Women: Balancing Comfort and Photography Equipment While Traveling; Heavy DSLR Lenses and Mistakes I Made.

I made a pretty big mistake today. I rented an f2.8, 70-200mm lens for my Canon T6s and I literally couldn’t hold it up for more than a few minutes. It is SO heavy…5lb. to be exact.

I’m going gorilla trekking in Uganda so I can’t rely on a monopod or tripod. I have to take something that I can carry and manage by myself in the middle of the dense forest.

And even though you can hire a porter to carry your bag while gorilla trekking, once we find the gorillas, the porters stay behind and you’re on your own. Even though the amount of time I will get to spend with the gorillas is only an hour, this lens was still too heavy for me.

Huge-DSLR-lens-heavy-low-light-gorilla-trekking-camera-strap
Me carrying the f2.8, 70-200mm (MONSTER) lens

Thank goodness I don’t leave for my trip for a few days and the camera store I rented it from is working with me to find something that’s a better fit.

I got ahead of myself on this one. In all of the many many many articles I read online about how to photograph gorillas and what lens to take NEVER, NOT ONCE, EVER did anyone address the weight of this lens. Looking back, I think all of the articles I read were written by men, so perhaps the weight was a non-issue – I don’t know – but it feels like a pretty big miss.

OMG, my wrist is still hurting while typing this article, from trying to carry that lens.

I could have gotten a monopod or a tripod and in another shooting condition, I would have, for example if I was doing game drives in a safari vehicle vs. trekking on foot at Kibale National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

Since no one else seems to be addressing the issue of lens weight I will. I LOVE to travel. And you probably do too. I really enjoy traveling with my DSLR. You probably do too. But the fact is the equipment can get heavy. And that’s a real consideration for women in particular.

{What Is The Definition of the BEST Camera Gear}

The definition of “THE BEST camera gear” is subjective. Like many people, I Googled “best camera lens to take gorilla trekking”. I found about 10 articles or so and almost all of them suggested (for Canon cameras) the f2.8 70-200mm. But I realized this is subjective, as it depends on what you’re shooting, how often you use it, how much weight you want/can carry, whether you’re a hobbyist or a pro and your own comfort. For instance, when I bought my DSLR, I knew that full frame cameras are considered the cream of the crop. But for my needs as a hobbyist and mainly for travel – crop sensor is more than adequate. Plus crop sensors weigh less, which is PERFECT for me.

Similarly lenses are just as subjective. Sure in this case the f2.8 70-200mm is “ideal” for gorilla trekking, if you look at it in a vacuum, but it is definitely not the best solution for me personally. And let’s not forget that the skills of the photographer matter most over having insane equipment.

You might be chuckling and thinking, “why didn’t she consider the weight of the lens before renting it?” I am by no means a photographer. I’m just a lady that likes to take photos…and I’m learning. As long as each time I try, I improve my skills, that’s success to me. This is my first time dappling in such serious glass and the weight thing didn’t even occur to me.

But as they say practice makes perfect and thank goodness that I have a couple of days before I leave to sort this out.

{Outcome of My Story: Fixing the Problem}

I traded in the monster f2.8 lens for a Tamron 18-400mm. It’s MUCH more compact. Let me rephrase, it’s a lens I can carry and travel with comfortably. The tradeoff is I’m getting a lot more zoom but less low light capability. I’m ok with this trade off as my highest priority is to enjoy this trip.

Tamron-DSLR-lens-gorilla-trekking-low-light-zoom-Africa
Measuring my 55-250mm lens compared to the f2.8 70-200mm below, just to provide some context on the size difference. I normally carry my 55-250mm when I travel.
f2.8-low-light-DSLR-Canon-lens-heavy-petite-gorilla-trekking
The Canon f/2.8, 70-200mm is a very big lens.

{Photography Lessons for Hobbyists to Live By}

Leave room for error. If you’re renting a DSLR, lens or any other equipment give yourself time to practice with it. I rented the lens for pick up the day before I left. That was a mistake. It happened by coincidence and the kindness of the camera store that the lens arrived at their store two days early and they let me pick it up early at no additional charge so I had about 2 days before my departure date. Otherwise I wouldn’t have had time to return that lens and rent a different one.

Test your equipment. You can rent gear but if you don’t test it and play with it before you travel you’ll be fumbling when you get there – or worse on the spot. I’ve seen this first hand on previous travels where people get frustrated with their cameras because they didn’t practice with it beforehand and their photos come out blurry or overexposed etc.

Replicate scenarios. While you’re gorilla or chimp trekking in Uganda it’s highly advised to wear a pair of thick gardening gloves to protect your hands, as you’ll be moving brush and branches to clear your path. I bought gloves and when they arrived I tried them on very quickly just to make sure they fit. But I didn’t wear them for a couple hours to more accurately replicate my actual experience while trekking. That was a mistake.

I should have practiced handling my camera with the gloves on.

And if I had worn them for longer I would have realized and had time to course correct, as the gloves gave me a minor rash on the outsides of my hands. I don’t wear gloves often so that potential didn’t even occur to me.

Luckily everything worked out fine. Handling the camera with gloves was no worries and the rash wasn’t bad and went away quickly…but that was just luck.

{Conclusion}

There are a few lessons in this article:

  1. what everyone else says about what the optimal thing to do/product, does not apply to everyone. I didn’t realize the f2.8 lens was going to be so massive and heavy. Even though so many articles online said to get that lens it just doesn’t make sense for me.
  2. Don’t box yourself into a corner – leave room for error – it was a lucky accident that the camera lens that I rented arrived a few days early and the camera store let me pick it up early.

I hope you found this article useful and unique. I try to address travel issues related to women travelers as well as vegan and vegetarian travelers – groups that are often overlooked in travel publications. If you did find this useful or helpful, please let me know by submitting your comments and questions!

Happy and safe travels. Keep adding those stamps to your PassportPages!

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Check out: How To Carry Your DSLR While Hiking, Trekking, and Traveling, For Women, How to Use Your DSLR in Humid Environments, How To Avoid DSLR Water Damage.

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