India-Nepal: Choosing the “right” lenses…at least for me…right now…until next trip!

70-200mm 2.8 Villager in central India. Originally tried 24mm but did not like distortion. I was shooting this tableau and the man walked out...perfect.

50mm 1.4 Woman and her offering at Boudanath Stupa, Nepal.

24mm 1.4 Woman sick with fever, Mission Hospital, India

The combination of lenses I use when I travel is constantly changing. On one trip I will go super light, so light that I, on purpose, don’t look like a pro. Other times I will carry everything from 14mm up to 300 and throw in a tilt shift and an extender just to test airline weight restrictions and build a few extra muscles. But for the last several trips I have standardized on three lenses: 24, 50, and 70-200. This simplicity of glass is suiting both my back and my creativity. Sure, without the wide and mid zooms I have to move my body more. But the fast 1.4 primes and 6400 clean files have opened up new opportunities to capture moments in near darkness. A caveat though — shooting at 1.4 is a bit dicey on the focus. I often have less than an inch of sharp critical focus. You’ve got to get the focus spot on the eye.

As David Duchemin always says, “Gear is good vision is better”. Make conscious, informed decisions about your gear choices. Experiment. Get comfortable with your choice and then let the creativity flow.

All Photographs copyright Gary S. Chapman

(Nikon D3s, 70-200mm f2.8, 1/640 sec, f2.8, ISO 400)

(Nikon D3s, 50mm 1.4, 1/100 sec, f1.4, ISO 4000)

(Nikon D3s, 24mm f1.4, 1/100 sec, f1.4, ISO 2000)

10 thoughts

  1. I definitely like the ‘less is more’ approach at the moment too……my last trip I just put my 35mm and 135mm in, and only used the 35mm. Only having 1 focal length gives you one less thing to think about and keeps you moving 🙂

  2. Your Pictures are truly moving and inspiring. The information regrading the lenses while traveling are superb. Thank you very much for sharing your pictures & information. Great Work Sir!

  3. Rob…thanks for looking. I don’t have an email notification at this time…sorry. You could add the feed to an RSS feed like google reader.

  4. Interesting approach.
    Are taking one body or two with you?
    Did thinking about changing body for a bit smaller for some trips?
    I was shooting with D3 for 3years in the newsagency but found it to big and heavy for travelling. Now i am happy with d700 regarding the body size.
    Regarding the weight I think it also depend HOW you travel. Its different if you rent a car and walk maybe few hours a day with your gear, then when you backpacking and use public transport all the time.
    At least for me :). In Oman working on one project we were riding by car all the time so I was ok with heavy gear. But I was using smallbuses( matatus ) for 4h+ ride in Kenya I wished to have smaller set.

    For next a few months long trip to asia I thinking about either body + 24-70 + 50mm + 85mm or body 16-35 + 50 + 85 even I know I will miss my 70-200. Thanks for the post, its help to see others approach.

  5. Tomas…thanks for looking. I actually change what I take all of the time. I find the change helps me to be more creative. I currently carry a D4 and a D800, but I prefer the D4 for stills and the D800 for video.

  6. Interesting.
    I agree that changing gear can help to be more creative. But also, with out some lenses you just cant take some pictures.Mostly if it is actionbased, like when I was shooting shark fishhing in Oman. I was glad that I had my widezoom when we were too close to the another boat.Murphys law 🙂
    Anyway, thanks for response. Will keep following you.

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