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My Travel Photography Gear

Brendan van Son+Posted By on Jan 27, 2018 |

I get a lot of questions about my travel photography gear. Obviously, it’s a subject I should know pretty well – I’ve travelled nomadically for over 8 years now. But, I’ve never exactly had the ideal kit. I’ve always kind of dealt with budget constraints and using old gear. That said, I think my photography kit right now is as dialed in as possible. So, I thought this was the ideal time to post one of these “what’s in my bag” type blog posts.

Note, this is only my still photography gear. I’m not going to include the vlogging equipment. Maybe I’ll post something about that on a later date.

Camera Body/Bodies

Canon 5d mark iv: I’ve been shooting the Canon 5d Mark iv as my main body for a little over a month now. And, I love it. In fact, I think it might be the ideal camera body for travel. I love the touch screen, time-lapse mode, and the dynamic range and ISO handling are great. Sure, I would have liked an articulating LCD, but I’m happy with it.

Sony A6300: Yes, this is mostly my vlog setup. But, I do use it to shoot stills from time to time. It’s a good starter camera, and is actually better quality than the first ever camera I used as a professional travel photographer.


Canon 16-35mm f/4: There’s nothing I like better than a good wide angle lens. This piece of glass and rubber is my pride and joy. I shoot this in all situations: portraits, street, landscape, and even wildlife at times.

Canon 16-35mm f/4 IS

Canon 50mm f/1.4: If I love my 16-35mm, I HATE my 50mm. The reality is that I love the look of 50mm. But, this Canon make is so old I can’t believe they still sell it. I think a 50mm lens is essential to a travel photography kit. Maybe just not this one.

Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS mark I: I like this lens. In fact, I use this lens almost as much as my 16-35mm. For travel photography, it’s pretty versatile. You can shoot portraits, wildlife, and it looks lovely when shooting long lens landscape photography.

Rokinon 14mm f/2.8: This is a specialty lens that I use just for astro-photography. It’s manual aperture and manual focus. So, it’s real value is for shooting stars. However, I also use it vlogging from time to time.

Travel Tripods

3 Legged Thing Winston: This is the biggest tripod that 3 Legged Thing makes. And, it’s a beast. But, I love it. It’s sturdy, light, and easy to use. A smaller option might be the “Albert” if you’re looking for something else.

Joby Gorillapod Video: I love my Gorillapod. I use it to shoot timelapse ont he GoPro. But, I also love that it’ll hold my DSLR and 70-200mm lens steady if I need it to. These types of tripods might be the most underrated types of photography gear.

Specialty Photography Gear

GoPro Hero 5 Black: I use my GoPro on a daily basis. And, yes, I use it more for video than stills. But, it’s still very helpful for stills. Especially underwater and in places I don’t want to risk losing my big camera equipment.

Mavic Pro: It’s amazing how far drones have come. The Mavic is small enough you can stuff it away in your bag and hardly notice you have it. And while people know drones mostly for their video capabilities; drones are incredible photo tools. Nothing quite compares to a great drone shot.



6 & 10 Stop ND: I use both a Lee Little Stopper and a Big Stopper. Honestly, I think I could survive with just the 6-stop (little stopper). But, the 10 stop is handy if I’m shooting in the day time.

Grad ND Filters: I have 4 grad NDs, all of which I use almost every shoot: 4-stop medium grad, 2-stop soft grad, 3-stop soft grad, and 3-stop hard grad. If you had to buy 1 and only 1 grad, the 3-stop medium grad (which I don’t have) is a great multi-use filter.

And, no, I don’t use polarizers. Although, I’m starting to think of adding one to my kit.



Naneu Outlander: This has been my camera bag for about 6 years. It’s great. I love that it’s big enough for hiking, but still small enough for carry-on in a pinch. It’s a great product and I’m surprised more people don’t use them.

Manfrotto Mover-50: Well my Naneu bag has kind of now started to sit at the bottom of my suitcase unless I’m hiking, the Mover-50 has become my every day and travel bag. I like it. I just wish it had better padding on the back. I can sometimes feel the gear on my back. Seems like a big oversight in design.


Travel photographers have the biggest challenge saving their files. And, yes, I back up online. But, usually my photos go through at least one external memory device on their way through my workflow.

SanDisk SSD 512GB: I love this SSD. It’s fast enough that I can edit right off of it without slowing down my processing. I tend to tend from here. I don’t know how I lived and worked without this product before.

Lacie HDD 2tb: I actually have 2 HHDs as well. And, they are basically just bricks in my bag where I dump backed up JPEGs and exported vlogs.


