Forums > Photography Talk > How do you travel with your gear?

Photographer

mit photography

Posts: 33

Santa Clara, California, US

Hi All,

I have a shoot next week in LA, it'll be the first time I will be flying with my gear. I figured all I need besides my camera and lenses are 2 AB800's and 2 Lightstands.

That's where I'm stuck. I can't figure out a way to safely transport the lighting gear. Any suggestions on how to travel with the lightstands and strobes? Or how do you travel with your gear?

Any help is appreciated!

Thanks!

Jul 08 13 07:48 pm Link

Photographer

Lumatic

Posts: 13750

Brooklyn, New York, US

Pelican cases.  Lots of padding.  Remove bulbs.

But if all you need is a couple of lights, it'd most likely be cheaper and easier to rent from Samy's.

Jul 08 13 07:58 pm Link

Photographer

Loki Studio

Posts: 3015

Royal Oak, Michigan, US

I have 2 lighter weight 8' stands from Wescott that closed are under 28" inches.  These lightstands with my Photoflex Transpac Single light case _plus ABs in their fabric bags are just 38 lbs and comfortably under the 50lb extra charge limit.  They also fit in my 30" rolling luggage.

Jul 08 13 11:41 pm Link

Photographer

907Benjamin

Posts: 1712

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, US

I use Pelican cases, one "carry on" for lens and camera, one large case for lights and small stands.

Jul 09 13 12:05 am Link

Photographer

Good Egg Productions

Posts: 15702

Orlando, Florida, US

I fly Southwest.

I check a bag with light stands in it.
I carry on a bag with two Einsteins in it and a V-mini, plus all cords, etc.
I carry on a "personal item" that is a backpack camera bag filled to the brim with body, lenses, laptop, etc.

I tried checking my lights once.  That will NEVER happen again.  Both of them came out broken.

Jul 09 13 12:16 am Link

Photographer

fullmetalphotographer

Posts: 2784

Fresno, California, US

Depending on the shoot I would rent lights, if possible if that is not possible fedex them to the location. I also have a couple of golf cases that I could load and send that way. Most times I use a photo vest to carry 4 lenses and 2 Nikon D3 bodies. Carryon for laptop and my 300mm f/2.8.

A photovest is not consider carryon. Besides it frustrates the TSA.

Jul 09 13 12:44 am Link

Photographer

David Watson Photograph

Posts: 52

Whittlesea, Victoria, Australia

I bought a large hard shell suitcase and had a wooden internal frame made then had foam custom cut to fit all the lights, stands and accessories ended costing around $500 AUD all up but never had a problem. Every thing fits snugly and it can take quite a beating. Did the same for my cameras and lenses. Totally mobile and all on wheels super easy to drag around

Jul 09 13 12:49 am Link

Photographer

-The Dave-

Posts: 8626

Las Vegas, Nevada, US

My normal travel loadout for flying...

70-200 f/2.8 is under the Banana and my Terry Richardson bracket, 24-70 f/2.8 in lower right. Case is a Pelican 1510.

http://www.daplv.com/MM/packed1510.jpg

Larger jobs I sometimes take more...

http://www.daplv.com/MM/photopo.jpg

Jul 09 13 01:11 am Link

Photographer

Paul A Freelance Photog

Posts: 6

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

That's exactly why I started packing  3 or 4 speedlights  (which fit easily in carry-on with camera body and lenses) and light shapers, gels, such as Rogue Flashbender or David Honl's.
I use a couple of small portable manfrotto light stands (fold down to less than 22" including mounting bracket for the speedlights) and I have not even begun to scratch the surface of the kind of creativity this kit allows.
I generally place these light stands, a couple convertible umbrellas and my 5-in-1 reflector set in checked baggage and have had no major issues with this approach.

- Paul

Jul 09 13 01:32 am Link

Photographer

afplcc

Posts: 6000

Fairfax, Virginia, US

First, I don't check gear.  Did it one time almost 3 decades ago on a flight from Hartford/Bradley field to DC/National (on a direct flight) and none of the 3 Pelican cases arrived.  They were found a month later at the airport in Newark, all empty.

