I use the Canon system exclusively (fast autofocus with manual over-ride, first to introduce Image Stabiliser). For a cultural trip such as Bhutan, I brought 2 identical bodies (EOS IV) and 4 lenses (17-35mm f/2.8, 28-70mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/2.8 IS and 300mm f/4 IS) - over 90% of my shots were taken with the wide-angle (17-35mm) and telephoto (70-200mm) zooms. Flash (550 EX) was indispensable, mainly as fill-flash (used together with a diffuser for portraits). Converters (1.4x and 2x) and extension tubes (25mm) were also included, in case of long telephoto or macro opportunities. A tripod and cable release came in handy for low-light situations (photographing pilgrims making butter lamp offerings in a dark altar room) and scenics (plenty of wonderful opportunities). Other useful accessories include various filters (polarising filter, graduated neutral density filter), right-angle viewfinder (very useful for low-angle shots to avoid having to lie on the ground) and flash accessories (teleflash, flash bracket, off-camera flash cables - more important in wildlife photography). Typically, the wide angle and telephoto zooms are each mounted on a body and ready for action. The rest of the equipment is carried in a waistpouch (film and essential accessories for faster access) and a backpack.
"I have been fascinated with Bhutan (the only Himalayan kingdom
to retain its independence and culture) for some time. Typically,
my trips involve much research and customizing the itinerary for my own 'group' of
one to two people so I can indulge my interest in photography. But
for Bhutan, I decided to join Robin as I felt the trip incorporated a
lot of what I wanted to do and see, and even more.
For keen photographers, the day can start as early as the crack of dawn. One morning, we photographed pilgrims making butter lamp offerings. On another, it was mist rising over a watchtower. Rainbow Tours also organized access into important dzongs and monasteries (usually closed to tourists unless special permission is obtained in advance). On this trip, we got blessed by Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot--religious leader of Bhutan) as well as an 8 year old reincarnate 16th-century lama. I got the photos I wanted, and had a great time, too."
Although her day job is with a US investment bank, Melisa Lee tries to spend as much time as possible indulging her passion for travel and photography. For photographing wildlife, she has been to Africa 5 times, Galapagos 3 times, and is scheduled to go tiger hunting (only with Canons) in India in November, 2002. Ideas for future trips include snow leopards (very elusive) in the Himalayas, polar bears of Svalbard (the Norwegian arctic) and Africa (that safari bug yet again). Melisa enjoys travelling to countries which are slightly off the beaten track, and besides Bhutan, Mongolia and Papua New Guinea rank high on her list of interesting destinations.