Below is an article I wrote for the Calumet Photo blog. Click here for the full feature.
I’ve had the opportunity to photograph and film stories all over the world, from tuberculosis in India and South Africa, to people receiving the gift of sight in Central and South America, to the Egyptian revolution in Cairo. I’ve traveled to over 30 countries, explored six continents, and have lived in six countries outside of the US. I’ve had to pack gear for a variety of jobs and assignments, and here are some valuable things I have learned along the way:
- Above and beyond anything else, don’t forget to pack your passport! I know this may seem basic and elementary, but people still forget to pack their passports or obtain the necessary visas required to enter the countries they are traveling to. My photographer friend forgot to pack his passport a few weeks ago on our way to Mexico, but thankfully his wife was able to race his passport to the airport and he made the flight just in the nick of time. Others are not so lucky. I’ve worked with someone that flew from Los Angeles to South Africa, only to be refused entry into South Africa because he didn’t have six months of validity left in his passport. Always pack your passport, double check that it’s valid for at least six months from your return date, obtain necessary visas, and keep it safe at all times. Lastly, always keep a hard copy of your passport on you and make sure you have access to an electronic copy on the cloud.
- Get a durable, well designed travel photo bag, and do not sacrifice quality for price. You will be traveling with very expensive photography gear, so it’s in your best interest to get a great bag that will not only will protect your gear but is also convenient to travel with. I currently travel with the Think Tank Airport TakeOff rolling bag (purchased from Calumet NYC), and highly recommend it. Think Tank bags are very well built and designed, and this bag in particular can carry a decent amount of gear, but is also small enough to be carried-on small planes. I’ve also traveled with Pelican cases, which are waterproof and extremely durable, but the extra weight can make it difficult to travel with so I prefer to travel with the Think Tank bag.
- If you are traveling to humid environments, pack your cameras and lenses in ziplock bags to reduce the negative effects of high humidity and to avoid lens fog.
- For international trips, pack at least two universal power adapters. These can also usually be purchased locally, depending on where you are in the world. Make sure the voltage range on your devices is compatible in the countries that you are traveling to. If you are taking an extended road trip, be sure to pack a power inverter to charge electronic devices while driving.
- If you will be traveling with a tripod and/or a monopod, be sure to pack ones that are lightweight and not too much of a burden to travel with. I normally strap my tripod onto the side of my rolling bag, and hand carry my monopod or strap it to my backpack. Once I get inside the plane, I typically place my tripod and monopod towards the very back of the overhead bin, and slide my bag in front of them. To date, I haven’t had any issues carrying-on my tripod and monopod.
- Typically, I’ll travel with at least two portable external hard drives for backing up and storing data. If possible, try and keep the drives in separate bags and locations at all times to minimize the risk of something happening to your data. Always have your data backed up to at least two separate hard drives at all times!
- Get on board with GoPro! A GoPro is a great additional camera for traveling because it’s small, lightweight, waterproof (with the housing), relatively affordable, and versatile. I recently purchased the new GoPro HERO 3+ Black Edition from Calumet NYC and highly recommend it.
- Be sure to insure all of your gear from theft and accidental damage, and make sure that your policy is valid worldwide.
- Create a checklist to ensure that you’ve packed all the gear that you need.