PHOTO ARTICLES Browse All Photo Articles

Is Photography Weighing You Down? Pg 1 | Pg 2

Smart packing gets you everywhere, even in Vietnam!
Many years ago I went on a hiking trip, and being young and enthusiastic, I strapped on a camera backpack stuffed with all my equipment. I had the foolish belief that I would need all the gear and I would be able to handle the weight and bulk.

But the truth was that the weight of the pack became a nagging concern from my very first step out of the house. By the time I reached the location, I already had serious doubts about my ability to handle the weight. There was no turning back, and neither did my ego afford me the option of asking my friends for help. Needless to say the trip was a total disaster for me.

An hour into the hike, I was sweating profusely from lugging the heavy bag around. Coupled with the energy spent on fending off the ceaseless attacks from the mosquitoes, I could safely say that photography was the last thing on my mind. I was more focused on surviving the darned trip, and finishing the hike alive!

And at the end of the day, sweaty and frustrated, I realized that I had only shot less than 20 images in total, using less that 30% of the equipment I had brought along. That was when I told myself that it was the last time I will pack my gear with the "bring everything" attitude.

Moral of the story:
- Weight is directly related to time
- Weight is inversely related to photographic inspiration

Photographers are at risk of medical complications resulting from carrying heavy loads, and this is especially true for professional photographers. Their job usually requires extensive equipment (and a backup set of everything!) to ensure that they have all the tools to accomplish their assignments. You should weighing your camera bag when it is full, and you’d be shocked at how much weight you’d been lugging around! So what can you do to minimize your risks of back injuries?

There are two ways to avoid overloading your back - smart packing and choice of bags. This article will show you how to pack your bag smartly, to reduce the overall load that you will be carrying, as well as the pros and cons of the different cases, so that you can choose the most suitable camera bag.
[ Back to top ]
Smart Packing

Start by packing your equipment the smart way. Customize the contents of your bag by visualizing the various types of photographs you’d be shooting, and thus bring along only the equipment which you need. Some photographers oppose this method, saying that such planning leads to you getting images that you prefixed in your mind, and you'd not be able to deal with opportunities that you did not plan for.

I am just advocating that having discipline in packing only the essentials, you reduce unnecessary burden and giving yourself the energy and freedom to capture more. Contrary to limiting yourself, such smart packing will in fact maximize your ability to create new and novel images, instead of wasting energy on hauling excess baggage. Do not confuse limiting your equipment with limiting your possibilities!
[ Back to top ]
Visualize your shoot

First of all, you must have a good idea of what you will be shooting. For example, if you were going to a garden, you’d expect to shoot close-ups of flowers and insects, or wide-angles of the entire garden flowerbed. As such, you might choose to leave your long telephoto lenses behind in favour of macro lenses or wide-angle lenses. If you were going for some street-photography action, you’d pack a couple of zoom lenses, or some fast prime lenses and fast film, instead of macro lenses.

The degree of accuracy of your planning depends very much on experience. Experienced photographers know what to expect during a trip, and will pack a bag to reflect their needs more accurately than beginners. Like a experienced fisherman who knows instinctively the type of fishes likely to be in a certain area, he chooses his bait accordingly to increase his chances of getting a bite. So as your experience grows, you can pack your bags more intelligently to reduce the weight you are carrying.
[ Back to top ]
Tripod and supports

Tripods are the bane of photographers. We hate them for being bulky and heavy, yet we can't do without them in dim light conditions. They restrict our movements, and yet offer us the ability to shoot in conditions that we can’t otherwise get a proper image.

Unfortunately, there is no ideal way to handle this wild beast. Tripod straps and bags do help to make them easier to transport around, but the weight and bulk still bothers us. We can only predict their use during close-ups and low-light photography and bring them around, and that is about all we can do to reduce our weight. My personal tip is to separate night-photography from regular day-photography. Dawn-to-dusk shooting is not for everyone because of the fatigue from having to lug along the tripod all day! Try to schedule your shooting where the tripod is needed separately from the times where it’s not required. In that way you can minimize the time lugging the tripod around.

You should probably have a couple of tripods if possible – perhaps a lightweight one for traveling, and a heavy duty one for steady long exposures. The carbon-fiber tripods seems very promising, combining rigidity with low weight. They cost a bomb though, but they are worth every cent if you carry around a tripod frequently.

Finally, you should also consider using a monopod if you only need to stabilize the lens at low-speeds that don’t require a tripod. Not only are monopods cheaper, less bulky and lighter than a tripod, they are easy to use and offer you mobility with stability. Monopods are great for outdoors portraiture session and sports photography with long lenses.
[ Back to top ]
Is Photography Weighing You Down?: Pg 1 | Pg 2