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
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.
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.
To 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!