May my bad experience be a lesson to you.
To all photographers,
Photography is becoming more complicated in this digital age.
I remember in the early days, we are more worried about our films being over-exposed as we walk through scanning machines at the custom checkpoint or losing our 50 rolls of film during the shoot. But these days, we expect to view our shots instantly from our camera LCD (as if photography is impossible without an LCD screen). Similarly, we can’t wait to show our pictures to our friends on Facebook instantly (I am talking about myself too). We are busy capturing pictures, as well as updating our blog or Facebook during our journey.
In the old days, we shoot with our basic lenses. We carry at the most 2 to 3 lenses, but today we carry more than what is needed. We bring our latest F/1.4 brightest, bigger and heavier lenses (some bring as many as 5-6 lenses and 2 camera bodies), 2x converter, cleaning kit and all the expensive filters, and a tripod. Oh yes I forgot to mention the laptop, portable hard disk, and many SD/CF cards. We have so many sophisticated gears today, that some photographers are at a lost as to what equipments to bring for each trip. What do you think? Have I hit the bullseye?
What will you bring with you for a one-month photography trip? Just think about the clothes you will pack into your luggage and all your photography gears. Wow! Do you think your body is able to take it? With so many stuff with you, are you still able to react fast enough to capture that photo moment? Or will you misplace a few lenses or gears in your journey? Or, perhaps, you may say that backpack photography journey is impossible today.
I would like to share with you a few tips on what to bring with you when you embark on a photography trip.
What should be in your bag?
Pack all that you need and remove half of it. For that is all you really need. Don’t forget: You can buy, use and throw many items along your journey. Many backpackers learn not to buy too many things during their trip, because they know that whatever they buy, they have to carry that additional load. We have to differentiate between needs and wants. You have to ask yourself: Without this item, can I still shoot? Is it your skill or the gears that makes a difference in your photography? Is it your eye and creativity or the equipments? You would be surprised at how creative you can be with just simple gears.
I believe in basic and simple gears. Carry only what is necessary: 3 lenses, 2x converter, and just one camera body. You may ask: what if my camera breakdown? Well, I would just pack my bag and go home. Just kidding. You see, I use my own equipments. So I would know whether they are working well or not before a trip. And I know with certainty that it will not breakdown during my journey, for I have always carried only one camera body in my last 15 years and my camera has served me well. Think about it, I have protected my physical body from unnecessary wear-and-tear in the last 15 years by not carrying excess weight. It allows me to climb mountains and walk longer distances for my landscape photography. If I have carried extra load, I don’t think I could have climbed that 15 kilometers of steps up Huangshan during one winter day or hiked the mountain in Chile to capture the breathtaking scenes.
Think of it this way: If you have to let go of some gears along your journey, what would you take with you in your bare two hands?
When travelling alone.
Bring as little as possible. The lesser you carry, the lighter your load, and you avoid loosing your stuff.
When travelling as a group.
Big group attracts attention. It is harder to book last minute accommodation or rearrange your route. Photographers travelling as a group should look out for one another’s belongings. Avoid updating your Facebook when you are at busy places, watch out for your bags. Keep a lookout for each other when on the road. Be extra alert when people come close to you. Each one should take good care of your own stuff. Do not carry too many pieces of bags.
A final note:
With many years of traveling experience, for the first time I lost my laptop bag right in front of me at the airport check-in counter in Chile. I am very careful with my stuff and my laptop bag is just right in front of the counter next to my feet. I would think that it would be impossible for any thief to come close to the counter. Besides, fellow photographers are standing right behind me while I was doing the group check-in. But in less than a few minutes, my laptop bag was stolen. None of us saw anyone coming close to the counter. I would think that if anything were stolen, it would not be me… in this case I was wrong, because the thief always has a better view. He knows when is the best moment to act. So be careful.
Just as we know when to capture the best moment, the thief knows it too.
Inspired by my stolen laptop on 15 March 2012 Time: 12.20-12.30pm