In less than one week we will be getting on a plane to go to Brazil, to watch the end of World Cup 2014 in Rio de Janeiro. (!!!)
But even though the trip is still a ways away, we’ve already been preparing for weeks, especially when it comes to the photography side of things.
There’s not much that’s more exciting as a photographer than the prospect of going off on a great adventure, camera in hand. New places, new sights, new experiences – all yours to document and preserve.
But getting ready for a trip can be a daunting task: choosing the right gear, making sure you pack everything you need, and ensuring that you leave everything at home in good order.
We’ve taken quite a few trips with our cameras, learned from lots of mistakes, and figured out a pretty good to-do list to make sure we’re prepared.
So I’m going to share our pre-trip process with you. And then stay tuned, because in a future post I’ll be detailing which gear we decided to bring for this trip!
Now onto the prep.
What Is The Right Camera Gear?
The first and most important question is always “What cameras and lenses are we going to take?”.
There’s never a simple answer to this question, and it always requires lengthy consideration. If anyone asks us what camera they should take a trip, we say “It depends”. There really isn’t any right choice, it’s more of a balance between pros and cons.
To figure things out, we take some to think about what we our goals for the trip are: what we hope to capture, and what we plan to do with the images afterwards. If it’s a professional trip we’ll be thinking about much different gear than if it’s for vacation.
In the past we have always tended to overpack, and I can tell you firsthand that you’ll regret taking gear that you don’t end up using as you have to lug it around airports, train stations, on camel rides, and so on.
So when it comes to what you choose to bring, think carefully about what gear will help you achieve what you want to do on your trip. Then lay it all out, and try to cut it down, and down some more. That sweet spot of bringing just enough is tough to find, but it’s usually less than you expect.
The one piece of gear that we often bring, and almost never use, is a tripod. It’s bulky, heavy, and quite specialized in it’s use. Think very hard about whether you really need to bring one.
Once we’ve finalized what gear we’re bringing, we figure out which camera bag will work best to carry it all. We’re admittedly camera bag collectors, because we can never seem to find the perfect one. That’s likely because it doesn’t exist, but that hasn’t stopped us from searching.
We’ve tried shoulder bags and backpacks, camera specific bags and general purpose ones. Nothing really stands out as the best, they each have they’re pros and cons. So think carefully about what you need to carry, and what will be the most comfortable and functional way to do so.
And when we find the perfect bag, we’ll let you know. ;)
Don’t Forget The Key Accessories
Double and triple check that you’ve packed all necessary accessories – chargers, batteries, and memory cards being the most critical.
We’ve had to head out to the outskirts of a remote Peruvian city, and hunt through a huge chaotic market just to find a charging cable that we had forgotten at home. Against all odds we did find one, but it wasn’t our ideal way to spent our limited time abroad.
For every piece of electronics that you’ll be taking (e.g. phone, camera, computer), it could be helpful to put the charging cable and batteries right beside them as you prepare to pack, just to ensure you don’t forget.
Then take stock of your memory cards, and make sure you’ll have enough space. We always bring a laptop, so we generally only need enough memory for one day (and then bring a bit extra).
If you won’t have a way to download your photos while travelling, you’ll want to be very generous with the memory you bring.
Beyond chargers, batteries, and memory cards, the only other accessories that we generally bring are lens pens, air blowers for the sensor and microfibre towels.
If you’re bringing a lot of gear, you may want to look into equipment insurance. A lost or stolen camera bag could be a costly mistake.
Clean It All Up
Once you’ve gathered everything you’re going to take, do a thorough check, cleaning and prep of all your gear before you leave. Here’s a list of things to do:
- Clean out your camera bag
- Clean your lenses
- Clean your camera bodies
- Check your sensor for dust
- Charge all batteries
- Clear memory cards
- Check that neckstraps and handstraps are free from wear, and attached securely to the camera
If you’re bringing a laptop with you, take some time to clean it up, and ensure you have plenty of free space.
If you’re bringing backup hard drives for your travel backup system, clear those as well.
And finally, before you go, make sure you’ve done an offsite backup of your home computer, ensuring that all your files are safe even if something happens to your home while you’re gone.
Do Your Research
One thing we always do before a trip is a bit (or sometimes a lot!) of research. We take out some travel guides from the library, and read up on our destination, making note of potential photographic opportunities, and any customs or concerns that may influence what we bring and where we go.
Sometimes we even check out the work of other photographers who have been to the area, to get a sense of what has been done. But we’re very careful about this – doing too much of this can make it hard for you to approach the place from own your perspective, as you may be overly influenced by what you’ve seen.
Perhaps a safer bet is to look at the work of photographers you admire and find things in their photos that you’d like to achieve on your own trip. Maybe it’s their sense of composition and timing, or the way they tell the story of a place.
And if there are any new techniques that you’d like to try out, see if you can practice them at home first. This goes doubly so if you’re using a new piece of gear on your trip. Make sure you know it inside and out before you head off.
Get In The Mindset
And then finally, find ways to get yourself in the mindset for your trip.
Whether it’s flipping through photography books, watching movies about the destination while you clean and pack (our favourite – the World Cup has been on constantly here as we prepare), reading up on the history of the place, or scrolling through your own library of past trips, this kind of stuff is all part of the travel experience. It doesn’t start when you arrive at your destination – your adventure begins the minute you think up the idea. So enjoy all of it!
Now stay tuned for a post coming up that will give you a look at exactly what we’re going to bring to Brazil. It’s a big deviation from the norm for us, and we’re pretty excited (and even a bit nervous!) about it.