For editing on the go, I use my Dell XPS 15. I absolutely love the laptop. I rarely see lag time, and really love the functionality. I just wished that they would move the camera so it didn’t film straight up my nose as I try to live broadcast.

And, no, I’ll never use a Wacom Tablet. I think they’re ridiculous overkill.

Your Gear?

What does your travel photography gear include? Or, what gear related questions do you have for me? Leave them in the comments, and I’ll get to them!

What’s Next?

As always, stick to my travel photography channel for the latest. But, I’m going to try to publish more often here. Be on the lookout for an update of my blog post on the best places to photograph The Golden Gate Bridge.

Best Places to Photograph the Golden Gate Bridge

Brendan van Son+Posted By on Jan 29, 2018 |

After a second trip to San Francisco, I feel like this list of the best places to photograph the Golden Gate Bridge is a bit more complete. Still, there are just endless places to take pictures of the iconic view. Honestly, I think I could spend a year photographing the Golden Gate Bridge and still not cover all the places to shoot it. Moreover, there are places that are better for photography different types of year. For example, the fog in San Francisco rolls through the bay in the summer months. So, if that’s the shot you want, don’t bother coming in the winter. That said, there are endless locations to take pictures of the bridge. No matter the time of year or date.

Best Places to Photograph the Golden Gate Bridge

These locations were spread out over 2 different visits to San Francisco over 4 years. So, the experiences were different. These are all the locations I shot; and some others I know of that I didn’t shoot.

Hawk Hill

Over in Marin Headlands, this is a local favourite location to take pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge from. You get high enough that if there’s fog you might get the bridge poking through the top. It can be epic.

Myself, I got stuck and had to shoot my pictures before getting to Hawk Hill. The road to the view point was closed because of the government shutdown, and I had to walk. I settled for a location about 500m before the hilltop. And, to be honest, I kind of got there a little late for the blue light. But, I still got this image.

Golden Gate Bridge

It turned out to be a blessing in disguise that I didn’t get all the way to Hawk Point as the vantage point had the sunrise right over bridge. And, the light was amazing.

Golden Gate Bridge

Baker Beach

This is a pretty traditional spot for photography of the Golden Gate Bridge. But, the location is actually better as an epic beach hang out than it is a photo spot.

There really are only one or two compositions to be made from this area. But, if you can, get closer up onto some of the rocks towards Marshall’s Beach for some better compositions.

Golden Gate Bridge

Fort Baker

This location was surprisingly good. Across the bay from San Francisco, this park has lots of parking – which is one of the challenges of some of the other locations. And there is a pretty clean view of the bridge which makes it nice for some portraits. I got some cool shots of @Alajode there.

Golden Gate Bridge

Model = @alajode

But, the real gold of this location is the low vantage point if you walk towards the bridge. There was some beautiful green algae on the rocks and the bright green really contrasted the red of the bridge nicely. There were really only one or two compositions to be had down here, but it was pretty stellar. It was also a challenge to get my tripod down without getting hammered by waves, but it was worth it. I imagine, had I gotten better light, this place could be an epic place for sunset.

Golden Gate Bridge

Battery Spencer

This is likely the most typical postcard photo of the Golden Gate Bridge. The location atop an old military battery offers nice clean views of the bridge. It also gives you the opportunity to put the San Francisco skyline in the back of your Golden Gate Bridge photos. From what I saw, this was the favourite spot for tourists to come and get that classic image of the bridge and city. There is only a very minimal amount of parking available up near the battery, so you might need to be patient when coming here. There actually weren’t a lot of photographers up shooting with us, but there was a constant stream of tourists.
The Golden Gate Bridge

Presidio Park

Presidio Park is essentially on the opposite side of the bay from Battery Spencer. The views are fairly similar except for the fact that you have a nice green backdrop to the images of the Golden Gate Bridge from here rather than the city light as is the case from the other side. I actually preferred photographing this side to Battery Spencer because there were far more compositions available for photos here. There were nice rocks down on the beaches below, you could shoot straight onto the bridge, and I even found a couple giant Cedar trees that I used to frame the bridge within. I think it’s a unique image, and that’s hard to do in San Francisco. So, I’m proud of it.Golden Gate Bridge, Presidio Park

Marshall’s Beach

On my first visit to San Francisco, this was my favourite location. But, I didn’t get good light. It was bland in the sky, and there was this nasty haze on everything too. But, the rocky foreground and wild seas here can make for some perfect long exposure photography. In fact, even if I’ve never gotten great photos of it, this might be my favourite place to photograph the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Golden Gate Bridge

This recent trip, I wanted to get to Marshall’s Beach again. But, unfortunately, my luck and time just didn’t match up. That said, I did pop over to have another look at it after shooting at Baker Beach, and it’s still stunning. In fact, after the light was gone I used this location to make a bit of hero photo. I think it works. But, I’d love to get back with the light is better.

