Monday, 21 February 2011

Travel photography

Travel photography

The how to guide on transporting your gear

There are many ways to approach travelling with your photography gear. The first and most important question for the trip and gear needs to be what is your budget?

Unless you are lucky enough to score an all expenses paid job including flights, baggage allowance, transport, guides and secure accommodation you are going to need to think ahead.

I once did a 3 month tour of Asia and went on to NZ, it was on a low budget and I would be staying in dorms and hostels.

Work through your gear and streamline it, you don’t want to be without something but you also don’t want to be carrying extra weight that you are not going to use on your trip.
Once you have decided what u need to take the next step is to consider is your gear bag. Are you going to also be carrying a backpack or suitcase with clothes too? If you have that on your back, where is your camera gear going go? Are you going to risk checking it in to baggage or take it on the plane with you?

If you are on a budget then make it simple. Have a small bag within your main hold baggage with your batteries, chargers and non fragile items. Take your camera body and lenses with you as cabin luggage as a minimum. If you can take your filters and any fragile items too then all the better.

The reality is unless you can afford special transport / a good flight case to go in the hold you are going to have to be clever.

You are allowed to take in a reasonable size bag on the flight with you on long haul flights. When I travelled I had my lenses, body and some filters with me on the plane. I bought a lowpro waist bag that enabled me to keep my hands and back free for my main pack with clothes in.

Once you are at your hotel / hostel you can amalgamate your gear or have it how you want. It’s only when you are travelling by road or air that you will have to split items up.

Another issue is what to do with a tripod, you have 3 options. 1) Leave it at home and buy / hire one at the location, this is the most risky ideas as you can never be guaranteed what you can get, if anything!  2) Pack it in you main holdall 3) get a decent bag / case for it and put it through as separate luggage.

So research and try out bags and do lots of trial packing. Also many hostels and hotels do have safes either in rooms or behind reception but dependant on what country you are in don’t trust it 100%. Keep your body and lenses with you as much as possible, treat them like you passport and don’t let them out of your sight! If you loose charges or batteries through theft of missing baggage it’s a pain but it’s not game over.

Lastly, consider insurance and consider it well. Always allow for it in your budget. Often companies will offer discounts for equipment and for your own medical insurance so shop around and don’t skimp on premiums. If you can’t afford it you may want to rethink your trip and budget.

I was lucky enough to have no issues with baggage, thefts or breakages. I was covered insurance wise but didn’t need it which I am thankful for. Using your common sense and going with your instinct with reference to travel and safety is the best piece of advice I can give. If a situation doesn’t feel right then it’s because it probably isn’t. Good advice? Well hopefully, the main thing to remember is most people you will come across will be friendly and interested in what you’re up to and where you’re from etc. But the main difference is you will have expensive camera gear with you. Don’t ever let your guard down, be friendly but don’t leave yourself open. Be cautious and if going to countries with a strong selling / bartering culture ensure you have small amounts of cash about your person / the odd pack of cigarettes to offer if things start to get out of hand. You want to be prepared for confrontation not unprepared. If you are prepared for it you will be ok whether you are holding your cumbersome DSLR out for all to see or not.

Also you will find that people in parts of Asia like Thailand for example will be more than happy to pose for you in their natural environment if given a little something.

I hope I haven’t put you off the idea of travelling with you photography gear. Just remember to be prepared for all eventualities. Who knows next time you travel you might have scored that big all expenses paid job you got off the back of your last low budget trip!

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