It’s in the Bag–Part Two

Not pictured here are some small personal items that always make the trip: spare pair glasses, blower and brush for sensor cleaning, iPod Touch & Kindle, GPS…it all fits with room for a couple of extra lenses for special applications.

The camera bag that I detailed in the previous post is just part one. These days, nobody can travel without a bag o’ electronics too. I used to use a larger laptop, a larger rollaboard, but in my never-ending quest to go smaller and lighter (with gear, if not in person), this is my latest configuration, and it works pretty well.

In this second bag go two other cameras I try not to leave home without: my Sony RX100 iii, and my Sony Actioncam. If we were all perfectly honest with ourselves, we’d admit that cameras like the Sony RX 100, and the top-of-the-line Canon and Nikon compacts, would really be good enough to shoot 95% of what most publication photogs need to do, but we’re not.

We’re pros, so we need big, expensive gear. If we don’t show up with a lot of gear, nobody will believe us.

This system is built around a top of the line, 11″ Macbook Air with a 510GB SSD at its core, with 8GB of RAM (the most the 11″ will take) and the fastest processor. I can edit video on this thing (although I prefer a much larger screen) on the road if need be and it’s so tiny and flat I can often stuff it in the back pocket of my camera bag if need be.

I keep a 500GB USB3.0 backup boot drive just in case, and I back up my SDXC cards to two 2TB USB 3 drives on the road…I also try not to reuse the cards, either, so I have three copies of everything from an assignment.

Battery chargers can proliferate faster than a gang of stoned bunny rabbits, so I settled on a battery charging system a while ago. It’s offered by B&H under the Watson brand (used to be Pearstone) and I have a double battery charger and a single one.

All you do is switch out the battery plates, rather than carry separate chargers, for all the different devices. I have plates for all my Sony cameras, my Nikon cameras, and even the LED panel batteries can be recharged on this device. It is a huge space saver. (Wait, that’s an oxymoron, but it’s true!).

Those vinyl bags are cosmetics bags from CVS and they run about $8 each and are great for organizing all your electronic chatchkes. If you prefer a “professional” version, you can pay $25 for a similar bag from ThinkTank , but I’m more cheap than I am embarrassed to be seen hanging out in the makeup aisle at the drugstore (and fellas, you’d be surprised at what a little eyeliner will do; after all, we are selling out eyes, n’est ce pas?:-)

It’s all carried in ThinkTank’s smallest rollaboard, the Airport Airstream. Damn, those ThinkTank people make great bags. Expensive, but rugged and well designed.

And finally, as the piece de la resisistance that illustrates the depth of my paranoia, er, I mean my preparedness, I always fold up one of the lightweight, supplex nylon photo vests that I designed for LL Bean about 15 years ago (they stopped carrying it right after 9/11, when a lot of their travel gear was discontinued) and put it in this bag.

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It’s similar in design to the Domke vest with one important and vastly superior difference…it’s NOT made of heavy, old-tech cotton duck that absorbs and holds every ounce of sweat like a sponge, and so it weighs nothing, folds down to nothing, and wicks moisture away from your body instead of making you carry it around like a water-bearer (c’mon Tiffen/Domke, get with the program…cotton duck material went out with the British Raj in India, for crissakes, and you’ve been trying to sell it in this vest this for 20 years).

You can substitute the vest of your choice, or if you’re lucky, find one of mine on EBay…but be warned they fetch collector’s item fees…the few extra I have are so valuable, they’re figuring into my estate planning:-).


Now, should I run into a foreign airline on a connection that strictly enforces a “one carryon and one carryon only” rule (and it has happened about 3 times in my career), I can take everything in this rollaboard and put it in the big pockets of my vest, and literally “wear” my second carryon onto the plane, while giving them an essentially empty bag to check.

It’s not foolproof, of course, but it’s worked for me and as I said, it’s a bailout tactic that you can use when your back is against the wall.

4 thoughts on “It’s in the Bag–Part Two

  1. I appreciate all your information about your bags, cause I need myself to carry less weight for my photography in general. And about your trick with your vest, my husband use it for his trip with Guylain Doyle in Havana last March 🙂 it was perfect to get into the plane.

  2. I love the Watson / Pearsone chargers for the interchangeable battery plates (and the very reasonable price for the plates too, I might add).

    But I’d like to caution everyone that if you try to charge TWO NP-F970 or NP-F770 batteries ***simultaneously*** on the dual charger, you will more than likely burn up the charger. This has happened to me twice now (with genuine Sony batteries), and I don’t consider it to be a coincidence. B&H has been very good about replacing the chargers, but it seems that the charger just can’t handle two very large capacity batteries for simultaneous charging. Every other type of battery has so far been fine for simultaneous charging, including the smaller NP-F570 Sony batteries.

    A lot of the no-name NP-F970 batteries on Ebay only have two of the 6 cells installed, so they are actually just a NP-F570 in a big case (to trick you), so these cloners do not impact the Watson dual charger the same way that genuine Sony batteries do.

    Since the NP-F series are the most popular batteries for LED video lights these days, I figured I’d offer my experiences to save you some pain…

  3. Great post, Bob, lots of good stuff. And I love the new site. I’m a big vest-lover myself, and I’ve flown on many low-cost airlines with a vest that weighs WAY more than what they allow you for carry-on luggage. I have a friend who works in the low-cost airline industry and he confirmed for me that if you’re ‘wearing’ the weight, they can’t do anything about it. Maybe you should start selling your vest design on your site. I’d buy it!

    As for the post, one thing: I HAVE forced myself to be honest…and the the RX100 is (most of the times) all the camera I need. I recently shot an assignment for a national magazine with this crazy little camera and nothing else. It worked out really well. I wrote a report about it if anybody is interested….check it out here

    Thanks again for a great post and looking forward to more.


  4. Bob:

    I remember from your book that you use Photo Mechanic (or at least did). So do I, and for my Canon files (RAW + JPEG) it worked really fast. For my Sony files, so far it does not. For A6000 files in particular, I get the spinning rainbow. I spoke with tech support at Camera Bits, and they had me tweak some settings, but it is still slow. I want to use a fast browser to cull files before bring stuff into Lightroom.

    Do you still use Photo Mechanic? If so, what did you do to make it snappy?

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