For many of us here in the midwestern United States, Memorial Day weekend signifies the shift of seasons. Pools open, temps go from mild to hot, kids are home for summer vacation, and weekends start getting filled with cookouts and vacations. For me, it is a welcomed yet chaotic time of year and this summer is no exception. We are kicking the season off with 8-days in Iceland followed by weekend trips camping with our pop-up in the caves of Kentucky, the Dunes of Indiana, the woods of Northern Wisconsin, and a few small state parks in between.
As excited as I am for all of the exploring, I kind of feel like I need a nap already!
Last year was our first really busy summer. We had just bought our pop-up and wanted to use it as much as possible. There was a huge learning curve for us as being new camper owners with two kids under two and two insane Labrador retrievers that were all part of the “vacations.” If you have ever camped with small children and dogs, you know I’m using the word vacation loosely! Looking back, I can honestly say we spent the summer resembling some kind of midwest traveling circus with no real clue what we were doing. And, no matter how many times I told myself I’d get my camera gear organized and more adventure friendly, it was always thrown into the truck at the last second with an accompanied prayer that I remembered at least one charged batter and empty memory card. Hashtag, send help.
This summer is going to be different. After doing research, making nerdy checklists, and evaluating all of my gear and shooting goals, my camera bag is stocked and ready to go. I’m SO excited to be sharing all of my tips and gear with you today so you can get your camera bag ready for any summer adventures that might come your way!
Before I get started, there are just a few things to keep in mind:
- I’m super simple when it comes to gear and operate under the philosophy that less is more. I don’t subscribe to the school of more expensive gear gives you a better photo and wholly believe the best camera is the one you have.
- I have 2 kids under 3 which means I have to be efficient and light when I pack as gear and diapers go hand-in-hand.
- I’m a hobbyist photographer, shooting for the reasons of enjoying the process and documenting my life, so my gear reflects that. If you are doing commissioned work with your summer travels, you have to adjust accordingly.
- We are outdoorsy and rugged in our travels and I need gear that works with that. If you are someone that will be spending a lot of time exploring indoor locations, again, adjust accordingly. Just because you aren’t going to Iceland or exploring caves doesn’t mean that you don’t have a summer season that deserves to be documented!
- I love Amazon for all of my shopping needs but I’m not paid by any of these people to share this info with you. I’ve provided links to what I have but know photography isn’t a one-size-fits-all world...shop around and get what works for you!
Okay, onto the gear!
1. Mirrorless Fuji X-T2 with Fuji 23 f/1.4 OR Fuji 35f/1.4
I switched to a mirrorless system over the winter because my DSLR was simply too clunky, especially when out with my family. And, you see I emphasized the OR in this item. That is because for 99%of my travels, I only take one lens. I do this for 2 reasons: 1. I don’t want the extra weight in my bag and 2. I don’t like the fuss with having multiple lenses—the choosing, the switching, it’s too much for me to deal with, so I just pick before the trip and go with it, moving my feet as needed.
2. Extra Batteries and Charger
For obvious reasons! And charge before you go!
3. Memory Cards and Case
Back in my younger days (read: last summer) my memory cards were all over my camera bag, getting lost and dirty so getting this case to organize them was a sanity saver. I also suggest going through your cards NOW and getting them cleaned off and formatted so they are ready to be popped into your camera as needed.
Shockingly, this is probably my most used photography item of the summer. I LOVE the convenience and quality of photos it produces, which you might remember from this post I shared that I also edited using Pretty Presets! Regardless if you have an iPhone or other brand, utilize this piece of technology that is often so underrated by photographers! I suggest sitting down and cleaning your phone off BEFORE your summer travels so you don’t get that pesky “out of memory” notification when you least want it!
5. iPhone Waterproof Case
Between days at the pool, hikes to waterfalls, and afternoons that are interrupted with a downpour, I knew I wanted something that would both keep my phone safe AND allow me to take photos.There are so many different options, but I ended up going the not super fancy and very inexpensive route grabbing these waterproof cases!
I see you laughing but don’t judge! I felt like a weirdo when the UPS man delivered this to me, but it’s really so much fun. I’m not great at the whole “hold the phone and make a sultry face” selfie, but I love that this selfie-stick allows me to be in the photo quickly and easily and my kids think it’s a total hoot!
I use our summer adventures as a time to get experimental with my shooting and try new things. I LOVE photographing the sky and also playing with shutter speeds while shooting flowing water and other moving objects. I also really value being in the frame with my tribe (thus the selfie-stick!) so having a tripod allows me to do just that! Some photographers get really picky about gear, tripods included. I’m all about working with your budget and what’s best for your needs. This tripod wasn’t very expensive and isn’t super heavy duty but it is perfect for what I want to use it for!
8. DSLR Rain sleeve
Someday, I dream of having underwater housing for my DSLR, but sadly, today is not that day. These sleeves won’t allow me to shoot underwater, but they will help protect my camera in rainy circumstances and are super lightweight for carrying around in my bag. Please note, I got the small since my mirrorless Fuji is significantly smaller than a full-framed DSLR.
9. Lens Wipes
I don’t know why, but my lens gets so dirty every single time I use my camera. I’ll blame my toddlers! :) My first photography instructor suggested these disposable wipes and I’ve used them ever since.
10. The Camera Bag
I really really really want to be one of those photographers with a super cute purse-like bag but I’m just not. I’ve tried them, lots of them, but they just don’t work well with my crazy lifestyle and short attention span. Occasionally, depending on what we are doing, I will take the camera insert out of this backpack and slip it into a large purse or different backpack, but for our outdoor adventuring, this one works for me and I love that it has a separate pouch for snacks, diapers, and other random items.
Like I mentioned before, I’m SUPER simple with my gear, but that doesn’t mean you have to be. If you like switching lenses and carrying a heavy bag around is your jam, by all means, fill that sucker up! However, putting my simplicity aside, there are two bonus items, not in my bag, that I think are worth mentioning for you to consider.
1. A funky and/or specialty lens
So, I LOVE fisheye lenses and the photos they produce, and same goes for lens baby images. However, I’ve never been able to justify the cost of one of these lenses because of the amount of time it would get used. Same goes with a telephoto and macro lens. I LOVE the idea of using these but know that if I owned them they would only see the light of day for special occasions. If you have a plethora of these lenses but don’t love the idea of lugging them all around, choose one for each weekend to play with. Or, if you are like me and don’t own any of these lenses but would love to try one, consider renting! For our trip to the Kentucky Caves this year, I’m going to rent a fisheye because of how fun I think the images would be. Summer trips are an amazing time to get creative and try something new!
2. A lens for your iPhone
I used to have an Olloclip but was really bad at remembering to put it on my phone when I wanted to use it. Let’s be real, it was usually lost with my memory cards in my chaotic camera bag! I was on the fence about buying another one for this summer but thought it would probably get forgotten and not used. However, if you want more creative options with your phone camera, it might be a fun addition to your bag!
Okay, that’s it! Whether you pack the same stuff as me or totally going a different direction, I hope this helped you to get in the spirit of documenting your summer season and being prepared early so you can just grab your bag and go. Now what are you waiting for?! Go adventuring, already!
Ashley Manley is a personal project shooter with a love for documenting real moments on her small farm in Central Illinois.Aside from her family, she’s obsessed with outdoor adventures, coffee in big mugs, and wine in big glasses.She shares snippets of her everyday on Instagram and shares her thoughts from her life on her blog.