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Tips and techniquesTravel and destinations

Travel Tips for Nature Photographers (Part 4)

By November 19, 2018No Comments

Gura Gear Kiboko camera bag on luggage wheels is relatively inconspicuous and looks a lot like an ordinary roller bag.

Travel Neat

Story and photo by Kathy Adams Clark

I’ve learned over the years that airline employees seem to ignore “neat” travelers.  The employees at the check-in counter and gate tend to look right past a passenger with a small backpack and legal-size roller bag.  It seems like every business traveler has them.  For females, sometimes it’s that stylish tote and roller bag.  My camera gear now mimics that business look so I don’t standout during check-in or at the gate.

From the Editor: We have been posting a series of travel tips about making the life of the traveling photographer smoother and easier. This is the fourth in that series. You can find part 1, part 2 and part 3 in the blog archives.  In this installment, Kathy Adams Clark talks about getting through the airport under the radar by traveling neat. If you have a favorite tip, share it with us! Send it to and we’ll post it in a future article.

Several years ago, I arrived at the check-in counter and saw four women with all their photography gear spread out on the airport floor.  Their carry-ons were huge, gaudy, plastic grocery shopping bags loaded with individual pieces of camera equipment plus pillows, blankets, candy, etc.  The check-in counter staff had rejected the carry-ons because each was over-weight and didn’t meet size regulations.  Yep, the ladies were going to be part of my workshop group. I slipped past them and waited for them beyond security at the gate.  When the ladies arrived at the gate their gaudy plastic shopping bags were a bit more under control but the gate staff gave them grief again before letting them board the plane.  By the time we reached our destination, one lady had already lost a laptop.

After that incident, I started noticing that airlines employees notice things that are out of the ordinary.  They notice floppy, dangling straps.  They notice a bag that’s too heavy to lift.  They notice a huge backpack.  My strategy is to blend with the crowd of frequent fliers, avoid hassles and get on the plane with all my gear.

My “travel neat” philosophy also applies to my checked bag.  TSA is going to scan and, maybe, open your checked bag.  That’s just the way it is.  My checked bag has my clothes on the bottom in small travel cubes called Lugs.  Anything hard, like my tripod or toiletry bag is on top of the clothes.  I put all non-essential camera gear in a bag on top of the clothes.  The scanner is going to show my tripod, shutter release, flash, etc., so why not let the inspectors have easy access?  I’d rather show the contents on top versus hide those things under my clothes.  This way the inspectors can get in my bag, see what they need to see, and get out of my bag.

Sometimes it’s good to stand out from the crowd, but definitely not in airports!


Kathy Adams Clark is a Texas-based photographer whose mission is to bring people to nature through photography. Her photographs are published in newspapers, and a variety of periodicals. She is a sought-after speaker and teaches photography classes, photography workshops, international photo tours, sells stock images, and is engaged in several writing projects.  A long-time NANPA member, she is a past president and helped create NANPA’s Regional Events. Learn more about her work and business, KAC Productions, at or catch up on her blog at