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This Camel Wants a Smaller Hump

Camels are the chosen beasts of burden for the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East. Why then, as a photographer in San Francisco, did I feel like one. The answer is pretty simple: too much stuff.

Generally, I'm a light traveler. I spent three months in Spain with just two carry-on bags and if it wasn't for my tripod, I would have done the same when I worked in Ghana for six weeks. But the pressure of our first trial issue really got me going. What if I needed hot lamps for indoor interviews or a Glide-cam for floating shots? Maybe I needed a camera cage for run-and-gun footage? Better bring along mics, extensions cords and reflectors too... you know, just in case. Bottom line, my car was packed with my entire studio's worth of equipment, of which I used a tiny fraction. So what did I learn from this trip? 

1. My standard photojournalist kit has been plenty comprehensive for 90% of the work I have done. We're talking two mid-range aps-c SLR cameras, a 17mm-40mm f4 lens, a 70mm-200mm f4 lens, and a 50mm f2.8 macro lens. One backpack worth of gear, nothing more.

2. Tripods are nice to have, especially for video, but a full size tripod with a horizontal column isn't really necessary. Several tripod makers offer travel tripods that pack small enough to fit in a carry-on and have the weight capacity to handle a small video head and a DSLR. Benro's Travel Angel II stood out amongst the pack in my opinion.

3. I knew there was a reason I used plain backpacks. In Ghana I made it a habit to pack my camera gear in a plain blue Jansport backpack. It attracted no attention until I pulled my gear out. Unfortunately, the lack of padding was rough on the equipment. I have found bags like Crumpler's Karachi Outpost and Incase's DSLR Pro Pack series that are discrete, yet have all the amenities of a traditional camera bag. Wish I had found them before I strapped this bad boy to my back in San Fran. 

4. POV cameras are a blessing. Immersion Travel Magazine currently has a one person multi-media crew. That means every time I stick a Go-Pro-like camera on a surface for a second angle it's like adding an extra photographer. I keep one in my kit and I am strongly considering adding a second. Also, the suction cup and bar clamps have proven to be the most useful of all the attachments. 5. Cold medicine. Yes, this has nothing to do with camera gear, but both Clare and I got sick on this trip and having a little cold medicine went a long way to keeping the trial issue on track. Thanks to Alka-Seltzer and some terrible tasting purple stuff, we only had to cancel one shoot.

June 4, 2016

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