Banner Left Side







Tip of the Month

How and What We Pack for Trips

October-November 2010

In just a few days we'll be heading off to Yellowstone, and with only a two day break (for Joe) we'll be heading to Rwanda and Kenya. Less than ten days ago, we returned from a challenging trip, for packing gear at least, to Brazil, so packing and luggage and equipment is definitely on our mind.

On our Brazil trip we had to take a few Domestic Flights where the luggage allowance, and carry-on capabilities, are restricted and limited. For that trip, with smaller planes and smaller over-head spaces, we couldn't use roll-on bags so we had to come up with a different solution.

Fortunately, I still had my old VESTED INTEREST Photo Vests, which used to be invaluable for trying to get all of the gear and film we needed to carry for a lengthy trip to Africa. Now, with digital and the use of small external Hard Drives and Laptops, the packing crunch isn't as critical, but on this trip it was. For these domestic flights we packed all of our camera equipment into the vests, including my 500 in my vest that has a large lens pouch in the back. Mary's 500 wouldn't fit, so she kept her's hanging over her shoulder. In her back pouch, we stored a 70-200 f4 and 400mm f5.6. While I hadn't used my Vested Interest vests for years, I was certainly very happy I hadn't done something stupid, like selling them! I'd certainly look into buying a vest if small, in-country flights will restrict your carry-on. The airport personnel didn't blink when several of us walked on to the plane with our big vests stuffed with gear.

In country, both in Brazil and on our other trips, we're carrying the equipment we're going to use in the field in our very comfortable KEBOKO photo backpacks. I've given a lengthy review of this park previously, and I just want to add that my opinion has not changed. In fact, I'm seeing more and more of these packs on all of our trips, as well as by photographers that, sadly, were not part of our groups.

Our luggage consists of Duffle Bags, rather than hard-sided suitcases. When we fly, we pack our tripods and tripod heads, and incidental, less-expensive or critical camera equipment inside, padded by our clothes. While our tripods are exposed to possible theft we've never suffered a loss. Regarding theft, duffles or hard-sided suitcases wouldn't make a difference, since thieves can slice or use master keys to open anything they want. Duffle bags, however, are so much more convenient for packing when there is a group, as they can be shaped and squeezed in ways that blocky hard-sided cases cannot.

We're using Gitzo Tripods and either one of several heads. If we're going to be shooting off a tripod with long lenses then we definitely carry our Wimberley Gimbal Heads. Although I'm probably preaching to the choir, if you don't know it the Wimberley is the absolute best product for mounting and using a long lens since the lens can be balanced to hang suspended in a shooting position without flopping or pinching a hand. The Wimberley heads have the F-9 flash bracket attached, for off-camera flash.

If we're going to be using shorter lenses, where the camera body would mount on the tripod head, then we'll carry either a Really Right Stuff BH-40 or BH-55. The BH-55 is the heavier version of this ball/socket head and will support a 500 or 600mm lens. If we're pressed for space where carrying two heads is an issue, then we'll often just carry the BH-55 to do all of our work, short lenses or long. But, if we're carrying the Wimberley, then we'll also carry either the BH-55 (if we have room and space) or the smaller BH-40, which will support all of our smaller lenses and, if we're in a hurry, a big lens, too, if we're also supporting it with our body.

We always carry at least four cameras, two each, with at least one spare to share or use should one of our cameras go down. Mary's using a Canon Mark III D and D70, and I'm using a Mark IVD and D70, and I'll using bring my Mark III Ds for a backup and for scenics. For big trips, like Kenya or India, we'll carry 6 cameras since we're in the field for so long, and in that case we'll bring another Mark IIID. Canon, darn them to Hades, doesn't provide any support on this, by the way, so this isn't a veiled ad.

Usually, we'll carry the following lenses: 500 (2), 28-300 (2), 16-35 (2), and then, depending on space or needs, we may take the following: 70-200 f4 (2), 400 f5.6 (2), 100mm macro. We'll carry 2 580 flashes, with off-camera cables, and if I anticipate any macro I'll carry the Wimberley Perpendicular Plate M-8 (to allow a Wimberley Macro Bracket F-2 system to mount an off-camera flash to my camera body.

We're using HOODMAN 16GB cards and we've really grown to love the HOODMAN Loupes for looking at our LCD screen. In Brazil, in the bright mid-day light, these were invaluable.

We don't carry many filters, since the RAW converter and Photoshop can do color changes, but we do carry Tiffen Polarizar Filters and I carry a wonderful filter, the Variable Neutral Density Filter by Singh-Ray. The VND allows me to use very, very slow shutter speeds even at mid-day, since the filter can rotate to a full 9 stop reduction in light.

We still carry Polarizing Filters to cut down on reflections and, occasionally, to enhance skies. However, in truth I don't worry so much about skies any more since I can enhance blue, and thus bring out clouds, in camera RAW, where via Saturation and Luminance blue can be 'polarized.'

We always pack electronic cable releases, although stupidly I sometimes don't bring it on a given day and invariably, that's the day that I should have had it with me. Advice: Bring one with you all of the time.

Of course, both Mary and I carry laptops and accessory drives. Recently we purchased two 1TB Western Digital drives for each of us, so that we'll have plenty of space for our upcoming trips, some of which will last for 13 weeks straight!



Previous Tips, July 2009 onward


Canon Digital Learning Center
The Movie Mode with the Canon Mark IV
Batch Renaming in Bridge and CS5
Alternate Uses of some Bogen Products

Hoodman Products

Using High ISO and Live View for Focusing in Dim Light

Art Print Scams for Hungry Photographers

Hungry Vultures ruin vehicles in the Everglades

Use a Short Lens for Depth of Field

Get Professional Help!

Mini-Molar Bag
Access America Trip Insurance
Bogen Base for Macro Work

Archived Tips of the Month
prior to July 2009
Most of my original Tips of the Month for the last several
years are available through this link. The 'look' is from my
original web site, although if I ever have enough time I might redo these pages to match the new web site But that's not a high priority.