Sarah Pannell is known for her ability to capture the spirit of foreign destinations. The details she captures transport you to the scene, so you can feel the sun beating down on your neck in an arid desert, or smell the intermingling aromas of street food vendors at a local market. Her immersive photos are in part due to long expeditions overseas, making a careful curation of her packing list integral to her practice.
Words and Photography by Sarah Pannell
I have been travelling with the same gear, more or less, for the past 8 years and I’ve tried my best to keep it as minimal as possible, although this can be difficult when you’re shooting film and spend extended periods of time overseas. This selection of gear has become essential for working on my personal and commissions projects abroad.
“The Mamiya 7 is my number one camera; it creates unbelievably high quality, dynamic frames.”
The Packing List
I bought this medium format rangefinder during my final year of university at RMIT and have continuously shot on it ever since. I have had it repaired twice and despite a lot of wear and tear, it’s still going strong. The Mamiya 7 is my number one camera; it creates unbelievably high quality, dynamic frames. It’s ergonomic, has a super quiet and discreet shutter and I find it a comfortable size to carry on a daily basis. I’m not sure what my practice would look like without it.
Mamiya Lenses: 80mm and 150mm
The 80mm is my main lens and I could easily get away with just relying on the 80mm if need be. It’s an incredibly versatile, reliable, sharp lens and the perfect focal length for what I shoot.
This leads me to the next lens, a Mamiya 150mm f/4. I don’t own this lens, it’s borrowed, but it has been an important lens for my work over the past few years and it’s certainly a piece of equipment I plan to invest in for the future. It’s a tricky long lens with a very narrow plane of focus, but I’ve found it to be incredibly valuable for my recent work particularly in Iran and Egypt as it’s incredible at isolating subjects.
Olympus MJU ii
My secondary camera which i also have in my bag, and I love using when I’m out and about, particularly in the evenings when I might not have my Mamiya with me. I’ve been through about 5 point-and-shoots (mainly Olympus and Contax) in the past 7-8 years, so the model doesn’t matter so much, as long as it’s quick and has a fast flash.
I use colour film, primarily Kodak Portra (160, 400 and 800) 120 and 35mm film. I also use the Japan Camera Hunter cases during the day to carry my rolls and I generally mark each roll (numbered) for ease when developing and scanning in order.
“A UV filter is an essential for any lens to keep it safe, and I have one attached to all my cameras.”
Urth UV, ND and CPL Filters
A UV filter is an essential for any lens to keep it safe, and I have one attached to all my cameras, including my digital body and 35mm rangefinder.
I’ve started to use ND filters over the past 3 years and this has made a big difference for me, particularly shooting on a camera with a maximum shutter speed of 1/500th of a second (Mamiya 7). In early 2018 when I travelled to Egypt, I was concerned about shooting in bright desert environments and not being able to shoot on a wider aperture, particularly for portraits, so an ND filter was the obvious answer. I’ve really loved the flexibility of the Urth variable ND filters, being able to go between 1-8 stops of reduced light depending on the circumstances.
The CPL filters are great for reducing haze and I mainly use these when shooting landscapes.
Nikon SB600 Speedlight
When I use on-camera flash with my Mamiya, this is my go to speed light as it also works with my Nikon digital body. This flash has never let me down, and I also use it on my 35mm cameras. It’s powerful and fast, and doesn’t have a complicated control menu.
Travel Manfrotto Tripod
Most of the time I will travel with a tripod but I don’t take it out everyday, just on days I think I might need to shoot in low light, so generally it’s used during the evening. I really don’t like to carry too heavy a bag during my days, so I will take only essential items. This tripod is brilliant as it’s super light, compact and sturdy enough for the Mamiya.
“I’ve found compartmentalising all my belongings to be a very important way to travel in an organised fashion.”
I shoot a lot on my iPhone, particularly as I don’t generally travel with a digital camera. I love shooting videos and this is becoming a larger part of my practice as I enjoy sharing video compilations through Instagram. This is certainly my most used device.
Powerbank, and Spare Batteries
Back up charge for iPhone and kindle is essential, as are spare lithium batteries for my cameras and flash. I carry all of these things along with an external hard drive on longer trips inside a zipped bag; I’ve found compartmentalising all my belongings to be a very important way to travel in an organised fashion.
Although I will make notes on my iPhone, it can’t replace having a physical notebook. I mostly use this for place names and noting down names of people I meet and any important details I need to record as I’m working on a story.
I don’t travel with a technical camera bag. I really don’t like drawing attention to myself, so I usually go out during the day with a tote bag and I use a Crumpler Haven Insert which turns any bag into a protective gear bag.
I use drawstring cotton bags and my zip up case to carry loose items (journal, batteries, charging cables, powerbank, film etc) and keep things organised in my larger travel bags.