British Product Designer Benjamin Davies Shares How to Travel as a Photography Hobbyist

I am Benjamin Davies, a photography hobbyist from Brighton, UK. I study product design at Brighton University and I’m constantly on the look for new photography explorations! You’ll usually find me sketching some designs while listening to ODESZA and drinking coffee.

Photography Hobbyist Benjamin Davies
Benjamin (me) skimming stones on a Norwegian lake

How and why did you get into photography and traveling?

I was extremely privileged to be brought up by parents who love to be outdoors and explore. As a child, we had trips to some very remote Scottish islands and from there I saw some incredible natural beauty. However, it was not until growing up into my teens that I decided to pick up a camera and document my travels through photography.

My biggest step into photography was booking plane tickets to Norway; a country I didn’t know much about. This opened my eyes to a whole new world. When preparing for Norway, I realised that I was going to have to get in better shape to tackle some of the most impressive hikes. I worked on my stamina and fitness by doing two 5k runs a week for six months leading up to the trip. This was a step in the right direction and meant that I could handle the 140km we walked in seven days.

Photography Hobbyist Benjamin Davies
A photo shot at Peyto Lake by my father in the early 90s

How do you finance your travels?

I travel in my holidays, around study time. This means that I have to save up my pennies for a long time and be very careful with my money so I can afford trips. Part-time jobs have helped me in the past, but looking forward; fundraising is a suitable direction to make the dreams happen.

Why is traveling important for you?

Travelling means that I get to see new cultures and new styles of living. It gets me out of my comfort zone and away from repetitive life. I enjoy having to tackle new obstacles everyday and solve new problems that I’m faced with. Exploration through travel is exhilarating and beneficial to gaining a better understanding of the world.

Photography Hobbyist Benjamin Davies
The Scottish Highlands are a moody yet mysterious place that you have to explore!

How do you bring your things with you?

I am all about ultralight travel and will do anything just to save a couple of grams in my pack. I use Fujifilm cameras for their lightweight and compact ecosystem. This is essential to having a comfortable experience as well as being able to take high quality photos. I currently use the 3F UL 55L Backpack for its lightweight specifications and customisability. It fits my camera gear and overnight equipment if necessary. Having a bag that supports your contents is essential in ensuring comfortable hiking.

Photography Hobbyist Benjamin Davies
My Norway day pack next to Ringedalsvatnet

How do you organize things in your bags?

I split up the inside of my bag with dry-bags from Karrimor, which means my gear and clothing will never get wet. This enables some peace of mind as well as providing some ease of access to separate sections. My camera equipment is usually at the top of the bag so I never miss a shot. The bag could offer a camera container that is sized specifically for my Fujifilm as that would reduce the risk of any damage.

How do your bags and gear hold up?

I take care of my gear, yet there is only so much you can do before the bag begins to get some wear and tear. To maximise the longevity of my equipment, I will try and mitigate any damage caused by the external elements. My tripod is definitely a weak point in my gear as its weight is significant so I often choose not to strap it to my pack. Instead I have a small Manfrotto Pixi, which fits into my bag and is extremely lightweight.

Any gear you wish you had brought with you from the beginning?

Never hold back with gear. If there’s a purchase that you think is a compromise you will often look at that negative and end up buying the superior product in the future. Do not get trapped into regretting your gear choices and letting it stop you from getting out and exploring. Just being out and travelling is a beauty in itself so enjoy it!

Photography Hobbyist Benjamin Davies
My Fujifilm X-E2 with a Samyang 12mm and Manfrotto Tripod

What has been your best travel and photography-related purchase below $100?

My Karrimor dry bags have saved my gear several times, including when I left one outside in pouring rain on the edge of a Norwegian fjord. The bag kept my equipment dry with no signs of any water entering through the seal. These cost less than £10 an are by far my most recommended travel purchase.

For photography, I am a firm believer in compactness and feel. Great ergonomics can help inspire your passion for photography so by using something that you are comfortable with can be of great help. I use the Fujifilm X-E2 for its compact rangefinder design and lightweight materials. I use the small lenses of a Samyang 12mm for wide angle shots and the XF 35mm f2 for more intimate landscapes and portraits.

Photography Hobbyist Benjamin Davies
My Fujifilm X-E2 with a Samyang 12mm and Manfrotto Tripod

What kind of photos do you prefer to shoot?

I love shooting landscapes as I’m intrigued by how one location can have so many different fascinations and look so different with a fresh pair of eyes. Landscape photography lets you slow down and carefully take the shot. The meticulous planning is essential for getting ideal conditions and I can recommend the app Photopills for finding a location and then for predicting sunrises and sunsets.

My favourite photo that I have taken has to be my Astro shot in Cornwall, UK. This had been planned for weeks and it came together so well with the milky way lining up perfectly vertical on the horizon.

Photography Hobbyist Benjamin Davies
Shot in Cornwall, UK after planning the shot on Photopills “AR Mode”

What is your best advice for people who want to follow your footsteps?

Look upwards and take any opportunity you can to go travelling or to take photos. It’s fun, exciting and equally epic. The more you get out, the more that landscape photography will follow with success. Make things happen! Book a plane ticket or drive to a location at 3AM – both will be worth it. Don’t be disheartened by bad travel experiences as you can learn from your mistakes and find a way so that the same thing doesn’t happen again. You won’t develop your skills or experience anything by staying in bed.

Photography Hobbyist Benjamin Davies
Getting up at 3AM for the sunrise at The Seven Sisters, UK was worth it!

What will the future bring?

I absolutely love Norway and will certainly go back for even more photography and travel madness. I dream of visiting the Lofoten archipelago and witnessing the midnight sun during summer, and then the northern lights during winter. I also hope to visit Banff, Canada and recreate some of my father’s photos and see how the landscape has changed in the past 25 years.

I will also continue to explore the United Kingdom – I have been astounded at some of the natural beauty to be found. The Isle of Skye and the Irish Coastline have both caught my fancy and will probably be on my “to visit list”

As technology is advancing, it is only fitting that I look to have my own drone; it adds a fresh perspective to landscapes that you simply cannot see by foot. The DJI Mavic Pro is certainly on my wish list and hopefully I can pick one up soon!

Visit Benjamin Davies on his website and follow him on Instagram

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