For someone who only bought their first DSLR in 2017, I have been through a tremendous amount of gear. I am constantly changing and refining my kit to balance photographic diversity with minimalism, an undying battle that every travelling photographer faces. Even as I publish this list, I am in the process of trading in and out three items. If a new piece of gear wants to make it's way into my exclusive collection, it has to score highly on the following criteria:
Useability - does this item do something special that I am unable to currently achieve?
Size and weight - is this going to break my back or take up too much space in my bag?
Quality - is this made to last and take a reasonable beating?
Speed - does this focus quickly and reliably in the conditions I need it for?
Price - for most human beings (including me), price is of course the biggest restriction.
The final and most important question I then have to ask myself is, do I actually need this or is it just the hype? Most hobbies possess a "gear acquisition" phase, where you excitedly buy a whole bunch of superflous items you've spent hours reading about online. Photography is no exception to this, and may be among the ugliest examples.
For me, this false-hype was with filters, tripods, and super-wide angles. There are hundreds of videos of travelling landscape photographers using huge €600 carbon-fibre tripods, talking about NDs, VNDs, hard stop NDs, cirular polarisers, LEE filters, all plugged onto their bulbous 14-24mm f/2.8 wide-angles. I was drawn into this hype, but now have cleansed the most expensive from my everyday inventory, replacing them with much simpler, smaller and singular versions for the few times I have to use them.
But without further ado, what's in my camera bag?
Nikon D850 - my favourite camera I have ever owned, touted as the "best DSLR ever made", it combines pro ruggidness with high resolution and speed.
Nikon FM2n - a manual-only mechanical film camera, for when shooting pictures should be taken less seriously.
Nikon 300mm f/2.8G VR - okay, this one goes directly against my size/weight rule, but it's a pro-level lens made to focus lightening quick in any lighting, and bear the brunt of any weather it encounters.
Laowa 100mm f/2.8 2:1 Ultra Macro - the only macro lens on the market capable of 2x magnification, this is perfect for capturing other-worldly detail in insects and other small subjects.
Nikon 24-120mm f/4G VR - a lightweight standard zoom lens I use for anything from landscape to street photography.
Nikon 50mm f/1.4D - a cheap nifty fifty lens for low-light situations, with great bokeh to boot.
Opetka 15mm f/4 1:1 Wide Angle Macro - an exotic lens that is simultaneously ultra wide and capable of 1x macro magnification, producing a crazy warped perspective for subjects ranging in size from small frogs to cats.
Nikon TC-14E Teleconverter - a 1.4x teleconverter that I use with the Nikon 300mm f/2.8 to create a 420mm f/4 lens.
Peak Design Travel Tripod (Aluminium) - I was ready to denounce tripods from my life until Peak Design released this marvel. Super compact, light and customisable, it has ruined all other tripods forever.
Meike MK320 TTL Speedlite - easy to use and cheap, I use this almost exclusively for macro photography, coupled with a diffuser to soften the light.
52mm Reverse Macro Adapter - for when I'm travelling light without a dedicated macro lens, this 52mm ring can be used in a pinch to reverse mount my Nikon 50mm f/1.4D and create an almost 1x magnification.
Meike D850 Vertical Grip - not only does this add a second cell to the D850's ridiculous battery life, it also supercharges it's shutter capacity from 7 to 9fps.
Shimoda Action x50 - maybe the best piece of photography gear I have ever purchased, I seriously cannot recommend this camera bag enough.
Peak Design Capture Clip - attached to my bag's shoulder strap, this allows clip me to securely attach my camera for hands-free hiking.
Peak Design Slide Strap - it holds your camera, clips on and off, simple.
Digital file storage and editing
13" Macbook Pro Retina - a slim laptop that's great for travel and has a bright and colourful screen that helps in photo editing.
Adobe Lightroom Classic - editing software is an essential item to all photographers, and I use Lightroom almost exclusively. I love how all edits have to be made through your own decisions, no automatic "enhance" button, no sky replacements.
WD My Passport 2TB HDD - because I'm not yet ready to fork out £250 for a SSD, this is my external hard drive of choice for storing RAW files and acts as a physical backup alongside Google Drive.
120GB XQD Card - quick memory cards that allow cameras shoot for longer before running out of buffer.
64GB SD cards - although you only need one in your camera's second card slot to save backup JPGs, it's a good idea to keep a few around.