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Tips for Adventure Photography

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Hello, my name is David Boswell.  While I am not a professional photographer, I am a serious amateur who has traveled throughout the world with Bio Bio and, hopefully can use that experience to help others navigate the complexities of traveling with camera gear. 

This article will deal with gear selection and airport issues I have encountered.  Here are some things to remember when planning what camera gear to bring. 

First, you may encounter regulations different than the US.  For example, internal flights in Argentina have a carry on weight limit of 8k, or about 18 lbs. 

Second, you need to be aware of the specifics and limitations of your particular trip.  On a recent trip to Africa I spent 4 days in the Okavango Delta of Botswana that involved flying on small planes that had strict luggage requirements with regards to weight and size. 

Third, you need to know what you will be photographing and what your goals are.  For example, on an African safari you will be photographing wildlife, frequently at a distance so a long lens is very important while on my trek to Everest Base Camp a wide angle lens and low weight are more important.

First, let me talk about gear selection then I will touch on packing and airport issues.  I start with my base setup that I always take and work from there:

1.      24-105mm f/4 lens: 1.5 lbs
2.     70-200mm f/2.8 lens: 3.5 lbs
3.     Camera body either 5D or 7D: 1.8 lbs
4.     Flash: 0.8 lbs
5.     Extra batteries/charger/filters 0.5 lbs

As you can see, I already have 8 lbs and I will typically take my tripod and ballhead which then adds another 5 lbs, bringing me to 13 lbs.  Now, from this list I then add-on based on what I need with the options including

– 2nd camera body,
– 100-400mm lens at 3 lbs,
– 2nd flash,
– remote trigger for flash,
– off camera bracket for flash,
– extra filters,
– 1.4x & 2x teleconverters 0.5/0.7 lbs.,
– Epson P-7000 160Gb Photoviewer 1.5 lbs, etc.

As you can see, taking everything gets quite heavy, 30+ lbs not including the pack/case, as well as being fairly bulky.

For Nepal, there was no reason to bring my 100-400mm lens since I would be mostly shooting vast landscapes in the Himalayas and street scenes in Kathmandu.  On a recent trip to Africa, I definitely brought my 100-400mm, my 7D (better for wildlife and action than the 5D), and the 1.4x teleconverter since I would be shooting wildlife at varying distances. 

While I can’t tell you exactly what to take, I can advise you to look at what you are shooting and the likelihood you will need a particular piece of equipment to get a meaningful shot while balancing that with the trip constraints. 

Those of you not using pro lenses will have a much easier time as your lenses aren’t nearly as bulky or heavy.

There are 2 main factors when looking at what you will be carrying your camera outfit in: How will you be moving around on your trip (trekking, vehicles, boats, etc.) and getting through airports.  I have found that a camera backpack seems to work best.  I pack my tripod and ballhead in my checked bag but the rest of the camera gear I carry on. 

While I can’t tell you what brand or pack to use, I can say the Clik Elite has some nice packs but they are heavy and if you have a small waist the hip belt is too big with their one-size-fits-all sizing.  I also like LowePro as they have many options. 

The main piece of advice I can give you here is to keep it as small and compact as possible while still being able to safely pack and protect your expensive equipment.  My pack was weighed and had to check it in Argentina because it was a bigger pack and caught their attention.  I have never had a smaller unobtrusive pack weighed.  While it is rare, I have had to open the pack at times and show the gear at security so the pack contents should be accessible.  In countries other than the US I have almost universally had to take my tablet out and put it through security separately so have that easily accessible also.
You may also join me on Facebook and Youtube by searching DBoswell Photography.

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