Weekend Musings: On-The-Go Blogging Equipment

An old friend of mine had been feeding me interesting emails. He knows I am blogging about food and he always sends me stuff he comes across. I just don’t know where he finds so many of these interesting stuff.

So a few weeks ago, he sent me a series of pictures with no details. Just the pictures. I thought this is interesting and share these pictures with you. At the same time, people asked me about what Suanne and I carry with us when we go out blogging-eating. So, I’ll share with you what is in our bag … and hope that you foodies out there also tell me what you bring along!


Off hand, I would discount this little device which looks like a gun but what caught my attention is the most important equipment to a foodie — the spoon.

Hey actually, maybe the spoon is not the most important equipment to the foodie. I mean a committed foodie will eat with their hands, no problem.

But if there is one thing that I absolutely need, it is … my dental floss! I go nuts if I get food stuck in between my teeth. So I have dental floss everywhere within reach. Believe it or not … in my work bag, in my office drawer, in my cars, on my desk at home, by my bed side. Yeah, I am well covered.


Back to this contraption. Not just a spoon, it also has a fork.


Disassembled … spoon, fork and KNIFE too.


Not sure how joining this end to end is useful though.


That thingy looked like a compass. Perhaps useful when you lose your way to the restaurant.


It seems like a small LED light too. That is what I have and need. Some restaurants are impossibly dark that you can hardly read the menu.


Oh yeah, it is a LED light. They even have a toothbrush. Hehehe … I have a person in the office who brushes his teeth in the men washroom everyday after lunch.


Can you find a use for a USB thumb drive in a restaurant setting? A CF card reader would be good to store my pictures when I run of space in on the camera storage card.


There you go. There is also a cross too. I wonder what that is for.

Anyway, I would love to buy one of these.


So what’s in the chowtimes bag?

We carry a Tamrac bag which is the smallest we could find and yet be able to fit the camera. I can’t even remember where we bought this but as you know camera bags are way over priced. I just know it is expensive although there is nothing very much to it.

This bag doesn’t provide a lot of protection but is able to deal with the occasional knocks. The camera fits into the center nicely and is very well padded on the sides and a bit more on the front. The back is where it is the thinnest but it’s the part that is close to your body carrying it and so it’s not as bad.

There are a few modifiable compartments which we make it into 3 sections with the center for the camera.


The camera is a Canon 40D. It is sturdy and well built with a magnesium alloy body. It is heavy and bulky. The body alone is close to 2lbs and with the added lens, it is quite a bit to lug around. We tried using point and shoots but had never been happy with the quality at all.

We carry around two lens. The 16-35mm f/2.8 L is on the body like 99% of the time. The 50mm f/1.4 is the other lens. I am not sure why we carry that around because we hardly use that. It’s only useful when I wanted a slightly longer lens.

The 16-35mm lens is awesome. To me this is the perfect tabletop lens. It is very wide and very fast. I could get the lens to 5″ of a dish and take real close up shots. The other cheaper lens I had need me to be 18″ away. The wide angle also allows me to take the pictures of the entire outside of the restaurant without stepping into the middle of the road. LOL! The most important thing is that at f/2.8 it is super fast. It performs quite well in dark places.

I have a backup camera which is used only when both Suanne and I want to use a camera at the same day. It was the 1st camera we used for chowtimes. The Canon Rebel XT has a lens which performs the same as the 16-35mm. It is the 17-40mm f/4 L. It is with that camera I used to shoot the picture of the Canon 40D above. The other good lens I like a lot is the 70-200mm f/2.8 L (with a 1.4x extender) but it has not applicable use for food shooting.

Yeah, the camera is bulky and is very noticeable in a restaurant. But I will not have it any other way … I like the pictures way better than other cameras I have.


The backup camera in the bag is the Panasonic Lumix. Nothing fancy. It does the job when something fails with the main camera.

Although the Lumix can take videos too but use the Mino Flip for the occasions when we want to take action shot. While it is HD, it is more of “HD” in quotes. 720p only. It’s handy and easy to use but I don’t like it after using it for a while. Firstly, it is slow (the zooming, I mean). Then it does not have image stabilizer which is a problem because my hands shake at the sight of food! Just kidding. 🙂

The mini tripod is rarely used but this is about the only one that can handle the Canon 40D with the heavy lens. It is light and small but cumbersome to setup (need at least 1 minute to setup). So it has very limited application. I use that as a monopod mostly when the light is dark and I need the stability.

The white balance cards are used only when the lighting is tricky. I don’t bother with this when I have yellow cast or neon or something like that because I could easily fix the pictures at home. It is when I get tricky situations like yellow lights inside and another source of strong light coming from elsewhere that I play safe using this. Yeah … shooting in RAW and white balancing pictures is one thing every food blogger must learn. I see not many people bother to do that. Try it and you will know the vast difference.


The iPhone is handy. I don’t know how we managed before we had this. Nowadays we don’t even have to print out maps and addresses. We get on the car and figure out how to get there on route.

