What’s In My Bag For Germany?

In less than two weeks, we’re going on a family trip to Germany for an entire month! Kristin has a friend in Germany and her husband just so happens to from here in Texas. So, we’re literally swapping houses with them so they can visit family here in DFW while we explore Germany and a few of the surrounding countries. How cool is that!?

I put a lot of thought into what I wanted to bring in terms of camera gear. This is a family trip first and foremost, so while creating images won’t be at the top of my priority list, rest assured it’s still on the list 🙂 I always like seeing gear posts like this from my photography friends, so I thought I’d put one together to show some new gear and what I’ll be bringing on the trip.

Pictured above:

  • MindShift Backlight 26L
    • I’ve been using this backpack for a couple years now and still love it. I ditched the f-Stop Tilopa for this bag because while I loved the Tilopa, it wouldn’t fit under most airplane seats and when I could, the laptop compartment was too difficult to access from the ground.
  • Sony a7Rii (my main camera that I use 99% of the time)
  • Sony a7s (my video camera, backup camera and one I use occasionally at night)
  • Sony 16-35 f/4 (attached to the a7Rii
  • Sony 70-200 f/4
  • Sony 55 f/1.8
  • DJI Mavic Pro Quadcopter
    • This is a brand new addition. I had a DJI Phantom a while back but ended up selling it because it was just too bulky and cumbersome for my travel style. This one, as you can see, folds up small enough to fit in my bag along with extra batteries and the remote (pictured above my a7Rii).
  • Formatt-Hitech filters
    • I don’t use filters terribly often, mainly just a 10-stop and occasionally a circular polarizer but keep the rest around just in case.

Not Pictured:

  • DJI Osmo Mobile
    • Another new addition! Although there wasn’t room for it in the main compartment, it fits nicely in one of the front pockets. I got this for creating silky smooth video. Planning on taking a ton of video of both my family and the things we see and do.
  • Really Right Stuff tripod (see my tripod recommendations here with a link to mine at the bottom)
  • 13″ Macbook Pro
  • iPad Mini
    • I use this for my Mavic Pro instead of my iPhone because it’s a bigger screen and doesn’t use up my phone battery.
  • Garmin Fenix Watch
    • For geotagging photos and navigation on long hikes.
  • GoPro Hero Session

My Minimalist Approach To Travel Photography

Earlier I mentioned selling my DJI Phantom because it was bulky. It required its own case, which was a big Pelican hard case that you carried like a suitcase. Sure, there are backpacks out there that can carry both a Phantom and some camera gear, but they’re quite ugly and there’s not much else you can do with them besides carrying a drone plus camera gear. I remember getting to a location in California and having a 1.5 mile hike from my car to the coast. Needless to say, carrying all my camera gear in a backpack and a Pelican case with a single briefcase like handle over 1.5 miles was not very fun.

Over the years, I have gotten rid of all sorts of unnecessary gear. I make 90% of my images with my a7Rii and 16-35mm lens. If I need some reach, I grab my 70-200 every now and again. If I need something in-between or need a shallow depth of field, I’ll grab the 55. If I’m shooting the Milky Way, I’ll switch over to the a7s.

The main requirement I have for my gear is that it needs to fit into a single backpack and fit in the carry on space beneath an airplane seat. I would say that’s no small task, but I suppose it is considering the size of the space down there 🙂

I want everything to fit beneath a seat because I’ve been in plenty of situations where there is no overhead space by the time I get to my seat. And the last thing I want to do is gate check my camera gear. I also like to keep everything beneath the seat because it minimizes the chance of someone ramming their luggage into my bag and it allows me to access my laptop or iPad without having to get up or carry a separate laptop bag.

As you can see, I’ve put a lot of time into this stuff thanks to a lot of trips and a lot of trial and error. If you have any questions about the gear or methods listed, let me know if the comments below!


    1. Thanks Ian! I do want to see Munich for sure. It’s a bit far from where we’re staying but with a month long trip I’m sure we can find time.

  1. Hi James. Just curious why you like the a7s for Milky Way shots over the a7Rii?

  2. Hi James, I enjoy your work. I’m just curious why you like the a7s for Milky Way shots over the a7Rii?

    1. It just does a much better job in low light. The a7rii does ok, but it maxes out in terms of acceptable noise way before the a7s. I can crank the a7s up to ISO 12,000 and get very clean images. It does become a constant battle between low light performance and megapixels though. I have to really need the a7s to convince myself to go from 42MP down to 12MP, haha.

  3. I’m glad to see you got the Mavic… my son has one & it’s great! I already emailed you about Germany, so have a great time. Don’t forget rain gear (especially for your cameras).

