The Big Trip II

by Steve Simon

Traveling with your camera is a secret dream of many of us. There's no question when you're in a new and interesting place, all your senses are stimulated particularly your visual sense and it almost feels like pointing your camera in any direction will yield more interesting stuff than when you're at home.

Of course this is not necessarily true, but traveling is a rich and rewarding life experience and it can and often does inspire great photography.

But the mundane details when traveling with your camera need to be addressed to make your shooting experience an enjoyable one.


Make sure you have the right adapters to insure all your electronics will work at your destination. For a complete list of world plug adapters, check out this site or the many like it. Most of our gear from laptops to chargers, work on a dual voltage system so all you need are the right adapters for the countries you plan to visit. Apple makes a World Travel Adapter Kit they sell for $40.

There's some great information here.


It's always a struggle to pack for a long trip, particularly when traveling in Africa. When I'm working on my own projects, I can pack a bit lighter, but when you're on assignment, you want to have the stuff that will get you the shot, not matter what. So, I end up taking a bit more stuff than I might otherwise. I talked about dumping out my stuff into gray bins at security last week, here's what I was carrying.

My LowePro Versa 200 Backpack is small enough to make the carry-on cut for most aircraft, yet will contain a lot of stuff. I also picked up a Crumpler 7 Million Dollar Home bag, a nice mid-sized bag that can accommodate my medium format or Nikon cameras and lenses, depending how I configure my gear.

I'm going to Angola and Mozambique and I expect the conditions won't be luxurious--I need to be able to move around quickly and this set-up will allow me to. Or so I thought, but the jury is still out on the ease of use of the following package. I really like wheeled cases, but most of them are just too big, and I haven't found one to work on a trip like this.

1. Mr & Mrs N. Portrait.jpg
26. Mrs N. Smile.jpg
Nhararai Janissone, 43 and his wife Maria Brute Simango 40, inside their home in Mossurize District, Manica Province, Mozambique. His name means " keep quiet, talk about only what matters, don't make war". Copyright Steve Simon.

Here's a list of my gear in the backpack:

Nikon D2x
Fuji S5
17-55mm 2.8
70-200mm 2.8
2-SB-800 Flashes
SC-29 off camera flash cord
Gary Fong Diffuser
Epson P-2000 Card Reader/Storage Drive
WhiBal Card
Edirol RD9 Recorder for collecting sound
MacBook Pro 2GHz with 100GB Drive (1-Firewire 400 Port)
OWC 7200rpm 200GB bus-powered Firewire/USB2 Drive
LaCie 5400 Firewire 250GB bus-powered drive.
LaCie 5400 160GB Rugged bus-powered Firewire/USB2 Drive
Western Digital Passport 160GB bus-powered USB2 Drive
25 DVD's
3-Lexar 300x 4GB CF cards
1-Lexar 8GB 133x 8GB CF card
2-Lexar 133x 4GB CF cards
2-Lexar 300x 4GB SD cards
1-Lexar Secure II 8GB Jump Drive
FireWire Reader, USB2 reader
32-AA Duracell Ultra Batteries
Chargers, Lens cloths
Lasolite Reflector
Visible Dust Sensor Cleaning Kit
Velbon El Carmagne 540 Carbon Fiber Tripod w/QHD-61Q Head

Those of you who follow this space may remember that last time I traveled to Africa, I lost my 160GB FW bus-powered drive before we landed. You can see I've increased my Gig-age and will no doubt keep a closer watch on my indispensable storage. I plan on keeping my main Aperture Library on the OWC 200GB and dedicate the LaCie 250GB drive for my vault. (It is recommended however, that the vault be an identical drive to the one holding the Aperture Library).

In the Crumpler Bag:

Mamiya 645AFDII Camera Body
Mamiya ZD 22 Megapixel Digital Back. (Not yet supported by Aperture it comes with Lightroom! Which I will promptly ignore and shoot Raw/JPEG till Aperture supports it)
75-150mm f4.5 Zoom
Kata Raincover
Stickers for the kids
Little LED Flashlight that hooks onto my Domke vest, a lifesaver in remote areas with no electricity.

In my suitcase: Quantum Battery
Plastic Bags
Domke J2 w/inserts

This is a lot of gear to lug, but the medium format is for a specific project I will work on after my assignment, and I will leave it with a friend in Johannesburg where I return after my assignment. Which brings me to an important point.

6. Mom & Baby Pickup Red.jpg
Many people have bicycles but many still have to walk long distances for everyday tasks like fetching water or going to the clinic. We picked up these grateful women and gave them a lift in the back of our pick-up, on our way to church. Copyright Steve Simon

I will follow up in future posts just how my decisions to take what I did positively or negatively impacted my work. I said it last week but it's worth repeating, make sure all your gear is insured, and insured for its replacement value. More on my big trip next post.


2007-08-30 15:38:06
You have a ton of stuff!
2007-08-30 20:24:42
My back hurst reading that list BUT I am curious to hear about the ZD back's performance.
Ellen Anon
2007-08-30 21:48:22
Steve, one suggestion for you is to also take along a Delkin 34 Express Card Reader. Looking through your gear I saw only one CF card reader - I've had the experience of having them go bad - or the firewire drive on the computer. Since then I make sure I have at least two ways of downloading the cards to the computer.
Ellen Anon
2007-08-30 21:52:16
Wups - I just saw that you have a firewire reader as well as a USB2 one. Great minds ...
2007-08-31 12:28:38
I was thinking of getting a few more Bus powered drives, but I wanted to have the Firewire capability. Will the drives you mentioned work as bus powered but connect via Firewire?
Steve Simon
2007-09-01 04:13:57
AB--the picture does not show the nipple (strategically covered by the hand) and it was a nice moment so i posted it. i appreciate your sensitivity, `i just wish more people would appreciate the plight of so many poor in `mozambique and the overwhelming problem of HIV Aids and food shortages there. There's lots we can do to help. From Oxfam to Care to hundreds of others. I've been trying to do my part these past few years.
Steve Simon
2007-09-01 04:16:12
Micah, yes the drives will work bus-powered via the firewire connection. Very fast. Thanks Ellen, so far the Lexar reader is working fine, not had to pull out the back-up.