Heading To The “Big Easy”
By Robert Hanashiro, Sports Shooter Academy
Traveling with camera gear is like putting together a big jigsaw puzzle. Trying to get all of the pieces to fit, while keeping the baggage fees as low as possible, stay under 50 pounds per case … and get it all to your destination all in working order.
In the “old days” — aka getting two checked bags for free — it wasn’t as much of a concern to me. If I went over, it cost me (or rather my newspaper) $25 or $50 for being over by one piece or being overweight by a few pounds.
Present day? You could probably book a seat on the flight for your 400mm for price they charge for checking bags —-especially if you’re at 3 or 4 pieces and/or one is 5-pounds overweight.
That long glass would look good buckled into a (coach) seat!
Since I couldn’t book my flight to New Orleans for this weekend’s NCAA Men’s Final Four on Southwest —which does not charge for your first two checked bags— it meant a little bit of a change in my packing strategy.
Normally I carry onto the plane a computer backpack AND a Think Tank Rolling case.
(I’ve recently “down-sized” from the TTP Airport Security roller to the smaller Airport TakeOff after having some problems getting the larger case into the overhead bin on several flights late last year.)
But since I wasn’t flying Southwest couldn’t buy my way into the front of the first boarding group, I didn’t want to take the chance of getting the most dreaded words a traveling photographer can hear: GATE CHECK.
So I decided to board my UAL flight to New Orleans (via Houston — there are no direct flight to the New Orleans from LA!) with just a fully loaded computer/camera backpack.
I would load the roller into my trusty, 20-year-old Lightware 1629 MultiFormat Case (aka: The Travel Kit Case) and check it.
Using a digital luggage scale, I sorted and packed my gear into the TTP Airport TakeOff and a small rectangular shaped duffel bag I bought at the “Supply Sargent” (an army surplus store in Burbank). The duffel I bought recently to use to pack and check a Kart-A-Bag equipment cart and load some more stuff into it — like my clothes.
After some trial and error, mixing and matching things to keep the two pieces under 50 pounds, this is how it broke down:
Think Tank Photo Airport TakeOff Roller/Lightware 1629 MultiFormat Case (48 pounds)
- Nikkor 200-400mm zoom
- Nikon D300 camera body
- Nikkor 50mm
- Nikkor 24mm
- Nikon CoolPix P7000
- External liveview LCD monitor
- Card wallet
- Camera battery charger
- 5 camera batteries
- Small core gaffer tape
- Pouch with a set Pocket Wizard MultiMAXs plus cords
- TTP ChangeUp belt bag (w/ GoPro Hero and small clamp w/ ballhead)
Army Surplus Duffel Bag (36 pounds)
- Kart-A-Bag equipment cart
- Gitzo Monopod
- Nikon SB800 Speedlight w/ off-camera TTL cord
- HonlPhoto Traveler8 softbox
- Nikon fold-up camping/basketball chair
- Small tool kit
- Clothes (for 6 days) in Eagle Creek Packet-In
- Shaving Kit
Think Tank Photo ShapeShifter backpack
- Nikon D3S camera body
- Nikon D3 camera body
- Nikkor 24-70mm zoom
- Nikkor 70-200mm zoom
- MacBook Pro 15″ w/ power supply
- TTP Cable Management pouch with laptop accessories
- The latest “Lucas Davenport” and “Stephanie Plum” crime books
A few notes: A few notes:
- I use spare dividers from the Think Tank rollers as padding around and on top of gear during transport
- The Kart-A-Bag cart goes with me everywhere
- The Lightware 1620 MultiFormat is the best shipping/transport/storage case ever. Get one — well worth the investment.
- Nikon gave away the basketball chair several years ago at an event (the best, most useful schwag ever)
- I’m not sure what’s happened to the overhead bins, three Southwest flights the Airport Security would not fit wheels or handles first — so I had to place it sideways. All three of the flights the Southwest flight attendants gave me a bit of grief for not getting the roller in wheels/handles first. (But when I opened the roller and showed them what was in it, they were a bit more forgiving.
- The TTP Airport TakeOff has no problem fitting in the overhead wheels/handles first.
- Remote gear was shipped to New Orleans last week — 60 pounds worth.
- After I land at Louis Armstrong International I am heading straight to Coop’s Place and order the Cajun friend chicken with the rabbit & sausage Jambalaya!
(Bottom Of The 9th is an occasional column by Sports Shooter founder Robert Hanashiro. He is also USA TODAY’s west coast staff photographer.)