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Photography Notes

Photography is a hobby that I picked up probably about 6 months or so before the start of the trip. I had always been interested in photography, but it’s very expensive hobby, and you need to have a lot of opportunities to take pictures in order to really take advantage of it.

Since I knew this trip was coming up, I figured it would be a good time to start practicing, so I saved up and picked up a camera. So far, I’ve really enjoyed taking photos. You can see some of my work so far here. I even took photos for SassConf in NYC this year, it was cool to be an “official” photographer for an event, I definitely learned a lot. My goal is to take enough paid photography gigs or sell enough photos to pay off the cost of the camera by a year after this trip is over.


So let’s dive into the gear. My main camera body is the Sony A7. I spent a bunch of time researching camera bodies that are nice enough to be professional quality, but are also as light and small as possible (I have to pack this and carry it for a year), and versatile as well with the ability to swap in different lenses. The A7 was the answer to all of these. I also owe a huge thanks to my friend Suman, who is an incredible photographer and generously spent a lot of time helping me come to this decision.

I brought two lenses, both are sony e-mounts, so be careful that they fit your camera before picking one up:

The first one is a little larger and has more range, and the second is smaller and less flexible. With the smaller lens on, the camera looks more like a point and shoot than a DSLR, and is also much easier to carry, which is great in certain situations. But it has no zoom at all, so you lose a bit of flexibility there. The larger lens is incredible, a solid amount of zoom range and really takes a fantastic photo. But it is fairly large and carrying it around makes you look like an intense photographer, which doesn’t always work for every situation. Between these two options, I’m confident I’ll be able to make it work. I also use a UV Filter rather than a lens cap for the larger lens, for quicker access.

I did bring a flash, and it’s a fairly large flash as well. The fact is, there are a huge number of situations in which you cannot get a photo to come out if you don’t have a flash. Backlit? Use a flash. Bad lighting? Use a flash. Taking any sort of portrait of a person? Probably use a flash. The flash is incredible, it makes every photo come out well-lit and crystal clear. The drawbacks are that it’s fairly large and when on, makes the camera look pretty intense, and that you can’t be firing off a such a bright light in some situations. As long as it’s used with tact though, you will be able to get photos that there is no chance you would have had otherwise, so to me it seems worth bringing. We’ll see if I change my mind by the end of the trip!

I brought two tripods, a larger one and a mini. We’ll see if I regret this as well. They are both as small and light as they can possibly be, but nonetheless the main tripod is fairly large. It’s another one of those situations where there are a lot of photos I would not be able to get without one. Especially any sort of scenery shots – city lights at night, sunrise or sunset, any sort of motion blur, etc. I don’t want to be in a situation where I say “man this would be an amazing photo if I just had a tripod”. I’ve spent a good amount of time in NYC with this tripod and got some really great shots because of it that I never could have got without it. The smaller one is for times where I don’t want to be carrying the big one, basically. It’s small enough to easily slip into a daypack, and provides support if I can find a ledge, or a way to do a self-timer photo if I want one of myself and christina when nobody else is around.

I also am bringing a GoPro. This is basically for when I don’t want to bring the A7, any times where it would be too large, heavy, or dangerous to do so, or any situations with extreme weather. The GoPro is waterproof, tiny, unnoticeable, and has a fisheye lens. It fits basically every situation that the A7 does not. There was a headband that came with it on amazon for like $3 more, so I figured why not. We’ll see if we end up using the headband. I feel like it could provide an interesting perspective.

The rest of what I’m bringing is essentially support. I’ve got a large memory card, extra batteries for the camera and the flash, a super tough hard drive for raw photo storage, a small rain sleeve, and a lens pen and microfiber cloth for cleaning.

The hard drive is perhaps the only thing worth discussing further here. I made sure to pick up an essentially indestructible hard drive, waterproof and shock proof. The last thing I want to do is lose all the photos I took on this trip, they are not exactly replaceable, and are essentially the only thing we will be taking home with us, as we don’t have much more space to carry physical things. It wasn’t super expensive and has been performing very well. It automatically backs itself up using Backblaze (more details coming in a software post) whenever I plug it in for extra security.

That’s about it! Happy to answer any questions with my limited knowledge of photography or about this gear, just reach out and I’ll respond as soon as I can.