A vacation to a beautiful, photographically rich destination without my camera bag and tripod? Am I crazy? I’d meticulously packed by camera backpack with multiple lenses and camera bodies, all my filters, my sensor cleaning kit, spare batteries, memory cards, laptop… I was ready to photograph the natural wonders of Maui, Hawaii, whatever came my way!
But this was supposed to be a vacation. My wife and I were headed to Maui to relax and take a deep breath. Put away our devices for a week, and take in the beauty without a ‘need’ to be somewhere, doing something. Laying in bed the night before our flight, I was debating whether I should bring my heavy camera backpack along for the trip at all. Does it make sense to bring all this gear, and worry about storing it safely while we’re snorkeling or camping? Would we feel a need to get somewhere by sunset, or wake up super early to photograph the sunrise?
Ultimately, seconds before we walked out the door to head to the airport, I decided to leave all but one camera and a single lens behind. I left the heavy backpack, the tripod, all the accessories, and just grabbed what I call my ‘wildlife camera’: a Nikon D500 with a Nikon 300mm f/4E PF ED lens. I’d recently purchased this combo used, and thought this trip might be an excellent opportunity to really test it out, while keeping my kit super-minimal and lightweight. Since I wasn’t bringing a tripod there wouldn’t be any stress to be somewhere specific for sunset or sunrise, and no need to lug a bunch of gear on our long hikes to find waterfalls. Just a light-weight setup (with respect to a wildlife photography kit) to sling over my shoulder on hikes, or stash in the rental car’s trunk while we’re at the beach.
With the D500 being a crop-sensor (DX) camera, the equivalent focal length I shot at the entire trip was 450mm. Not your typical landscape range! This ‘limitation’ forced me to look at things with a different perspective photographically, and it ended up being a fun challenge to focus on textures rather than broad vistas, or intimate details rather than trying to ‘get it all it’.
We ended up having a fabulous vacation, we were able to unwind and relax, and I didn’t have the nagging voice in my head, the one all photographers deal with at one point or another, second guessing my gear or lens choice. I didn’t have any choice, it was 450mm or nothing! This is perhaps not a unique concept, but it was a fun and new experiment for me, and I did my best to maximize what I could with minimal gear.