Well as scary as it looks this is going to be my home for two nights on my forthcoming stock trip. The location I’m headed to is only reachable by boat. There are zero facilities, including cell, emergency, fresh water, etc. Everything must be brought in, and taken out. Now, I haven’t been “camping” since summer of 1980 when I was living in Alaska that I camped at Mt McKinley (soon to be Denali). This is gonna be interesting to say the least. My biggest fear is getting that huge 3-man tent back into that tiny silver and round thing sitting at the entrance to the tent. I have a feeling this tent may not be making a return trip… We’ll see.
1. Don’t pack so much stuff. Both in camera gear, and clothing. I packed enough shirts, shorts, flip-flops to last me the full-ten days. Guess what? I didn’t use them. For three days I was wearing a bathing suit — all day long as I was on an island. No need for more clothing than that. I also packed all my lenses and didn’t use them all either.
2. Wear sunscreen. I had SPF100 and being a Cuban, and easily tanned, I’m very, very dark. And that’s cool. I’m ok with tanning but parts of me did burn.
3. Don’t pack so much photography gear. I’m not talking about the camera and lenses here; what I’m talking about is all the other incidentals which quite frankly never got used. I packed extra step-up rings, extra filters, extra tripod plates, you name it, I had it. Except for those I “really” needed! (see #4)
4. Do pack duplicates of those items you can’t do without. For example: On Day 1, yes. Day 1 at dawn no less I was photographing the Ponce Leon Lighthouse with my X-T1 on a tripod and my RR-90 Fuji remote. Well, I had a “hissy” fit and yanked the remote as it was stuck on what I thought was one of the tripod legs, and wound up breaking it off at the camera. Had to dig that out later that morning once I could see what I was doing. That was my only remote. I wish I had packed a cheaper backup. So lesson learned here: 1. Don’t throw a hissy fit. 2. Pack an extra of whatever you think is critical if you are prone to hissy fits.
5. Lenscaps. Oh my… Lenscaps. I only lost one among all the lenses I used. However, finding them was a b*tch when I needed them in a hurry.. I would put them in pockets, throw them back in the camera bag, lay them on the car seat, etc. etc. Many times I wound up putting the lenses away without a lens cap — which to me is a big no-no. My most used lens the Fuji 18-55 uses 58mm lens caps unless I have a 77mm step up ring attached; I did take extra lens caps with me as I buy them four or five at a time on fleabay. Unfortunately I spent about 8-days without lens caps on a some lenses as it wasn’t until I got home and literally dumped the contents of both my camera bag, and a small backpack on my living room floor, that I found the missing caps. Luckily for me, other than sand I did no damage to the lens as I was very careful where and how I placed it in the camera bag.
6. Wear a hat. All. The. Time. I did, and I was still miserable at times. I had three different hats. That big glowing ball of fire in the sky? It felt like it was hovering 10 feet over my head. Yeah. It was hot. I could deal with the heat (92 degrees plus), the humidity and rain, but that sun. Oh my.
7. Get into better shape. Exercise, walk, whatever you need to do to get in better shape. I was not in shape. Unfortunately day one and part of day two I was physically ill around mid-day due to the sun and the heat. I arrived at a particular location i wanted to photograph on day one, mid-afternoon and I honestly could not photograph as I was dizzy and felt like I was going to pass out. And yes, I took TWO coolers full of water, and Gatorade. I drank in ten days two cases of water, plus about 15 Gatorades. At other times I was so physically wasted at the end of the day due to the heat and blazing sun that I didn’t bother cleaning my gear of sand, grit and salt water when I knew I should. I just showered, ate some dinner and went to bed.
8. Sample the local foods and drinks. I did. Being a Cuban, born and bred, I sought out. No. I HUNTED out Cuban eateries. And I’m so glad that I did!!!
9. No more laptop. This is something I’m going to try next time I do this type of road trip. Why? It’s just something else to worry about! I packed my Macbook Air, instead of my Pro’s and a couple of 1TB external drives. I worried about the laptop frying in the trunk of the car during the day while I was either driving, or out shooting. For the three days I left my car parked in a public parking area while I was away in the Dry Tortugas My laptop and the externals sat in the car. Luckily, I had the car parked in a covered garage and was actually cool as I picked a spot on the 2nd floor, towards the center so there was a nice cross-breeze, and no sun hitting the car.
As I travel with a multitude of SD cards for my Fuji X-T1, I can take over 9800 jpeg + raw images before I fill up all my cards. Keep in mind, SD cards can be purchased just about anywhere – albeit at a slightly higher price, but they are available just about anywhere. Will I miss the laptop? Yes and No. Yes, because in the evenings it’s always nice to load up Lightroom and look at the images you took and backup the cards. No, because it is just another possession that can be lost, stolen or damaged. Heck, I worry enough about missing lens caps, I certainly don’t want to concern myself wondering if my computer is frying itself in a hot car or in the hands of a thief. When I was traveling with my Nikon gear and the 36 megapixel D800 I “needed” the laptop in many instances as the files were so huge. I could only record about 360 jpeg +raw on a single sd card. With the X-T1, I can cram 796 on the same size card – more than double the capacity! During this road trip I returned with about 5800 images so I had plenty of SD cards that came home unused.
10. In following #9, going forward I am only taking my SD cards plus my iPad. With the iPad I can use the Fuji Remote app, or a new piece of software I purchased for the iPad called “Shuttersnitch”. This software connects to the Fuji camera — without the Fuji remote app. If I want I can transfer images over to the iPad from the camera in order to post online, or to send them via email. The Shuttersnitch software creates it’s own Wi-Fi connection to the camera and it contains built-in extensions that allow it to connect to my Smugmug, or Flickr accounts. I think what I like most is the fact you can change the settings so the app will only import a jpeg, not the associated raw file. I find the Fuji remote app doesn’t do that… I also have the Google Snapseed app on the iPad in case I need to make any adjustments to an image before posting.
Next summer I’ll be doing two weeks in Alaska, and a few days in Olympic National Park in Washington State. I plan on following my 10-step plan above with just some minor changes – such as not having cuban food, but local specialties, etc. As I mentioned I can record over 9800 jpeg + Raw images on my existing cards. I may just keep an eye out for sales and pick up a few more SD cards just in case. I may be able to control my OCD, but I can’t eliminate it all together and I like being prepared so I’ll probably add some more cards to my inventory.
So, in closing these were my lessons learned. Hope this helps you plan a better, more enjoyable trip.