Second, I can't comment on your gear.  But I travel frequently with my camera gear all over the country.  It is all carry-on (usually in a combination of a backpack and a soft-sided duffle small enough to fit in an overhead compartment).  I've never had a problem with TSA when it comes to speed lights, stands, soft boxes, batteries, lens, etc.  Never.  Maybe others have but I never have.  And last year I probably flew 25 round trips with my camera gear.

Third, here's a couple of tips:
--if you're going to be boarding last (b/c of the zone you're in, typically a function of if you buy your ticket with the airline's credit card and/or if you have a lot of frequent flier miles) than you're probably going to be forced to check your bag.  On busy flights on USAirways and Delta, sometimes United I've heard them tell everyone in the last zone "there will be NO space when you board the aircraft so you'll only be allowed one bag you can put under your seat".  So your seat (and boarding arrangement) may matter more than what you're carrying your gear in.  It is worth it to get the airline CC just for this flight in order to make one purchase (your ticket) so you don't end up boarding last.
--if you're tight in terms of what you are carrying (ie: it exceeds more than your one carry-on bag and personal bag) then buy a vest.  Yep, they're dorky.  But you wear it on the plane with some of your gear and it's like a third bag.
--I'd actually recommend a soft-sided bag for your carry-on.  That's b/c unlike a hard-sided Pelican, it's easy to fit in to overhead space if you're not boarding in zone 1 or 2 (i.e.: early zones).
--if you're stuck boarding in the last zone (already bought ticket, don't have a ton of FF miles) then consider either renting the big stuff (like lights and stands) or ship 'em with a commercial carrier that you can insure your gear with.

Ed

Jul 09 13 03:59 am Link

Photographer

mit photography

Posts: 33

Santa Clara, California, US

Thanks for all the suggestions guys! I really appreciate it.

I'll be flying southwest, and the client purchased my air fare, so we will have to see about the boarding. I will check in online as close to the 24 hour mark as posible to get early boarding.

I was concerned about checking in the lights, perhaps I'll keep the AB's in the soft case, and put in inside my carry on, buy a lightstand bag, and only check that in.

Jul 09 13 06:28 am Link

Photographer

Z_Photo

Posts: 6955

Huntsville, Alabama, US

I noticed most did not list a 2nd camera.  sounds pretty crazy to me. 

I either pack everything well and check the equipment or ship it to the destination.  sometimes shipping can be just as cheap as extra baggage fees.  carry on is always camera bodies and lenses and a few items that easily slip into the backpack.

Jul 09 13 06:46 am Link

Photographer

Vector One Photography

Posts: 2776

Fort Lauderdale, Florida, US

Camera body and lenses go into a wheeling backpack. Light stands, tripod, soft boxes, power units get checked. If I am going somewhere that I can rent lighting equipment then I do, if not, hard sided wheeling cases.

Jul 09 13 06:59 am Link

Photographer

Fred Ackerman

Posts: 273

Fort Lauderdale, Florida, US

I've been using Lightware gear for many years.. Traveled the world with no problems! Good Luck! Fred

Jul 09 13 07:07 am Link

Photographer

AG_Boston

Posts: 351

Boston, Massachusetts, US

Pelican cases.

Jul 11 13 01:11 pm Link

Photographer

JTCrosby

Posts: 114

Richmond, Virginia, US

Lumatic wrote:
Pelican cases.  Lots of padding.  Remove bulbs.

But if all you need is a couple of lights, it'd most likely be cheaper and easier to rent from Samy's.

+1

Jul 11 13 02:30 pm Link

Photographer

photoguy35

Posts: 922

Goodyear, Arizona, US

I have some of the 7.5' five section light stands, which fit into a 22" carry on suitcase.  I can get an AB400, AB 800, 2 stands, cords, two 7" reflectors, and 2 Westcott umbrellas with the collapsible shafts into a carry on bag.  I use clothes for padding in case the bag needs to be gate checked.

