Thursday, April 12, 2012
A few seasons ago I presented my client with an invoice for $6000. It was the bill for extra & overweight baggage on airlines for just one project. That did not include one ticket, one meal, no hotels or assistants & no photography fees. Just bags. For years I had been traveling with basically the same amount of equipment whittled down to a quite manageable pile but in recent times the airlines realized that they could exploit extra fees for luggage. My client was NOT amused.
The implications for destroying a longstanding career were obvious. It was quickly becoming too expensive to travel as a photographer. I had made a study for circumventing all the legalities & logistics of being a photographic road warrior. I had learned through colleagues & the "school of hard knocks" how to squeeze every ounce from the rules of travel & I had remained flexible for all the changes security & space allotments had applied. But this was a quantum leap in new fees & noone was being sympathetic to the photographer's plight.
It was obvious before my next big assignment I had to solve the problem. By coincidence & in parallel with all this turmoil, I had experimented with & written a book on speedlights: Speedlights & Speedlites: Creative Flash Photography at Lightspeed. For many jobs these small, compact flashes had become an amazing asset to my arsenal of techniques. In fact my coauthors & I were making the point that these computerized lights were capable of handling most of today's multitude of lighting tasks.
With trepidation we slowly converted to doing all location assignments with a much smaller kit. Enter LOWEPRO. With their suggestions & help we completely scaled down the amount of equipment we carry on many jobs. We experimented with all sorts of normal cases & backpacks. Now all cameras & all lights go into luggage that we carry onboard. Lightstands & tripods & larger devices continue to be stowed underneath the plane but we stuff speedlights, attachments & modifiers into two rollerboard cases (LOWEPRO Pro Roller x100 & Pro Roller x200). My assistant carries one & I carry the other. In addition we have compartmentalized all the equipment so if one case gets lost or separated we have enough in each to finish most jobs. My "one additional carryon" is my large camera bag.
The Lowepros fit into most overhead luggage bins on most larger airplanes & one is always stuffed with my laptop computer. They absorb a lot of abuse because we take the cases into very bizarre industrial environments as well as into hostile territories. One or both of the Lowepro bags has been to France, Russia, India & Brazil as well as over a dozen US states in the last two years.
One thing noone talks about is how easy they are to inspect when going through security. I found myself running the gauntlet at an airport in India & the guards were making a big deal of the items inside my Lowepro. They had no idea what they were looking at or what to do with me. Eventually after the manager weighed in & threw up his hands, we were left to the discretion of one minion. He was being pressured by three loud, obnoxious Australian youths to hurry because they were in danger of missing their plane. I was next & to spite them he was taking his slow time taking every flash & wire out & holding it up to everyone's amusement except mine. However things came out & went back in easily. I made my plane by the skin of my teeth. I have no idea what happened to the Aussies behind me.