Equipment Suggestions for a Year Backpacking around the World

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by John Ortt, Nov 30, 2006.

  1. John Ortt

    John Ortt Guest

    Hi Everyone,

    My wife and I are taking a year out from work to go travelling round the
    world and one of my
    main ambitions during the year is to indulge my interest in photography.

    My problem is what to take!

    I currently have a Canon EOS 300D (Original Rebel) and have replaced the kit
    lens with the EFS 17-85 IS.
    I also have a EF 50 1.8 for portraits and low light shooting, in addition to
    a 430EX Flash and the
    usual array of flash cards, cable trigger, mini-tripod, cleaning cloth etc.

    All of this I will be taking with me (theres no point having it unless I use

    But there are two areas which then cause me trouble.

    1) The first issue is how to store my photos.

    I know my 3GB of Compact Flash storage won't last too long so I will
    need to archive them somehow.
    The big question is do I take the technology to burn/archive them or do
    I spend more money on
    extra flash cards and archive them in the big cities onto CD/DVD
    I currently have a three year old laptop which is suprisingly small and
    compact and this would
    offer the added advantage of allowing me to write my blog on the
    computer rather than hand
    writing it or typing it in Internet cafes. The downsides are that the
    internal Hard Disk is only
    about 20Gb and it has no DVD/CD burning capability which might limit
    it's usefulness. Possible
    options might be to buy a USB hard drive or CD/DVD burner or to try to
    get a dedicated burner
    for the laptop. The only other minor niggle is that it has no wireless
    capability which would be

    The only other option would be to use an Archos or similar archiving
    tool (ipod Photo?).
    The drawback with this option is that I doubt it would hold a whole
    years worth of Photos and it
    would be a bit of a one-trick-pony as I couldn't type e-mails or blogs
    on it.

    Any other options?...............

    2) My other problem is a choice of telephoto lens for wildlife photography.

    We are planning to travel to lots of wonderful natural areas and I am
    sure there will be ample
    opportunity for great wildlife shots but in order to make the most of
    them I will need a telephoto

    I would like to stick to Canon for their reputation and the ease of
    resale in the future (if
    necessary), but I am prepared to considder other manufacturers if they
    merit it. The ideal lens
    would go from 85mm to at-least 300mm and have Image stabilisation, be
    totally sealed,
    lightweight, small, built like a tank and inexpensive! Easy task.
    I think the best lens for my needs would be the EF 100 - 400 f4 IS L
    with the EF 70 - 200 IS L
    (either f2.8 or f4) combined with the 1.4x teleconverter coming a close
    The problem with any of these lenses is the huge initial expense and the
    worry that they
    would be damaged or stolen.

    The alternative is to go for a much cheaper lens at the expense of build
    quality and ultimately
    picture quality. The other lenses I am considdering are:

    Canon EF 75-300mm f/4.0-5.6 III (IS USM) - approx £155
    Canon EF 90-300mm f/4.5-5.6 USM - approx £219
    Canon EF 100-300mm f/4.5-5.6 USM - approx £252
    Canon EF 70-300mm F4-5.6 IS USM - approx £470
    Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Macro DG - approx £115
    Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 APO Macro DG - approx £180

    Any advice on any aspect would be greatly appreciated,


    John Ortt
    John Ortt, Nov 30, 2006
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  2. 1) The first issue is how to store my photos.

    You seem to know all the the options. I don't know of any others. I went
    for the burn-it-on-the-road device. You really don't want to be carrying
    a laptop unless you have to, and if all your photos are on it, it leaves
    you totally exposed to damage or theft. You could burn disks in the
    cities, but it gets expensive quickly, and if you happen to spend 2
    weeks in photographic country between cities you might run out of
    storage. My strategy is to burn 2 disks before wiping the card, then
    post one home and keep the other with me. Even then, you can amass
    silver disks quickly. On a long trip I once had 20 disks in my backpack,
    so I Fed-ex'ed them to a relative.
    You need to filter the list on what compromises you want to make. Start
    by eliminating what you can't afford. Next eliminate what you don't want
    to carry. Then assess the risk you'll be taking and decide what you can
    insure/afford to lose. What does that leave?

    On the basis of quality, weight, bulk, value, flexibility and, should it
    be necessary, replaceability, I'd go for something like a 70-200 f/4 L
    and a teleconvertor. In fact, that's exactly what I did go for when in a
    similar situation to yours.
    Derek Fountain, Nov 30, 2006
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  3. John Ortt

    tomm42 Guest

    1st thing is to get some insurance on your equipment. A rider on
    renters insurance would be fine, otherwise find some other insurer.
    I agree with the previus poster that the 70-200 f4 with a 1.4 converter
    would be a good combination, since you have the tripod I'd think hard
    about getting the IS model. I traveled the Virgin Islands (just for a
    couple of weeks not a year!) I had a 70-210 f4 Nikor and the size was
    Most travelers I know like the small laptop as storage as opposed to
    the photo drives. But as you said the 20gb is not enough. Is there
    anyway for you to put a 100gb drive into the laptop. Then burn CDs and
    ship them to a friend at home, to back up whats on your hard drive.
    Enjoy your trip.

    tomm42, Nov 30, 2006
  4. John Ortt

    rafe b Guest

    You can get these things with 40 and even 80 gig drives, AFAIK.

