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One DSLR to go, please! Traveling locally with your camera.

by Blogger on ‎04-09-2012 09:05 AM - last edited on ‎04-27-2012 09:52 AM by Retired Moderator


My work takes me across Canada and across the border frequently, both by car and by air. I don’t always travel with my DSLR, but when I do, I keep these five tips in mind to make my life easier.


Don’t check your camera.


There are some great baggage handlers out there, and (just like any other profession) there are some bad seeds. I don’t check my bag for two reasons: I don’t want my gear stolen, and I don’t trust anyone but me to treat it the way I want it to be treated. Keep your gear with you. 


Most airlines allow one carry-on and one “personal” bag. I am perfectly happy looking straight-faced at any airline employee and calling my camera bag a purse. It’s better than the alternative.


Use a proper gear bag with adequate padding.


Even if you’re hauling your gear with you, you still may find yourself in a situation where it takes a bump. As I mentioned in this blog, I rock a Day Trekker or a Slingshot from LowePro–but any decently padded bag will do.


Don’t overpack.


While it’s important to have the right lens in the right situation, it’s also important to have the energy to take the shot when it comes, and to be able to get to it quickly. By keeping your kit light you can focus (HAH!) on the shots you should be taking, instead of suffering from gear-selection-paralysis.


Charge your batteries before you go.


It’s only happened to me once, but you may be asked to power your camera up by security staff. Rather than get into a debate about security theatre that undoubtable would have made great YouTube fodder, I powered my camera up. They nodded and I walked away.  


Make a list and check it twice.


If you’ve ever arrived at a destination with a low battery (didn’t listen to #4, did you?) and reached for your charger only to find it missing… or that you’ve left both battery charger and battery at home (been there, done that, sporting the shirt right now), you’ll know the pain I’m talking about. Make a list, on paper, and check every item off as you pack it. Bring a second battery with you. What, you don’t have a second battery? Get one, along with backup memory cards; they’re the two accessories you’re most likely to lose, forget, or have fail, so be prepared.


So that’s what I keep in mind when I’m traveling here in North America. Going even further abroad? Well, that’s a blog for another day, so stay tuned, because it’s coming up!

by Exalted Expert / Community Ambassador ‎04-09-2012 10:21 AM - edited ‎04-09-2012 03:30 PM

You might be more persuasive with telling them “this backpack is a purse” than I can ever be.  For myself, my camera is stored in Lowepro TopLoader.  Get the biggest one to stuff the pockets with a flash, batteries, GPS and other things that can extend your carry-on capacity.


My camera backpack will be stuff with clothes and kept hidden in my checked luggage waiting for me at my destination for use.


Awhile back people were asked to not travel with “loose batteries” to avoid a mid flight fire when battery contacts get shorted out.  Consider investing in battery holders.  Warning some battery holders may look like sinister ammunition clips in an Xray scan.


Instead of having batteries add to my luggage weight.  I stuff it in my pockets of clothes that I’m wearing on the flight.  This way it doesn’t count to your luggage weight.


Lens selection?  Instead of packing 18-55, 55-200, and countless other lenses.  Consider something simple like the 18-200mm.  This single lens takes up less space than many two lens combinations.


Planning a few macro images?  Consider a small closeup filter.  Cheaper and smaller than a dedicated macro lens.  Keep's your camera clean too.  I hate lens swaps in dusty environments.


You mentioned tripods in another blog article.  Table tripods are light, small and take up very little luggage space.  Otherwise a carbon fibre support is perfect for travel night photography.


An external flash is great when the light is not enough or you need something to fill in shadows.  I love my SB-900.


Consider a backup camera.  A compact AA powered pocket shooter is my preferred backup.


You mentioned charging batteries.  Many get the Maha 8 cell charger.  You’re less likely to show up with a dead battery.  NiCads, NiMh, and older batteries like to be charged up the night before.  Otherwise, demand for low-discharge NiMh (Eneloops) which only lose 1% of charge per month.


AA's are not just for pocket shooters.  Many Nikon DSLR's come with a "grip" that has the ability to feed your DSLR AA's when travelling when you find yourself with all batteries drained in an emergency.  Make mine low-discharge NiMh Eneloops please!


With all your creature comforts (camera, cellphone, gps, computers, tablets, wifi repeaters, and backup equipment that a travel companion also has)…. Are there enough plugs at your destination?  A friend suggests a power bar or a power strip.  Going to a place that takes 240v?  You can get universal powerbars for those situations as well.


A warning, carry-on luggage cages in Canada may be different than when in other countries you are returning from.  Don't be surprised if they demand your carry-on to be checked at the last minute.  Also becareful when placing your camera gear into a luggage cage and removing it.  I put a major dent into my camcorder after yanking it out of a cage once.


Finally serious consider getting a stress free luggage scale.  It pays for itself the first time you avoid overweight surcharges.  Often a second piece of luggage with your souvenirs is cheaper than a overweight charge.  I missed the old days where you can travel with 75 to 100lb luggage.  Don’t forget to also weigh your carry on!


Oh I almost forgot.  Double-check your airline carry-on policy.  Some airlines are starting to charge for your first carry-on.  Do your research, some airlines will allow you to carry more without extra charges.

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