As a photographer, I am naturally somewhat of a vagabond (something that I have commented on before in my previous writings). Travel flows through my veins, and the road often calls to me. I find it hard to stay still. There is something special about being able to see such varied places and do what you love in those places. That, of course, does not even touch upon the amazing human beings I meet and have met on the road – some friendships that to this day I still treasure.
The first other photographer that showed me how to travel much better and who shared my sense of wanderlust was Allen. Of course, a large portion of his advice centered on airport bars, finding strip clubs, and where to sneak to for a quick photoshoot (priceless advice) – however, I took away some amazing bits of information and have compiled this guide on not only how to pack for travel and be lightweight, and ready to go on a moments notice to get the shot.
Part 1. Clothing Selection.
Many people struggle with what clothes to bring on a trip and honestly, clothes take a lot of space and weight. If you’re flying than you are subject to the massive restrictions and costly baggage fees airlines impose on you. To combat this I have often found that assembling an outfit that can be multifunctional as well as semi-stylish is imperative. For instance, recently I had to fly out of state for a shoot that required me to wear a suit. Not wanting to wear a suit on a plane, and not wanting to fold up my blazer – I wore a basic outfit of jeans, loafers, a plain black shirt and the blazer over top. Basics like plain colored t-shirts *especially white and black* are a fucking mainstay. You can pair them with almost anything, they don’t take up a lot of space, and can be rolled. You don’t really need more than 2 pairs of pants – but multiple pairs of socks and underwear are mandatory. After a long day on set, nothing beats a change of socks. With two sets of pants, a few basic shirts, underwear, and socks you are not only set – but able to occupy less than a weekender bag’s worth of space.
I can’t even lie I LOVE packing my gear bags. Something about being able to organize a wide variety of things into one or two small bags hit the road and get creative, really sparks within me. My basic travel kit would include a weekend bag (I have a great one from Zara, and a TH one that I snagged at Marshall’s super cheap) for my clothing needs and a gear bag that can double as a laptop case. I had pretty strict criteria in mind for a camera bag. I used a messenger style bag for years that left my shoulders hurting and was difficult to access on the fly. I needed something that offered protection as well and was capable of holding a variety of gear that I could use for either stills or video. I found this bag and fell in love. Affordable, with hard shell protection, a laptop compartment, and plenty of storage for my lenses, two bodies, speedlights, and an insane amount of batteries. With this set up getting everything together on set is a breeze.
So what typically gets packed in here? I ALWAYS have my main lenses (an 18, 23, 85, and 110) as well as my primary bodies (a Fujifilm XT3, and XPRO). Outside of batteries and the obvious memory cards, I keep a pair of speedlights and an LED panel for continuous lighting. There are a few important things that through trial and error that will always stay in my bag as well- for instance, clothespins, a few heavy-duty clamps, rope, a USB rechargeable battery, ND filters and a smattering of audio cords and adaptors to work with my super tiny but amazing H1N. This bag is big enough that I can also store a bounce board, my laptop, charger, and AirPods. I have room leftover usually and pack a point and shoot with a few rolls of film.
Part III. Buying Fare
I always thought traveling was going to be way out of my affordability. I’ve been lucky enough to have clients fly me, bus me and train me to over 30 states. If I’m traveling on a client’s dime or my own dime I always work hard to get the best rates so that I can end up with more in my pocket. I’ve found a variety of ways to save cost traveling – for instance you can get fairly cheap bus tickets through FlixBus, which is typically a greater venture than Greyhound. Google also has the ability to route your path in the most cost-effective and time-effective ways as well. There are also resources like Scotts Cheap Flight list which routinely has travel to Asia, and throughout the world for under $600 RT. Of course, everyone knows that the furthest in advance you can buy the cheaper overall the trip is – the same thing applies to hotels. Skiplagged is another great resource for cheap flights – I’ve been able to twice fly from LAX to PHX for about $28 using their service.
PART IV Final Thoughts.
Traveling is tough on the body and the soul. So much of my time is eaten up planning, shooting, ripping cards, starting edits – and of course, I have to keep up with business. This usually results in a general lack of sleep and the ability to ease into grumpiness. It’s important with this in mind to make sure to spend time caring for yourself, relaxing, eating well, and taking copious amounts of LSD. I always choose hotels and AirBnB’s that can double as shooting locations and have amenities to make time seem way less painful. Get reward cards, earn as much cashback as you can and try to soak in the beauty in the limitless hours the open road carries with it.