Magazine Article


How to Protect Your Gear-and Yourself-When Traveling on Assignment: Part I
Travel Tips

Salt Flats image Jim Haberman
Salt Flats image Jim Haberman captured during an archaeological assignment in Israel.
NYC by John Pringle
New York-based freelance photographer John Pringle has had some harrowing experiences with airport inspectors.
Children in water by Ron Storer
Ron Storer traveled to Ecuador to work with a ministry in a jungle area depicted in Life magazine, the movie End of the Spear, and the documentary Beyond the Gates of Splendor.
Pizza image by  Bill Truran
The studio Bill Truran rented for this pizza packaging shoot was in Fairfield, NJ. All the equipment for the shoot arrived in his Taurus. Thanks to the gurney and some strong straps, he was able to bring it all into the studio in one trip.

If you're a wedding or portrait photographer, sports or news photojournalist, product, fashion, or architectural shooter, travel may play a significant role in your business. Chances are you've learned some lessons the hard way when it comes to the safety and security of your gear and your images. No doubt you've also found some products or services that support your new travel strategies. In Part I of this special report, Studio Photography readers offer valuable travel tips and great product discoveries. The May issue of Studio Photography includes the latest crop of bags designed to protect your gear. More Travel Tips to follow. . .

JIM HABERMAN, Jim Haberman Photography (, of Chapel Hill, NC, is currently serving as the photographer for the Yotvata Achaeological Excavations of a fourth century Roman fort in the Arava, Israel. The assignment was going well for Haberman until his hard drive was confiscated by security at Ben Gurion Airport on his was back to the U.S.

"After six months of photographing in the Middle East, my 200GB external hard drive with all my photographs was confiscated by Israeli security at Ben Gurion Airport, as I waited to depart for the U.S.," recalls Haberman. "I hadn't had a chance to back up any of the 120GB on the drive. It was the first thing on my ‘to do' list when I got back. I was told they needed to do a test on it and it would be returned to me shortly.

"A fretful week later, I got it back, but to my horror it didn't work. After three weeks of vacillating between extreme rage and deep depression, I finally found a company to recover my photographic files. recovered all my files, were very professional and courteous to deal with, and while they were not inexpensive, they did everything they said they would and on time.

"If I had backed up the files, it would have been on another 200GB external drive, and I would have had two destroyed drives, not one. Perhaps, if I had burned DVDs this could have been avoided, though I didn't have much access to a computer, and 120GB of DVDs would have added to my travel weight. One bit of advice passed down to me from a friend: If you must retrieve data from a drive, have somebody do it who specializes in just that. It is possible to ruin your chances to recover lost data if the person doesn't know what they are doing. I was lucky."

TOM DEININGER (, of Davis, CA, is a portrait photographer who travels four to six times a year for client photo sessions, workshops, mentoring, and photo safari adventures. His website,, will be up in Q4. All his travels are made hassle-free thanks to a couple of hardy carry-ons.

"My Tamrac Model 759 Photo/Computer Backpack and my Flightable Model V1600—both carry-ons—are all I need when I'm traveling for a few days," says Deininger. "I pack my Canon EOS 20D and 12" Sony laptop in the Tamrac backpack. The Flightable opens into a small table and I use the computer pocket for carrying my small Optima video projector. Plus I still have room for some clothes. So it's my version of ‘Have Camera Will Travel!' I don't have to wait for luggage at the other end and since the V1600 has wheels, I can put my Tamrac case on top of it when on smooth ground. Works for me!"

JOHN PRINGLE (, of New York City, NY, is a freelance photographer currently assisting at German RTL TV. He teaches art and photography to the neighborhood elderly and children at the Isabella Resource Center in Washington Heights. He has had his share of daunting encounters with inspectors.

"The first inspector proceeded to open a number of film canisters in an area with another officer strategically placed on the upper level, and a third near the exit," Pringle recalls. "Every two or so canisters, he would peer up to measure my reaction, so I just zoned out since there was nothing amiss.

"On another trip, I carried my big glass onboard only to have a lovely young inspector drop one of the lenses later. I gently told her the replacement price. On a third trip, an inspector could not understand how a youthful person could own such camera gear, so she proceeded to test me on its functions.

"What I have found is that your demeanor stabilizes or sets off more alarms than your gear. Overly happy or nonchalant is not good. Do no wrong and you should have no worries. Pack as light as possible and wrap each item individually."

RON STORER, of Ron Storer Photography (, Auburn, WA, has worked for a variety of NGOs over the past 10 years. The bulk of his business is weddings, seniors, kids, and he has a heart for ministry. He learned the hard way how not to treat his gear.

"I was working freelance for the Mission Aviation Fellowship. We were traveling to Ecuador to work with a ministry in the jungle area that had been profiled by Life magazine 50 years before, as shown in the movie End of the Spear and the documentary Beyond the Gates of Splendor. We knew the security risks and had been careful to count Pelican cases and all gear at each stop.

But in a few moments, I made several mistakes: (1) I walked onto the bus carrying one of my cameras, letting everyone know what could be in my carry-on bag; (2) I put the bag under one of our seats with no one watching behind; (3) I didn't place the bag on my lap; (4) I disregarded several feelings that something could be wrong.

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