Bogen 3375  stand
http://www.amazon.com/Bogen-3373-Sectio … B00009XV2E

LomoPro version of same stand
http://mpex.com/lumopro-lp605-7ft-compa … stand.html

Umbrella with collapsible shaft
http://fjwestcott.com/product/43-optica … r-umbrella

Jul 11 13 10:50 pm Link

Photographer

RKD Photographic

Posts: 3265

Iserlohn, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

afplcc wrote:
First, I don't check gear.  Did it one time almost 3 decades ago on a flight from Hartford/Bradley field to DC/National (on a direct flight) and none of the 3 Pelican cases arrived.  They were found a month later at the airport in Newark, all empty.

Second, I can't comment on your gear.  But I travel frequently with my camera gear all over the country.  It is all carry-on (usually in a combination of a backpack and a soft-sided duffle small enough to fit in an overhead compartment).  I've never had a problem with TSA when it comes to speed lights, stands, soft boxes, batteries, lens, etc.  Never.  Maybe others have but I never have.  And last year I probably flew 25 round trips with my camera gear.

Third, here's a couple of tips:
--if you're going to be boarding last (b/c of the zone you're in, typically a function of if you buy your ticket with the airline's credit card and/or if you have a lot of frequent flier miles) than you're probably going to be forced to check your bag.  On busy flights on USAirways and Delta, sometimes United I've heard them tell everyone in the last zone "there will be NO space when you board the aircraft so you'll only be allowed one bag you can put under your seat".  So your seat (and boarding arrangement) may matter more than what you're carrying your gear in.  It is worth it to get the airline CC just for this flight in order to make one purchase (your ticket) so you don't end up boarding last.
--if you're tight in terms of what you are carrying (ie: it exceeds more than your one carry-on bag and personal bag) then buy a vest.  Yep, they're dorky.  But you wear it on the plane with some of your gear and it's like a third bag.
--I'd actually recommend a soft-sided bag for your carry-on.  That's b/c unlike a hard-sided Pelican, it's easy to fit in to overhead space if you're not boarding in zone 1 or 2 (i.e.: early zones).
--if you're stuck boarding in the last zone (already bought ticket, don't have a ton of FF miles) then consider either renting the big stuff (like lights and stands) or ship 'em with a commercial carrier that you can insure your gear with.

Ed

It sounds like you're a seasoned traveller, but none of that's going to work outside the US where regs. are much tighter.

You'll not be allowed to wear kit in a vest on the aircraft; it'll be taken off you at check-in and you'll be told to place it in your hold-luggage. You'll not be allowed more than one item of carry-on luggage (and the sizes are getting smaller as people realised that a good way of avoiding luggage charges is to carry the biggest possible 'handbag') - we're now (as of this month) limited to a small bag which includes laptop cases - so one or the other. Forget tripods or light stands - they can be used as 'weapons' (yeah, right) so there's no way they're coming in the cabin.

Unless you intend to travel with a compact DSLR and a kit lens, then a Peli-Case is going to be the only option.

Air France:  1x standard baggage item that respects the following maximum dimensions: 55 cm (l) x 35 cm (w) x 25 cm (h) – including pockets, wheels, and handles.
Lufthansa: A piece of hand luggage may not be larger than 55 cm x 40 cm x 23 cm and may not weigh more than 8 kg. Foldable garment bags are an exception to this; they count as hand luggage up to a size of 57 cm x 54 cm x 15 cm.
British Airways: Your main piece of hand baggage is up to the dimensions 56cm x 45cm x 25cm (22in x 18in x 10in), including the handle, pockets and wheels. Plus laptop or accessory bag.

These are for Economy passengers - Business and 1st Class have additional allowances.
Budget airlines have smaller allowances.

Jul 12 13 12:45 am Link

Photographer

Faulty Focus

Posts: 696

Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada

The extra bags and overweight fees can be brutal so watch for both and double check with your airline to see what they allow. The fees are only second to how brutal the airlines handle baggage. ( example : I watched 3 aluminum hard cases, the kind used for very expensive gear, sent off the end of a conveyor for a 6 foot drop to the ground and the airline employee watched and made no attempt to stop it )  I digress.

