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Pack Your Camera Equipment for a Dive Trip

Travelling with wheely bags and backpacks makes moving around the airport much easier.
Text and Photos by Kate Jonker

Packing all your camera equipment for a diving holiday can be quite daunting and rather stressful.

Anyone who has travelled before will know how roughly checked-in luggage is handled. Just look at the scratches, scrapes and bumps (and heaven forbid, cracks in hard shell cases) that are waiting to surprise you on the carousel upon arrival.

And if you watch carefully, you will see how the baggage handlers throw the suitcases into the aeroplane - and if you are lucky, you will also get to see when the piles of luggage fall off the cart en route to the aeroplane.  And it is not much fun when one of the suitcases that tumbles onto the tarmac is your unmistakable orange hard shell with the stripey band that your granny made for you so that you would know it is yours. I have even heard it said that if you have a fragile sticker on your case, the bag handlers entertain themselves by seeing how heavily, or how far, they can throw it!
It’s always exciting to travel to different parts of the world. Pack your camera equipment cleverly to avoid unnecessary stress.
And why does the person at the check-in counter ask if you have anything valuable in your suitcase as it is being checked in?  I know I sound rather paranoid, but when someone asks me that, I wonder why they need to know. Does a special message get passed down to the baggage staff that this suitcase is ripe for the plundering??

There is simply no way one can risk packing your valuable camera equipment into your check-in bags! Which means you must pack your expensive, valuable, fragile camera equipment into your hand luggage.
Loading luggage can often be quite precarious!  Keep hold of your carry-on luggage.
Now, most airlines only allow 8kg hand luggage and this may only be two pieces - a laptop bag or rucksack of a specific size (in the region of 56 x 36 x 23cm) and one personal item (handbag). A word of warning though - before you make your plans around this, please check the airline’s website before you start packing, so you know what you are aiming for as this can change!
I carry my housing as my handbag. I attach my heaviest lense to my camera and put it into my housing with the relevant port attached.  I take the o-ring out of the back of the housing to prevent a vacuum forming inside the housing in the plane. I then grease the o-ring and put it in a zip lock bag, which goes into my backpack. I wrap the housing in bubble wrap and cover it with a buff to hold it all together.  As I have a housing lanyard, I attach this to the housing and use it as a carrying handle. Carrying my camera and housing like this works well, although I have been asked to unwrap and open the housing at some airports.
Travel safely – adventure awaits! Photo: Marsa Alam harbour, Red Sea, Egypt.
I pack my laptop and all my camera equipment into my ThinkTank Streetwalker Hard Drive backpack. This includes my ports and port adaptors, lenses with zoom gears already attached, strobes, focus light or torch, essential clamps, strobe arms, fibre optic cables, compact camera for topside shots, spare o-rings, camera cleaning kit, lots of spare SD cards and an external hard drive that I back up my photos onto at the end of the day.
Packing luggage can often be a rustic occasion!
Try to have a separate SD card for each day and number them with the date. This will prevent you from accidentally reformatting them and losing any of your photos. It also means that if, for some reason, your SD card becomes corrupt, you only lose the photos from that day.
Take a spare external hard drive, too – mine crashed on my last trip to Lembeh and I had nothing to do backups onto – it was a scary experience because my laptop has very little storage space!

You can put batteries into your strobes and focus lights (if it does not make your bag too heavy). Make sure they are charged as the staff at the x-ray machine sometimes ask you to turn the strobes on so you can “show them what they are”.

It is also important to note that spare batteries cannot go into your check-in luggage and need to be included in your carry-on. Some airlines insist that all batteries are stored separately (i.e., not touching) and that each end is covered with insulating tape. It is a hassle, but you really do not want to risk having your batteries confiscated before your trip begins. Just remember to take the insulating tape with you so that you can cover the ends of the batteries on the way home, too.
Travel can take us to amazing and exotic destinations – make sure your camera gear arrives safely too. Photo: Lembeh, Indonesia.
I also have a jacket that has 42 pockets (yep, 42!). It is a Scott eVest, which I purchased online from the States. It has pockets everywhere, which I stuff with heavy small items such as batteries, my iPad, my phones, my wallet, and passport and sometimes even a lense or two. I land up looking like the Michelin Man, and I do have to take it off to put it through the X-ray machine, but it means that I know where all my valuables are!  When I get onto the plane, I put my camera housing and folded up jacket under the seat in front of me (make sure you do not book a seat in a row with an Emergency Exit, as you will not be able to put anything at your feet).

Try to be early at the check-in counter and be friendly to the staff. Make your bag look light - hang it on one shoulder and do not struggle with it…  If they want to weigh your hand luggage (which they often do), do so in a friendly way – do not get defensive. If they comment that it is over the weight limit, explain politely that you are a photographer and you cannot put your expensive camera gear into the hold.

I am certainly not advocating that you go over your 8kg allowance … However, if you do and you get caught out, pay the excess politely … this is far preferable than arriving at your destination with lost, stolen, or broken equipment.

An important thing to remember is to ensure you are a DAN member and that you inform DAN that you are travelling. (Go to: https://www.dansa.org/travel-notification) This way you will be covered for any diving incident that might occur when you are away. You do not want to leave home without it!
Bio:


Kate Jonker a writer and underwater photographer based in Gordon’s Bay, just outside Cape Town. She is a regular contributor to numerous underwater photography and diving magazines and her images have been featured in both local and international publications. A regular judge in international underwater photography competitions, she teaches underwater photography and is a qualified dive boat skipper and dive guide for Indigo Scuba Diving Centre (www.indigoscuba.com) which she and her husband own and run in Gordon’s Bay. Kate’s passion lies with sharing her love of the ocean and her underwater experiences with others through photography and storytelling.

“Photography is a fantastic medium with which to create an awareness of the beauty - and plight - of our oceans. Images can stir many emotions and we, as underwater photographers, have the opportunity to tell visual stories about our underwater world to encourage its protection and preservation.”

Website: www.katejonker.com
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/katejonkerphotography/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/underwaterphotocoach/

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