If You Want To Keep It, Keep It With You

For those who wrote to me and asked about how to pack, this is in addition to my replies to you. I just thought about it now…

Have you heard the saying “If you want to keep it, keep it with you.” ??


Okay, maybe I just made that up.

What I want to say is that when out and about, when traveling, if something is really really important to you and you really really really do not want to lose it, then keep it with you — on your person, if possible — or at least keep it someplace that is really secure.

There was a seafarer who lost a few thousand dollars when he stayed at a [pretty decent] hotel chain in Miami FL. He left a good deal of cash in his supposedly-locked luggage, instead of using the safe in his room. When he returned from a day out, all his cash was missing.

Lesson: Don’t travel with so much cash and valuables. The best place for your hard-earned cash is the bank.

The Cruising Shutterbug says…

When staying in hotels, I sometimes* leave the Do Not Disturb sign on my door when I’m out of the room. That hopefully* keeps would-be intruders away, making them think that the door is bolted and that someone is inside.

Note that I said “sometimes” and “hopefully”. Nothing is foolproof. Do that everyday and the cleaners and room stewards will soon figure out that your Do Not Disturb sign is bogus.

I’ve also heard of land-based pro photogs who traveled with multiple camera bodies and lenses, and kept their gear (or some of it) in their check-in baggage. Upon arrival at their destination, they picked up their bags… and their equipment were missing.

I should probably also say here that their point of departure was MNL (Manila, Philippines). I know. It’s embarrassing. Anywayz…

Perhaps it was too obvious in an x-ray that it was a camera rig — i.e., gear was stored in the luggage looking exactly like what it is, an SLR with lens attached — or the photographers who got victimized looked too much like gadget freaks and like… um… professional photographers.

You may have already read about how pro photographers pack and do their traveling. If not, well, there’s plenty of that in the world wide web. Go Google, go Bing or go DuckDuckGo. 🙂

For your curious minds, here’s mine, summarized and simplified:

  • Things I won’t need while waiting in between flights and in the course of traveling go in my check-in luggage. But, having said that…
  • DSLR and lens go in my carry-on bag — a padded backpack
  • Flash gun can go in my check-in luggage
  • Cables, batteries, camera battery chargers, miscellaneous accessories all go in check-in

I think it’s unlikely that crooks will be able to quickly recognize a flash gun in an x-ray, with all the essential junk I have in my luggage — like my steamer, dryer, optical drive (who uses them anymore?) et al. Even if they recognize it as a piece of gadget, it’s unlikely they’ll waste time opening (i.e., breaking into) my luggage just for that. And even if a thief decides it was worth extracting from my luggage, it’s an item that is not as expensive and not as difficult to replace as my other gear. After all the thousands of photos I’ve shot, eventually I’ll be needing a new one anyway.

Sorry, but I will not go into how crooks are able to know what’s in your luggage and how they get your stuff out before your luggage gets to the plane. I don’t have insider information on that. But believe me, it has happened to a few unfortunate souls.

If I had a tripod or monopod, that would also go in my check-in luggage. But there’s no point traveling with one since we have those on board on every ship where we work.

Now, you could probably keep some lenses in your check-in bags. But…

As we travelers know, luggage gets banged and thrown around… a lot.

I did that once.

I put my 2.8 lens in its protective case, cushioned by layers of clothes, in my check-in luggage. When I finally got to the ship and started setting up my rig, I discover that the lens cover got pushed into the rim of the lens. Actually, it wasn’t the rim of the lens because I had a clear filter attached to my lens and so the lens cover went into the filter. But still. Bummer. I had to shoot soon and I couldn’t pry the cover off the lens filter. Of course, the quick solution was to unscrew the filter off the lens, but I was upset nonetheless that the shaped protective lens case and all the clothes around weren’t enough to protect it. My lens still worked fine and our good ol’ photo lab manager managed to get the cover and filter unstuck. All was well, but…

I’m never doing that again.

As for my non-photography gadgets…

  • Netbook and iPad go in my carry-on
  • Mobile phone stays on my person — that is, in my pocket, zipped up, and secure from falling out
  • Chargers for the above gadgets also go in my carry-on — you can tell I’ve had many long layovers
  • I don’t want hard drives banged around so they, too, go in my carry-on

Hope that helps you new photogs going on your first overseas adventure. 😉

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