Jordana Wright talks about what you really need for travel photography. This article covers the essential not-photo-gear is from her book The Enthusiast’s Guide to Travel published by Rocky Nook. Read the first part here.

Essentials that aren’t for photography

The next few lessons will cover detailed thoughts and techniques about specific gear options for travel photography, so for now, let’s focus on the non-photographic essentials and space-saving techniques:

  • Plan to do laundry: I have been known to bring half as many outfits as there are days and hand-wash clothing in the sink if laundry facilities are unavailable. This is generally easier to accomplish in warmer climates and with casual dress.
  • Two pairs of shoes: Regardless of how comfortable your shoes are, your feet will need a break from the monotony. I travel with two pairs. No more, no less.
  • Notebook and pen: I like the old-school feel of writing stuff down. I take tons of notes both before I leave and on the journey. Having a pen handy also helps when you need to fill out customs paperwork or jot down an address.
  • Raincoat: A raincoat can be a pillow, an extra layer for warmth, something to wrap your gear in during an unexpected storm, or an added layer of waterproofing in your camera bag. Find a good one and pack it. Generally the more breathable the raincoat, the less waterproof, so heads-up.
  • Permethrin spray: For any tropical journey, I hang my clothes in the shower and spray them down with permethrin before packing. Mosquitos treat me like an all-you-can-eat buffet, and because I’m allergic to their bites, I take bug repellent very seriously. I’ve tried practically everything on the market and permethrin has been the most successful repellent I’ve ever used.
I saved an offline map containing the regions in Nicaragua I planned to visit. It was a huge time-saver for navigating from point to point.
I saved an offline map containing the regions in Nicaragua I planned to visit. It was a huge time-saver for navigating from point to point.

Digital must-haves on my smartphone

As much as I love to unplug from my cell phone when I travel, it is the second most frequently used piece of gear I have (the first is my camera). Before a trip, I like to load my phone with lots of digital must-haves to help keep my journey running smoothly. Here’s some of what I keep in my phone:

  • Maps (Figures 13.2 and 13.3): Several similar apps are available, but I prefer Google Maps. Before a journey, I make color-coded maps with addresses for hotels, “must-see” photo locations, and “if I have extra time” locations. I download the regions to which I’ll be traveling with my custom pins as offline maps so that I can get turn-by-turn directions without using any data internationally. Part of the fun of travel is getting a little lost and making new discoveries, but I like knowing I have a relevant map just in case. ɋɋMusic: When I travel, I prefer to have a soundtrack. Music gets me pumped, helps me relax, or keeps me going on long travel days. I always make sure I have a very full playlist for each journey.
  • ICE and medical info: On most phones, you can keep your In Case of Emergency contact info or any pertinent medical info accessible on your locked screen. That way, if you’re unconscious or unable to unlock your phone, people will still know how to help you.
  • Camera manual: There are literally dozens of menus and hundreds of potential settings in today’s high-end cameras. Don’t be embarrassed to look up how to do stuff you may not have tried before. Download your camera manual as a PDF to your phone so that you can access it on the road without putting extra weight in your bag. Make sure your installed PDF reader will allow you to search for terms to save time. The same thing goes for guidebooks.
  • Translation or phrasebook app: Google translate lets you download a language pack to use offline. You can translate to and from your native language on the fly and get help with pronunciation. I always program shortcuts for a few key phrases like “Where is the bathroom?,” “Can I take your photograph?,” and “May I have another glass of red wine?”
  • Kindle app: I read a lot—especially on the road. Kindle or PDF-format books let you read on your phone or laptop with ease. (Bonus points if you are reading this book on your phone or laptop while traveling right now.)
  • Easy Release – Model Release App: As I mentioned in lesson 4, model releases on the go are much easier with a well-designed, translatable app. The Easy Release app is worth the money.
  • Copy of passport and travel documents: I like knowing that I have a copy of my passport in case of damage or theft. If you’re wary of keeping vital personal information on the phone itself, save it to Dropbox or Google Drive so you can access it just in case. Other travel documents like flight, hotel, and activity confirmations should all be downloaded ahead of time so you can access them anywhere.
  • Kill switch: Many phones come with a kill switch preinstalled, or there are a variety of apps and programs that you can download as well. The idea is that if someone steals your phone, you can wipe it remotely and/ or render it useless. Pickpocketing happens all over the world, and it’s nice to know that losing your phone doesn’t mean losing your identity. Packing doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Just remember to pack a week or two before you depart so you have time to reorganize, cut things, or add any essentials you forgot. If you need a lot of stuff, then bring a lot of stuff. No judgment. But if you can at all manage to travel carry-on only, then get ready to enjoy the fruits of your liberation.

Travel photography requires dedication. This series of excerpts from “The Enthusiast’s Guide to Travel Photography” by Jordana Wright is published by Rocky Nook.

See all of the great photographic skills books from Rocky Nook.

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