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What Do I Pack for Street Photography Overseas?
No checked luggage. Just the essentials.
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How do you get good at packing for street photography?
The answer is you travel a ton of miles with all the wrong sh*t for years and eventually—at the request of your aging back and knees—you start stripping down to what you actually need.
Packing for the Flight
I wanted to build a solution where I could travel with no checked luggage for street photography overseas and I think I’ve finally landed on something that works well.
I have the Monos Carry-On Plus with two Peak Design packing cubes in the main compartment. The medium cube houses two cameras and four lenses that’ll cover all the street work I would expect to capture. Even with my gear packed, there’s plenty of space to house batteries, chargers, storage, cleaners, and cards.
The smaller cube gets designated to lighting. Here I can fit a Profoto A10 or A2, power, and a few modifier options. You never know what environment you might find yourself in and who you may be photographing. Having a portable but versatile lighting solution can open a ton of latitude and I’ll take this over a third camera on any trip.
The other half of this carry-on can houses about week’s worth of essentials and importantly, a fisherman’s vest. In the off chance that I need to cut the weight of this bag at the airport, I can throw this vest on and just pack in a few bodies, lenses, and batteries to just keep it moving.
Along with this carry-on bag, I’ll take a small backpack with the other essentials like a laptop, headphones, power bank, sanitizer, and such. In the event that I need to check in my carry-on bag, I can shift some of the pricier pieces into this backpack as needed.
Anyway, that’s the how and what of my packing solution, let’s look at what I carry on the streets.
Three Hours or Less
For shorter walks, I don’t want a bag weighing me down. I’ll have two bodies with two lenses that serve two purposes. The main camera will have have a wider perspective for busier environments, in this case a Leica M11 with the Summicron 28mm. If the lighting looks a bit shifty outside, I’ll swap to a lens with a wider aperture like the Summilux 35mm.
This camera is pretty much glued to the wrist and what’ll see most of the photography reps. If you’re curious about the accessories and specifics around my particular M11, check out my long term review for more details.
The second camera body I’ve adopted is the Leica SL2-s and you’re probably wondering, why the f*ck do you carry two cameras? Wouldn’t that make you stick out even more? Wouldn’t that weigh you down over time? Aren’t you concerned about being targeted? The answer is yes, yes, and yes.
But the opportunity to quickly capture a tighter portrait or environmental video with this camera is just too tempting an offer to turn down. I’ll have the Summilux 35 or SL 50mm APO attached to this camera and I’ll swap it in when I want to capture a more intentional shot. This camera is also incredible for video and I find myself using it often to just document the space instead of using my phone; an easy habit to develop that’ll pay off way more in the future.
Outside of the two cameras, I’ll shove a few more things in my pocket:
Wallet + local currency, of course
Now, what if I’m gonna be out for more than three hours?
If it’s going to be a longer adventure, I’ll take a backpack with me. Here, I’ll just house my second camera with a bigger, more versatile lens. In this case, its the Vario-Elmarit 24-90mm, an incredibly flexible option for changing environments. I’ll also look to carry some water, extra batteries, cleaning solution, and a lighting solution.
While heavier, the uncertainty and excitement of a longer shoot day demands a bit more preparation. You never f*cking know what’ll happen, who you’ll meet, and what you’ll experience. So a more involved carry is something that I’ve just grown accustomed to for longer days.
And there you have it. That’s a rundown of what I pack for street photography overseas, what I carry with me on any given day, and the reasoning behind it all. I’m curious to hear what your approach is like nowadays, so let’s continue this conversation in the comments.
See ya next time!