French Holiday? What an Amateur Photographer Should Pack for the Trip

It’s finally happening. You’re going to France to capture the magic. What equipment do you need to take, to make sure the beauty shows up to advantage? Whether you’ve got your heart set on capturing the elegance of Paris at night, the romance of the Loire Valley, the beaches of St-Tropez, or the vineyards of Bordeaux and Burgundy, or, well, all of it, you’re going to have to pack carefully. You can’t take everything with you, but the wonders of France are worth a little luggage space, right?

Your basic kit Amateur Photographer Pack

Start with your favorite Digital SLR to give you as many options as possible. You’ll want to take a tripod, especially for night shots, and you’ll need a way to view and edit your photos without adding bulk to your luggage. My recommendation would take an iPad for quick, easy, and compact access, plus you can use it to catch up on Netflix while on your journey. From there, look at your itinerary and tailor your kit to cover it all.

Art and culture: old and new

To get the clearest, most amazing photos of the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Renaissance buildings, medieval churches, and Belle Époque Mansions of Burgundy and Nice, take one super-versatile lens, like an 18-200 mm. That can get you most of the shots you’ll want. However, adding an ultra-wide lens, maybe a 10-22 mm or a 12-24 mm, will let you get amazing interior shots. An extra lens won’t take up that much room.

Parisian nights

Here, of course, is where your tripod comes in. A monopod might be easier to pack, but won’t give you the shots you need, plus, there are some pretty amazing products out there these days, easy to pack and remarkably versatile.

Also, bring along a faster lens. Something along the lines of a 24mm f/2.8 with a fixed focal length would do just fine. If your fast lens is zoom rather than fixed, be sure that it doesn’t slow down in telephoto, or you won’t get the shots you want.

Sweeping landscapes

Loire River ValleyTo catch the beauty of the Loire River Valley or the vineyards of Bordeaux and Burgundy, you’re going to want a mid-range lens. If full, sweeping landscapes are one of your top priorities, you’re going to want to that zoom lens with an ultra-wide angle.

For most, a wide angle lens, something like a 17-40 mm, would give you plenty of versatility. You can, however, get away with a 24-70 mm as your go-to lens. A good telephoto lens could make you some amazing shots, especially if you’re trying to catch the beauty of the Chateau D’Usse or the solemnity of the beaches of Normandy.

Also, take a good general polarizing filter to make those colors pop and minimize glares and reflections from metal or water. If you have one, take a reverse graduated neutral density filter. It’s meant for sunrises and sunsets; which you know you’ll want to catch.

Let’s recap: your best DSLR, a packable tripod, one super-versatile zoom lens, an ultra-wide lens, a fast lens, and a couple of filters. Pack it and go!

4 Top Documentaries every aspiring Photographer Needs to Watch

There are dozens of great documentaries out there about photography, but a few films stand out as must-sees for anyone serious about photography. They range from stories about photographers themselves to a visually stunning barrage of images from around the world.

Whether you’re shooting with your iPhone camera or a fancy DSLR, watching these films can give you a new mindset and a new viewpoint as you document the world around you.

Check out the pros The Photographers (1998)

First and foremost, look at the National Geographic documentary film The Photographers (1998). This engaging film documents the lives of National Geographic’s amazing photographers, including Jodi Cobb, Jim Stanfield, and Michael “Nick” Nichols, from how they live their lives to how they get the incredible shots that fill the magazine.

Coming in at just under an hour, this film explores the techniques behind some of National Geographic’s most memorable images, as well as the sacrifices the photographers made to get those shots.

Documenting the horrors The HBO documentary Underfire

There are many films that explore the way individuals process conflict by documenting the horrors around them. The HBO documentary Underfire: The Untold Story of PFC Tony Vaccaro (2016) retraces the fashion/magazine photographer’s World War II experiences.

Though he was assigned as an infantryman with the 83rd Infantry Division in Europe, Vaccaro took more than 8,000 photos in less than a year. His work presented a view of war that was unprecedented at the time. Sickened by the terrible events he chronicled, Vaccaro resolved to never photograph war and conflict. Follow along as Vaccaro discusses the nature of conflict photography from how he got his shots to the moral dilemma of being both a soldier and a reporter.

Check out these other films about conflict photography: McCullin (2012), War Photographer (2002), Five Broken Cameras (2011).

Everyday photographers Finding Vivian Maier (2013)

Other photographers focus on the people and places of the daily lives. Not for the fame and fortune of it, but simply because they feel compelled to do so. Finding Vivian Maier (2013) uncovers the mystery of an avid and talented street photographer who never really intended for her work to be shared.

The film recounts John Maloof’s quest to identify and research the fantastic street photographer he discovered when he purchased a lot of negatives at an auction. View the work of a nanny/caretaker whose street photography has been compared to some of the 20th century’s most critically-acclaimed photographers.

No story, just art Baraka

This last film is very different. It’s a visual record and nothing more, but it’s an utterly amazing visual record. Baraka (1992) follows none of the narratives of the other films, yet the lessons it can teach a photographer and observer are many watch this on Netflix.

From sweeping vistas to engaging portraiture, capturing stillness and motion, Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson take viewers on a tour of the world. They captured landscapes, people, wildlife, and more in 25 countries. After you watch the movie, take a look at the book of still photography put together by Magidson.