I meant to post this before I left the states but never got around to it. Here are some thoughts on how I pack my gear for multimedia and photography work abroad, what gear I choose, and why.
Whenever I travel I really enjoying researching how photographers pack and organize their gear. I’ve saved myself lots of trouble by looking for tips and tricks online so hopefully this post will help someone down the road. Traveling internationally poses several challenges when lots equipment is involved, so step one for me has been looking at what others are doing and what they’ve learned.
If this is your profession, first of all get your gear insured. I’ve been out of the country a few times in the last two years without insurance and the thought of one unfortunate incident leaving me several grand in the hole shrouds the whole trip in paranoia. In January I finally bought a Fireman’s Fund policy through Tom Pickard & Co., and so far they’ve been great. Good customer service and no additional paper work required when traveling internationally. The peace of mind that comes with a good insurance policy is well worth the $400-$500 you’ll spend for it, so again, if clients are depending on your services, insure your gear. For more good tips on insurance, check here. Photography organizations such as NPPA and Photo.net also offer fairly competitive rates for their members.
As a general rule of thumb my goal is to travel light and tight. On my first trip to Kenya I stayed for one month taking two carry on bags for everything – the tan Domke bag shown above for gear and a Mountain Hardware Scrambler Pack for my clothes and personal items. Since I didn’t plan on staying in one location for the whole month, having only two bags made picking up and moving quick and easy. This most recent trip to Kenya was a bit more involved, so both of my carry-ons had to be for gear only. There are tons of really great bags out there, but when it comes to traveling with lots of things that you can access quickly in the field, the F-2 Domke Original above (tan) is my bag of choice. It’s very easy to grab things quickly out of the adjustable compartments, and it can hold several cameras, lenses, film and accessories. If you’re a film shooter the two side pockets are great for distinguishing between black and white and color film, holding upwards of 25-30 of rolls each. One of the front pockets perfectly fit a Zoom H4 or H4N. If you’re shooting in the field and would like to have the possibility of switching between cameras and formats on the fly, this bag is a good option.
For the digital equipment I used a LowePro MiniTrekker that I bought used from a friend. Great bag, but the disadvantage is that this particular model doesn’t have a compartment for a laptop. Here’s a list of the items packed in each bag.
Domke – Leica M6 with 35mm, Widelux F7, Hasselblad 500 with 80mm and an extra back, holga, film.
LowePro Trekker – with Canon 5D MKII with 24-70 L USM, fixed 35 and fixed 50mm lenses. Zoom H4N field recorder. Sennheiser ME66 Shotgun mic with K6 Powering Module, cables, Rycote softie and wind screens, Litepanels Micro Pro LED light, headphones, two Lacie Rugged 250 gb drives to store and backing up files, plenty of CF and SD cards cables, batteries, etc. I also used ball-bungeed a small manfrotto tripod with a small light stand, for the MicroPro.
I recently bought this smaller Domke F-5XB bag and so far I’m very pleased with it. I bought it so I could have something small and unassuming on my person at all times while traveling, and I love it because it houses everything I need for still reportage while maintaining a non-descriptive appearance. From the outside it looks like a standard shoulder pouch. The bag has all the strength, comfort and durability of the Domke brand.
So there are some thoughts on packing equipment. Feel free to comment if you have any other recommendations!