Gear on the road, and everything else you need except the kitchen sink.
Packing your bags for a photo trip can be daunting. Particularly if you are going to a location with no place to buy a cord you forgot or a replacement to something that has broken down. Not to mention the items you may need for your own general well being. So careful thought is required to make sure you take what you need and only that. Too much gear is also a problem. Many times the thought "I might need this" can be a problem, when your gear weighs a ton. Too much gear limits your mobility, and can also start costing you real money in overweight baggage fees.
This is my thought process when I am packing.
PACK WHAT YOU NEED AND GET GEAR THAT WORKS FOR THE STYLE OF PHOTOGRAPHY YOU ARE DOING
- What exactly will I be doing?
- People, landscapes, architectural, interiors, street shooting
- Will I be shooting inside or outside
- Which means do I bring lights
- Wide angle lenses if inside small spaces
- How mobile do I need to be
- Will I be walking large distances with my gear
- Are there paved roads or sidewalks where I am going
- Will I be on small airplanes or boats
- Do I need to shoot video
- Is there a ready supply of electricity
- Will you need to work on files while away so that means a laptop or maybe an ipad is enough,
After considering all these things I start making a pile of gear I think will work. I select the bags I want to take with me then I start editing the pile down to the necessities.
Cameras and lenses
Don't buy a camera that you have never used and take it on a long trip. Being comfortable with the camera you use is paramount in creating great images. Nothing worse that trying to figure out a menu setting while in the middle of a shoot. Think about your work process and the scenes you will be trying to capture and any special lens effects for example shallow depth of field.
ROLLING BAGS ARE YOUR BEST FRIEND
Will you need extra light? Will you be primarily lighting everything? Is there electricity? Are you shooting video and need continuous light? This are some of the deciding factors in lights. No matter where I go. I always bring a couple of portable flashes and a good triggering system. You can almost always make it work in any circumstance. If I am primarily lighting then either battery powered strobes or if I need lots of light traditional strobes.
Accessories and miscellaneous
BE PREPARED...THIS WAS IN SAMAR PHILIPPINES AFTER TYPHOON HAYAN. I HAD TO BATHE OUT OF A BUCKET. GOOD THING I BROUGHT SOAP AND A TOWEL
- Tripod, I only bring one if I know I will absolutely need it and I have a variety of them, some big and heavy some small and light to suit the type of project I am doing.
- Cables bring more than one of each and keep them in separate ziplock bags. So if you lose one, you have the backup
- Make sure you have enough chargers to be able to charge all your devices at once.
- If you will be in-country I recommend buying a local sim card. So anyone local doesn't have to call your international number to get a hold of you
- Make sure your phone is unlocked so you can use a chip not from your home network
- Card readers....always have extras
- Back up drives; bring 2 and back up to both equally. Carry them in separate bags, just in case you lose one bag.
- Electrical plug adapters (check before you need what type you will need)
- Small extension cords. Hotels for some reason are designed with only one electrical outlet hiding behind the big furniture.
- Memory cards, bring enough cards to be able to shoot for the whole day without having to copy them.
- Battery charger: If you are in an area where there are electric problems bring an adapter for a car to charge your batteries while driving or a small rechargeable battery pack. Goal Zero makes some great ones.
- Manfrotto makes some very portable light stands.
- A good water bottle
- Ziplock bags in various sizes. I have done wonders with those things
- Gaffers tape. Not duck tape
- Electrical zip ties
I have a bag fetish. My work tends to take me to all sorts of places. To the offices of CEO's for fortune 50 companies to a jungle with no road, on a boat in choppy water, in the rain, etc. So I have bags that fit those kinds of scenarios. There are so many choices these days. Many manufacturers are making great quality, well thought out bags at many price points. The biggest consideration is either a backpack or a wheeled bag. Then the size of the bag and other features like, do you need to strap a tripod to it. Also will I be working out of the bag. When I work on more documentary type projects in far off places. I leave the back pack in the car I am traveling in and use a belt/pouch system for carrying my immediate needs. If I took the back pack with me I will put it down and then walk away from it chasing the action. Not a good thing. A few things to think about when deciding on what type of equipment bags you need.
- How much gear do you need to take
- Will it be an urban place with paved roads and sidewalks
- Will you need to hike or trek
- Will it be raining
- waterproof or bag with a rain fly
- Will you be on a boat.
- Very waterproof case or seabag
- Will you need to check it in.
- Hard sided case or rigid soft sided case
- Will you be working out of a car
- Belt/system, photo vest (yes they are dorky but very efficient) or smaller bag for immediate needs.
Traveling away from home and pharmacies means that we need to carry everything with us. You don't want to catch a bug, while on the road
- Visit a travel doctor to make sure you are up to date on you immunizations
- He may give you malaria meds and or some emergency antibiotics. Follow their advice on what you need to do with them
- If spending serious time at high altitude. Do yourself a favor ask the doctor about Diamox to help with acclimating to high altoitude fatser. Trust me it will help keep the headaches and nausea away and at worst keep you from really getting altitude sickness. Although if you are sensitive to high altitude it may not matter
- Bring pain relievers, first aide supplies, bug spray, skin cream, sun screen, anti diareals, and pepto bismal tablets. They are great for minor stomach discomfort.
- For areas where even the bottled water is suspect a small UV water sterizaler.
- Snacks and backup food. There are many places where there are set meal times. Miss it and there is nothing to eat. There are places where there is nothing to buy to eat outside of the major cities. I recommend Cliff bars, Tuna in pouches, Beef Jerky and there are various Veg/Tofu alternatives.
- Everywhere you go bring food and water. At least for one meal replacement
- Practice safe eating habits, no water unless its from a sealed bottle, no peeled fruit, no salad no matter how good it looks, and make sure everything you eat is cooked thoroughly.
At the end of the day. It really about thinking through what a typical day will be like and what you want to achieve. This is by no means a definitive list. As soon as I post this I will member 20 more things. Its a good starting point though and touches on the important topics.
Next Installment: Part three "Your there, getting it done"