Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Packing Tips for Photographers and Assistants flying

My international kit goes into 3 bags. 1) ThinkTank Airport TakeOff™ Rolling Camera Bag, 2)  ThinkTank Urban Disguise® 60 and 3) Travelpro Luggage Crew 9 26-Inch Expandable Rollaboard Suiter Bag [not shown] 

Flying internationally puts a stress on the most seasoned photographers. One of the main reasons is preparing for the travel to your location with Murphy's Law driving your decisions.

Assistants Tip #1

Interior of ThinkTank Airport TakeOff™ Rolling Camera Bag fully packed.

If you are a photo assistant your first priority is keeping track of all the photographer's gear and being sure it is put back exactly where the photographer packed it. Take photos of the gear so you can reference it later to repack it.

You may ask why put it exactly back where you started? A typical photographer will have a lot of little stuff that they may use on any job. When the assistant cannot put their hands on it the photographer will go first to the place they last put it.

Photographers Tip #1

Everything you carry should have a home spot—[a place that it is always put when not in use]. This will help you quickly find it when you need it and also when you are packing up to go you can easily see what is not in place to know you are missing something.

Having a system will not just help you, but every assistant that works for you.

International Travel with Credit Cards

Call your credit card companies before you travel. Let them know what countries you are traveling to and the dates of travel. This will keep your card from being frozen and you not being able to use it while traveling.

Often I find that using a credit card gives me the best exchange rate for purchases.

Telephone and Data Plans

Contact your provider and find the best plan for your travel. Verizon for example has a few different plans that will keep you from getting stuck with a high bill.

The most important reason for contacting them is for you to be aware of what you will be charged while you are not in your home country. There are generally three things that you are wanting to review: Phone call rate, Text Rates and Data Rate.

For the most part you are better off finding a local Wi-Fi and using it and connecting with family and friends through emails and/or Skype over using phone calls.

I recommend having an auto email response that lets people know you may take a little longer to respond and the same with a voice mail saying you are in meetings and will respond as soon as possible.

My International Kit

Packing for a road trip or domestic travel is much easier than international travel. If you can pack and travel internationally the domestic travel is a piece of cake.

I am normally traveling alone with no assistant when I travel. The type of work clients typically hire me to do is a one man band operation. I provide stills, video and audio from my coverages. This is usually combined into a package. This is a typical package that I might produce on overseas coverage.

So I am carrying enough gear to get this done in the smallest possible way for me to fly by myself.

I am always checking my TravelPro bag. Typically what I carry in this bag:
  • Clothing which is all wick away material which can be easily washed in a sink even and air dried
    • 4 shirts
    • 4 pants
    • 4 sets of underwear/socks
    • Safari hat
    • Windbreaker with a hoodie
  • Toiletries
  • Camera Gear
    • two tripods
    • two small light stands
    • two LED light sources 
What I am carrying on the plane is my 1) ThinkTank Airport TakeOff™ Rolling Camera Bag, and 2)  ThinkTank Urban Disguise® 60.  The rolling bag counts as my carryon luggage which must meet the international standard size. The safe maximum size is 45", in the form of a 22" x 14" x 9" bag.  Some airlines allow up to as much as 55", but most do not. The Airport TakeOff Exterior Dimensions: 14” W x 21” H x 8” D.
Airport Security™ V 2.0 Rolling Camera Bag
Sometimes when I fly international and I know the airline, like Delta, then I will fly with the Airport Security™ V 2.0 Rolling Camera Bag.  I can get more gear into this bag. Both of the rolling bags convert into a backpack, which comes in handy when you are in places where you cannot roll your bag.

Interior of my Airport Security™ V 2.0 Rolling Camera Bag fully packed.
My ThinkTank Urban Disguise® 60 while on the plane carries a lot of stuff and then when I arrive I change things around to use this as my working bag.

Inside the ThinkTank Urban Disguise® 60
  • Macbook Pro 15"
  • Two exterior hard drives
    • Mirror backup of hard drive
    • Exterior for all images and video
  • Headphones for video, but also to use on plane
  • iPad 
  • Power cords for 
    • Mac
    • iPad
    • Phone
  • Computer peripherals
    •  XQD Card Reader
    • Compact Flash Card Reader
Packing your gear with ThinkTank organizers
Think Tank Cable Management is great for all your cables

Think Tank Power House is designed for the Apple line of products to organize those charges and power supplies

ThinkTank Red Whips come with the organizing bag, but you can buy them individually to keep your cables wrapped.
We often talk about Digital Workflow and think mainly of digital capture to post production, but just as important is thinking of your entire workflow. By researching the airlines and knowing all you can about your travel can help you be prepared for Murphy's Law.

Last Tip

Ever since I have traveled overseas I have always gone by the US Customs office and registered my gear using the CBP Form 4457. CBP Form 4457 is used to register personal items before you travel abroad to clear customs easily when you bring those personal effects back to the United States. CBP Form 4457 shows that you had the items before leaving the U.S. and, therefore, allows a duty-free re-entry back to the U.S. Items may include watches, laptop computers or firearms  - those that have serial numbers or other unique permanent markings and other descriptions.

I have never had to use this form or show it, but I always fill one out for the sole reason that Murphy's Law exists.

Remember Murphy's Law states: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. So be prepared.

Here is a quick video showing you how I pack for carry-on when traveling internationally.