In my last blog post I shared a photo essay of New York City from my recent trip. In future posts we are going to look at many more photos of New York, but right now it is time to talk gear. And, by talk, I mean totally nerd out.
This post is part two of a five part series featuring photography from New York City:
- Part One – Photographing New York City
- Part Two – My Fujifilm gear pack for photographing New York City
- Part Three – New York street photography
- Part Four – Grand Central Terminal photographed in black and white
- Part Five – Photographing New York City from the Top of the Rock
For many photographers the question of “what gear do I bring on a trip?” is the hardest one to answer. For me, it all starts with pre-trip research. Photography is a huge part of my travels, and I want to come back with a photo essay that lets me show the beauty of the places I visit, adds substance to my travel workshops and presentations, and provides content for several books that I am writing right now.
I will often start by sketching out a list of locations (and/or things) that I know I want to photograph. For New York, that list included:
- The New York City skyline from The Top of the Rock
- Grand Central Terminal
- Freedom Tower and The National September 11th Memorial and Museum
- The Brooklyn Bridge
- The Manhattan skyline from DUMBO
- The Statue of Liberty
- Central Park
- The Bronx Zoo
- The Empire State Building
- Times Square
- Radio City Music Hall
- Rockefeller Center
- The New York subway system
- Street photography
This list, compiled from things learned on previous visits, general awareness of New York, and internet research, gives me a starting point for figuring out what gear to bring. Once I have a rough list I think about breaking it down into categories of lenses. I will often speak with other photographers and research focal lengths to do this. Eventually I will have a list of locations or shots that require wide angle (if any), mid range, and telephoto (if any).
I then ask myself if I can get away with just a Fuji X100t for the trip, which is always my go to. In this case, however, my shot list broke down as follows:
- Wide Angle: Skyline from The Top of the Rock, inside Grand Central Terminal, inside the 9/11 Museum, and shooting up on many of the buildings.
- Mid Range: Almost everywhere.
- Telephoto: Detail shots from Top of the Rock, The Bronx Zoo, and The Statue of Liberty.
Three lenses it was, which is actually a heavy gear pack for me when I am traveling by plane. Time to start choosing:
For wide angle I had the choice of the Fujinon 16mm f/1.4 lens, or the Fujinon 10-24mm f/4 zoom lens.
One is fairly wide and very fast, while the other is extremely wide and, while only having a minimum aperture of f/4, is optically stabilized (and Fujifilm’s OIS is very good).
Grand Central Terminal was the determining factor here: I knew I needed an extreme wide angle to shoot the terminal so it came down to the 10-24mm. While I would be shooting in low light at f/4 or higher, the OIS meant that I could handhold at slow shutter speeds to compensate.
My midrange choice was easy… the Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens. I chose this lens for the following reasons:
- It is one of my all time favourite street photography lenses, and I was going to be doing a LOT of street photography.
- It is small, and easily portable.
- It fit nicely between the long end of my Fujinon 10-24mm lens, and the wide end of whichever telephoto lens I brought (50mm or 55mm).
- It is weather resistant. This is important as New York is famous for its flash thunderstorms in the summer. Sure enough, I did get caught in one of these while I was mid span on the Brooklyn Bridge on foot!
I’ll put this right on the table: I hate bringing telephoto lenses on vacation. If the trip isn’t a safari or doesn’t involve specific needs like aerial photography or certain landscapes it is always my least used lens. Telephotos also tend to be the heavier lenses in your bag.
With this in mind my decision was easy, though not the way I would prefer to go. I brought the Fujinon 55-200mm f/3.5 – f/4.8 zoom lens. This is a great lens at its price point, but the Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8 lens is simply incredible. Sadly, it is also my largest and heaviest lens so it was instantly out of the running given that I would be walking 10-12 hours per day.
This lens would only be used to pick out detail shots from Top of the Rock, at The Bronx Zoo, and to get a shot of The Statue of Liberty. The rest of the time it would live in the hotel room.
Here is my whole kit. In this photo you can see:
- The Ona Prince Street messenger bag
- The Fuji X-Pro2 with the Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens on it
- The Fujinon 10-24mm f/4 lens
- The Fujinon 55-200mm f/3.5 – f/4.8 lens
- Accessories including extra memory cards, extra batteries, a cleaning cloth, a 10 stop ND filter, and a remote shutter release
- A charger for my camera batteries
- An external batter pack with a cable for my phone
- My iPad
- An SD cable to import photos onto my iPad for backup purposes
Everything fit in the Ona bag for carry onto the plane, and once I got to the hotel room the iPad, SD cable, charger, and usually the Fujinon 55-200mm lens lived in the room.
And there you have it, my rationale for how I packed my gear for this trip. I had all focal lengths covered, I had a weather resistant option, and everything fit into a small shoulder bag that did not weigh me down.
Traveling with mirrorless cameras is a beautiful thing.
What will I bring the next time I go to New York? That is an easy question to answer now that I have the images from this trip: I will only bring the X100t (or, preferably, its successor). When I travel back to a location for a repeat visit I usually have the “trophy” shots already, so I focus on the people, the life on the streets, and the little detail shots. For these purposes the X100t is all I need.
I hope you enjoyed this walk through of how I selected my gear for this trip. Next up we are going to look at my favourite thing: Street Photography; and, believe me, New York did not disappoint!