Barbara Ellison
Barbara Ellison

From photographing the Kentucky Derby to Presidential inaugurals, she has enjoyed the challenge of capturing the special moment and making it everlasting through her creative prints.

Tips on packing light with camera gear

June 16, 2015

Photo by Barbara Ellison


Sometimes you just want to lighten the load. When I travel, I want to take along all equipment that I feel would be needed to capture my vision. But through the years, I have found that I can cover 95% of what I normally shoot with one body, two lenses, an extender and a flash. If it is too heavy, I will not take it. I want the feeling of being free to easily move, walk and climb if necessary.

I can carry all my camera gear in one fanny pack. I’ll usually load it with an EOS 5D Mark III and two lenses. I chose to take along image stabilized (IS) lenses in order to successfully hand-hold the camera in dark places. Many of the churches that I photograph while traveling do not allow tripod use. They are often dark inside, even with the stained glass windows, and require slow shutters in order to record detail in the darker areas. These lenses allow me to safely handhold at shutter speeds up to four stops slower than with non-IS lenses.

The combination of the EF 24-70mm f/4L IS and the EF 70-200mm f/4L IS lenses allow me a range from 24-200mm. Throwing in an Extender EF 1.4x increases that range to as far as 280mm. But the beauty of it all is that I still have a great close-up lens with the EF 24-70mm f/4L IS lens – allowing magnification of .7x for my macro shots.

I'll throw in a small reflector and a Wimberly Plamp, a flexible articulating arm, which allows me an extra arm to hold the reflector while adding light into the shadow areas of my close-up shot.

Photo by Barbara Ellison


Because I use IS lenses, I am able work out in the field without a tripod. I will clip a small beanbag neck travel pillow to my pack, which enables me to set the camera on a ledge, car, or the ground. When needing to record video using a very slow shutter speed, I would put my camera on a two second self-timer to avoid moving the camera when I trip the shutter.

I can walk around town with my camera strapped around my shoulder while attaching the second lens to my “Go-Wing” – the part made of two rear lens caps back-to-back with locking mechanisms. A free rotating clip attaches to the body strap and allows me to change the lens on the camera while the other lens is securely on my strap. Now I don’t have to worry about dropping a lens or setting it down to be damaged or taken. This combination makes it easy to always have the lenses that I need right at my fingertips. I do not have to stop to open up the camera bag, which could make me miss the shot or drop the gear.

After a day of photographing in a new and exciting place, I still feel ready to continue on the next morning, with my gear easy to access while traveling light.

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