Packing Hacks for Trouble-Free Travel

Documentary travel photographer Richard I’Anson has been hitting the road for almost four decades, and the number of countries he’s traveled to is just shy of 100, across all seven continents.

He is in high demand for his captivating and engaging travel images which cover everything from portraits to landscapesto festivals, and literally everything in between. His work is published worldwide in books, magazines, newspapers, brochures, calendars, posters, cards, andon websites.

In 2014, Richard was one of five photographers selected to appear in the first series of National Geographic Channel’s television documentary, Tales by Light, which now streams on Netflix. Not only a Canon Master Photographer, Richard is also an Ambassador for the Australian Himalayan Foundation, and World Nomads chose him as their Travel Photography Scholarship Mentor.

Richard’s extensive library of travel images, comprising over 21,000, can be licensed via Getty Images and AWL. He has had 13 books published, including Lonely Planet’s wildly successful Guide to Travel Photography, now in its fifth edition.

PackingHacks_RichardiAnson

©Richard I'Anson; Holi festival at Bakai-Bihari Temple, Vrindavan, India.

Time to hit the road

A great deal has changed since Richard first began his global adventures: no more buying traveler’s cheques, international phone cards, or massive blocks of zero communication with the outside world. But, one thing that has remained constant for all travel photographers is the challenge of packing! Thankfully, with so many decades of experience behind, Richard has more than his fair share of brilliant packing hacks to share.

When Richard travels, and he travels a lot –anywhere from three to four months every year –chances are that he’s overseas on assignment or leading photography tours. As such, it’s crucial he comes back with the required shots.

“I keep my gear as simple as possible and essentially take the same gear on every trip,” he says. “To cover the range of subjects I know I’ll encounter and to work as fast and as efficiently as possible, I always carry two DSLR cameras, one with a 16-35mm or 24–70mm lens and the other with a 70–200mm lens. I only take the 200-400mm lens when wildlife is a key subject of the trip.”

Over the years, Richard has reviewed and revised his essential travel kit (which appears at the end of this article), but a crucial consideration should always be to consider the type of subject matter you want to capture while overseas, and then pack accordingly. Richard notes that “it pays to be very clear on what you intend to photograph and your personal goals for your photography”.

There are few things more frustrating than lugging a bunch of gear half way around the world and having it in your pack for weeks on end, but never seeing the light of day. But one thing that is in fact more frustrating is missing opportunities because you were too ruthless in your approach to packing. It’s a fine balance.

Time to hit the road

The best teacher there is, experience has helped Richard streamline his approach to packing for a trip, but there are a number of criticalbits of gear without which could spell disaster for a trip. The following seven items are considered essential, must-haves on any travel photographer’s packing list:

  1. A second camera bodyfor quick and efficient shooting and as a back-up in case of breakdown or loss.
  2. Portable hard drives (x2) for storing and backing-up image files on a daily basis.
  3. A carbon fibre tripod suited to the camera and lenses you have. It should be tall enough without having to extend the centre column and compact and light enough so that you are not tempted to leave it behind.
  4. Cable release or remote switch.
  5. Camera covers to protect from rain, snow, dust, coloured power,etc. Richard relies on AquaTech SportShield rain covers.
  6. Dry bag if you expect to be on Zodiacs. These will keep you gear safe from rough seas, rogue waves, rain,and snow. Richard’s pick is the Gill 60 litre dry duffle bag.
  7. Knee pads are invaluable when shooting wildlife in Antarctica and the Arctic on land and from Zodiacs.
PackingHacks_RichardiAnson_1

©Richard I'Anson; Brash ice & iceberg during snowstorm, Gourdin Island, Antarctica.

Another crucial consideration is insurance. Richard suggests checking your travel insurance to see just how covered you are in case your gear gets lost or stolen.

Chances are you might be shocked to see just how little cover the policy automatically provides for camera gear. If that’s the case, you might want to consider dedicated camera equipment insurance, possibly through an insurance broker, or as an add-on to regular cover.

Besides his kit, Richard says that are three other items that he never leaves home without: a Lonely Planetguide book, a head torch, and a jacket with pockets big enough to carry lenses if necessary, so as to avoid airport hassles.

Hoops at the airport

As carry-on restrictions have tightened and many a traveler have found themselves in the situation where they have had to have their personal luggage weighed, Richard says that over the years he’s been particularly fortunate, despite having heard many stories from others about challenges with luggage. “I think I’ve gotten away with minimal hassles due to the fact that my carry-on camera bags do not look oversized or bulging at the seams –even though they are way overweight. If I do anticipate a problem (typically with budget airlines), I will put lenses into jacket pockets and a camera with lens around my neck,” he says.

In the bag

If you thoughtchoosing the right gear to travel with was challenging, try choosing the right bag! “Like many photographers,I’ve been on a lifelong search for the perfect bags,” Richard admits. He says that he’s happy with thecombination of an ONA ‘Astoria’shoulder bag and a Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L.

“When I’m actively shooting,I prefer to use a shoulder bag for speed of access, while the backpack is mostly used for transporting the gear.”

In terms of keeping his lenses clean while on the road, Richard says that he just uses a lens cloth. “The lenses have protective filters on them, which I often remove at the destination, but I don’t carry lens caps or keep the lenses in cases.” To deal with dust on a sensor, he has a VSGO sensor cleaning kit, consisting of a blower, swabs, and liquid cleaner. “However, I have never used it and it is left behind except on trips to extreme destinations like Antarctica and deserts.”

Richard I’Anson’s kit

  • Canon EOS-1D X MKIII DSLR camera body (x2)
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f2.8L III USM zoom lens
  • Canon EF 24-70mm f2.8L II USM zoom lens
  • Canon EF 70-200 f2.8L IS III USM zoom lens
  • Canon EF 200-400mmf4L IS USM Extender 1.4X zoom lens
  • Gitzo G1228 carbon-fibre tripod with Induro ball head
  • SanDisk 512GB & 64GB Extreme Pro CFexpress memory cards in each camera
  • Lenovo laptop computer with 14-inch screen loaded with Adobe Lightroom Classic
  • 500GB portable SSD (x2)
  • SanDisk Extreme Pro CFexpress card reader
  • DJI Mavic 2 Prodrone

Richard I'Anson

Documentary Travel Photographer

Richard I’Anson is a documentary travel photographer who has travelled the world over the past 38 years amassing a substantial and compelling collection of images of people on all seven continents, building a career based on his twin passions for travel and photography.

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