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Vivid Light Photography, digital and film photography online
Traveling with Digital
Means Understanding Newton's Law
By Gary W. Stanley

Just about the time I start getting comfortable traveling with 100 rolls of x-rayable film, and a camera bag that, thanks to tightened security, is now swabbed and thoroughly inspected, along comes the digital revolution. Of course, switching from film to digital doesn't change the fact that the security folks may still want to inspect my camera bag. But just think of the tremendous psychological burden that is lifted off your shoulders knowing that memory cards aren't affected by the x-ray machine!

Wow! Let's see, how does Sir Isaac Newton's Law go again? 

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. 

I just found out what that means! While this educational experience has not deterred me from shooting digitally; it has forced me to re-think the process of Traveling with Digital.

The very first thing I noticed was how much heavier my laptop is than the 100 rolls of film that I used to carry.

Yes, but Gary, you already started dragging along a laptop to retrieve emails when you're away from home, so that doesn't really count right?

Oh yeah, that's right. But now, during a busy photo tour, I have the laptop with me so I can download my CF cards, edit and organize my images during down time in my hotel, instead of resting between shoots. ??

Okay, now that I have justified that, I need to go through my new check list. 

1. Did I bring my charger for the laptop? 

2. Did I bring the charger for my cell phone? 

3. Did I bring the battery charger and extra batteries for my camera? 

4. Did I bring the AC adapter so that I can clean my camera's CCD sensor if need be? Don't forget the cleaner and applicator. 

5. Do I have enough memory cards for this trip? 

6. What happens if I fill my memory cards before I get back to my hotel? Okay, I brought my portable Apacer Disc Steno that burns a CD direct from my CF card. 

7. Don't forget the Apacer charger and the adapter cord for the van. 

8. Oh yeah! I almost forgot the blank CDs, let's see, twenty or thirty of those should do. ?? 

I use 4-Delkin Pro 640MB CF cards, so I can record one full card to one 700MB CD, it just seems to make sense to me. I usually am able to wait until I get back to the hotel before I erase a CF card. I like to use the laptop to verify that the CD burned properly and to put a copy of the images on the laptop.

I usually pack the Apacer, the CDs, extra batteries, chargers and all that sort of stuff with my tripod in my checked luggage. I do however, keep my camera batteries, charger and extra CF cards in my camera bag and with me as carry-on luggage, that way I'm not S.O.L. if my checked luggage doesn't arrive when I do. By the way, make sure you weigh your checked luggage so that it doesn't exceed the airline's limit (usually 50-55lbs) or you'll be scrambling around trying to meet the weight regulations. They do check from time to time, so be forewarned.

My big travel bag weighed 5,345 lbs (just kidding!) the first time I traveled with all my digital stuff, so I'm passing along this rhetorical question: I have two travel rolling bags to check in at the counter plus my camera bag and laptop which will be my carry-on. My big travel bag is 4lbs over the airline's weight limit and my smaller bag is well under that limit, so why do they make me take stuff out of the big bag and put it in the small bag? Aren't they all going on the same plane? (airlines & logic are like oil & water - Ed)

Please realize that I'm poking fun at this part of what I do for a living. For me, the ever-constant worrier, this is where I spend the most time stewing over things. It's certainly not when I'm photographing, and thank God that being out in nature, taking beautiful images, more than outweighs the inconvenience of travel. It is, however, a thought for anyone who travels to a given destination. It takes a little more effort to be properly prepared, but with all those adapters, power cords and connectors a serious detailed checklist is a good idea.

How much stuff can one photographer carry?

Some folks have chosen to pre-ship some of their stuff to their hotel when using air travel, but I tend to go with my checked luggage and carry-on method. There has been some new information from the TSA regarding a third carry-on bag for photographers, so I'll pass that along for you. I'll leave it up to you to verify this. Thanks to the efforts of ASMP, photographers now may carry one bag of photographic equipment in addition to one carry-on and one personal item onto an aircraft for a flight entirely within the U.S. Details are on the TSA web site at:

The announcement on the ASMP web site is at:

Chances are that not all security personnel are aware of the new regulation, so if you're planning to take advantage of the new rule it might help to print a copy of the page and carry it with you.

I hope this article has given you something to think about when Traveling with Digital. Perhaps it also sheds a little more light on Sir Isaac Newton's true but cynical statement. All kidding aside, after having traveled quite a bit this year, my wife Pam and I have gotten quite comfortable with our new digital check list and different type of workflow.

Pam? Where is Pam anyway?

Oh rats, I knew I forgot something!

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