I am just about to leave for a two-week holiday in Turkey, which I will mostly spend with shooting the streets of Istanbul. With its colorful and exotic streets, Istanbul is a photographer’s dream, so I want to make sure I have the right gear.
If you are anything like me, you probably spend more time on choosing and packing your photography equipment, than packing all your other things combined. The objective is to have a complete kit, but still travel light.
Last year my kit comprised of a Canon 5D Mark III, a couple of L lenses, and the 430EX II. It was A LOT of gear to drag around, which was not only annoying, but also slowed me down considerably. Additionally, it didn’t feel safe at times to walk the back alleys with thousands of dollars in equipment around my neck. I can tell you that it does not help your photography when you start getting paranoid and think about your safety constantly. Hulking a DSLR with a big lens on it can also be intimidating to your subjects and is therefore not necessarily the best fit for getting relaxed candids.
For this year’s trip, I made the decision to leave the Canon at home. I sure will find myself in situations where I wish to have my DSLR, but for street photography, the advantages of travelling light are bigger than the extra benefits a DSLR offers. Let’s check out the kit I’ll be using:
My only other camera, the Fujifilm X100s, is the perfect street shooter, which makes this endeavor rather easy. I have added a lens hood and a filter for extra protection. The X100s has a fixed, non-interchangeable lens that cannot simply be replaced, if it is scratched or damaged. I got the JJC lens hood, which is a cheaper alternative to the original hood. It comes with an adapter ring that allows you to attach any 49mm filter to it. The B+W UV filter with multi-resistant coating is great quality for the price. I am also thinking about adding a display protection film in the near future, to prevent scratches and damage to the display.
Now that my camera is fit for the streets, let’s have a look at the essential gear I have packed.
I prefer sling straps, because they are generally more comfortable than a neck or shoulder strap while having the camera quickly available. There are a variety of brands to choose from – BlackRapid, Sun Sniper, Carry Speed – each of which have advantages over the other. I decided for the Sun Sniper compact strap. It has a padded shoulder rest, an anti-theft wire in the nylon strap, and a shock absorber to help prevent camera damage. Please note: a sling strap usually gets screwed into the tripod mount of your camera. If the steel connector is too big, it can cover parts of the battery lid so it won’t open. It’s a huge hassle to unscrew the strap every time you have to change the battery or take out the SD card. Do yourself the favor to try before you buy.
People will tell you that there is no place for flash in street photography and available light is the only way to go. While I agree to some extent, there are situations where I want that extra fill light, regardless of whether it is ‘street’ or not. There are not too many options available when it comes to small portable flashes for the X100s. I got the Fujifilm EF-X20, which is a perfectly sized small flash with great built quality. As the name indicates it is featuring a guide number of 20, and enables flash compensation from -1EV to +1EV in increments of 1/3 stops in the TTL Auto mode, and flash output levels of 1/1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32 and 1/64 in the Manual mode. Despite the size it comes with a built-in diffuser and a little light stand. The best thing about this little flash is that it can be fired wirelessly off-camera, using the in-camera flash as a trigger.
E-TTL Off-Camera Cord
2 reasons why I have an E-TTL off-camera shoe cord. First, taking the flash off the camera means losing the TTL capability and having to switch to manual mode. With a Canon wired E-TTL cord you retain TTL capability while taking the flash (quasi) off camera. Second, and this is really the more important part, the head of the flash is unmovable, only allowing for front lighting. While it is the easiest type of light to deal with, front lighting most likely result in boring photos with, flat, over exposed subjects, and dark, underexposed backgrounds. With the off-camera cord I can hold the camera in one hand and the flash in the other, directing the light anywhere I want.
Additionally I have packed a couple of extra batteries and SD cards, as well as a travel tripod for the occasional low-light shot.
All of the above fit perfectly in a small waist bag. With the camera on the strap, and all my accessories on the belt, I hope I am ready to shoot street photography all day!
I may want to do a little extra, such as lighting photography, or simply shoot nice portraits of family and friends. These are the additional work horses in my bag.
I travel with a more powerful Speedlight for when the little EF-X20 doesn’t meet my needs. I have a Canon Speedlite 430EX II, which is a good flash to have. Although it is not the most powerful flash, it is very well built, supports high-speed sync, and has a built in diffuser panel.
Wireless Flash Trigger
I use the Yongnuo YN-622C, which are great E-TTL triggers that support flash modes from several different flashes. They also support E-TTL and high-speed sync.
I use the FlashBender diffusion panel and reflector for on the road. Rogue FlashBenders is a system of shapeable light modifiers. They are very versatile and can be used as soft box, bouncer, snoot, etc. They are lightweight, and take up no space in the camera bag.
I hope this overview was useful to those wanting some input on what to pack for the next trip. It is sometimes difficult to decide what has to stay home. I suggest traveling light, if you are not on assignment. Also having to make the best use of the photo equipment you have with you, always result in new experiences and lessons learned.