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In less than four days, we will embark on an epic adventure to parts unknown (to us, anyway).  We are making our last-minute notes on where to find the best okonomiyaki and brushing up on our kanji.  Yep, while others will be collecting candy and traversing dark haunted houses, we will be en route to the Land of the Rising Sun.


We have been anxiously planning for this trip for over a year, and with my interest in anime and Japanese culture, I’ve wanted to go for ages.  It was only reinforced when my sister (check out her author blog) went, bringing back some fun souvenirs and a host of experiences.  Therefore, when we faced a big milestone year (5-year wedding anniversary, 30th birthday, and my graduating with my Masters), Japan was an easy choice for celebration (though Australia did briefly vie for our attention).  Too bad we were a year late on the planning!

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015
Our living room has an oriental flair (now sadly missing Zoe…)

Aaron has never been outside the country.  Born and raised in Portland, he hasn’t even stepped foot in Canada.  He got his first passport several months ago.  And now, for his inaugural venture overseas, we’re taking him to a place as vastly different as possible.  They don’t even have the same writing system, let alone the same language.

Fortunately, he absolutely loves planning big trips like this.  He likes to be in control, crossing all “t”s and dotting all “i”s.  As for me, I love a good surprise.  I love the adventure of not knowing what to expect, discovering it all as it comes.  Therefore, this is the perfect arrangement, as he can plan every minute, and I can find out what we’re doing when we get there.  Yes, I’m serious.  I have no idea what we’re doing there.  I know a few basics – Tokyo for 9 days, Kyoto for 4 – and a some items on our “musts” list – a few key shrines, cat cafes, Ghibli museum, robot cafe, bamboo forest, onsen, etc. – but I don’t know when we’re doing what, and there are hours of unknowns.  Just the way I love it!  I keep telling Aaron he should blog about his planning experience, as he’s quite good at it and has learned even more through this process, but he’s too busy with the actual planning.

Meanwhile, I agreed to take a crack at the language.  I was already a student, so I enrolled in JPN101 (which I had to pay for at the graduate rate – but that’s another story) and proceeded to practice my konnichiwas and sumimasens.  All in all, I’ve had about a year of formal instruction, but it’s nowhere near enough to uphold a decent conversation.  I at least understand the structure, and could possibly get by in an emergency.  Does subtitled Bleach count as review for keeping my Japanese sharp?

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

I’m one who generally shies away from the cliche, so we intentionally did not want to go during the cherry blossom season (especially since we have sakura here).  However, being a photographer, the next best thing is fall foliage.  What better way to celebrate my favorite season?

Clothes and toiletries are the easy part when it comes to packing.  The piece that takes some consideration?  My gear.  Probably like any other photographer, I simply want to bring everything.  Fortunately for me, I don’t have a suitcase full of lenses, so that’s somewhat feasible.  However, as I anticipate us easily earning our 10k steps each day, I want to trim as much weight as humanly possible.  So these are musts:

  • Canon 7D
  • Canon 50 f1.4 prime
  • Canon 10-22 wide angle
  • 4 batteries and charger
  • 3 32GB high-speed SD cards
  • 58mm and 77mm polarizer filters
  • cleaning kit
  • Manfrotto tripod

I anticipate some possible rain, and there are a couple of items I know I’d wind up wanting if I don’t bring them.  Therefore, I’m also adding these:

  • camera rain poncho
  • Canon 75-300 telephoto (it’s super lightweight anyway, and it’ll be good for when I can’t otherwise get close)
  • intervalometer (I might want to do a short timelapse of Shibuya crossing, and it weighs next to nothing) and batteries

And these are what I plan to leave at home:

  • Canon 18-55 kit lens
  • macro extenders (I can open my 50 to 1.4 if I really want macro)
  • Canon Rebel XT (my second/backup camera)
  • Canon Speedlite 580EX II (I’m not really big on flash, and I already seldom use it; I can make do without)
  • a number of additional little accessories that shouldn’t be needed

I have a BlackRapid sport strap for active shooting and a Lowepro exchange case for a spare lens, extra battery, cleaning cloth, SD card, etc.  I can also squeeze in a second (third) lens if I really need to.  That should get me through the day-to-day.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015
Holee is infusing my clothes with her fur and purrs so I can take her with me

The big question I was asking myself was regarding storage/processing.  I really didn’t want to bring my clunky MacBook, but I’d still like to post periodically.  While I’ll be spending my time enjoying the vacation, I’d still like to share some occasional choice photos.  I’d also rather not post SOTC (straight out of the camera).  Aaron will have an iPad, so I thought that a viable option.  I can even get Lightroom on it.  However, it’s designed to sync photos from your cloud account (requiring a computer); I can’t import directly into LR on the tablet.  Furthermore, I shoot in raw.  I can import photos directly to the iPad (selecting from tiny thumbnails), but LR won’t recognize raws on the camera roll.

Asking a few camera friends what they do on the road, they all said they bring their laptops.  So color me reluctantly convinced.  I might be able to get away with the iPad in a pinch, but I’m sure it would frustrate me first.  The computer has the added bonus of being an extra repository (in case 3600 photos aren’t enough for two weeks), the workflow is already familiar, and it conveniently serves the purpose of being a source of entertainment for the ten-hour flight.  Now.. do I also bring my external hard drive and work on some editing on the plane?  If you give a mouse a cookie…

What gear do you bring on the road?  Or, if you aren’t a photographer, what is essential to you beyond the essentials (clothes/toiletries)?

One thing is for sure: as much as I would love it, Holee will not be stowing away in our bag; she will be staying with some amazing, kitty-loving friends.  Perhaps we’ll bring her home some dried sushi :3


© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015
Just another bundle to be packed
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  1. I’m so excited for you! Just remember to spend some of your vacation out from behind the camera lens too. 😉 I think you’ll appreciate having the laptop with you. Oh, and watch out for that killer jet lag. It’ll knock you on your butt for the first day. I can’t wait to see photos!

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