Monday, December 10, 2012

Traveling and Film Photography

This has been a busy year for me.  My photography has taken me all over the country, and even out of it.  I have been to Greece, South Carolina, Washington DC, Nevada, New York and Nashville!  I have definitely had my share of fun with the TSA.  Ever try to walk trough a TSA checkpoint with a giant loaded 16mm movie camera and battery pack? Not very much fun!

With my experience traveling, I have several tips on what you should prepare for when taking your gear with you on a trip.  However, this all depends on what kind of trip you’re going on and what you will be photographing.

Let's start with my trip to Greece.  My trip was for one month, and I was traveling with my friend.  We would be staying with his family and in small hotels.  The plan was to rent a car and to explore the tiny villages and seaside towns that dot the coast.  There was going to be a lot of walking and moving, so I didn’t want to carry more then I needed.  Also, I wanted to avoid having to lug a lot of extra weight around.  I packed one suitcase with my clothing, and then I used a travel backpack for my camera gear.

Image courtesy of Joseph Prezioso
I made my gear selection based on what I was going to be shooting.  For me, it was vistas and street scenes.  For that reason I picked my Hasselblad X-Pan.  It’s a panoramic rangefinder camera that shoots on 35mm film.  It’s light, small and easy to use.  I also wanted to have a portrait setup so I could take shots and create portraits of people I met in Greece.   For those types of shots, I took my Nikon F3 camera and 85mm f1.4 lens.  I also took my Canonet QL17 for a point and shoot camera.

Image courtesy of Joseph Prezioso
All of my gear fit in the bottom of my backpack, and I loaded the top of the bag with my film sealed in Ziploc bags.  I also packed a day kit of medicine, an extra shirt and pants.  Since I wouldn’t always have my suitcase with me, I wanted to be ready with both gear and living essentials no matter where I was.  With this backpack I walked and explored all over southern Greece.  My gear was light and easy to access, and I never had back pain.

Image courtesy of Joseph Prezioso
For film, I brought Kodak Ektar 100 and Portra 400.   I used the Kodak Ektar for my vista shots, and the Portra for my low light shots.  For slide film, I shot with Ektachrome 100 VS and Fuji Provia 100.  I also brought some Kodak Tri-X 400 black & white film for portraits.  All the film was taken out of their containers and placed in Ziploc bags.  I did this for the TSA.  I did not want my film scanned by the X-ray, so I simply passed the Ziploc bag with the film to the TSA officer.  I informed the TSA officer that I wanted a hand check of my film, as it was too sensitive to go through the X-ray.  I had no problems, and they were happy to oblige hand checking the film.

Image courtesy of Joseph Prezioso
This is not the same for all countries, but I have never had a problem in the United States.  In Greece, I was never required to walk through a checkpoint.  Every country is going to be different, so it’s usually a good idea to check out their security rules before you fly.  When I flew to Mexico to shoot a wedding, I was only allowed to bring two camera bodies.  If I had brought a third camera they would have assumed I was there to work, and I would have had to provide a working visa (which I don’t have).  Knowing what each country allows is as simple as calling their embassy.

Image courtesy of Joseph Prezioso
When traveling for weddings and corporate work here in the United States, I usually need all my gear.  For that reason, I travel with an airport security camera bag.  I can fit all my cameras, lenses and speed lights into the bag, and it fits into the overhead compartment of most airplanes.  

When I travel for work, my gear consists of:

* 2 Nikon F5 Camera Bodies
* Nikon 85mm f1.4 D Lens
* Sigma 28mm f1.8 Lens
* Nikon 35mm-70mm f2.8 Lens
* Nikon 180mm f2.8 Lens
* Hasselblad X-Pan Camera Body
* 3 Nikon SB-80DX Flashes
* Pentax 645 Camera Body
* Pentax 80mm f2.8 Lens
* Film

That all fits right into my rolling bag and I’m good to go!

Image courtesy of Joseph Prezioso

For every trip, I look at what I'm going to be shooting and try to figure out what the light going to be like.  For weddings, I generally bring plenty of Portra 400 film in 35mm and 220, as well as Kodak Tri-X 400 black & white film.  I also bring a slower speed film, such as Kodak Gold 200, Portra 160 or Ektar 100.  With that selection of film, I can shoot most weddings and events.  The Portra 400 is the most versatile of my travel film, as it can be shot from 200-1600 and yield awesome results.  If I shoot it over 800, I will have my lab push the film during processing to give me better shadow detail and contrast.

So what are you waiting for? Go plan a trip, grab your camera and go!

Contributor BioJoseph Prezioso is a professional photographer who has been shooting for over twelve years.  He went from shooting film, to 100% digital, and then back to film again. He says, "By trade I am a wedding photographer, I shoot over 30 weddings a year and this year they were all on film. My career started as a newspaper photographer though. I was 16 and like Jimmy Olsen. I learned on the streets shooting next to veteran photographers for the AP and Boston Globe (I worked for some weeklies, but I got to cover a lot of cool events that the big news guys covered too!). Film is something I have fallen in love with, it's the medium I learned on. Film will always be something special to me. It feels more versatile and creative in my hands than when I am using digital."