Packing for Sri Lanka

Hi guys,

So I’m off to Sri Lanka for the next couple of weeks. Atlhough I’m a severe advocate of avoiding GAS-syndromes, and not overthinking your gear, that definitely doesn’t mean bringing the wrong gear, or not enough gear. You gotta pack for what you’re gonna shoot. For street photography, a single lens and camera body is more than enough. When you’re going on a long travel, far far abroad with very little shops that can help you in times of need, you got to think ahead.

I’m restricting myself to 1 backpack. My usual Lowepro Slingshot wasn’t going to be enough for this trip, so I used the Lowepro Fastpack 400AW. Incredibly pack that holds a ton, is waterproof and durable.

Sri Lanka is an amazing place. It’s relatively recently opened up to tourism after a 30 year long war conflict. It’s a little island right off of India and it’s name used to be Ceylan. It was a british colony for hundreds of years, and still is the official Queen’s approved tea-purveyor. It’s also home to some of the most amazing landscapes and natural attractions in the world.

Sadly, therefor, it also requires a vast spectrum of lenses. I’ll give you a rundown of what I’m taking with me here:

photo 1

Camera Bodies 

Fuji x100 : Why an x100? Those of you who follow my blog will have noticed that I’ve grown quite fond of this camera. Amazing lens, amazing sharpness, amazing high iso performace, amazing design and all that in a small package. It’s going to be perfect for when we go out, or walk around town and I don’t feel like carrying my larger, bulkier dslr. It’s such an amazing camera because it’s the first small camera that doesn’t feel like I’m trading off image quality to get a smaller package. I still have that amazing quality I’m used to with a dslr. It allows you to take those shots in moments that matter due to it’s ultra-silent shutter, That’s enough to get a place in my bag. I have no doubt whatsoever that this camera is going to get a lot of action in Sri Lanka.

The battery doesn’t get a lot of shots (300 approx) so I’m bringing a spare. Thankfully, the x100 uses an NP-95 battery. I won’t go into the whole generic/brand name batteries, but I’ve ordered a two-pack of generic eBay NP-95’s for 9.95$ (shipping included) and they get almost the same number of shots out than the 50$ Fuji brand battery. It’s a risk, but never had a problem.

I’m using the Sandisk Extreme Pro 95 MB/s cards with this one. The original firmware was a bit slow in writing images to cards so I chose Sandisk’s best SD cards. They aren’t cheap but their performance is amazing. Fastest cards there are from them, lifetime warranty AND you get their Image Recovery Software for FREE! If you’re a frequent blog reader, I’ve written about this software that saved my life in New York here 

Nikon d300S : Nikon surprised everyone by still having the D300S as their flagship DX dslr in the lineup after 4 years. It’s no wonder since it’s still an incredible performer, but with the rate camera builders devise up new iterations of roughly the same camera’s it’s surprizing. Mine is just over 100k clicks, and still works flawlessly. Travel photography is ony of the domains that actually benefit from the DX crop factor. I wanted to restrict myself to 3 lenses, and my longest is a 200mm which effectively becomes a 300mm on this body. It’s light, can take quite the beating and keeps on going. Perfect for travel photography.

I plan of doing a lot of timelapses there, and like many of their pro-level cameras the D300 has a built-in intervalometer. Super, super handy. I’m only taking one EN-EL3E battery with me, which will be fine for light daytime shooting since I usually get about a 1,000 shots from it.

25464_D300S_front

Lenses

Sigma 10-20 f/4-5.6 HSM DC : This Sigma’s been with me for a long time. It’s one of the first lenses I purchased, and it’ still as incredible today as it was then. It’s been with me all over the globe from New York, to Paris, to Antwerp, to Thailand, to Vietnam, to Cambodia and others.
At the time of purchase, it was the widest lens available for Nikon. The only other lens available was the Nikon 12-24 f/4 as the 10-24 hadn’t come out yet. 2mm on the wide end of DX is important, because it turns into 4mm, so I chose this one. Never regretted it. Color and contrast are top notch, center sharpness at f/4 is amazing, so what does one really need else? I rented both 10-24 and 12-24 (not the 2.8) to compare them and see if I needed to upgrade but didn’t feel amazed. 10-24 is pretty much the same. 12-24 is slightly (marginally) better, and it has a fixed f/4 aperture which is way better but those 2mm’s are of more importance to me anyway.

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Nikon AF-S 28-70 f/2.8 ED :  A lens that really doesn’t require an introduction. Before Nikon released the handicapped 24-70 f/2.8 it was Nikon’s most professional mid-range zoom. It’s a gold-ring lens indicating the pro-grade. But lifting it once reveals its real pro-grade status. It’s a beast (which is also it’s nickname). It weighs in at about 1 Kg (for the rest of the world, for america that 2 pounds). Like all pro-grade lenses sharpness, contrast and color are top-notch from 2.8 (that why you buy the lens right?)
Nikon released the crippled AF-S 24-70 in 2007. Crippled? Yes, they removed the aperture ring from it. If you are a film shooter like me, this is critical, because now that lens is useless on 90% of film cameras. Reviews indicate it is marginally better on some aspects, but due to the abovementionned reasons, it’ll never be for me. For all the rest, it’s basically the same lens.

