The travel bug…
Traveling is nuts! Over the years, I have come to consider myself as an avid backpacker and traveler. Not just because of my actual travels abroad, but rather because I have been bitten by the travel bug and it will always be a part of who I am. . I use any excuse to get out of town and explore new places, and I’ll make a conscious effort to plan a trip every 6 months or so. And the funny thing about traveling is the more you do it, the more you want to do it. Like a drug. Or a disease. But (hopefully) less horrifically damaging to your body!
The first time I went backpacking as a young and inexperienced traveler, I brought way too much. I literally brought all the camera gear I owned at the time. I mean EVERYTHING. My photo bag was heavier than my backpack. Not great. After a couple of years, I realized downsizing was the obvious choice for my art… and for my back. So I cut my gear to what I thought was the minimum. On this recent trip to Rome, for example, I carried “only” one DLSR body and one 50mm lens. Not only did it take me weeks of agonizing over the best lens to take, but on my trip, I had to get really creative with shooting since I didn’t have the usual 3-4 fixed lenses to alternate. . Still, I knew I could reduce my pack even more. I think I’ve found a good balance of small and useful pieces, and I’m pretty happy with my photo bag today.
It’s all about connection
So, if I’m being completely honest, I first downsized to copy some of my fellow photographers and their advice to “shoot better with less”. And I’m glad I trusted them. I’m able to be a wedding photographer today thanks in part to these guys and the countless pieces of advice and information that this awesome community shares every day. It’s my turn to do the same, and hopefully help someone else avoid the some of the mistakes I’ve made.
Best advice for traveling as a photographer
Traveling is not like documenting a wedding or a family portraits. It’s not about directing, posing and having the time and to anticipate those key moments. Traveling is about respecting others, acknowledging differences, accepting the unknown and eventually embracing being outside your comfort zone.
In the past, I tried so hard to capture this travel experience with the “best” gear I own. You know what I mean: a high quality camera body (or 2), the 35mm, the 50mm, sometime the 85mm and if I really went nuts, my 135mm. Guess what? I had some fantastic shots, but I was so busy switching out lenses that I was missing some of the actual beauty of my travels.
And one day I asked myself why. Dude, would you like to see someone with a whole arsenal of pro gear shooting YOU on your way to work or grabbing a bit to eat? It feels like someone is invading my personal space. I don’t want to do that to other people on my travels anymore.
How not to be the obnoxious photographer
Get compact. I went out on the street and looked around. We live in a connected world; everybody is taking photos with their phone, their tablet or whatever. But as soon as you see someone with a “pro” looking gear, people start freaking out debating about liberty, laws and personal right to privacy. At the very least people are annoyingly curious about why you’re shooting them. But if I do the same shot with an Iphone – it’s no big deal. I personally don’t shoot often with my phone, because I want a gear I feel more comfortable with.
So how do I go from heavy, professional, but obnoxiously obvious gear to something compact but powerful?
I looked all over the place – Shotkit has been a great resource – and bam! I came across this gem from RICOH. Now I’ve this unobtrusive compact camera in my bag or pocket all the time. It’s small, but perfect to cover all my street photography needs when I’m traveling. It’s a camera with a 35mm fix lens that opens at f2.8 with a ton of options to geek around with. I think I’m in love.
In my bag
I’ve got my bag, and my camera – but also some other essential stuff for my travel needs. Ready to peek inside?
• the wicked small street camera by Ricoh
• my wallet made in America. Super versatile.
• my tiny notebook with soft paper. I always need a place to write down some ideas if I’m feeling inspired.
• Fisher Space Pen. It’s small, but with a nice weight to it, and the writing is smooth!
• I never leave without this pocketwatch my wife gave to me. Sentimental and useful.
• iPhone 6 and all the stellar Apps available for photographers, like Scoutt.
• If you can’t stay clean, at least smell clean.I came across this amazing natural fragrance from Le Labo during a recent trip to New York. I keep this small liquid balm in my bag to freshen up from time to time.
These items are always inside my bag. Amazingly, I don’t need any more gear. Sometimes throw in a book, my scarf or some other stuff but no gear. I can shoot high quality images I love while staying discreet. It feels great to capture my own memories without invading people’s space.
Whether you’re a photographer or not, I hope you enjoy your travels and find inspiration for whatever you love.
Sebastien Bicard is a fine art wedding and portrait photographer based in Paris and California. He specializes in international travel and destination weddings worldwide.