Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer, is just under two weeks away, so it’s time to clean your sensor, pack your gear bag, and make plans for summer photo adventures.

This year, I’m planning on three photo outings, including two weekend trips and a big southwest trip at the end of the summer. So what do I need to do to ensure that I get the images I want to get? Plan ahead. There are some things I can control–like making sure I have everything I’ll need–and others like the weather that I can’t control. But with a little planning, I can still come away with good images despite the weather.

My main interests right now are astrophotography and landscapes, so I’m planning a trip to Devil’s Tower and The Badlands in Wyoming, which offer great opportunities for both. I use Dark Sky Project, the PlanIt! app that allows you to locate areas where light pollution from cities and towns will least affect your shooting. The landscapes in both of these areas, along with other sites in western South Dakota and eastern Wyoming, are well known for great, dramatic subjects.

Devils Tower, Wy

Devils Tower, Wy

But when should I go to get the best shots? Using the Sky Chart app, I can see when the moon will be new so that moonlight won’t spoil my astro shots. Unfortunately, this year the darkest skies seem to fall on holidays, which can make lodging and avoiding crowds more difficult. now has a very helpful three-month weather forecast. Taking all of this into account, along with the scheduling demands of my 9-to-5 job, I’ll take advantage of holiday weekends and a week’s vacation in late summer.

My time and location have been successfully planned, work has my vacation request and the car is scheduled for a good look-over before I drive 2,500 miles. Now what equipment do I need in the bag? Here’s what I’ll take with me:

In The Bag:


7D Camera Bodies 1 A7 Camera Body
6 Canon Batteries 3 Sony Batteries
1 10-20mm lens 1 16-35mm lens
1 24-105mm lens 1 24-70mm lens
1 70-200mm lens
1 Tripod 1 Monopod
1 Neutral Density Filter kit .6, .9, 1.5, 2.4 1 Graduated Filter Kit
1 Polarizer 1 Cokin holder, shade, and rings (3)
1 Shutter Release cable 3 Lens cloths
1 Small Brush 1 Air Blower
1 Rain Cover 1 Ziploc Bags


Remember, you don’t want to run out of memory space or battery power on the road, so an extra SD card is worth the investment. I plan on camping out. so in addition to two extra batteries, I’ll bring an AC/DC power converter so I can charge batteries as I drive. Equipment failures happen, so I’ll bring three camera bodies and a few extra lenses. I plan on taking plenty of wide angle shots, I’ll rent a second lens just in case. There’s nothing worse than having almost everything you need to get “the shot” except what you actually need.

Lion gets camera

Lion gets camera “Stock Photo, I can’t find a credit”

Now for a few non-photographic items: I believe in safety, so I always have a first aid kit in my car. Always double check the spare before hitting the road (last weekend I picked up a nail on my way to meet some friends for a weekend camping trip, and I was glad that my spare had air). I also carry a case of water, dry snacks like trail mix, and a warm jacket. Doing astrophotography, I’m often out at 3 AM when it’s much cooler than it is at high noon. Flashlights… three just in case with a fourth little penlight for working the camera. When you’re out at night doing astrophotography, your eyes need to adjust to the dark, and that can take over 30 minutes. A low light source for adjusting the tripod and fine tuning the camera is a good idea to help keep your night vision.

I’ll be sure to post about my summertime photo adventure and the resulting images.

by Tim Farmer