DSLR travel

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Photo courtesy PDPhoto.orgLuckily for me, I have been a little busy with work related travel lately.  As my friends and family know, it's almost to the point where I'm becoming overwhelmed, but hey I can't complain about work right?  I'm actually on a plane right now taking advantage of the down time to write this entry.  I'm flying Continental Airlines to an undisclosed location with my DSLR's over my head in a carry-on case which brings me to the purpose of this blog.  

It's been a while since traveled with a full out camera, sound and lighting package.  We don't have the luxury of a rental budget on this gig, so I spent some time Googling for information about traveling with production gear to freshen up on all of the rules and baggage restrictions.  I figured I'd write this up to make travel simpler for other DSLR shooters.

First, Continental's rules are 1 carry-on bag 14 in x 9 in x 22 in weighting up to 40lbs and one personal item like a laptop commuter, briefcase, or personal entertainment device.  They also allow checked baggage up to a maximum outside dimension of 62 inches and weighing 50lbs.  There is a fee to check luggage.  The first two checked bags are $23 and $32 if paid for online.  Another thing to keep in mind is that you cannot check any lithium batteries, so you'll have to carry on all of your camera batteries.

My goal for this trip was to stay within these limits to be as cost effective as possible.  I ended up maximizing my equipment inventory using only 3 cases and 1 carry-on laptop shoulder bag.  So here is how I did it.

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Pelican 1510 carry-on

The heart of my kit for this trip is 2 DSLR bodies.  Camera A is a Canon EOS 5dmkII.  Camera B is a Canon EOS 7D.  I decided to bring only zoom lenses for speed and an easier set up.  They are a Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, Canon 24-70 f/2.8L, and the Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS.  So that was the core, now the challenge was to see what other support gear, lights and audio gear I can also take.  

I would never dream of checking a camera, so I chose to use a Pelican 1510 rolling case with padded dividers and a lid organizer over a backpack  to hold the cameras and lenses in order to save my back.  In that case, I also have 6 batteries for the cameras, 12 16gig compact flash cards, a Lightcraft Workshop Fader ND, a set of Tiffen ND filters from .3-1.2, and a polarizer.  I also was able to fit my 7'' Marshall monitor and two Sony NP-90 L series batteries to power it and a Litepanels Micro.  For audio, I packed the Zoom H4n, two Sennheiser Evolution wireless systems, two Tram capsules, a Sennheiser ME-66, a Rode Video Mic, and SD cards.  Also in the case was a hard drive just incase the producer's drive didn't work.  

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My laptop bag.Just a tip, make sure some of your batteries are charged incase TSA wants you to power up to prove they are really cameras and production equipment.  I also put fresh batteries in the mics and threw in a 3 foot xlr incase they wanted to see them function as well.  You can never be too careful.  No one wants to loose expensive gear at a check point.  FYI, TSA will probably open your camera case and swab for explosives.  They did that to me.  It's not a big deal, just takes a few extra minutes.  The woman who screened mine was fascinated with my 24-70 and the Marshall monitor.  

In my laptop bag are, my computer and 7506 headphones for music and iPhone movie viewing during the flight.  Of course they are also for production sound monitoring.

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Light Kit in a 1610 case.Now on to the checked luggage. Bag number 1 is a Pelican 1610 case that will hold a stripped light kit.  I haven't had the money to invest in some ultra portable LED lights yet, so I packed two hot lights.  An Arri 650 fresnel, and an Lowel Pro light with a 250w bulb will me through interview setups.  I love the little Lowel for jobs like this because it is so small and packs a punch  I also haw a speed ring and Chimera for the 650, a short stinger, gels, a dimmer, reflector, and lots of foam to protect everything.

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Golf bag with tripod, lights stands, shoulder support, misc. camera accessories, and clothing.The second case is a travel bag for golf clubs that I got for free while helping a friend move.  It is a large rolling duffle bag that fits my Miller Solo DV carbon fiber legs, a DS10 head, two light stands, all of my camera chargers, spare cables, and a Red Rock Micro rig.  This bag also contained clothing for a 3 day stay.

So how did I fair on weight?  That was my biggest concern.  Being an avid fisherman, and really got to test the accuracy of my fishing scale.  It is advertised as dead on when it comes to accuracy, and the manufacturer was right!  The carry on Pelican weighed in at 37lbs.  The checked Pelican 48lbs and the golf bag was 42.5lbs.

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Boga Grip fishing scale.No excess baggage fees.  Success!  Until the gate agents and flight attendants try to get you to check the camera at the gate.  Always refuse.  After an argument with a rude flight attendant that resulted in me demanding that they agree to insure the camera case and put it in writing, space for 6 more carry on bags mysteriously opened up in the overhead storage.  I would much rather pay to guarantee that my camera makes in on the plane than for all the other in flight services that they offer.  

Safe travels everyone. I'd love to know how you travel with gear.