    If that won't hold a years' worth of photos, you need to edit them
    down a bit. Seriously... Let's say you shoot a 12 MPix camera in
    RAW, so your images are 12 MBytes each.

    80 Gig / 12 Meg gives >6600 images, if my calculations are

    Alternatively, burn the CF cards to CD or DVD as they fill,
    and mail home the burned discs.

    Either way there's some risk involved... no way around that
    as far as I can see. Similar risks would obtain with film --
    eg., hazards with lost mail, mis-processing, etc.

    rafe b
    rafe b, Nov 30, 2006
  5. John Ortt

    Ken Lucke Guest

    Does your ISP have shell accounts? If so, arrange for one. Or do you
    have a dedicated website somewhere that you are paying hosting for?
    Either way, learn how to FTP your images into your own account and just
    store them there. You can then do so any time you have internet access
    wherever you are, and clear the images off of your laptop. (Keep a jpeg
    of them on it, just for references that you can look at or show to
    others while you are still on your trip but don't have internet

    Additionally, if you can arrange it, go buy an external 500gb
    USB/Firewire drive (they're easily down under $250 now), and leave it
    with a friend who will occasionally download your FTP'd files and store
    them on the drive for you (to back you up). That way, you have solid
    backups, but still also still have them online so that you can retrieve
    them if you find it's necessary to do so while you are still on your
    trip. If your account starts getting full, just email your friend to
    make sure backups are up-to-date, and dump all but the most important
    pictures off of the online storage - he'll still have ll the originals
    backed up. Oh, yeah - tell him that unless he's actively backing up
    your images, to turn off AND disconnect your hard drive, to reduce the
    [already minimal] chance of any potential failures (actual drive
    failures, power surges, etc.).

    As for the wireless capability of your laptop (if you feel it's really
    necessary), a PMCIA or USB wireless adapter is dirt cheap.
    Ken Lucke, Nov 30, 2006
  6. John Ortt

    John Ortt Guest

    Thanks for the reply Tom,

    Some good points to think on. I am inclined to agree with you that the
    laptop is a no-go unless I can either get a CD/DVD RW for it (and/or) a
    larger hard drive.

    As to the lens I would dearly love the IS version to make things easier but
    I can live without and it saves loads of money.

    I just might have found my lens :)

    Time to go and play with one in a shop.

    1st thing is to get some insurance on your equipment. A rider on
    renters insurance would be fine, otherwise find some other insurer.
    I agree with the previus poster that the 70-200 f4 with a 1.4 converter
    would be a good combination, since you have the tripod I'd think hard
    about getting the IS model. I traveled the Virgin Islands (just for a
    couple of weeks not a year!) I had a 70-210 f4 Nikor and the size was
    Most travelers I know like the small laptop as storage as opposed to
    the photo drives. But as you said the 20gb is not enough. Is there
    anyway for you to put a 100gb drive into the laptop. Then burn CDs and
    ship them to a friend at home, to back up whats on your hard drive.
    Enjoy your trip.

    John Ortt, Nov 30, 2006
  7. John Ortt

    John Ortt Guest

    I shot 400 images last weekend so I could soon kill 80Gb but having said
    that I am not very disciplined at getting rid of the junk.

    It's easier not to bother with the price of storage these days but it's a
    very different proposition when you have to carry and nurse the equipment in
    a rucksack.

    As you say 80Gb would be fine if I paid some attention to it
    This does sound a great idea but the only problem is that I currently have
    no burner.

    I would have to try to get one for my Laptop of find a generic one which
    would work.
    Agreed. It's just coming to a decision and having confidence in that
    decision I want.
    Thanks again for the feedback Rafe.
    John Ortt, Nov 30, 2006
  8. John Ortt

    AZ Nomad Guest

    36MB actually; 24 bit color equals 3 bytes per pixel.
    AZ Nomad, Nov 30, 2006
  9. --

    I have a gadget called the Burnaway, made by Delkin Devices, which will
    copy images from just about any camera media in existence to CD or DVD.
    One DVD holds a lot of images, and it does not take much space to carry
    a bunch of them. You can buy blank DVDs, or, in a pinch, CDs, almost
    anywhere if you run out. I recommend this device based on my own use.

    I generally copy images twice onto two DVDs, thus giving myself a
    backup in case of trouble. The software in the gadget will let you
    start on one DVD and finish on a second. As a bonus, which I have never
    used when travelling but I did test it at home, you can use the
    Burnaway to view your images on any television set, including rotating
    the portrait mode pictures. Both NTSC and PAL are supported.

