Equipment for a photographic vacation
A question often asked in the online photograph forums is: "what photograph equipment should I take
on my vacation?" Well, to save you the trouble of asking, I present this list of what I brought on
my trip, what I found useful and what I wished I brought.
As I mentioned, I brought two cameras - the Canon S400 Elph and the Nikon D70. The Canon is a
wonderful point and shoot camera. It is very small so you can bring it with you anywhere. If you
are not a serious photographer, then a camera like this would probably be enough for your whole
For the Canon, I had two compact flash cards, a 512 MB primary card and a 128 MB back-up card. I
filled both of them up completely, even after aggressively deleting photographs. I had not expected
to use the Canon that much, only for underwater shots. But it was so damp on St. Vincent, I used
only the Canon on our two big excursions, and I used up a lot more compact flash memory than I
planned. Also for the Canon I had a spare battery and a battery charger. I charged the Canon's
batteries three times -- once on Petit Byahaut, once on Fortitude and once on Petit St. Vincent. I
am not sure that I was desperate for charging but charging opportunities were few and far between.
And finally, I had the underwater case for the Canon (a Canon WP-DC800). Although the underwater
case was twice the size of the camera itself, it was worth it. I use the underwater case to allow
me to use the Canon while snorkeling, but also when it was raining or very, very humid. If you take
any Caribbean vacation, be sure to get a good underwater case for your camera. (Do not get one of
those cheap watertight plastic bags that pass themselves off as universal underwater camera
protection. You can read all about our experiences with one of those on this day in the journal of our
Virgin Islands trip.)
Now for the Nikon D70. The Nikon is a digital SLR, which means it has interchangeable lens. In the
hands of a good photographer, DSLR cameras can take much better pictures than point and shoot
cameras for a lot of reasons. First, the sensor is much larger. Larger sensors means larger
pixels, which means sharper, less noisy images. Then the lens for DSLR cameras are often much
better quality than point and shot camera lens. Just one of my Nikon lens costs almost as much as
the whole Canon camera. Also, the camera offers a significant amount of user control allowing you
to get just the right shot with just the right settings. Finally, it focuses faster, much much
faster, than a point and shoot.
I brought two D70 lens with me on the trip. The 18-70mm f3.5-4.5G ED-IF AF-S DX Zoom Nikkor (which
is the "kit" lens), and the 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED-IF AF Zoom-Nikkor, which is a compact zoom. I
cannot say enough good things about the 28-200mm G lens. This lens is extremely versatile, yet very
small. It is the perfect lens for traveling. Make sure you get the "G" version; I understand that
the older "D" version of this lens was no where near as good. If I had to do it again, I would have
left my 18-70mm lens at home and brought my macro lens instead. I rarely found the need for a
really wide, wide angle lens but there were many times taking pictures of flowers and lizards when I
wished for a closer macro mode than the 28-200mm.
I keep UV filters on both my lens. I use a B+W MRC UV-Have filter, mostly as a protection for the
lens. Should the unthinkable happen and I scratch or break the filter, I can just take the filter
off and continue to use the lens. (It didn't happen, but it could have.) I also brought a circular
polarizing filter. I use that filter when taking pictures with a lot of solar glare (like ocean
shots) and it really helped. But it was sometimes an annoyance to keep putting the polarizing
filter on and off the camera.
On past vacations, I have brought a tripod with me. My current tripod is a Sprint Pro, very light
weight, but sturdy and versatile. However, on this trip I did not want the extra bulk (we were
trying to travel light). Instead, I brought a small C-clamp with an attached tripod screw. This
allowed me to anchor the camera as long as I had a sturdy bar of some type to clamp to. It was
perfect for the sailboat, since I could clamp the camera to the railing for those sunset pictures.
And on Petit St. Vincent I would clamp the camera on the back of the big wooden lounges on our deck
for sunrise pictures and self timed pictures. For sunset pictures on PSV, I would bring one of
Daphne's hiking polls and use the hiking poll plus clamp as a monopod.
For the Nikon, I also had a spare battery and a charger and charged the Nikon battery whenever I
charged the Canon battery (although the Nikon battery lasts longer). My primary memory was a 2 GB
compact flash card, but I also brought my older 1 GB microdrive as backup. I did not bring a
separate gadget to download pictures into. I was really worried about being able to power one of
those gadgets. There were no plugs (until PSV), and they tend to run out of battery power long
before they fill up.
Good camera cases are also important. I use a Pelican Case
for my Nikon and spare lens. This is a waterproof, foam lined box that we originally bought for our
grand canyon rafting trip. Its completely
watertight and it floats. No worry if it falls overboard on the sailboat. And the camera stays in
the case when not in use, so if the sailboat were to hit a patch of rough water, the camera would
remain safe. In past trips, I have used it to carry the camera while swimming, so I could use the
camera when I reached the beach. But on this trip I just used the Canon instead.
In addition to the Pelican Case, I brought Tamrac Velocity 7
backpack for the D70 camera so I had a way to carry it while hiking. I mostly brought it for the
volcano hike, but never even brought the Nikon on that hike. Instead I used the backpack when
carrying the Nikon around Petit St. Vincent, but I could have easily have done without it.
Other than that, I brought a Lenspen for keeping the lens
clean (highly recommended). A gray card for setting white balance (although I never used it).
Spare lens caps for each lens, which I never needed but they're cheap and take no space.