The thought of getting up before dawn to capture blue hour photos, cityscapes or just milling around to catch breathtaking landscapes at sundown is enough to excite any photographer.
But before any of this can happen it’s critical to get your gear from where you are to where you’re going. Traveling with a camera can be challenging– and when that camera feels priceless? Well, it’s more than a little challenging! Just like packing laptops for travel, with a little advanced planning, the process is easy.
In this article, you’ll learn how to keep your camera equipment in one piece while you navigate life on the road.
HOW TO TRAVEL WITH EXPENSIVE CAMERA EQUIPMENT
Whether you’re a weekend photographer or an accomplished professional, the basics of getting your camera gear from here to there are essentially the same.
Before you head out the door, make sure that all your camera equipment is working. If you haven’t used your camera in a while, check to make that lenses work, test your flash attachments, make sure your batteries re charged, and check the sensor to make sure you don’t have any dust spots. If you see some spots, a gentle cleaning should do the trick.
If you don’t already have one, pick up a backpack made explicitly for carrying cameras. The backpack should have enough compartments for the camera body, a couple of lenses, flash attachments, and other miscellaneous items. Your camera and lenses should fit snuggly. If you aren’t convinced that your camera is being swaddled, keep looking. When it comes to camera bags, snug is key.
Be aware of what you’re packing
When you have an expensive camera, you probably also have a lot of gear to pick from, so it’s tempting to overpack. As any experienced photographer will tell you, camera stuff is heavy, and you probably won’t use half of what you tote along.
Keep it simple. Pack your favorite camera, a couple of versatile lenses, a tripod, some batteries, memory cards, and a cleaning kit.
It’s never a good idea to check your camera equipment at the airport but sometimes things go astray. Complicating matters is if you’re in boarding group M you have no chance of finding space in an overhead bin nor the foot space in front of you. Do you check your camera gear at the door and pray that it survives?
That’s a tough call, but if you explain to the flight attendant that you have some expensive camera equipment in your bag and you don’t want it rattling around in the belly then you might win a sympathy vote.
A flight attendant might pity you and store it alongside the crew’s baggage, but you better develop a new strategy before your next flight because you’re only going to get lucky once.
It’s tempting to wrap a coat around your camera, stuff your lenses in some socks and throw everything in a duffle bag. But let’s face it, nothing good can come from taking that approach. One oopsie by someone who comes into accidental contact with your bag and your expensive camera will become a pile of plastic and glass. Instead of risking this, find a way to protect your camera equipment and keep it with you inside the cabin.
Traveling with an Expensive Camera like the Pros:
When professional photographers travel with their expensive cameras, it often includes a lot of equipment. Some pros travel with up to three industrial-strength suitcases, a half-dozen or so expensive cameras, a dozen or more lenses, audio and video equipment, and much more. Three carrying cases can easily weigh a combined 175 pounds.
Pros tend to send their equipment ahead and use companies like Fed Ex for tracking purposes. Hotels are accustomed to receiving and securing bulk items for guests who have not yet arrived. If you plan on taking more than a backpack full of camera equipment you might consider sending your gear ahead of arrival to avoid the stress of keeping track of your camera equipment.
Bringing a Camera on a Roadtrip
Not everyone flies when they travel. During the summer months than 55 million people drive to their vacation destination. And it’s a sure bet that a lot of them are like the Griswalds – as hard as they try to be organized, a lot of stuff will end up tossed in the trunk.
Trunks get hot. Inside temperatures can reach over 170 degrees when hit by direct sunlight. That’s hot enough to damage camera sensors, tweak plastic, and crack lenses. Keep your camera in the car when driving and take it with you at pit stops.
Reducing Camera Theft Risk while Traveling
You are most vulnerable when you’re shooting. You’re focused on getting the shot, people walk in and out of your frame and the last on your mind is, “where’s my camera bag?”
If your equipment is worth a small fortune, it’s likely that someone nearby has also noticed the quality of your gear. Follow your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, then pack up and leave. There will be other once-in-a-lifetime sunsets to shoot.
If the picture you want will allow, lean against a building, a tree or a post – anything that gives you a barrier between you and someone who wants your camera stuff.
Wrap the camera strap around your wrist and if your bag needs to lay on the ground step on the strap.
Friends or family can be your wingman as you snap pictures. Have them watch your back or hold the camera bag. Or if you’re flying solo pretend you’re a koala bear and carry your camera bag in front.
Your best protection against theft might be the most simple: Stick a piece of electrical tape over the logo on your camera. This will cast doubt over what kind of camera you’re shooting with, and indicates it might be broken- both things that could deter a would-be thief.
Lynli Roman’s unique approach to travel is informed by decades of experience on the road with a traveling family and, later, years spent as a solo international traveler. When she’s not writing about Seattle from her Pike Place Market apartment, Lynli writes on-location while conducting hands-on research in each destination she covers. Lynli’s writing has been featured by MSN, ABC Money, Buzzfeed, and Huffington Post. She is passionate about sharing information that makes travel more accessible for all bodies.