Which Two Lenses Should You Bring on Your Travels?

2 lenses cover

No doubt about it…I brought waaaaaay too much photo gear on this trip!

Part of the problem is that I generally choose to err on the side of caution, rather than deal with pangs of regret later on. As I was going to be gone for 8 months, I thought it prudent to pack everything I thought I might “realistically” need. Unfortunately, that line of thinking resulted in me lugging 3 dslr bodies (1 full frame, 1 crop sensor, 1 micro 4/3), 2 pocket cams, 1 gopro, 7 lenses, a tripod, gorillapod, selfie stick, 2 flashes, a portable flash modifier, 2 tranceivers, and a 5 sided reflector all around South America.

Yes, typical me. Overkill in the hiiiiighest order! 🙂

You’d think that with all the gear in my bag, that I was moving to South America indefinitely… and yet… even though I’m certain that I brought too much, I still find myself wishing there were some other items that I really wish had fit into my luggage (ie. umbrella, light stands). I’ll be writing about what gear I found to be the most useful, and why I chose to bring each piece in a future post, but for now, I’ll choose to focuses on just my lenses, as I was inspired to write this post after reading an article on Photofocus that asks [What if You Could Only Have Two Lenses?]

After traveling through 5 countries over the past 6 months, I find that almost all of the shots could have been taken with the following 2 lenses in my bag:

The Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6

The Canon 24-105mm L f4

The reason why I chose these two (and why what’s best for you may differ) is based specifically on the type of photography that I generally shoot.  On my travels, I find that all my shots fall under the category of Landscape/Cityscape, Street, or Portraits.

In the Photofocus article, the author mentions that he’d looked at EXIF data for thousands of photos that were publicly posted, and found that 90% of the images were shot between 24 and 200 mm focal lengths. I can definitely see why those would be the most popular focal lengths as they cover most styles of photography, but for the purpose of use during my travels, I find that my numbers skew a bit towards the wider angle, rather than telephoto.

When shooting Landscapes, I generally try to catch the sweeping nature of any particular vista, and being able to to fit more of what my eyes see allows me to capture a truer representation of the moment. Shooting with my 10-20mm enables me to capture more of what’s happening in front of my lens without having to go through the trouble of taking mutiple shots and compositing them into one image in post. When I’m heading out to take landscapes, my ultra-wide is always the first thing to go into my bag, and has probably gotten the most use on the road.

fishing boats in panama city harbor against cityscapeview of medellin colombia from biblioteca espana

The 24-105mm on the other hand is a very versatile range that brings together some of my favorite focal lengths for Portraits and Street Photography (35mm & 85mm) into one handy zoom. Though I would prefer having a faster lens, the f4 is suitable for most cases during the daytime/late afternoon, and as I generally don’t shoot at night without an external flash, I find that if I absolutely had to make a choice, I could probably make do without my f1.8 primes.
girl and dog in medellin colombiaphotoshoot in calle florida in buenos aires

While your choices may vary based on the type of photography you enjoy, I think sticking to focal lengths in this range would benefit most traveling photogs who are looking to explore without having to lug around too much gear.

Do you have a different minimalist combo of lenses that have worked for you during your travels?  If you have recommendations for another 2 lens setup,  let me know in the comments below! 🙂

 

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