Top Five Rules for Travelling With Your Photography Gear

Air travel is part of life for amateur and professional photographers alike. At some point you have to pack your gear into a bag and get on a plane. Here are my top 5 rules for air travel.

The starting point for any travel photography is how much equipment you want to take with you. It's not about the best camera bodies, lenses, lighting equipment or tripods, but rather how to optimize the equipment you take with you and the space you need for it. In doing so, I go into my five rules.

Your bag

When you drive to work, you always take all sorts of gear you might need and pack it all in the trunk of your car. For air travel, you could take the same approach, but that would mean a lot of bags and checked luggage. Every time I travel, I assume I'm taking everything in my carry-on because it's both cheaper and safer for my camera gear. Nine times out of ten, it works. For carry-on luggage, I'm going by the broad definition of 56x45x25cm, which is currently standard on EasyJet (with no weight restriction). Most airlines in Europe are similar, although some are smaller.

Rule 1: Always check luggage restrictions

Before you can even think about packing, you first need a bag. Call me a philistine, but rolling suitcases are pure evil. If there's one thing I'd most like to put in room 101, it would be rolling bags. Sure, they save your back, but that's where their usefulness ends. You trip over them, someone else trips over them, you can't downsize them if they're too big, you can't carry them on your back, you can't fold them up and, well, they're just terrible for public transportation. They are easy to transport stacking boxes on wheels. Point. Ditch them if you can.

Based on the above, you can probably guess that I'm a fan of backpacks, as they offer great flexibility when traveling. They're not perfect: you easily bump into them when you turn around, the straps snag easily, and they're grabbed from the top, making access difficult. However, this leads to rule two:

Rule 2: Don't take a camera bag with you

Yes, nothing screams "photographer" more than a camera bag that makes you an instant target for theft. To make matters worse, these bags are crazy expensive, and that's for a padded bag. For any kind of bag I want to keep my camera gear in, I prefer a standard bag designed to be, well, a bag! In these you can then insert any number of custom-made padded pocket inserts for your equipment. This may not be tailor-made, but it is ultimately flexible. For travel, I now use The North Face's Base Camp Duffel bag (a number of manufacturers offer something similar), which offers bombproof construction, adjustable sizing, conversion to a backpack, and a foldable design. As hand luggage one should decide for the small size. A couple of padlocks for the luggage and everything is secure.

Your equipment

Before you can think about how you want to pack your gear, you need to know what you want to take with you, which leads to rule three:

Rule 3: Take what you need with you

This may seem obvious, but many people operate on the "take what you might need" principle! Start with the style you want to photograph (z.B. Street) and then research the places you want to visit. Once you know what you want to photograph and where, you can make a short list of the equipment you'll need to do so.

On a recent trip, I decided to do a mix of landscape, architecture and street photography. Since I prefer to shoot with fixed focal lengths, this meant that I had to take my Nikon D700, the 85mm f/1.8, the 50mm f/1.8 and the 24mm f/2.8 together with my Lee filters and the 3Pod travel tripod had to take along.

I now use the ThinkTank Speed Changer exclusively to pack my gear. One half fits a DSLR body, the other two stacked lenses. The front pocket stores accessories, and a separate neoprene pocket holds extra lenses. It all stows well in the bag, leaving plenty of room for extras (like clothes!) remains.

Your accessories

A good pre-trip decluttering exercise is to take the camera bag you normally use, and after removing the camera and all lenses, take out everything else. What do you have there? Probably more than you expected. Accessories are essential for successful photography, but that leads to rule four:

Rule 4: Question everything you take with you

Stream is the first place to go. I use a USB charger with 4 ports and interchangeable power plugs, along with all the cables I need. If your camera charges directly via USB, that's great (most Sony cameras do), but many camera systems supply a dedicated mains charger. Ditch it and opt for a generic USB charger (z. B. one from Nikon). A spare battery is a good idea, as is a powerbank.

Accessories I use for the camera itself (which I've already talked about) are stepper rings (for the Lee filter holder), a wired remote, lens hoods, and a cleaning cloth/lens stick.

Of course, the accessories don't stop with the camera, as you have a whole bag full of things! This means that rule five is a variation of rule four:

Rule 5: Question everything you take with you. It's not only about the camera!

Other things I routinely carry include a foldable silicone water bottle (great for not always having to buy water), a foldable silicone coffee mug (takeaway mugs seem to be all the rage!), a USB charger (for AA and AAA batteries) and a packable backpack (useful for a visit).

Nobody likes to travel with more than necessary, and if you can take advantage of the hand luggage, it is worth to invest a little time in fine tuning. Do you have any tips for gear when traveling?