First published in The Photographer’s Mail, July 2013
Moving to another country is never an easy task, there’s so many things to take in to consideration, and deciding what to take is one of the more important ones.
Clothing and personal items aside, choosing which of my gear and hardware to pack when moving to the United States was hard for a few reasons. Not having a US Visa meant that I didn’t really know how long I was going to be there for and so did I want to take everything I owned just for a three month trip? I could always rent equipment once got there but that can get costly, and I’ve already paid for my kit so why shell out again?
The obvious answer was compromise. I was allowed two 23kg bags in my plane ticket and one of those was going to be clothes. The other was my snowboard, as there was no way I was going to the northern hemisphere in winter without it (Turns out there’s not as much snow near LA as I expected!). I then budgeted myself one more bag up to 32kg (the maximum the airline will take) for all my photography hardware. It wasn’t that expensive either, Qantas let me book a third 23kg bag for $90 and then charged me $60 for the upgrade to 32kg. $150 for all my lighting gear? Not bad at all!
So what did I take gearwise and how did I pack it? I’d always wanted a case that could house all my lights, stands, modifiers and grip rather than having it split in to smaller cases. I’d never found anything that I liked until I saw the Kata LW-99 Rolling Organiser. This thing is like a coffin on wheels. It’s 114cm long so it can accommodate my stands along with a tripod, and the 40cm width makes it easy to pack my 3 flash heads, cables, battery packs, 3 softboxes, grids, gels and an assortment of clips, clamps and gaff. Is it heavy? Yes, but with the built in wheels it’s much easier to carry one load than a few and I never forget anything anymore.
Now I have to admit that I didn’t get everything in the bag that I wanted to take, it was just over the 32kg limit, so I did have to spread a couple items between my other two bags such as my tripod and battery packs. But between those two bags I managed to fit my other sporting equipment (Climbing, Diving, Cycling) and an array of hard drives for images and backups.
One thing I would recommend if you’re travelling with quite a bit of heavy gear is a Travel Scale. It’s a small handheld scale for weighing your bags and it is invaluable. There’s nothing worse than getting to check-in at stupid o’clock in the morning, eyes still encrusted with sleep, and being told you need to drop some weight from your bags. Where’s it going to go? You can’t leave anything behind and so you play a frustrating game of Luggage Tetris on the airport floo, trying to spread the load between your bags as fast as you so you don’t have to get back in the queue. Not fun.
For me, the question of whether or not to take my gear was moot. I’m a location shooter and I love my artificial light, it’s what makes my shots and my style. We knew we would be doing a few long road trips and taking hired lighting wasn’t an option so this made perfect sense to me.
Don’t get me wrong, I can travel light if needed. One camera and a single lens will flex the creative muscle, but I was here to expand my horizons and shoot bigger, badder work than before. I wanted to start in the States with no restrictions and being able to say yes to any job because I had the equipment was paramount.
It paid off, I shot some great images and I got to do it with my own trusty equipment. My travels in the United States have just begun and I’m looking forward to sharing them.