with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Taking It With You When You Go

Animated graphic of travel logosIn school we learned the basic elements for survival: food, clothing, and shelter. Deciding to take your camera on the road includes these basic elements in your plans.

Food seems as easy as the local fast food joint, but sometimes you are far from town and have to plan eating around your photography and activities. Clothing is what you bring with you to shelter your body and impress others. Shelter consists of your accommodations, which for the traveling photographer can be varied and flexible. Will you have nice lodging or will you sleep under the stars with or without a tent?

Understanding how food, clothing, and shelter fit into your schedule and goals as a traveling photographer means maximizing time spent in the field with your camera and not out searching for the basics.

Before You Can Take, You Have to Get Rid

One of our six garage sales. Photo by Brent VanFossenIt isn’t just about what to take with you when you go, it is also about what you get rid of and leave behind when you do go. Over the course of two months, we held six garage sales to prune down our STUFF. It was a challenge to decide what was worth saving and putting into storage, another expense to consider, and what to give up our attachment to. Brent was heart broken over selling some of his university text books that he hadn’t looked at in 10 years, and I was heartbroken at every book that we sold and gave away, but you have to let go in order to go.

What you take with you when you go can be as important a decision as where you are going. For some people it is an overwhelming decision. How do you pack? What do you really need? Traveling is stressful enough. Planning your packing in advance eases that stress and makes you better prepared for enjoying your trip, knowing you have what you need.

The great traveling hunter takes it all with him when he goes.Here are the questions to consider when planning for your packing:

Do You Need a Permit for Photography?
The US National Park system has a rule requiring professional image taking in national parks to be done only with a permit. After much debate, discussion, and protesting, the National Park system has determined that professional nature photographers are exempt, as long as they obey the same rules of the park as everyone else. Photographic projects which involve models, props, and potential damage to the park and wildlife, which may interfere in the operations of the park, require a permit.

This isn’t very clear to some park rangers, so visit the National Park Photographic Use Permit site for the pdf (Acrobat Reader required) file outlining the specifics of this rule. Print it out and carry it with you in your camera bag…just in case you get quesitoned.

Where are you traveling?
Where are you going? To the French Rivera or for a weekend in the mountains? Where you choose to travel affects how you pack. Different locations and adventures require specific clothing, equipment and procedures.
What kind of weather do you expect to encounter?
Hot, cold, rain, snow, or all weather conditions. Is where you are going a hot and humid place? Then wearing very cool clothing that allows a lot of air flow and which doesn’t retain moisture will be a better choice than preparing for a dry heat. Each weather condition has its own requirements for clothing and toiletries. Sun lotions, bug sprays, hats, sunglasses, gloves, and umbrellas are just some of the choices. Think about the weather you may encounter and be prepared to survive it.
How will you be traveling?
Will you be traveling by airplane? Car? Train? On foot? Bicycle? Horseback? Your method of travel, to and from the location as well as during the trip, dictates the kind of luggage you will take and the items you need to bring. If you will be staying in hostels and hitchhiking or taking a bus, a backpack is the ideal luggage and your clothing choices will be different than they would be if you were taking a cruise. Car camping means everything can just go in the car; the vehicle becomes the luggage.
How long will you be staying?
You pack differently for an overnight than you do for a week. The length of stay influences what items you bring with you. The longer the stay, the more likely a nice outfit will be required for a special evening or event. Will you have easy access to the laundry? If so, you can bring less. If not, consider bringing clothing that can easily be hand washed.
What are you going to do once you arrive?
Besides protecting yourself from the elements, this is the most important consideration. Will you be doing a lot of walking and hiking? Appropriate footwear is a must. Will you be doing an activity that requires special equipment or clothing? Scuba diving? Wind surfing? Canoeing? Do you have to bring your own equipment or can you rent or buy it there? If you have to bring special equipment, can it be transported easily or do you have to make special arrangements? Go through the list of activities and make sure you are adequately prepared.


  • Posted April 29, 2005 at 9:30 | Permalink

    I just have a few questions can I take camera and film on plane?

  • Posted April 29, 2005 at 15:07 | Permalink

    You can take any kind of camera, film or digital, on an airplane. While the FAA and TSA are banning things left and right, cameras are still allowed.

    Film is another matter. We have extensive information at our newsletter issue about Planning for Immediate Departure – Myths – X-ray and Film that discusses the issues of x-rays and film. While the TSA security guard will tell you that the x-rays will not hurt your film (in fact, their first words are “What ISO is the film?”) unless it is a very high light sensitive film like ISO 800 or ISO 1600, that is also not true.

    X-rays are cumulative. One won’t hurt, two won’t hurt, but more than five will probably hurt. We make it a consistent effort to have all of our film hand inspected since we can’t know which roll went through how many airports before this particular trip.

    Luggage x-rays are different. If you put film in your luggage, and you happen to be at one of the airports which feature high intensity baggage x-ray machines, it can and will destroy your unprocessed (unexposed/new) film. DO NOT PUT UNPROCESSED FILM IN YOUR SUITCASE!!!

    Exposed film shouldn’t be hurt by baggage x-ray machines or departure x-ray machines.

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