The Well-Traveled Camera
Photography Tip for June 2009
Traveling is popular during the summer months and having our camera along is an absolute must for most of us. I am going to concentrate on digital systems, not film-based. When you are traveling, the last thing you want is to be concerned for your equipment or unprepared for the adventure. So here are some tips...
First of all, do what you can to avoid theft and damage, and if it occurs be prepared so you can report it.
1) Most cameras, lens and expensive accessories have serial numbers. Before traveling, record your serial numbers (when available), the model numbers and manufactures of all your equipment, including the camera bag. Also, permanently label each piece of equipment with your name and phone number if there is room. Thieves struggle to pawn equipment with a name which can not be removed. You can have them scribed (engraved) or use a permanent marker. Print a small version of the list that you can keep with you while traveling for the local authorities if needed. Keep this list separate from your camera bag so that if the whole bag is stolen, your list doesn't go with it. Also before you leave, email a copy of this to your insurance company if your equipment is insured.
2) To help keep your camera from being stolen, the best place for it is on you. What I prefer is a camera bag waist pack or back pack style. I use one a bit bigger than what I need for my camera & accessories, so that I can carry my identification, prescriptions, money and a few other irreplaceable items in the same bag. So this is the bag I carry every where I go. It also is the bag I store under my seat on airplane travel. I've listed a couple of ideas below that you can look at.
3) Now to help protect against damage, you should have a bag that is padded and keep your extra memory cards in a separate hard-case. If you're using a point-and-shoot type camera, they make terrific and affordable hard cases to fit snugly around the camera. You could then put that with your other accessories in one of the small waist packs and be fairly safe from theft and damage. For us SLR users, a backpack style with padding is the way to go, with our extra memory cards safely inside a hard case in the bag. If you are in a restaurant or someplace where you are sitting, both these style bags can be uncomfortable, so I reattach them to my leg or the leg of my chair so that no one can quickly walk off with the bag.
4) If you are traveling by plane, always be sure to check the latest airport security guidelines for cameras before you get there. Remember that x-rays do not hurt digital based cameras and memory cards, only film, however digital media is affected by magnetic devices, so try to keep your camera and memory cards away from these devices. Ask for assistance if you are not sure where the magnetic devices are located in the security scanners.
5) One last concern for the traveling camera; and that's protection against extreme heat, cold and rain. Let's start with extreme temperatures; here's a simple thought, if it's so hot or so cold in the vehicle that you wouldn't leave a child or a pet, don't leave your camera. If you are outside in the heat with your camera, try to keep it shaded to help reduce the overall temperature. In extreme cold, keep it in your jacket so your body heat can keep it from freezing, taking it out for a few quick pictures off and on. If condensation builds up, empty the battery and memory compartments and leave them open to dry out and don't take the camera back outside until it dries or it could freeze.
6) Rain is something I've had a lot of experience with and if you are not prepared, either you are disappointed with a ruined day of no shots, or your camera is ruined from shooting in the rain. You can use a plastic bag and rubber bands to protect it, though this is a frustrating way to shot pictures, but in a pinch it works! A better option is to invest in a waterproof pouch that you keep in your accessory bag! They come in all shapes and sizes from those which fit the small point-and-shoot to the pro-SLR cameras.
Before I leave you to your travels this month, let me also say that if you choose to invest in a camera waist or backpack, or weatherproofing gear for your camera, they will last a lifetime, so it's a worthy investment.
Safe Travels and Good Shooting!
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