How to Pack Like a Professional Travel Photographer

How to Pack Like a Professional Travel Photographer

If experience is the great teacher, then travel photographers Ira Block and Colby Brown could teach a master class. Boasting nearly half a century of travel shooting between them, Brown and Block shared some of their road-won wisdom with attendees at the Sony/PDN day at B&H Photo and Video.

Here’s what we learned:

More Bags Are Better

Both photographers stressed the need to pack only the photo gear you can carry onto a plane, since you don’t want to run the risk of checking your camera gear only to have the airline lose it in transit. Pack photo gear in a roller bag for travel to/from the airport but keep a backpack in your checked luggage for transporting gear when you’re at your destination. Block checks his tripod in his luggage but also carries a smaller spare in his carry-on just in case.

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Be Paranoid About Image Backup

Beyond the photo gear, Block and Brown are practically paranoid about backing up their images in the field. Their advice: pack plenty of SD cards. Block travels with 15 of them. When your card is full, don’t offload the images and format the card, just start a new card. This way, if your backup memory is damaged, you can still recover images off of your SD card.

As for backup memory, both photographers prefer SSD drives since they’re tiny and can take more of a pounding than hard discs. To be really safe, back up your entire travel shoot on two separate SSDs. Put one in your checked in luggage and the other in your carry on, Brown advises. For files as for flocks, there’s safety in numbers.

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Power Up

One of Block’s favorite pieces of camera gear to travel with is a power strip, with enough outlets to recharge a phone, camera battery and also power a laptop. He also brings a USB hub for extra charging. The power strip ensures that he’ll just need to carry a single set of outlet adapters when working in different countries, and not one for each plug he needs to work with.

As for batteries, both Brown and Block said they carry in the neighborhood of five extra camera batteries.

Pack to Survive 

Both Block and Brown often find themselves beyond the easy reach of the industrialized world’s amenities. In that case, they’re often left to purify their own water or traverse dangerous conditions with whatever’s on their feet.

A key component of Block’s travel kit is a UV water purifier. This wand-like device can be used to stir a glass of tap water to make it safe to drink or brush your teeth with. Block used to travel with iodine tablets for that purpose but those would leave the water tasting like iodine.

Brown keeps a pair of micro-spikes handy for when he needs to cross icy paths or navigate a glacier.