nikon 28-70

Nikon AF-S 80-200 f/2.8 ED : Once more, a lens that needs no introduction. Before Nikon revamped their ‘Holy Trinity’ lenses for digital, this one ruled the kingdom as well. The current version has some improvements I read, but not enough to make me switch. All you need to know about this lens is that it’s amazing in construction, color, sharpness and bokeh! Portraits taken at 200mm (300mm on DX) at f/2.8 are just out of this world, and that’s just what I need for a trip to a heavenly place like Sri Lanka. Like it’s 28-70 it is built like a tank, and it weighs about the same. Most of you might consider this overkill for travel photography, but the images and the bokeh you get out of this lens is out of this world. To me, it’s more than worth it.

nikon-80-200mm-f-28d-ed-af-nikkor

 

That’s it! Those are the 3 lenses I’ve taken with me. I made no compromise on image qualiy, as the 3 of them are top notch. When you are going so far, you only get 1 chance to get the shot, and I won’t let a little weight hinder me from getting that shot!

Accessories 

Nikon MB-D10 : Normally , I wouldn’t bother with this on a travel trip. It’s heavy (made of metal) and makes the camera even bulkier. As you know I like to travel light during the day to shoot, but this was a requirement specifically for this trip. I’m planning on shooting a lot of timelapses over a couple of hours, and that results in literally thousands of shots. Any series of timelapses are in between 3-4000 shots. I wouldn’t be able to get those without this battery pack and here’s why : This grip accepts 3 types of batteries : The standard EN-EL3e, 8 AA batteries and the Nikon EN-EL4A battery. That’s the most important part.

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Nikon EN-EL4A batteries : I’m taking 2 of these bad boys with me. These are the pro-grade batteries that go into the D2, D3 and D4. They are stupidly expensive (listed at 175$ on Nikon’s website) but they get almost 4,000 shots in one charge. That’s right, that 4 times the shots a normal battery gets and that’s the reason I’m bringing them on this trip. They require a separate charger, which I hate because I’m going to be taking 3 chargers on this trip just because of that. However, these batteries will allow to let a timelapse run for a couple of hours without interruption, and that’s quite essential if you want quality timelapses.

nikon-en-el4a-l

Sandisk Extreme 32GB SD cards : CF cards are dead. They were king when SD cards weren’t reliable/fast/large enough for our needs, but now every single one of those criteria have been filled. They are crazy cheap compared to CF cards and are actually more secure since the good brand cards (like Sandisk) are mostly waterproof. You don’t have the gazillion tiny holes where the connectors plug in. Also, no risk of bent connectors (something I’ve had twice). The advantages are plenty. Check out the test DigitalRev tv did. They plunged 2 SD-cards (1 generic and 1 Sandisk (not even Extreme) card) into an aquarium for 1 month and tested them afterwards. The Sandisk performed flawlessly, the other was dead.
I’m using the normal Extreme cards, not the Extreme Pro’s since they are cheaper, and the Pro’s are useless in my D300S.
As you know I’m adament about knowing the gear you have inside-out instead of upgrading and this is one of those things. The write/transfer speed of the d300S tops out at around 30-35mb/s which is largely enough for the Sandisk Extreme’s 45Mb/s speed. Using a 95 Mb/s card in this camera is useless. For the price of 1 32GB Extreme Pro card you can have 2 32GB Extreme cards. When you hear people say storage has become dirt cheap, this is what they mean. 1 32GB card like this will run you a measly 25$. Get 4 and be set for a couple of years. Enough said.

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Remote Release Trigger : Just a generic, no name trigger that allows me to have shutter speeds slower than the built-in 30 seconds max. Comes in handy when shooting waterfalls,or long exposures of say 5 minutes and such. Nikon has one, I believe it is the MC-30 and it is ridiculously expensive. It’s about 150$ and it does the exact same thing as 20$ eBay triggers, especially since most pro-level Nikon dSlr’s have built-in intervalometers. Seriously, I wouldn’t bother with the Nikon one. You can lose your eBay brand 7x for the same amount of money.

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B+W 110 ND Filter : This is a spectacular filter. It’s a whopping 10 stop ND filter that is so dark you can’t see through it when you hold it up to the sun. I find these to be the right price/quality tradeoff compared to LEE filters and such. It’s around a 100$ for the 77mm version, which is what I’m willing to pay for a filter. B+W make amazing filters that are free of color casts and such. It’s a winner.

b&w filter

VisibleDust 1.6 dust swaps and cleaning liquid : I’m not going to miss shots because there are some dustspecs on my sensor I can’t get of by blowing on it a bit. These weigh nothing and are great.

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BlackRapid Sport : Simply put. The best strap ever made. When my dslr has the 28-70 or so mounted it weigs in at about 2 Kgs, or 4 pounds. This would destroy your neck with the normal neck-strap. The BlackRapid makes your dslr feel like a compact camera. Enough said.

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Gitzo Aluminum tripod : Long exposures and timelapse only mean one thing : stability. This is tripod-only territory. This one is long and lightweight. For travel, I prefer an aluminum, ultra-lightweight tripod, not the kind you’ll find in most studios. It’s relatively small so I can strap it onto my backpack, that means no hinder at all.

GZ2220

So that’s about it. It seems like a lot of gear, but 3 lenses and a couple of acces’ really isn’t if you think of it. Not bringing a laptop and such on this trip, don’t reckon i’ll need it.

Take care, and see you guys in 3 weeks!

Cheers,

Morgan

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