By Sara Goodnick
Since there have been a few questions regarding flying with camera gear from some of our participants on various workshops, I decided it might be helpful to put together some info for everyone. Some of these tips have come from my fellow photographers and I thank them.
If you plan to travel a lot, consider applying for Trusted Traveler and TSA Pre-check status. You will get entry into quicker security lines, and for Trusted Traveler, quicker re-entry into the USA if traveling abroad.
Airline seating: be sure you are not in a bulkhead row so you have a seat in front to stow your gear under.
Carry your camera gear on board as carry-on luggage. Do not under any circumstances allow your cameras or lenses to be checked. Carry them on with you and keep them with you. Place them under the seat in front of you or in the overhead bin ahead of you so you can see them at all times. There are many stories of photographers checking a well-packed camera bag and finding their lenses in tiny pieces when they arrived. Keep the other essentials right there with you, too, such as the chargers, batteries, the memory cards, and laptop.
Regarding camera bags as luggage, be sure of the weight and size limitations by checking their specific rules online, and measuring your bags. Be prepared to move everything fragile into a smaller collapsible bag that you can place under the seat in front of you if forced to gate check your bag. I always keep an extra nylon bag, or collapsible daypack and a sweater for padding for the fragile gear in my camera bag carry-on. If flying with a partner, maybe that person can take on some of your gear in an emergency. Have another collapsible bag ready.
Remove the lenses from the cameras and use the body caps to cover the sensors, and cap both ends of the lenses. The extra stress on a camera and lens bumping around together can damage the connection between the two.
Bring a good tripod. A few years ago at the Grand Canyon, one of our participants had set hers up a few feet back from a steep cliff preparing for a beautiful sunset. It was quiet with no wind. She turned away to get something from her bag, and when she turned back, her camera and tripod had gone over the edge never to be seen again! It was a good camera on a light tripod that just became unbalanced.
If you bring one of the smaller, lighter tripods, you can stabilize it with a strap, or cord attached to it and your camera bag, a rock, or other large heavy object. Do not extend it to full height.
I know people who take their tripods on as a carry-on piece of luggage. Some airlines do not even count it as one of your carry-on pieces. Check with your airline ahead of time.
Scott-E-Vest https://www.scottevest.com/best-travel-clothing.shtmlis a company that specializes in travel clothing with many pockets for everything. They have clothing for both men and women. Their vests are great for photographers. I don’t have the specialty photographer’s vest because it’s new, but I love the one I have. They don’t look like traditional photographer vests, so you might be less of a target for thieves.
Speaking of thieves, I always remove the brand name neck strap that comes with a new camera and replace it with a plain one (with extra padding for comfort). I don’t want anyone knowing what my gear is. Some even go so far as to cover the brand name on their camera with black electrical tape.
For cold weather destinations, wear your hiking boots on the plane. Take layers, including down sweaters, windbreakers, and wind pants, as well as your jacket, hat, and gloves. Look into purchasing fisherman’s specialty mittens that free up your fingers for photography purposes.
Sara Goodnick is a Volunteer Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes.