Many of you ask me what’s in my bag when I go on one of my photo workshops. My reply is always the same: depends on where I’m going! I take commercial flights to every one of my workshop locations. Each photographic location requires different gear so in part one I will start with the location that is the most difficult to pack for: Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. Why is this the most difficult location? Because you will need lenses for landscape and wildlife photography and with current airline carry on restrictions it makes packing everything into one bag very difficult but I will show you that it can be done.
The first thing I do when I book my flights is to make sure I can get on planes that have carry on compartments that are large enough for my Tenba Roadie Large rolling case. Over the years, I have switched from backpacks to rolling cases just for ease of getting around airports and I’m getting older and don’t want to carry that much weight on my back! As you can see in the image above, I also take my laptop in this case although sometimes I take a smaller laptop case which fits right over the handle and allows me to take all my photographic accessories like chargers, card readers, mouse, etc. onto the plane with as per airlines policies. So, what lurks inside the rolling case that can cover every situation I will encounter?
As you can see in the image above, the case is packed almost to capacity with a bit of space for my laptop cord, and a few other accessories. I bring two identical pro bodies with an extra battery. I have plenty of cards and I bring an external hard drive so I can back up all my images during the workshop. The rechargeable batteries are for my headlamp and mouse and the cable release and Tiny Monster flashlight are for night shoots. I have the Vü 150mm Filter Holder with the Sion Circular polarizer to fit the Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 DG HSM ll and a 82 mm Circular polarizer with a step down ring to fit my Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS Art and my Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art along with a few other filters. I also pack my Induro BHL3 (now BHL3s) ballhead when I am headed to my location but pack it in my checked suitcase on the way home. I also realize that most of you won’t be hand holding the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Sport so I would also throw the Induro GHBA Gimbal Head that works great with the ballhead and is much lighter to pack. So what lenses are in the bag?
I have the Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 DG HSM ll (getting new 12-24mm f/4 Art soon!) for wide-angle views along with some night photography, the Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS Art for the bulk of my landscape work, and the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art for the majority of the night landscape work due to its’ fast aperture. Those 3 lenses will covers every landscape scenario I will encounter out in the field.
I know I need a wildlife lens and I have 3 or 4 to choose from but space is limited in today’s air travel world so let’s rule out the Sigma 300-800mm f/5.6 EX DG APO HSM as airlines will not allow me to carry it onto the plane. Make no mistake that if I am going to Tanzania for my photo safari, I will definitely ship it there, as it is the ultimate reach in one package. Another lens I will rule out for this trip, although reluctantly, is the Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sport. This is another lens that would definitely get shipped to Tanzania as it is one of my favorite lenses but with national regulations on approaching too closely to wildlife, I need the extra focal length reach to capture some of the smaller or distant wildlife. So that leaves me to choose between the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary and the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sport. So which do I choose? The Sport. Why? I prefer the lighter weight of the Contemporary but the image below shows the real world environment and how I treat the Sport when I am in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem.
Yep, that is the camera and Sport lens on the floor of the truck at my feet. Why would I put it there? Well, for one, every seat is taken and while I can leave it in my bag, if I happen to spot something by the side of the road while driving, I can quickly pull over, pick up the setup and take the shot wasting no time setting up. Simply put, the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports rugged build and weather seal can take anything I can throw at it. It is Roman proof. I need quick access to my gear and can’t be worried whether it can handle rain, snow, dust, and being banged around so the Sport fills that need when I am out there. Combining it with the Sigma TC-1401 Teleconverter on my full frame camera bodies gives me even more reach allowing me to keep a safe distance and not break park regulations.
Travel is getting more difficult these days but as you can see, these four lenses allowed me to capture any situation out in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem all while satisfying the airlines carry on regulations.
Roman Kurywczak is a full time nature photographer and proud Sigma Pro team member who conducts lectures and workshops across the globe. His boutique tour company, Roamin’ with Roman Photo Tours, caters to very small groups (only 4) to provide the ultimate learning experience for participants. His down to earth and easy to follow teaching style make him a highly sought after lecturer. The author of several instructional eBook’s on nature photography, Roman strives to share his passion for photography as others have shared with him. He is married for over 26 years with two sons and lives in NJ. You can learn more about Roman’s workshops, lectures, eBook’s, galleries, and more at: www.roaminwithroman.com