What to bring and how to pack when shooting overseas.
UPDATED January 20, 2015
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I have always been fascinated with bags and how photographers pack their gear. I remember reading the equipment lists of National Geographic photographers when I was younger. I used to wonder how they moved around the world with so much stuff.
Those times, as you might have noticed, are over. Nowadays, we need to deal with increasingly tighter airline safety, weight, and size regulations.
We have covered the “essential” video gear on previous posts. However, when it comes to deciding what to bring on a trip as carry on, what to check, and what to leave behind, the theory becomes much more interesting.
I tend to start with the personal stuff. Medicines, pain killers, toiletries, travel documents, etc. Some of these items are not easily replaceable; some are, but it would be inconvenient to forget them (think passport, credit cards, or headphones).
Disclaimer: The images below are taken with my phone, simply to illustrate this article. They are not intended to be fine art masterpieces of any kind. And yes, the “background” is my bed.
This is my “rolling studio” when shooting on location in New York. Add a fluid head tripod, monopod, three hot lights, umbrellas, cables and light stands. It is a lot, but two people can easily carry everything even on public transportation.
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We use the small bag for the entire audio system. We use exclusively Rode products.
Depending on the trip, you need to decide which bags to take. I have them all and I have used them all, and I have consistently found that Tenba delivers the best quality and features.
My considerations for this trip:
• I’ll be shooting stills and video in Dubai for 10 days. From there I’ll go to Abu Dhabi by bus, then on to Sohar and Muscat (Oman) for another week, and then back to Dubai by car. This means that I’ll need to take a lot of stuff with me, but travel on location. I’ll need a backpack.
• I try to take as much gear with me as carry on, but with video (and audio) it is impossible to fit it all. I am flying Emirates from JFK to DBX, so I’m allowed to take ONE 15lb carry on and check TWO 50lb bags. This great website www.luggagelimits.com offers detailed baggage allowance information for more than 100 airlines.
• I won’t need to bring lights. The client will be renting them locally.
Here’s where the challenge begins:
• The flight alone is 13 hours, and I can’t sleep on planes, so I’ll need to take a lot of entertainment with me. I’m thinking a tablet (the battery lasts 24 hours), a light magazine for takeoff, headphones, etc.
• Tenba’s Video Backpack weighs 5.5lbs empty. The Tenba Roadie weighs 10.5lbs empty. The Tenba Messenger weighs 2lbs empty (with all the dividers). As a reference, my medium size Samsonite bag, which is not designed to protect any gear, weighs 11.5lbs empty.
If airlines really wanted to stick to the 15lbs rule I’d be in deep trouble, as I’d only be able to take 4lbs of equipment. Even if I only carry my MacBook Pro (5.5lbs without the charger), one Canon 7D body (1.8lbs) and my favorite lens, Canon’s EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM (2.9lbs), I’d be over my limit when including the bag’s weight (5.5lbs).
This is kind of a problem, don’t you think?
In terms of what to bring as carry-on and what to check, my system is pretty simple:
What are the items that I absolutely need to land on my feet and start shooting right away go with me? Those are the carry-on items and they go on my Video Backpack.
What do I need to bring but can afford to lose due to delays or theft? All those items go to the Tenba Roadie and are checked.
Additionally, I’ll be wearing my photo jacket and in case of emergency I’ll pull a trick I learned from my good friend William Vazquez.
“Airlines weigh your luggage when you travel internationally. They don’t just go by the number of bags. They’ll charge you for the excess weight or sometimes not let your bag on the plane. I’ve had to take things out of my carry-on and fill up the pockets of my photo vest to get my cameras on board. Because there’s no limit on how much I can weigh.”
The Video Backpack holds a TON of gear. These are all the items I am taking with me and I did NOT use any of the exterior pockets, except one side pocket for the Rode Shotguns.
The final weights are:
• Tenba’s Video Backpack: 22 lbs
• Tenba Roadie: 28 lbs
Now, what am I supposed to wear???
On my next post I’ll be sharing some tips I’ve learned in my 20 years traveling with photo gear. Visit us often, and share this post with your friends.
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