Travel Photography: What If I Bring The Wrong Gear?

In Thoughts & Theory, Travel, Tutorials &Technique by David8 Comments


I’ve been to some of the more dangerous places on this Earth, and each time, my friends and family sent me off with a warning and a plea to be careful.

No one ever warned me about Tuscany. Yet it was there—and not the slums in Haiti or the backstreets of the Congo—that I fell off a wall seven years ago, and narrowly escaped death. I shattered my feet and cracked my pelvis. Three others fell from that wall in the months before I did—I was the only one who lived.

I feel very safe when I travel. The more time I spend in the remote corners of the planet, the more I find that people are people, the food isn’t as scary as it looks, and that life kind of just goes on the same way there as it does here—wherever here is. That it was Tuscany, Italy, that almost did me in and not one of the places everyone’s always scared about amuses me tremendously.

It points to the fact that our fears are mostly a smokescreen. They’re unhelpful and they can blind us—and that applies no matter where we travel or even if we travel at all.

Fear is the biggest obstacle in our creative lives, and it often causes us to react in ways that sabotage the best potential outcome.

*Update – This post points to videos that are no longer live because they are part of the launch of my Traveling Lens course. I’d be happy to put you on the waitlist and let you know when these videos and The Traveling Lens course is available again. Just add your name here.

I just posted a new video in the series I created for you. But What If I Bring The Wrong Gear? is a look at three of the more common worries of photographers, particularly those who travel and want to come home with More Than Snapshots and Postcards. If you didn’t see the second video or the first one, Have Camera Will Travel, you still can.

But take a moment and watch the latest video, because I think if we can re-calibrate our relationship to these three fears and react differently to them, we can prevent them from totally derailing our creative efforts.

Watch But What If I Bring The Wrong Gear? now

In another couple days, enrollment opens for my new MentorClass course, The Traveling Lens. I’ll send you a quick email to let you know it’s open and give you a few more details, but if you’re curious (or impatient), you can see it all now on

My most robust MentorClass yet, The Traveling Lens is dedicated to the passionate photography of place. Filmed in Varanasi, India, this course is everything I know about traveling with my cameras and making the strongest possible photographs while doing so. The Traveling Lens focuses not just on single images, but on making intentional and powerful bodies of work.

When The Traveling Lens opens on Tuesday, August 28, there are some excellent reasons to be among the first to sign up.

The first five people to enroll will get a one-on-one mentoring session with me on Skype. That’s a $500 value, and the course isn’t close to that much.

The second five each get one of only 500 copies of my latest limited edition book, Pilgrims and Nomads.

And if you sign up within the first 24 hours, you’ll get a PDF copy of The Print & The Process, a book about the way I created four different bodies of work in Kenya, Venice, Iceland, and Antarctica. It’s out of print now, so the only way to get your hands on it is with this digital edition.

But wait, there’s more! In celebration of the wonder of travel, everyone who enrolls will be entered into a draw and one lucky photographer gets to go anywhere in the world with a brand new Fuji X-T2 and 18-55mm lens. No fine print. We’ll send you a ticket for anywhere USD$1500 will take you (that’s just about anywhere!) and give you a new camera to take with you.

If you’re eager, you can see all the details now at, but enrollment doesn’t open until 9 am EDT (New York time) on Tuesday, August 28.

If you want to be first in line, don’t wait for the email; just set your alarm. At 9 am EDT, the enrollment buttons will magically appear and they’ll be there for one week only, until the end of the day on September 04.

Take a moment to watch But What If I Bring The Wrong Gear? and then check out the details at

*Update – This post points to videos that are no longer live because they are part of the launch of my Traveling Lens course. I’d be happy to put you on the waitlist and let you know when these videos and The Traveling Lens course is available again. Just add your name here.




