When packing your camera bag to go on a trip it can be a challenge to decide what lens is the best to bring to capture those special moments with family and friends without feeling like your gear is holding you up.
This October my family and I spent a week in Sedona Arizona and currently the only lenses I own are prime lenses or single focal length lenses.
So packing them up I was looking forward to seeing how these would work in a faster pace scenario and in an environment where the scenes are constantly changing.
One thing I noticed right away is that when using prime lenses it is good to have a bag layout where you can easily access your lenses, filters, and other accessories so that you don’t feel like you are holding your group up or missing shots.
I was using the Wandrd PRVKE 31 which was great to use with its side door access and easily foldable dividers to access different parts of the camera cube and do it on the move.
However, I would have liked to have a bag more like the Think Tank Photo Cross series of bags that lets you open up the entire side of the bag and allow you an even better view into the bag and easier access into your gear.
I guess you could always use the PRVKE for travel days and then Photo Cross for the adventure and exploration days.
Another thing I noticed is that while switching lenses back and forth can seem annoying at first you begin to learn what focal length works best for a situation and what kind of emotion that focal length will provide for an image.
The focal lengths I primarily used on my trip were a 24mm f2.8, 50mm f1.8, and 135mm f2.5.
I used the 24mm while we were on the trail moving quickly as it was great for video shooting as it reduced the perceived shake. It also was great to provide the scale of the landscape and my subject, usually my family.
It was also a good focal length when just walking around town and wanting to capture the greater environment and feeling of an area.
Because the 24mm does everything so well and is my preferred focal length I had to tell myself to not forget to use the 50mm because that is a focal length that doesn’t seem exciting but always delivers some good surprises.
When taking photos of my parents on the top of mountains, shooting a landscape, taking candid photos of people on the street and whatever else, 50mm is a dream.
Having a good 50mm in your bag is a must. There is a reason that it was the kit lens for film cameras because it can do it all.
I always enjoy using this focal length for video work because it allows the viewer to focus on your subject while still being able to understand the environment that they are in.
Now up until a few years ago, I would have thought that using a 135mm lens for landscape photography was a bit odd. After watching some YouTube videos and seeing sample photos I was sold on the idea.
So I was really excited to give my 135mm a shot at it and it really blew me away.
Just being able to pull in a scene and declutter it really allows you as the photographer and your audience to better understand the moment you wanted to capture.
I loved how I was able to isolate a mountain top partially covered in shadow, a small valley with a single hill in the center of it, or a looming rock face with a unique cloud pattern.
I did not use my 135mm much, but when I did pull it out I always felt like I was going to get something that I never thought to shoot before.
Well after this trip I have come to a few conclusions that I’m not sure are helpful, but at least give me some options.
One is that I still really enjoyed shooting with prime lenses during a trip due to their more compact and lightweight nature. Plus it is also a lot easier to plan your shots when you know how a scene is going to look through a given lens.
Secondly, I think having a zoom lens with a constant aperture that features my preferred focal lengths, like a 24-70 f2.8 or f4, and a 135mm would make a really good travel kit.
Finally, though I think the best part about all of this is the experimentation of finding what works best for you and your photographing experience.
These are the things that make shooting with a DSLR or Mirrorless camera more exciting and thrilling than using a cellphone. Knowing that you had the right lens(es) on the right day and you got to learn more about yourself as a photographer.