    The Burnaway is powered by a rechargeable Li ion battery that keeps
    going for a long time. I recharge mine once every week or two, just to
    be safe. The charger is multivoltage.
    Donald Fredkin, Nov 30, 2006
  10. John Ortt

    JC Dill Guest

    This is a great idea, except for the FTP part. FTP is a very insecure
    protocol - your username and password are sent "in clear text" which
    is really risky when you are connecting at places like Internet Cafes
    - you never know if someone is sniffing the traffic at the cafe and
    snarfing passwords. If you go this route learn how to use SSH and
    SCP. You can carry a copy of PuTTY with you on a floppy or USB thumb
    drive and load PuTTY from that onto any computer at an Internet Cafe.
    Then use PuTTY to SSH/SCP transfer files from your CF cards to your
    shell account on the server. Also, never use an Internet Cafe
    computer to check email using insecure login (pop3 on port 110). See
    if your ISP offers a webmail interface using https which encrypts your

    If you take a camera that lets you shoot in RAW+JPEG, you can save the
    JPEGs (~1MB each) on your laptop while uploading the RAW to your
    server. Then you can view the JPEGS on your laptop, catalog and cull
    them, etc. now and then while traveling, use them for blog entries,
    for mailing to friends. If you don't have that option, consider
    shooting in RAW and then using a simple batch program to make JPEG
    thumbnails, both Irfanview and Thumbsplus work well for this. Again,
    upload the RAW, keep the JPEGS on your laptop.

    As to your lens question, personally I would take a 70-200 and 1.4 TC
    rather than the 100-400.


    JC Dill, Nov 30, 2006
  11. Whatever you take, it will be obsolete before you return home. :)
    Allodoxaphobia, Nov 30, 2006
  12. John Ortt

    Dave Guest

    I agree with this poster - there is real value in cataloging (and
    editing if you have time on the trip) the photos on a laptop while your
    memory is fresh. You will accumulate thousands of photos, and the task
    of cataloging these after-the-fact will be quite enormous.
    Dave, Dec 1, 2006
  13. John Ortt

    Ken Lucke Guest

    True enough - I was working on the ass/u/mption that he was going to
    have to learn even the basics of FTP. SSH, sFTP, similar secure
    protocols would be better, with not much more of a learning curve.
    Good of you to point it out.

    The reason I failed to consider that aspect is that I NEVER use
    internet cafes, simply because they ARE so insecure - as you point out,
    you never know who's sniffing the packets or why. If I can't use my
    own machine or a friend's, I don't do secure stuff online.
    Ken Lucke, Dec 1, 2006

  14. 36 MB would be true for TIF, but not if you're shooting RAW.

    For a "12 Mpixel" camera the RAW file size might range from
    10 MB up to 14 MB (roughly.)

    rafe b
    Raphael Bustin, Dec 1, 2006
  15. John Ortt

    Phil Wheeler Guest

    Good. I'd add a 70-300 DO IS (expensive but
    compact and light). It and the 17-85IS are my 20D
    travel lenses. I leave the 100-400L at home (too
    big and too heavy).
    You need a new laptop with wireless, burner
    (CD/DVD) and 80-120 GB HDD. You are overdue!

    There are portable storage devices which will burn
    from CF card to CD or DVD. Better choice than HDD
    type for long trip.
    70-300 DO IS, as above.

    If you are seriously considering that, I would
    think on an S3 IS with 35-420 mm equivalent zoom.
    Results with good light would be as good as using
    the 300D with a low end zoom .. and it would be
    lots easier to use .. and will give you movie
    clips with 12x optical zoom, too. The S3 IS is my
    backpacking camera. Takes SD cards, though.

    Phil Wheeler, Dec 1, 2006
  16. That assumes you have enough space on your ISP account. Last year 5-10
    gigabytes was about the maximum I saw for normal accounts. Even if it is now
    20 gigabytes, that may not be enough.

    Secondly, even if you had enough storage space on your ISP, you probably won't
    have the bandwidth at your local internet cafe to do serious amounts of
    Michael Meissner, Dec 1, 2006
  17. John Ortt

    Phil Wheeler Guest

    Boots, many pairs of boots.
    Phil Wheeler, Dec 1, 2006
  18. John Ortt

    John Ortt Guest

    Wow, Sounds like a great piece of kit!

    I'll look into that, thanks Donald.
    John Ortt, Dec 1, 2006
  19. Compact flash cards are cheap. Why not buy enough to hold all your
    images for your trip? (That does depend on how many you plan to
    take.) I have about 80 gigabytes of fast CF, for long trips,
    for example. It would be lighter than computers and external
    hard drives, and requires no more power than the battery when
    you took the shot. How will you charge camera batteries?
    If backpacking, I would think weight would be an issue.
    My advice is skip the 100-400. It is NOT sealed, and pumps
    dust onto your sensor (I have one). Mine is also not that
    sharp. I now use a 300 mm f/4 L IS: it is sharper that the
    100-400, lighter, sealed, and less weight. Add a 1.4x TC
    and you get 420 mm f/5.6 and is still sharper than the 100-400.

    Add a carbon fiber tripod.

    Photos at:
    Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark), Dec 1, 2006
  20. John Ortt

    John Ortt Guest

    I disagree. I am taking my 300D (which is already obsolete) but if I buy a
    decent lens it should last me for years.

    My choice of media backup is a different story : )
    John Ortt, Dec 1, 2006
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