Like photography, travel manifests in the form and process of reframing; it engages one in an active curiosity about the world. Using minimal gear that favours quick and ephemeral captures, photographer Mandy Sham reconsiders the honesty and spontaneity joining photographer, subject, and camera.
When I started travelling in earnest, photography was a hobby — used to document an experience that I never felt photos could fully encapsulate. In the years and trips that have passed since, I now see travel and photography irrevocably linked. Here, I’ll discuss the gear that’s accompanied me on my journey.
“Packing light really allows me to utilise every little thing in my toolkit, and to get creative with perspective and timing.”
The Packing List
Although I’ll be upgrading this baby soon, it’s served me well in my creative path for the past three years. I love the colours rendered on cameras in Fujifilm’s X Series, and mirrorless models are fantastic for their lightweight quality — particularly for travelling, and if you like to be agile with who and what you shoot.
Fujinon XF 35mm F/1.4 R
This lens is indispensable for me — it is almost always what I shoot with. Prime lenses allow you to inhabit the relationship you hold with the subject a lot more. They demand that you move your body, that you engage with how you shoot. I’m always much more aware of composition while using it. The 35mm focal length is one of my favourites, given its versatility and near-unmatched ability to capture subjects in relation to their environment.
“Prime lenses allow you to inhabit the relationship you hold with the subject.”
Fujinon XF 18-55mm F/2.8-4 LM OIS
It’s good to have a zoom lens on hand for increased versatility — I’ve found this one absolutely vital in locations that are more situated in nature, such as when I was trekking in the Himalayas. Wide angles also prove essential in much of architecture photography, particularly in experimenting with perspective, and sufficiently capturing the full scope of structures.
Urth CPL Filters
I use Urth’s CPL filters for both lenses. Because I so often shoot in daylight conditions and in countries where the light can be harsher, a good CPL filter is necessary for reducing glare, reflections, and undesirable dynamic contrasts.
“A good CPL filter is necessary for reducing glare, reflections, and undesirable dynamic contrasts.”
SD Cards, LensPen, Spare Batteries, Charger, Strap, Case
Photographing on the go often means preparing a line of defence for the inevitable hiccup — be it a malfunctioning SD card or drained battery (due to cold exposure, for example). Given that these two are essential to photographing, I always carry spare batteries and SD cards. I like to keep the rest minimal: a LensPen for basic maintenance, and a nice and light strap for easy wearing throughout the day.
Where gear is involved, I believe you have to first consider your shooting style — whether it’s light and fast-paced or slow and precise, for example — and if you shoot predominantly during the day or night. I don’t tend to shoot long exposures, and as a result tend not to carry a tripod; I like interacting in the space or near vicinity of my subjects, and so don’t have much use for a telephoto lens. In addition, packing light really allows me to utilise every little thing in my toolkit, and to get creative with perspective and timing.
Where you can, I’d also recommend planning around light — for example, visiting a west-facing landmark or building before and during sunset. Although I photograph while travelling, no doubt it’s also about the travels themselves; I’ll sometimes plan my itinerary so that the midday and evening hours are spent doing whatever I’d like, and the morning and afternoon (and golden hours in particular) are spent visiting places I’d like to capture.