Tripods, photo storage, clothing, gear bags, traveling, oh my!

So, progress has been made. I've been delightfully busy shooting, but have managed to solve my tripod dilemma, found a laptop-free photo storage solution, decided which camera bag I'll use for my trip, and beefed up the cases for my Profoto lights, something I'll talk about in detail in a future post.

First off, the tripod: a carbon-fiber Benro C-069M8, the smallest in the lineup. It folds down ridiculously small - 14 inches(!) -- weighs just 2.2 lb. with the head, and supports 13.2 lb., and is just shy of five feet tall fully extended, all of which is just enough for my 5D Mark II and 24-70 f/2.8 zoom.

For traveling to India, I have finally come to terms with a minimalist kit: the aforementioned body, lens and tripod, a 24mm tilt-shift and a lensbaby 2.0. For backup, I'll take my Leica D-Lux 4. For photo storage, I picked up a Hyperdrive Colorspace UDMA, which has a 250GB drive, a passable viewing screen, is completely user-updatable, and only cost $300 from Adorama. I feel better about having gotten that from them after getting my tripod directly from a distributor in China to save myself $100 over U.S. retail.

I was going to break this out into several smaller posts, but I think it'll be better to roll it into a single travel-photo entry, including clothing options, tips on how to deal with traveling with camera gear, and how to pack it all for a multi-week trip that will take us from the Himalayas to the tropics, all in three weeks.

OK, so the bag I'll be taking is hardly stealthy, but it's relatively compact - the Crumpler 6 Million Dollar Home. It's got enough room inside for the cameras, lenses, cords, cables, lens filters, etc. that I'll bring, along with a little extra space for a hat and gloves as necessary.

Notice there's no flash in the kit. I'm an architectural photographer, and I like to use light. Lots and lots of light. If I can't have my Profoto kits, I'd rather do without. The 5DII does remarkably well at pretty high ISO settings, so I can get great stuff with the 2.8 lens and a 800-ish ISO. For really tough light, there's the tripod, which I can jam in on top of camera inside the bag.

To make things a little less susceptible to thievery, another upgrade was to swap out the Canon's garish red camera strap (which came complete with bright white embroidery proclaiming the make and model of the camera) for a plain gray one. Add a couple bits of judiciously-placed black gaffer's tape to hide the logos, and, voila - a much less flashy camera. The Leica benefits greatly from this treatment - covering up the red Leica logo on the body front and the Leica name on the back and lens cap took about 90 seconds and suddenly made the camera look like a run-of-the-mill point-and-shoot. I find that I get much better photos by attracting less attention, and a good way to do that is to avoid looking like a pro.

The carbon tripod is tougher to anonymize, but covering all the logos, etc., with some more black tape made it look a lot less flashy. The camera bag has been coming with me everywhere lately, for no other reason than to get it all scuffed up so it's also not looking all shiny and new.

So, my carry-on will be the camera bag, crammed with all my core equipment - the photo-storage device inside it's Pelican micro-case, the requisite battery chargers, power converters, my iPhone, medicines, a notebook, a paperback, some pens, etc., a battery-powered shortwave radio, and my iPod Shuffle.

The other carry-on will be a standard rolling carry-on bag containing clothing for the three-week trip, along with the first-aid kit and the tripod.

My wife will also have a carry-on, so I think we'll be covered for three weeks worth of stuff without needing to check anything, at least on the international legs. I expect we'll need to check some stuff on the internal flights on smaller aircraft.

All of our clothing is either lightweight wool, polypro, or nylon, so it packs small, and dries fast so it can be washed in hotel-room showers and dried overnight in the room or on a balcony rail (I pack a 15-foot length of parachute cord and some one-inch A-clamps from the hardware store to use as a clothesline and clothespins). Three complete changes of clothing, a rain shell, some long underwear, a wool hat and gloves and a pair of Teva sandals get packed; the heavier shoes go on my feet.

This post is out of chronological order; we returned from the trip a few days ago but I was unable to post this until now. Bear with me, intrepid reader. 

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