  1. Travel is a magnificent tapestry of experiences that unfold as we venture into the unknown. It’s a profound journey that transcends mere physical movement; it’s a kaleidoscope of emotions and revelations. The moment you step out of your comfort zone and into the world, you become an explorer of both external landscapes and the depths of your own soul. Each destination has its own unique charm, like a chapter in a never-ending book. The world is vast and diverse, and travel unveils its secrets one destination at a time.Resort Palmas Del Mar Puerto Rico

  2. You’re right about how people’s fear keeps them from an adventure, and that people are people no matter where you go. I’ve just spent 3 weeks in South Africa, drove, alone, 4000km – flying into Jhb, driving down the east to Cape Town, back out to Knysna, back to Cape Town and back up the west, through the centre and back to Jhb – and only came across great roads, friendly people and fantastic service. I drove through snow twice, and 34deg sunny days.
    Sad that I can no longer view the “what if I take the wrong gear” video (and I’ve just signed up to one of your other courses) – but one of my greatest decisions was “what do I take?” I ended up with an A7ii body, Canon 24mm tilt shift and a fast 85mm, Great choice – the TS-E24 lived on my camera 95% of the time and the 85 did the rest.

  3. Camera gear, depending on how much it’s worth, can probably be covered by a normal travel insurance policy. Just make sure that the single item limit is high enough to cover your camera and each lens, and that you’re covered for accidental damage, theft, and loss. If you have a lot of gear—or just very expensive gear—you’ll need a specific photographers policy.

    And, I learned much more through this post too. Thanks.

  4. It’s not the fear of approaching people or rejection that keeps me from doing more of this type of photography. I’ve spent some time in Costa Rica eg, away from the touristy places, have seen the poverty and unbelievable living conditions. I think it is out of respect that I just can’t bring myself to raise the camera to my eye. Costa Ricans are generally a warm, beautiful people, we exchanged a lot of smiles and “holas’ or “bueno dias'”. I want to capture that but I’m concerned about being another “rich” ( hardly but by comparison..) tourist with a camera. I feel like I’m invading their country, I put myself in their shoes and how I would feel if life had us change places. This year again I dragged 30 lbs of my “pro” gear in my backpack, but it stayed zipped, most of the photos I took were iPhone, and Canon G3 X. would love to be able to pick up a Fuji system… maybe if I win the Seriously though, I’d be interested in hearing how you get past that barrier, the “I just spent $10,000 on a holiday to visit your country and I have more in my camera bag than these people will see in 10 years of working 6 days a week” kind of barrier…

    1. Author

      Hi Kim – No easy answers here, I’m afraid. But for me it comes down to intent/respect and relationships. I don’t go to make pictures of poor people. I go to make photographs of people from all walks of life and I think if you can communicate kindness and respect, resist the urge to make photographs without first engaging, your perspective changes. I have done humanitarian work among the poor for years and overwhelmingly the response has been gratitude for my desire and willingness to tell their story and be part of change and hope. On the streets it’s a little different, obviously, but I no longer carry all that gear nor will you find me making poverty porn and crouching down to make the portrait of the helpless begger or passed out drunk. I’m with Sebastiao Salgado when he says he only photographs to bring dignity to his subjects. The intent changes things for me. The relationships even more so. I ask names. I slow down. When possible I ask questions to learn their story – who are they, what they do, etc. My last question is generally “may I make your photograph?” So, to your point, if someone came to my backyard and blasted off a few frames and left without so much as saying hello, I’d be pissed no matter whether I were rich or poor. If I met them and they showed respect and curiosity I’d be more inclined to let them make my photograph. Does that help at all, Kim? In the context of relationship, even briefest, making a photograph and telling their story is often one way we show our respect and, to whatever degree possible, our solidarity.

  5. “Fear is the biggest obstacle in our creative lives, and it often causes us to react in ways that sabotage the best potential outcome.” – hahahaha!! You meant to say that fear is the biggest obstacle in LIFE!!! Sigh… if only I’d learned that earlier in life, but am sure glad to know it now

    1. Author

      You’re right – it is absolutely our biggest obstacle in life. Once we learn to identify our fears and respond intentionally to them I think we’re closer to being truly free – creatively and otherwise.

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