Within a space of three weeks, I have flown to Victoria Falls, bumped around Harare and am about to drive to Chirundu in the Zambezi Valley before flying into Gonerazhou National Park, all with my precious camera equipment a.k.a life-savings in tow. This can be a little scary but thanks to trial and era and some smart investments, travelling with my gear no longer puts the fear of God in me.
Here are my tips for travelling with your photographic equipment:
1. Buy a pelican box
Do yourself one giant favour and splurge on a pelican box or a similar product. If you carefully pack your gear in a ‘peli’ box you don’t have to worry about kit breaking or getting squashed. There are photographs on the Pelican Box website of a box withstanding the weight a of a vehicle – so a bit of turbulence and piles of baggage shouldn’t be a problem. I have however had trouble with moisture expanding in an already slightly damp Pelican Box which sadly spread and damaged my camera beyond repair (completely my fault though). If you close a Pelican box dry, it will stay dry.
2. Before you travel, lock your zoom lenses and turn off image stabilisation
Lenses don’t come cheap. To ensure the functionality and encourage longevity of your lens, lock your zoom lenses to keep the elements in place and minimise the chances of them being jostled and damaged en-route. Turning off image stabilisation is a super handy hint that I have recently learnt; it makes perfect sense – always turn off image stabilisation in order to lock floating lens elements in place. Badabing-badaboom.
3. Charge before you travel
Or rather have a check list to tick off with ‘CHARGE BATTERIES’ and then make sure all the batteries are fully charged! The adventure begins the moment you step out of your regular routine. You want to be sure that your cameras are juiced up and ready shoot at the drop of a hat. If you are traveling in Africa, there is also the occasional (or not-so occasional) power-cuts to contend with. Ensure you are on full power, with back-ups ready to go. If I am in a remote environment, I will always pack a battery pack and Solar charger for when things get really desperate.
4. Pack a Travel Plug
There is nothing more frustrating than not being able to plug into the local power outlets. Throughout Southern Africa, the plug points tend to vary from country to country. Get yourself an International Travel Plug and save yourself the headache of looking to beg, borrow or steal one 🙂
5. Take more SD cards than you think you will need.
‘I wish I had left that spare SD card at home’, said no photographer or videographer ever. Particularly when shooting weddings, the ceremonies can be so much longer than you anticipate – I once filmed a four and a half hour wedding ceremony, followed by a solid two hours of speeches at the reception, all of which had to be recorded continuously – thats 6 and a half hours of non stop burning through SD cards. It’s real. You absolutely don’t want to run out of necessary card space to get the job finished. Bonus tip, get yourself a fast SD card, there is nothing worse than ‘card buffering’ showing up on your viewfinder halfway through a wedding ceremony.
I go through an internal struggle every time the renewal of my annual equipment insurance is due. Should I or shouldn’t I? But I do honestly believe, it is the one risk that I simply cannot take. Ensure you are paid up with your Insurance. Ain’t nobody got time for replacing uninsured camera gear.
7. Take an external hard drive
After I have shot a job, I like to copy over all media before the return journey home and keep the hard drive in a separate bag… just encase.
8. Pack, lock and load.
If I fly locally in Zimbabwe, I can usually wangle my way to checking on all my gear as hand luggage (excluding my tripod). However, do check the limits beforehand and try as much as possible to ensure the priciest, most precious gear travels either at your feet or in the over-head luggage containers. If you have to compromise with something in the hold, put the ‘peli’ in and ask for fragile stickers for an extra peace of mind. If you are traveling with a tripod, pack it in a sturdy, secure bag as it will more than likely have to go into the hold. Don’t forget to lock it all up.
9. Last but certainly not least …
I never travel with lenses attached to my camera bodies. Furthermore, I attach lens filters to my lenses whenever possible while traveling. Disassemble everything, pack it in neatly and safely and enjoy your travels.