The days when travel was glamorous are long gone. Nowadays, heading to the airport is more likely to elicit a sigh of nervousness or frustration than it is to make you purr with pleasure. With all the gear we need to bring along, what can photographers do to make the travel experience a little safer and less stressful?
“One of the most uncomfortable situations a photographer can face is getting separated from their valuable gear,” says Gustavo Costa. There are the risks we take with checked baggage–theft, damage or the bag being lost in transit. And there are the risks we face once we get to our destination. Obviously, the best option is to always have your gear with you, but be careful about backpacks and gear that advertises you are a photographer.
“A traveling photographer’s gear can be very appealing to robbers, and is most vulnerable when you’re alone in an unfamiliar place. The best approach in these cases is to be in a group, and accompanied, as much as possible, by local people who know how to avoid the dangerous areas. If that’s not in the cards, avoid attracting attention and try to pass as unnoticed as possible. Use inconspicuous backpacks, without the symbols or labels that scream “I’m a photographer!” Take out your cameras only when you are going to take a picture. Leaving an expensive camera hanging off your shoulder or clipped to your backpack when you’re in a crowded place is like an engraved invitation to a thief.
“Do not lose sight of your equipment at any time, especially in crowded places like restaurants or bars. And don’t put your bag down behind you at a popular photographic location. Many people have an innocent habit of hanging their backpacks on the back of their chair. Never do that! There are crooks who very skillfully take advantage of these moments to extract things from the bags without the slightest suspicion on the part of the owner.
“So be alert at all times!”
Donald Dymer agrees. “I call it ‘the advertisement.’ It’s like hanging out a billboard that you are a photographer and have a lot of valuable stuff with you. When traveling in small planes in Africa, the amount of gear I could bring was severely limited. That was a blessing in disguise. I was forced to use a regular backpack instead of the obvious camera backpack. I used padded inserts available at many camera suppliers to protect the bodies and lenses, and put things like the tripod and battery chargers in my hand luggage. I managed to get the teeny but completely-stuffed roller bag and my backpack as my carry-on allowance on the international flights from and to the U.S. so it never left my sight.”
“In reality, I feel that the most risky times are during the arrival and departure at airports, what happens with your checked baggage in airports, and if you go places in towns where you shouldn’t. It’s also good to know you are covered with your NANPA insurance through Chubb.”
A smart traveling photographer is a cautious one, inconspicuous, alert at all times, and avoiding risks. Being prudent won’t interfere with your enjoyment of your trip or impact your photography experience, but having your gear stolen sure will!