Once you start getting more into digital photography, you realize quite quickly that it isn’t for people who are averse to carrying things. If you get a nicer digital SLR camera, you’ve got to bring the camera, the lens, a few filters, and most likely a tripod. With the following tips, you can keep your camera safe and get the most out of your digital photography while traveling the world.
Bring only what you truly need
People love their gear, and who can blame them? They’ve probably spent thousands of dollars to get something that makes it really easy to take a great photo. But when you’re traveling abroad, and you’re putting yourself into a fairly vulnerable position, it just doesn’t make sense to carry all that expensive gear with you all the time. If you don’t need that big digital SLR to get the shot, go with a smaller and lighter point-and-shoot. For most casual photography, that’s all you need.
Just think about what you’ll be doing all day long and whether you really want to lug a big heavy camera with you. If you’re going to be doing something active, you’ll find that camera to be more of a liability than an asset. When I bring my digital SLR, photography is my main goal. I don’t do anything else, and I watch my camera like a hawk.
When you’re going abroad or traveling to less economically developed areas, your camera is like a big red target. It really is best to keep your camera concealed in a shooter’s backpack while you’re walking around. Only take your camera out to get the shot, and then put it back. I know it’s more work, but it is the safest option. A would-be thief will have to locate the zipper and unzip it in order to steal your camera. It’s a lot harder than simply grabbing your camera off of your neck or cutting the strap with a knife.
Pack your bags and pack more than one bag
Not only should you carry less camera equipment, you should bring a big bag and a small bag for the actual shooting. The big bag will carry and organize all of your lenses and gear while the smaller one protects it from the elements. Both should be weather resistant and padded. When you’re traveling, you don’t know what kind of situation you’ll get into - especially if you’re visiting a place that doesn’t have a lot of infrastructure.
Bring a standard tripod and a travel tripod
If you haven’t purchased or used a travel tripod, you really are missing out. These things only seem to be getting better every year. They’re extremely light and compact. Almost all of them can be folded up to fit into your shooter’s bag. If you do have a nice tripod, go ahead and bring it too. It’s just nice to have a choice to carry a lot of gear or only what you need. Alternatively, you can use a 'chain pod' which is a length of chain that you attach to your camera and wrap the other end around your foot. By holding the chain taught, you help steady the camera. And the chain folds up a lot smaller than a tripod.
At the airport
Camera gear is fragile. As such, you should never ever place it in any bags you plan on checking. The people who load the luggage onto the plane will throw it around, and there’s a good chance the lens glass or any of the other parts will get damaged. This is yet another reason to only bring what you need. You can expect to carry all of your lenses and camera bodies with you on the plane. If your airline has any restrictions regarding the size of your carry-on luggage, you could have a problem.
I’d also like to address some of the rumors about putting your camera through the security scanner. When you’re working with digital cameras, there is nothing to worry about. I’ve seen others talking about the powerful magnets on the conveyor belts, and the risk of accidentally getting your memory cards wiped. To my knowledge, it would take an extremely powerful magnet to wipe the data off of your memory cards. The magnets on the conveyor belt just aren’t powerful enough.
Be mindful of condensation
If you do a lot of traveling, there’s a good chance you’ll be going from one climate to another. When the temperature outside is very different from the temperature indoors, you need to protect your camera from condensation that can form on the outside and inside of the camera body. The best solution is to always place your camera in a ziplock bag whenever you aren’t actively shooting with it. The condensation will collect on the outside of the bag instead of your camera, keeping your camera dry.
Condensation won’t necessarily destroy your camera right away, but it can do quite a bit of damage over time. Parts that can rust will rust when exposed to condensation. Camera makers are getting better about building more water-resistant cameras, but there is only so much they can do. At the end of the day, it helps to try and prevent condensation from happening in the first place. When it’s wet out, use Ziploc bags.
Check and double check
On the night before you leave, you should have everything splayed out on the floor and accounted for. There’s nothing worse than forgetting to bring something that’s essential. Most destinations worth visiting are nowhere near a good camera shop. If you forget to bring something with you, expect not to have it for the duration of the trip. That includes lens wipes, cleaning solution, filters, memory cards, batteries, and all of the other basic things.
Keep your gear light, have fun, and hide the expensive stuff from prying eyes. It’s cool to have nice stuff, but it is all too easily lost. Whatever you do, avoid being the typical tourist with the nice big camera hanging around his neck. That’s a sure fire way to lose what you’ve worked so hard to get.
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