Sunday, September 30, 2007

Flying with camera gear

A question that I am frequently asked is how I carry my camera gear when travelling by plane. With all of the delays, missed connections, and damaged, stolen, or lost luggage these days, it can be quite stressful getting to your destination even if you don’t check any baggage.
The solution that has worked for me is coming up with a “travel kit” of gear that takes up very little space and will cover 99% of anything I ever want or need to shoot. I pack that gear into an “Airport Addicted” backpack made by Thinktank Photo along with most of my clothing. The airport addicted bag was designed to hold the maximum amount of gear possible while still meeting most airline carry-on restrictions. You would be amazed at what I can stuff in this bag and along with my expedition 5 backpack (loaded with the rest of my clothes) carried on as my one “personal item”, I can fit everything I need for a 5 day trip without having to check a single piece of luggage.
When I arrive at my destination, I simply move all the camera gear into my smaller backpack and move all of my clothes into the large one until I’m ready to head back to the airport.
The only down side to this is that the bag can get quite heavy, usually around 40 pounds fully packed, when you have a long way to walk! They have since come out with a “roller” version of this bag and if I traveled a lot more, I would seriously consider getting one.

Now that I’ve covered how I get my gear from here to there, I’ll share what I take and why I feel it’s such a good balance of function and space savings.
99% of what I shoot is between 17-200mm focal length. This includes macro work but a dedicated macro lens is fairly limited so I choose to carry a set of extension tubes to use with my 70-200mm lens. Throw in a 2X tele-converter and that one lens lets me shoot from extreme close-ups all the way out to 400mm. (That in itself is the most practical combination in my line-up.) I then bring a 17-40mm, and a 28-70mm and that’s it! They all share the same filter diameter which cuts down on accessories needed as well. My tripod, with the ballhead removed, attaches to the outside of the bag, my flash cards, spare batteries, and assorted filters are all tucked away in separate zippered compartments inside.

Here are some images of this set-up I quickly shot today while packing for my upcoming workshop in Maine with Kathleen Clemons. We will be driving the coastline of Maine for 4 days, shooting everything from lighthouses to lobsters, and I know that I have all the gear I need for anything that we find along the way.

Ron Goldman

As you can see, there is plenty of room left for clothes in the main compartment, and there is a laptop compartment on the reverse side as well.

All of my accessories fit nicely in the top flap compartments.

My "travel kit". Small, lightweight, and very functional.

Both bags packed and ready to go. My small travel tripod is attached and the ballhead is safely stored away inside.


Gina said...

i'm looking for a good travel tripod. any suggestioons?

ron said...

Hi Gina. This is what I am using for my lightweight travel tripod. Unfortunately, the place I got mine last year looks to be out of business. I did find one here:

and you might be able to find a better price by searching the internet.
I actually had mine shipped from Hong Kong and it was about $50 less than this one. You might want to check ebay as well.
While this one is not as nice and not as sturdy as my Gitzo, it's weighs less than half and fits much better on my pack. I find it perfect for air travel.


derid said...

Thanks for posting this. It was very useful. I am traveling down to Cancun this week and have been wringing my hands over safety issues and packing issues for my gear.

PPSOP said...

Hi Derid. Glad you found the information useful. Enjoy your trip!


Anonymous said...

Ron, does security have any problems with the tripod? Can never figure out what they think might be a weapon these days.

PPSOP said...

Hi Cindy. I have never had a problem yet. I was worried the very first time I tried to go through thinking they would want to confiscate it but they never said a word. I called the TSA and asked them about tripods and they said as far as they knew, they were fine but it would be up to the individual agent to make the final decision. I have not flown internationally with it and the restrictions could be different for that but you'd have to check with the TSA or the individual airline to be sure.


Corsi fotografia said...

Tripod issue flying in Europe.
A lot of airlines in Europe will not alllow you to take your tripod with you in the cabin.
I usually travel a loto for work as aprofessional photgrpher and I own a small carpboon gito tripod.
Thanks to sharing your bag tips.

Cindy Hoover said...

I was reading somewhere else that the TSA allows carbon fiber tripods in cabin but not metal. This has something to do with what one could make a gun out of (doesn't make sense to me) and obviously they don't consider it a weapon that could be wielded like a bat.

Cynthia said...

Keep up the good work.