Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Travel Like A Pro

"Now boarding, US Airways flight 708 to Munich, Germany. All passengers please proceed to gate A20."
Text & Photography By Tom Bol Published in Shooting
Travel Like A Pro
First, the guy didn't want to take off his shoes. This is standard practice in the U.S., and not something to debate with TSA officials. This traveler made a huge issue out of taking his shoes off, but finally relented. Then came the laptop problem. Why, he argued, did he have to take his laptop out of the bag? Once again, this is standard practice.

His bad attitude was starting to rub off on the security officials, and the whole process was slowing down considerably. Security was just doing their job. So, be polite, follow the normal procedures, and you'll move on through more quickly.

6 TRAVELING WITH A LOT OF GEAR. Many of my assignments require me to bring travel equipment. Sometimes, this amounts to multiple cases of 1,100-watt flash packs and heads, extra batteries, cables—all the things that will ensure my bag gets checked by security.

You may not be traveling with that much equipment, but here's what I do to avoid problems. First, I have an envelope addressed to TSA officials that they see the second they open my bag. This envelope documents the type of batteries my packs use, and what I'm doing to make sure they're safe. All my Elinchrom packs allow me to take out a fuse and make the battery inactive until the fuse is replaced. The batteries are lead-acid, and are certified safe for air travel. Check TSA regulations ( on batteries, especially if you're carrying lithium batteries. I also have my mobile phone number on the envelope, so I can be reached with any questions. So far, this has worked great for flying with strobes.

If you're traveling with speedlights loaded with double AA alkaline batteries, you should have no problems. Don't travel with loose batteries in your luggage, have them in the device or packaged.

7 DON'T ADVERTISE YOUR CAMERA. I once was on a photo shoot in Brooklyn, N.Y. I was teaching students how to light models, and the gritty streets were a terrific location. I had just bought a Nikon D3s, and still had the strap with the camera name emblazoned with big yellow letters. Strobes were going off, models were striking poses, and everyone was having a good time.

A light needed adjusting, so I put my camera down on my bag right beside me. I adjusted the light, turned around to get my camera and—poof—it had been stolen.

I learned three things right then. First, change your camera strap so it isn't a billboard saying, "Steal me." Second, never put your camera or any expensive gear on the ground, even if it's right beside you. And third, buy a camera bag that allows you to change lenses without putting anything on the ground. Big photo backpacks are great when you are alone in the woods, but a sling or shoulder bag is a better choice for busy streets. With the lens included, that mistake cost $7,000. Ouch!

8 USE A ZOOM LENS. Zoom lenses today are excellent. Most have image stabilization and extended zoom ranges. When I travel I use my Nikon D800 and a 28-300mm zoom lens. This lens covers just about everything I need during a day of travel.
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