  4. Good luck on your trip to Germany James and I hope you and your family have lots of fun! Having been to Germany a couple of times on business trips, plus some added vacation time while the corporation picked up the airfare tab, here’s a few recommendations if you can make it fit into your itinerary, mostly in the Bavarian region of southern Germany. Neuschwanstein Castle, near the town of Füssen in southwest Bavaria, Germany. It’s said this castle is the model for the Disney castle, and it’s true! The town of Füssen itself is a nice visit with its own historic castle scenes right in town and some wonderful shopping along narrow pedestrian cobble stone streets. Some spectacular Alps scenery and hiking opportunities near the castle and the town, or possible skiing if the snow might start falling while you’re there! Anywhere along the “Romantic Road” through this part of Germany will make for a great road trip if you have a rental car. “Romantic” in the sense of originating in Roman Times when the Romans ruled the region, but also plenty of Romantic villages and sights to see with your special loved one and family. I can send you more ideas if you’d like! Take care, keep up the great work, and enjoy your month in Germany!

    1. Awesome recommendations, thanks so much Mike! Definitely planning to explore Bavaria and down in Switzerland as well. Also have a few days booked at Disney in Paris for the kiddos. And our 5 year old is obsessed with the Eiffel Tower so we’ll have to do that as well.

  5. What part of Germany? I live in southwest and can offer some suggestions if you’re in that area.

    Make sure you take note of the German laws on drone identification and operation. Anything over 250 grams requires a visible, non-flammable marking of owner name and address.

    1. We’ll be just south of Frankfurt. Read up on German drone laws. Pretty crazy! Does the name and address have to be on the outside or can it be in the battery compartment as long as it’s accessible without tools?

      1. My understanding is that it has to be externally visible, but I think the rules are still maturing. There are online shops that will laser etch a self-adhesive aluminum plate that weights less than a gram. Maybe one of those self-service dog tag kiosks in the pet store for a quick (but heavier) solution?

        Recommendations, in no particular order:
        1. Hohenzollern castle. Castle itself is a great visit, and the area is ready-made for drone photography from nearby areas. Great overlook across a valley to the south (GPS 48.312365N 8.979745E; free parking at Zollersteighof). Fall leaves, snow, or the right cloud conditions can make a stunning combination.

        2. Heidelberg Castle. Mixture of incredibly well maintained bits right next to ruined parts. One of my favorite spots in Southern Germany. Especially good for some long exposure evening photography on the grounds. Pairs nicely with a morning or evening fog. Dry moats. Drawbridges. Collapsed towers. There’s something for the whole family.

        3. Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Well preserved walled city. Great for half-timbered houses, watchtowers, and some unique sights. Climb the city hall tower for extraordinary views. Sunset can lead to some gorgeous images.

        4. Cathedrals. Ulm and Strasbourg cathedrals both offer some remarkable interior and exterior architectural locations. Tripods almost never allowed indoors, but you might get away with a quick monopod shot. Always do the climb!

        5. Trier. Collection of Roman ruins that rivals many places in Italy. Well worth the drive.

        6. Alsace wine route. Drive from Strasbourg to Colmar (or reverse), through Obernai, Barr, Ribeauvillé, Riquewihr, and others. Allow time for bookends (Strasbourg and Colmar), and for the Chateau de Haute Koenigsbourg. The vineyards are not their most beautiful this time of year, but there is still plenty to enjoy. Opportunities to launch the Mavic for some good scenery.

        7. Schloss Braunfels. Much closer than Neuschwanstein Castle and more genuine.

        8. Eltz Castle (Burg) on the Mosel river. Great views from the approaches and adjacent hillsides. Not sure of your timing, but is amazing with fall leaves or snow.

        9. Mosel river route between Koblenz and Trier. Another drone opportunity in the countryside.

        10. If you like cars, the BMW museum in Munich and the Mercedes and Porsche museums in Stuttgart have a lot to offer.

        11. Luxembourg city. Perhaps more limited in the photographic opportunities, but has fascinating history and you can spend all day climbing up and down what remains of the fortifications. Luxembourg American Cemetery is on the way, which is both moving and scenic.

        Enjoy your adventure. There’s so much to see and do in the area!

  6. James, how do you like the pictures the Mavic takes in comparison to the Phantom?

  7. James, how do you like the pictures the Magic take compared to the Phantom?

      1. Thanks! I would love to hear your comparison specifically related to quality of images. No question the Mavic is great for portability. Enjoy your your trip!

  8. Great blog entry…I too have been using a minimalist approach to lenses. I pre-ordered the new 24-105, but plan on cancelling it as the 16-35, 55, and 70-200, and the tiny 35/2.8 have served me well for 2 years. Great to hear a photographer I admire keeps it simple with gear and still produces amazing imagery.

    1. Thanks Jamil! I’ve heard great things about that 35 prime. I’ve considered adding it but for the same reason as you cancelling the 24-105, I haven’t pulled the trigger yet. Thanks for the kind words, cheers!

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