exciting and exciting than using a cell phone. Knowing that you had the right lenses on the right day and that you were able to learn more about yourself as a photographer.

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