The Light Chaser: Traveling with camera gear

March 15, 2015

IMG_4027 The Light Chaser is brought to you by, a professional photographic lab offering services to the consumer market., the official photographic lab of Media Group 31 (our parent company) and Alway Photography.

The Light Chaser. A blog by Rob Alway.

Chapter 8: Traveling with camera gear.

Traveling with camera gear can be a somewhat daunting task, especially when flying. I have been on many trips by air, train and car, where I have brought camera gear. There’s always that fine balance of taking what you will actually need versus trying not to over-pack.

Assuming I am traveling with my gear with the goal of photographing professionally while on the trip here’s my routine.

I have several camera cases and bags that I use for various types of jobs. My typical travel case is a carry-on camera case made by Tamarack. This case looks like a regular carry-on base, except it is made with extra thick outer walls and includes heavy interior padding and gear dividers. 

I will pack as much of my camera gear into this case as possible.

myprolab_021715It’s great for getting from point A to point B but it’s not the easiest case to use if you plan on walking long distances with your equipment.

One of the key pieces of equipment for photographing landscape photography is a tripod. The best tripod for traveling is a carbon fiber tripod. These tripods are lightweight but expensive. I do not own one at this time. Instead, I have a small Mandrotto tripod that is fairly lightweight. The tripod makes its way into my regular checked-in luggage and means I have to give up about 5 pounds of other items. I remove the head and pack that in my carry-on bag.

Most airlines allow you to have one carry-on luggage and one personal item. My personal item is typically a Domke satchel bag that gets a little heavy carrying on my shoulder around the airport but it contains that tripod head plus my laptop computer equipment.

The Tamarack case is great as a carry-on and great for storing equipment in a vehicle. It’s not so great for the times when you need more mobility. I honestly don’t feel like I have found the perfect bag yet. Many people like using backpacks and I agree this is probably the best option. Many bag manufacturers now make bags that are sling bags. Naturally, you could use these bags for airline travel as well.

As far as what gear I bring, this stays fairly constant. After photographing professionally for 2.5 decades, I have learned what works for me. My camera equipment consists of two DSLR bodies, a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, a 28-70mm f/2.8 lens and a 16mm f/2.8 lens. Because I have also recently gotten into video, I also carry a video light and a shotgun microphone. I may often carry one or two flashes with me as well.

In addition, I also travel with my MacBook Pro with Retina laptop. This rarely leaves my side anywhere I go. I also carry a 2 terabyte portable hard drive.

Rob Alway is editor-in-chief of Media Group 31, LLC, owner of Mason County Press, Manistee County Press and Oceana County Press. He is also a professional photographer with over 25 years of career experience and an adjunct instructor of photography at West Shore Community College. He and his wife, Becky, own Alway Photography, Inc. of Scottville.

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