Camera Equipment

Travelling with Cameras

Monday, June 4, 2012

If you are anything like me, the hardest part about planning a trip is deciding what cameras to bring and how to pack them. Whenever I travel, I usually have an assortment of cameras with me to document my journey, so it’s always a struggle to figure out the best solution for travelling light.

If you are just travelling for pleasure, I would consider the type of adventure you’re taking and whether or not you’re going to be able to physically lug (and I mean LUG) around that beast you call a DSLR. I’ve gotten to the point where carrying a big camera around whilst travelling is too much of a burden and I now really think about what kind of experience I want to have before I leave.

I generally try to limit myself to a few kinds of cameras. In the past I would bring the DSLR, a 35mm, a couple of Polaroids and any number of other quirky cameras like the Holga or Fuji Instax. After years of breaking my back lugging cameras through airports and dealing with the ordeal that is airport security, I’ve realised it really isn’t worth the stress on my shoulders and brain. And yes, I deal with airport security because I never check my cameras- they always come on board with me, no matter what. I’ve seen how baggage handlers “handle” luggage and there is no way I’m ever putting a camera in my checked luggage. EVER!

I now bring one 35mm or medium format, one Polaroid camera and one point and shoot-either digital or film. Obviously if I’m travelling for a specific shooting purpose then I would have to bring the DSLR and lenses and a Polaroid- there’s always a Polaroid.

My recent trip to Morocco was rather difficult because I had the Polaroid cameras I needed to bring for the workshops plus other cameras I wanted to use to document my trip. I actually ended up leaving two Polaroid cameras at home simply because I couldn’t get them in the ONE on-board bag that stupid Easyjet allows. Not one bag and one personal item like every other airline–ONE BAG! My on-board bag is usually chosen on the basis of what cameras I’m bringing and how I can best fit them in.

On international flights, I will generally take a backpack for all my cameras and then a smaller handbag for my personal items. I’m yet to graduate to the hardcore photography case but that’s simply because I’m not transporting two DSLRs, various lenses and accessories. If this is something you do, then you may want to look into one of those or a professional carry-on like this one.

My backpack is just a regular one that I will outfit myself to store cameras. I pull the velcro inserts out of my old Crumpler and Lowepro camera cases to make some buffers between the cameras. I also wrap my cameras. These camera wraps are designed for that very thing. I actually wrap mine in a soft case that my Peter Alexander pyjamas came in! They are soft and have a ribbon that you can wrap around the camera to protect it whilst inside a bag. It’s totally dodgy but it works! I’ve used scarves in the past too.

On smaller trips where I don’t take as many cameras, I will usually take a tote or satchel that is big enough to house a few cameras and my personal items. This camera insert is a great idea when transporting cameras inside other bags that aren’t camera bags. I will also take a pouch or two for little odds and ends like memory cards, rolls of film etc. Of course, there are an array of gorgeous photography bags out there for women who want stylish cameras bags and many of these are great for travel. I’m rather fond of this one.

I always make sure to have my film in plastic zip-lock bags for airport security as I get them to hand check it. I never put my film in my checked baggage because those X Ray machines are a lot more powerful and dangerous to film than the ones we see at security. Film under 800 ISO is apparently able to go through the security machines, but when I’m doing various flights in a short period of time, I’d rather not take the risk. It shouldn’t go through continually.

You just ask one of the security agents to hand check your film and they are always happy to oblige. I’ve never had a problem. I usually have bigger problems with my SX70 or SLR680 because they lay flat and the security agents have no idea what they are- they don’t look like cameras when they are folded. So I often have to open them up and explain what they are. Most of the time I think they are just intrigued and want to know how these weird looking cameras work.

It takes a bit of time at the security check point to get everything arranged back in the backpack again but it’s worth the hassle. How do you travel with your gear? I’d love to know if there are any new bags out there that people are enjoying. I’m always on the hunt!

p.s. This ‘travel shot’ wasn’t taken on any of those cameras. Total iPhone shot!

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What’s In Your Kit? With Jill Thomas

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I‘m so delighted to bring you so more What’s In Your Kit interviews in the coming weeks. I have some fabulous photographers lined up and today’s amazingly talented interviewee is wedding photographer, Jill Thomas.

