Road Trip!

Heading to South Dakota to photograph and video several interviews for Wesleyan Life magazine. Exciting but fast paced opportunity. More about this when the issue comes out!

So what am I taking?? Below I’ve listed my gear list for the 5 day trip, and a short explanation on why I’m bringing it. But first some tips for traveling with your camera gear (*These tips  are my personal opinion, its how I travel. Take with a grain of salt and apply your personal travel preferences and beliefs to you own trip).

  • If you have multiple bodies/lenses, split them up. Especially if you are traveling to an area prone to pick pocketing. Never a good idea to keep everything in one bag, yes its very convenient, but the trip will be much more enjoyable if your gear gets swiped and you have a backup.
  • Use a travel agent! They know the ins and outs of most destinations and they will let you know what to bring/not bring and which venues have crazy rules. (Personally I recommend Dave Bunn if you are in the Indy area!)
  • Pelicans save lives! Not really, but they will save your gear if you are going on a rugged trip. I recommend the 1510, perfect size plus wheels!
  • Ziplock bags will help with sensor dust. You will feel like a dork, but stick your bodies in a ziplock bag as you travel and you will have significantly less dust than if you don’t. Vibrations on flights especially tend to eek dust into just about any camera body. Also handy if it starts to rain on location and you need to quickly waterproof your off camera speedlight (or on camera for that matter!).
  • If the flight attendants tell you to gate check your camera bag (typically smaller flights with 3 seats per row), tell them you are traveling with camera gear! Most of the time they will put it in their personal closet up front. If they are still reluctant tell them you have a battery that cannot be checked. (Most airlines say not to check Lithium batteries.) I honestly do travel with such a battery. If you are lying, shame on you (but it works!).
  • If you are traveling with crazy lead / Lithium batteries its always a good idea to have the printout saying its air safe. I’ve never ran into an issue with flight security, but you never know.
  •  Travel with snacks. Nothing hurts more than having to run around on a long documentary shoot on an empty stomach.
  • Dont forget your charging cables!
  • Extra memory cards never hurt. On a long documentary shoot who knows when you will have time/space to open up a laptop and dump a card.
  • Primes are awesome, but if space is limited I would recommend ditching them for a telephoto or two. 24-70 is a fantastic wide gamut workhorse.
  • If you are traveling out of the country, check your gear with customs before you leave! Upon arrival to the states if you cannot prove you purchased your gear in the states they are allowed to charge you tax on it. (Never had a problem, but on my most recent trip to Guatemala the customs officer gave me a little crap about traveling with so much gear and not having proper paperwork. Thank God he didn’t charge me, the clueless look on my face must have convinced him I didn’t purchase it out of America.) Better safe than sorry.

(*Note some of my gear is outdated, so I linked to the upgraded product)

LowePro Runner 450

  • Nikon D3 + 2 batteries (Primary still camera)
  • Nikkor 70-200mm F/2.8 (For distance shots as well as zooming to compress depth of field)
  • Nikkor 85mm F/1.4 (Renting from Borrow Lenses for portraits & video interviews)
  • Nikkor 50mm F/1.4 (for Portraits as well as run & gun shooting, light & small, makes awesome multi shot combo images)
  • 77mm Variable Density Filter (For video, harder to use larger apertures without a ND filter of some sort)
  • ExpoDisc (Awesome custom White Balance tool for photo and video)
  • BlackRapid Strap (Infinitely more comfortable than the standard strap, especially for longer shoots.)
  • Sekonic L-758 Light Meter (So I don’t kill my shutter prematurely)
  • Nikon SB-800 + Filters (Fantastic run & gun speedlight, small, powerful & virtually indestructible)
  • Sensor Cleaning Kit (Traveling off road / flying / changing lenses in the field = dust on sensor)
  • Rain sleeve (Stupid light & handy if it rains.. These bodies can handle a light rain, but anything serious I would rather be safe than sorry)
  • MacBook Air (Need a way to backup & clear memory cards and edit on the go)
  • USB tethering cables (Because my card reader is in my other bag)
  • Mophie Juice Pack (Nothing sucks more than being on a long road trip with a dead iPhone/iPad..)
  • 1 TB Hard drive (MBA has a awesome solid state hard drive, but its very tiny.. Not the best drive to travel with, but its what I have)
  • Noise canceling headphones (For checking audio & ignoring annoying people)
  • Clif Bar (Energy is good!)
  • Flashlight (Always handy!)
  • Ziplock bags (to waterproof flashes and save camera bodies from getting dusty while traveling)

Pelican 1510 (Good to split up gear in case something happens to one bag)

  • Nikon D800 (Primary video / cover shot camera)
  • Nikkor 24-70mm F/2.8 (Wide angle for photo & video)
  • Røde Shotgun Mic (Because internal mics are never reliable)
  • Zoom H4n (Backup audio / ambient filler, awesome because it can record from multiple sources at the same time!)
  • Elinchrom Ranger Quadra / Lithium Battery / A Head (I love flash, especially this über portable awesomely versatile kit. *Battery in linked kit is not Lithium.. Li battery is smaller, lighter & double the flash capacity)
  • 1 TB Hard drive (backup HD)
  • Card Reader (Because my USB tethering cables are in my other bag)
  • Headlamp (For running around / digging in bags after dark)
  • Midland GXT1000 radios (In the boonies of SD, cell will be sketchy)
  • Clif Bar (More energy!)
  • Ziplock bags (Same as above, doubling up)

Checked Bag

  • Leatherman (I can’t remember the last shoot I was on where one of these didn’t come in handy.. Remember it is a knife so put it in your checked bag!!)
  • Manfrotto Tripod + Photo Ball Head + Video Fluid Head
  • Induro Monopod (Stabilizing low shutter photos & any video shot, also good for birds eye!)
  • Light Stand (I love off camera light..)
  • Charging Bag
  • Clothing (Layers! Its cold out there, but gotta be able to strip off a jacket or gloves when I get too hot running around)

It seems like a lot, and I admit, it is. I have the ‘Better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it’ mentality.. Its a blessing and a curse. Rarely am I in need for gear in the field, but I do have to lug it around everywhere we go.. Fortunately we will have our truck close by at all times and I can use as my closet. I am also planning on doing photo as well as video, which means one camera will always be set up and ready to shoot images, and the other will always be set up and ready to record some video. If you know much of anything about DSLR video (Its a work in progress for me), you will know its not super easy to switch from one to another on the fly. Especially if you care about good audio and a stable shot.

I’ll do a follow up post and focus on the gear that I did not need on my trip and make some notes on things I will do differently next time. Until then, keep traveling and Keep Shooting!

-Chris W ‘WhonPhoto’

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