Travelers can find themselves hundreds of miles from the nearest photo store or repair shop at destinations like Svalbard, and Greenland, and while in cities, where photo shops are available, who wants to waste precious time in them, for purchases or repairs.
Travel and photo gear self-sufficiency, while away from home, has become essential, especially for those for whom photography is an important part of their journeys.
While in Greenland, atop a large hill at Cape Hofmann Halvo, in Scoresby Sund, preparing to shoot a landscape, my Nikon D700 suddenly, without warning, stopped auto-focusing. Within moments, several other “electronic” problems occurred. My D700 was dead, in need of repair. Digital cameras are highly complex “computer” driven electronic devices, which eventually suffer partial or total failure, and usually at the “wrong time.”
Fortunately, I travel with at least two camera bodies. I was able to continue photographing some of the most beautiful landscapes and spectacular wildlife imaginable with my primary DSLR, a Nikon D4, including the solar halo I was lining up to photograph with the D700, when it died.
While I know everyone won't be able to have a second camera as a back-up, if for no other reason than its expense, I think that anyone for whom travel photography is important, must seriously consider it.
Numerous DSLR (Digital Single Len Reflex) users begin with “Point & Shoot” (P&S)cameras before moving to DSLRs. If you still have your P&S, it can be your back-up camera. While it won't be as good as your DSLR, you'll still be able to make photographs. If you've moved from one DSLR to another, use your older model as your back-up. Likewise, if you purchase a new P&S with improved features, make your older model your back-up, just in case.For many travel photographer enthusiasts, a back-up camera may not be that far out of reach.
I can't tell you how often I've heard from traveler photographers who've experienced a camera failure like mine, who wished they had a back-up camera, any back-up camera, but didn't.Here are five more essentials all travel photographers should carry:
• Gaffer tape — For all travel I never leave home without a couple of travel rolls of “duct tape,” but for photography use, I carry a small roll of gaffer tape. Both have excellent strength, but unlike duct tape, gaffer tape which is cloth based, doesn’t leave a sticky residue behind when you remove it. It tears cleanly, is matte black and non-reflective.
• Back-up hard drive — I strongly suggest backing up your images, at least daily, while traveling, for all the same reasons you back up your images at home. For short trips I use a battery powered portable Sanho HyperDrive Colorspace UDMA 500GB hard drive to back up. I can plug in my memory cards directly into the drive. On long trips, such as my Arctic trip, I travel with my laptop and store my images on a pair of LaCie 1TB Rugged Mini hard drives, then format my memory cards for continued use.
• Cleaning kit — For all cameras you want to keep your lenses and cameras clean. If you're in a particularly dusty environment such as desert areas, or at sea where salt spray is particularly sticky, you'll be cleaning your lenses and equipment often. I suggest you always travel with a pair of microfiber cleaning cloths, and for stubborn dirt, a liquid cleaner, suitable for optics. I use Purosol Optical Cleaner.
If you have a DSLR, you'll need a sensor cleaning kit too. I suggest carrying a small air blower like the Giotto's Rocket, or Visible Dust's Zeeion Blower. You'll also want the right size of Sensor Swab, along with Eclipse Cleaning Solution, in case the blower doesn't work, for wet cleaning.
• Quality memory cards — For digital camera users, your film is your memory card. To me, memory cards are not the equipment on which travel photographers should try to save money, and potentially lose precious images. Buy quality memory cards, and more than you think you need. Don't be one of the legions of travelers who've missed great photo opportunities because their memory cards were full.
• Spare batteries — Digital cameras depend on battery power. You don't want to have your camera run out of power before you're through shooting photos for the day, so make sure you have at least one spare battery with you and don't forget to bring your charger on your trip.