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I’m in the final stages of planning for a photo trip—I leave in less than three weeks—that will involve quite a bit of hiking, much of it over steep, uneven terrain. On at least one of the days when I’ll be on location, I anticipate hiking from shortly after sunrise until shortly before sunset. I’ll be shuttled into a remote area early in the day and shuttled out again at day’s end. The point is, I have to carry everything I need—clothing and other accessories, food, water and (of course) photo equipment—all day long. Given the grueling nature of the itinerary and the lack of options, I’ve had to spend some time thinking about what to bring and how I can enforce reasonable weight and space limitations without negatively impacting the point of the exercise—picture taking.

I’ve had some experience doing this (I’ve discussed photo trip planning in a previous post on this blog; I wrote specifically about limiting photo gear on challenging hikes in another entry, as well as in a post on my own blog), but I want to cover the subject in more general terms.

Basically, no matter what kind of photography you’re engaged in, regardless of the place, the first rule of photo gear is that it shouldn’t get in your way. There have never been as many quality options with regard to photographic systems as exist today, so there’s almost certainly an option that best fits the specifics surrounding your shooting experience. For instance, all things being equal, the ideal system to take on a jaunt similar to the one that I mentioned above is either a high-end point-and-shoot with a large zoom range lens and a very light tripod to support it. This arrangement takes up minimal space and weighs very little.

For something with a bit more technical control, any one of a series of mirrorless camera system packages will fill the bill. The camera bodies that provide the foundation for these systems are tiny—many of them fit in the palm of your hand—and the lenses are small as well. A three-lens outfit, plus the camera itself, takes up about as much space (and weighs less) than a pro-level DSLR and a single wide-aperture mid-range zoom.

If you already have a DSLR body, a do-it-all variable aperture zoom lens might be just the ticket for you. It’s heavier and takes up more space than either of the options mentioned above, but it’s well within the limits of many hikers.

What will I be doing? Well, I normally carry four heavy lenses and two camera bodies and I’m cutting that typical load in half—one camera, two lenses (with one of those lenses mounted). That will allow all kinds of room for everything else I bring and will lighten the load well below the normal weight of gear that I normally bring with me. This will make the hike less burdensome and allow me to focus more of my energy on the reason for the hike—photography. And that’s always how it ought to be.

I’ve used the example of photographing as part of a strenuous hike, but the point is applicable to any form of photography. Say, for instance, you’re interested in street photography, which involves a lot of walking around with your camera in your hands and/or around your neck while making candid images of people. Anything other than a camera that’s light, fast to autofocus and small and unobtrusive enough not to attract attention is going to get in the way of what you want to do.

What could be more absurd than your photo gear getting in the way of your photography? It’s a simple principle: if your equipment is inhibiting your photography, you have the wrong equipment.  Don’t let this happen to you.

Thursday Tips is written by Kerry Mark Leibowitz, a guest blogger on 1001 Scribbles, and appears every other Thursday. To read more of his thoughts on photography, please visit his blog: Lightscapes Nature Photography.

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