You may know Jill’s work from her beautiful blog where she shares her mostly wedding portraits that are always so natural and full of gorgeous light. I really love the beautiful compositions Jill creates with her camera. Of course, Jill loves film as much as I do, so it was natural that I would fall in love with her photographs.

MB:  What is/are your camera/s of choice and why?

Jill: Contax 645 – because it is a medium format camera that allows me to work at my fast pace during weddings.  Also the images that come from this camera are just artistically beautiful.

Canon IV: A 35mm camera that is amazing.  It allows me to use my favourite Canon lenses when I want to shoot wide angle.  When talking Canon or Nikon 35mm – it is the best out there.

MB:Which are your favourite lenses to work with and why?

Jill: Zeiss 80mm – Zeiss glass is amazing.  If you have not pick up a Carl Zeiss lens, do so!  This lens is tack sharp, but because of the use of film, is still soft. I want my images to be simple and speak for themselves. The 80mm is perfect for this. It allows me to have an artistic but timeless style.

On my canon IV, my favourite lens is my 35mm 1.4.  I love this lens because it is slightly wide angle.  I am capturing images that are wider than the eye sees but this lens does not distort. It grabs a person’s eye because it is different just slightly. It is perfect to add a little artistic edge to your images. I just love it.

MB:What equipment do you prefer to use to shoot portraits?

Jill: Contax 645 with my 80mm – this is my first go to camera.

MB: Tell us about a camera that you just love to have fun with.

Jill: So I am crazy about cameras! I have way too many. I do not collect cameras because to me that says they just sit there and that makes my heart ache. I find cameras at thrift stores, antique stores, and on ebay. I shoot with them all and they all are in working order.

My fun street photography camera is my Hasslebad 500C/M – I slow down, wind the camera and compose each shot. Strangers just look amazing to me in the camera.
If I am bringing a camera with me on an outing with my kids, I bring my Brownie or Holga. I think my kids look so dang cute in these cameras. They are soft and just capture their moments perfect.

My favourite Polaroid is my Polaroid 600SE. I love Fuji film. This is how I love to capture my family. I love those Fuji images in my album. The lens is a Mamiya lens and it is so sharp. This camera gives you amazing instant photos.

My favourite artistic Polaroid is my Polaroid SX-70. I love details with this camera. Settings, scenery, and objects. I have these photos framed all over my home.
What I love about film is that every type of film and every camera capture moments differently. So I have found what cameras I love for what situations. Of course I love to mix it up and try new things … what photographer doesn’t? It is grabbing new cameras, trying new films, and shooting new things, that keep me inspired.

MB: What do you carry your equipment in?

Jill: All my equipment is in an old vintage hutch I purchased at an old beach shop. I love it. When I am shooting for fun, I just bring one camera with me at a time. It is like I picked my baby for the day. I have 2 kids and am pregnant, so I cannot carry a bunch on me.
If I am shooting a wedding, I have a roller Tenba suitcase and a Tamrac bag. I also love my Shootsac. My shootsac is not necessarily a lens sac, it is a film sac. Its compartments are perfect for keeping your film organized and ready.

MB: Is there one piece of equipment/set up that you would recommend to a newbie shooter?

Jill: For a newbie FILM photographer, I would recommend grabbing a Canon 35mm and just shooting your heart away. The Canon IN is on ebay for like $150 and is a great camera. If you have that and a good lens like the 50mm 1.2 or the 85mm 1.2 – you would be ready … just shoot away. Try new film types, to find what film best represents you. Find what films work best when and where. Also pick up an instant and stay inspired.  you can get the Polaroid 340 land camera very inexpensive as well. It is so fun to work with Fuji film and this is a great camera to start experimenting on.
Just to add: one camera I don’t own and is next on my list is the Leica M6. It is an amazing 35mm that will soon become my best friend!

Thank you SO much Jill for those wonderfully informative answers. What a treat this was! You literally named all my most coveted cameras and you own them all! I think I’ll have to come over and raid your camera closet some day.

To see more of Jill’s work, please visit her site and blog and you can follow her here on twitter.

Please join me in thanking Jill for this great interview in the comments below. :)

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