Traveling with Photo Gear

In the next few hours, I plan on starting preparations for my upcoming trip to Stockholm. First off, I need to do some printing : flight boarding passes, hotel booking confirmation, bus ticket from airport to the city, and a copy of my travel insurance.

My airline of choice, RyanAir, is not my favorite way to fly but it is inexpensive, and I would rather spend extra money on photo gear than on a better seat on a better plane which I get to enjoy for only a couple of hours.

RyanAir limits carry-on luggage to a mere 10 kilos (22 lbs), and my photo gear – the travel-light version – already weighs more than half of that. Now that used to be my predicament. Besides me being cheap enough as to not wanting to check my luggage in and pay extra, I would not want to be detached from my photo gear for the rest of my flight. I also want to be mobile and on-the-go after I land in my destination and not have to worry about waiting for checked luggage. There have been times, thanks to RyanAir’s inconvenient schedule, when my plane landed just an hour or so before twilight, and I want to make it to the city in time so I can start shooting. Every single minute of twilight is precious. This has happened in Berlin and Madrid, when I sat on the train watching the light change faster than I could get to my destination. For me, that was a waste of night – and light!

I’m sure every photographer knows the hassle of traveling with photo gear. I have gotten used to the fact, that once my suitcase starts rolling on that conveyor belt at the X-ray screening, I will get stopped. Sometimes, usually on a major airline, I would be escorted to a special room where they ask me to open my suitcase, or if I had checked-in baggage it would just be my camera bag. My camera and lenses will then be given a litmus test, and as expected, they all pass with flying colors. I don’t really mind this at all as I understand airport security.

My issue with flying RyanAir is how I allocate weight in my suitcase. Having done this so many times, I have come to accept the fact that I have to give up extra garments in exchange for an extra lens. And since I am forced to bring only my smaller tripod – a Manfrotto 715SHB Digi Tripod – I can not afford to bring my “big gun” which is my 70-200mm telephoto lens. Taking that with me also means taking a bigger tripod and a few more accessories that go with it like the tripod collar, a steady ballhead and release plate which are all metal-heavy. That lens in itself weighs in at almost 1,500 grams (3.3 lbs). My other lens which is what I take with me, the 24-70mm wide-angle lens, already weighs 900 grams (2 lbs); add that to my Nikon D700 (over 2 lbs. without battery), filters, one extra lens (usually a small prime), battery charger, cable release, a Visible Dust sensor brush, and other small paraphernalia. If you do the math, factoring in the weight of the suitcase, that means I can only take with me a couple of shirts, undergarments, and Barbie-sized toiletries. Other miscellaneous items like iPod (I use the built-in stopwatch for long exposures with my ND110), an iTouch (Internet is invaluable), some filters and a spare camera battery, a small notebook with my itinerary, a cellphone (also serves as my alarm clock with hotel wake-up call as back-up) ,passports and maps, and some snacks — I stash them all in my coat or trouser pockets ! Now, what am I to  do in warmer weather?

If I learned anything from RyanAir, that would definitely be how to travel light. That’s a gross understatement.

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