The notebook is for writing our observations. We need to write it down or we will forget most of what we experience. We find that nothing beats pen and paper … the iPhone is a lousy way to write notes (we have slow thumbs). Tucked inside the pocket of the notebook is some spare banknotes.

Hehehe … the dental floss need no further explanation.

The backup battery and the spare CF card of course is important.

We also have a small LED light for when we need more light reading menus. When we bought that (it’s cheap from MEC) we wanted that also to illuminate the food in dark places (and not use the flash) but it did not work … it was too harsh and end up ruining the shots. I rather use the tripod in those extreme situations.


The flash (Canon Speedlite 430EX) goes into the bag but we have very limited use for this. We don’t use flashes because it is rude and annoying to other people in restaurants. We only use this in a setting where it is acceptable (i.e. in private events, etc).

There you go. That’s what we have in our bag.

Please share with me what you carry along, especially those of you who takes pictures of your food and if you are a foodie.

I don’t want to say who because I did not have permission but there was this time I had dinner with one of the uber foodies and she showed us what she had. I was very impressed … a truly dedicated foodie. She had wet naps, stash of sauces (ketchup, soy sauce), disposable cutleries, just to name a few.

And there is also another gentleman. Not to be outdone, he also has chopsticks and scissors (for cutting up food nicely so that the pictures show nicely?).


Note: BTW. I am toying with an idea to write posts about “how I blog” since I get a lot of questions like these when I meet up with people. I thought it is a good thing to share knowledge with each other given that there are so many people who actually document their food adventures either by way of blogging, facebook, etc. I like to encourage MORE people to blog and share … hehehe, I want to see Vancouver be the epicenter of the food blogging world. 🙂

Can you tell me if I should do this? I want to ask because I am not sure if doing this will detract this blog from it’s core focus on food

This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. Crispy Lechon

    These are fun stuff you posted there Ben. For me because I’m not a blogger, my most important thing I bring to a restaurant is cash money specially when dining in Richmond where more and more restaurants are cash only. But seriously, I’m not too sure how bloggers enjoy their dinners when they are occupied with taking pictures of the food and making sure the shots are good plus taking notes on the side. I bow to you guys specially to Sifu Ben.

  2. Maggie

    The cross is for warding off vampires, of course.

  3. Doris Jung

    Really enjoyed this fun piece of blog. I’m with Crispy Lechon as I have the highest respect for you, Suanne and food bloggers because I keep forgetting to take photos and take notes when I’m faced with a delightful plate of food in front of me. Yes, the Google Nexus phone really comes in handy for the occasional times that I remember to take the photos.

    Happy food bogging!

  4. Eat. Travel. Eat!

    In comparison to you I bring very little. My D90 with either my 18-105 which is the lens I bring when I might or might not use the camera or then my heavy 28-300 which I bring when I know I will take pictures elsewhere where I might want to have the telephoto ability is what I bring.

    I’ll probably get a full frame wide-angle like you have someday but with that I’d probably want the full frame sensor camera also…not worth it right now as I’ve barely really used the camera I have now and the current full-frame Nikons will be updated soon.

  5. WS

    Do you also carry with you Chowtimes business cards at all times when you blog(always ready to promote Chowtimes when appropriate)? Is the official name of your blog ‘Chow Times’ or ‘Chowtimes’?

    1. Ben

      Hi WS: Oh yeah, we do have a business card. I forgot about it because it is stashed in the side pocket of the bag. We hardly use that … more of a vanity card than anything. 🙂 About the official name of this site … good question! Gosh I had not thought much about it. I use the name chowtimes more than I use Chow Times. So yeah … chowtimes is more official-er than Chow Times. Ben

  6. boyce

    Fun post. Currently blogging in China and think that top item would be even better with a pair of chopsticks embedded in it somewhere.

    Cheers, Boyce

    1. Ben

      Agreed, Boyce. What would be great for me though if it also includes dental floss too.

  7. L.S.

    question, Ben. Have you ever taken photography classes?

    1. Ben

      Hi LS: No, I have never taken photography classes before. Wait … there was once I attended one but it was complete waste of time because I did not learn anything new at all. Ben

      1. L.S.

        Sounded like my first ESL class. lol. I asked that because you carry gear like a pro! Still makes me wonder if you ever get funny looks thrown at you when taking pics at restaurants with such cool gear!!!

        For crying out loud, my friends and family all complain when I use my phone to take pics when we dine out — they can’t wait to start eating, you know!

        1. Ben

          Hi LS: No, we don’t get funny looks taking pictures in restaurants. I think it is very common in restaurants these days and restaurants don’t care anymore. Not so elsewhere in North America (eg in Atlanta where I often go to). People does notice the size of my camera for sure but nobody gives me grief, not even the restaurant. Occasionally they come by and try to talk to me about it (thinking we are “media”) but that’s about all. Ben

  8. DesignGirl

    I carry the essentials – wallet, business cards, Canon G10 and/or Iphone 4, and mints.

    As a man, you probably don’t carry your wallet in your bag right?

    1. Ben

      Hi DesignGirl: Hehehe … you are right. My wallet is in my back pocket all the time. Ben.

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