Golden Gate Bridge

Crissy Beach

I actually tied to get photos of the Golden Gate Bridge from a place called “The Wave Organ”. But, the location was just way too far away from the bridge. So, I shot some landscape photography before walking back to the car.

But, just before getting back to the car, I realized there were some really nice long lens shots of the bridge from the east side of the park. I grabbed this still of the bridge in the very last light of the day.

Golden Gate Bridge

However, it looked like if you got to the west side of the park there would be even better compositions. However, it did also look crowded up that way. I guess, add this to my list of locations I need to get back and shoot again in the future.

Other places to Shoot the Bridge

There are so many places for photography of The Golden Gate Bridge. This list is simply my experience. I’ve listed a couple other locations that people have mentioned below. However, if you have other cool photo spots of the bridge, please mention them in the comments and I’ll add them. Better yet, drop a photo example with it!

Fisherman’s Wharf

Down at the wharf, there are a couple places that might be interesting to photograph the bridge. It’s a bit off in the distance, but using things like the piers and sea breakers might make for some interesting images.

The Bridge Itself

Of course, you can go onto the bridge itself. From there, you’re going to have to contend with traffic, but there are certainly some opportunities to create interesting images there as well. Driving, Golden Gate Bridge

What’s Next on the Travel Photography Blog

I’m going to try to put together more of these “best places for photography” blog posts. I think the next of this series will be “The Best Places for Photography in Arizona”. As for real time, I’m continuing a California road trip right now. You can follow along with the series on my photography YouTube Channel.

Afterwards, I’m leaving the US for Wales. It should be fun!

Best Job in The World! I’m Hiring…

Brendan van Son+Posted By on Feb 16, 2018 |

I have the best job in the world. So, I guess that whoever I take on for this project will have the 2nd best job in the world. And, I think I’m a pretty good boss. In fact, I think that in this situation, I’ll be more like a mentor than a boss, anyways.

Rather than explain everything in word form here, I have a video below that explains this project and how it all came about. You’ll find a bit of detail and some of the process below as well.

World’s Best Job

As I outlined in the video, the world’s best job thing is a project I pitched to Trover. They liked the idea, and they asked to kind of do a trial period for it. So, we decided to run it on my next independent project which is taking place in Japan in March and early April. It’s short notice, but that’s kind of how this lifestyle is anyways, so it works.

In short, the project is simple: the successful applicant will come with me to Japan for 3 weeks and help shoot video and photo footage. They’ll also have other duties like modelling, being on camera, assistant’s work, and other things.

In return, the applicant will receive $1000usd compensation as well as all their expenses (including flights up to $1000) paid for during the trip. Full T&Cs can be found here.

What’s Trover?

Trover is an app/website that is extremely helpful to photographers. It helps you “discover” photo-worthy locations near your current location – or, in places you’re heading.

The role that Trover is playing in this project, is sponsor. They asked me to pitch them some ways that they could get more involved in the travel photography community we’re building, and I lent the idea of running a bit of a scholarship program which would allow me to give back to the community in the form or jobs, clinics, workshops, etc. Hopefully, this is the first of a long partnership.

Golden Gate Bridge

What are the Dates?

The dates are not yet 100% confirmed, but will likely be the 3 weeks from March 18 – April 8th, 2018.

What are the Requirements?

  • Entrants will have to create a video application.
  • They will need to submit a portfolio in the form of a list on Trover.
  • Must be over the age of 18.
  • Must have appropriate camera gear.
  • Should have video editing skills.
  • Will need to be the holder of a passport from a visa-free country for Japan.
  • Major assets are hyperlapse skills, and drone piloting skills.

How to Apply

  1. You’ll need to download the application here.
  2. Once you’ve completed all the steps send the filled application to brendanvanson at gmail dot com.
  3. Application deadline is March 1, 2018.
  4. I will not reply to everyone who submits an application, but I will be contacting 3-4 people for a quick skype interview.
  5. Successful applicant will be announced publicly March 8th.


If you have any questions, please don’t email me.

Instead, leave the comments in the comment section below. Chances are, if you have a question, someone else has the same one.


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