I have traveled with Bee's, pretty much what you have listed. I had the lights in the padded  PB bag, inside a padded duffel with the stands and modifers and packed this in a regular suitcase. I fly a lot and often have to transport the weirdest gear in my bags so I have a good idea what will work and what will not.

What to consider.

1. Dry bag anything electronic that will be damaged if it gets wet.
2. Lots of shock absorption surrounding your gear.
3. Something to prevent crushing
4. High value items like cameras and lens to go in carry on.
5. Zap strap zippers etc closed with a somewhat unique color or kind of zap strap (not a common white or black)  so if bag has been opened, you will know immediately when you see it. 

But remember, no matter what you do, anything in checked luggage is at risk for theft. 

BTW, I made up a kit of speedlights, compact stands and double fold umbrellas and a reflector which takes up very little room and makes life simpler.

Jul 12 13 01:41 am Link

Photographer

Hikari Tech Photography

Posts: 791

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Lumatic wrote:
Pelican cases.  Lots of padding.  Remove bulbs.

But if all you need is a couple of lights, it'd most likely be cheaper and easier to rent from Samy's.

If possible lug your gear into the cabin with you and rent on the other side what you can. Also, better for 'insurance' reasons as well.

Also, assume that TSA will mess your gear up good because they can and will when they think (or actually don't) they see something that could be a WoMD or something worth $$$$. TSA locks also means that any criminal can open your cases and put something in there to travel along with you at no extra charge... food for thought.

I stopped travelling into or through the U.S. with checked-in bags when that nonsense started. The TSA and the idiots who set up those rules clearly didn't think past their noses. Imagine landing in the U.S. and the drug cartel's runner gets stuck in traffic and doesn't get to the airport in time to take the 'package' out that you became the unsuspecting mule for. If it's the U.S. you're lucky because it's just jail and some Bubba love you long time unless somehow they got greedy and put many kilos worth of the stuff in your bag(s) but if you were headed to say Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan, China or Singapore, well you would be well and properly rooted (read as "deaded" as my little cousin used to say when he was younger).

Insure your gear if you're travelling with it because there are many people along the way that will have 'sticky' fingers.

Jul 12 13 02:36 am Link

Photographer

Hikari Tech Photography

Posts: 791

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Jul 12 13 03:03 am Link

Photographer

Hikari Tech Photography

Posts: 791

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

RKD Photographic wrote:

It sounds like you're a seasoned traveller, but none of that's going to work outside the US where regs. are much tighter.

You'll not be allowed to wear kit in a vest on the aircraft; it'll be taken off you at check-in and you'll be told to place it in your hold-luggage. You'll not be allowed more than one item of carry-on luggage (and the sizes are getting smaller as people realised that a good way of avoiding luggage charges is to carry the biggest possible 'handbag') - we're now (as of this month) limited to a small bag which includes laptop cases - so one or the other. Forget tripods or light stands - they can be used as 'weapons' (yeah, right) so there's no way they're coming in the cabin.

Unless you intend to travel with a compact DSLR and a kit lens, then a Peli-Case is going to be the only option.

Air France:  1x standard baggage item that respects the following maximum dimensions: 55 cm (l) x 35 cm (w) x 25 cm (h) – including pockets, wheels, and handles.
Lufthansa: A piece of hand luggage may not be larger than 55 cm x 40 cm x 23 cm and may not weigh more than 8 kg. Foldable garment bags are an exception to this; they count as hand luggage up to a size of 57 cm x 54 cm x 15 cm.
British Airways: Your main piece of hand baggage is up to the dimensions 56cm x 45cm x 25cm (22in x 18in x 10in), including the handle, pockets and wheels. Plus laptop or accessory bag.

These are for Economy passengers - Business and 1st Class have additional allowances.
Budget airlines have smaller allowances.

Unless your 'vest' contains 'ballistic' panels or you're hanging BIG lenses or other large items you should have no problems. I have been through Frankfurt, Barcelona, Madrid, Paris, London, Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Naha, Kumamoto, Santiago, La Serena, São Paulo, Buenos Aires and Sydney and other than the usual plant, wild life, prohibited items/endangered species list of don'ts, my gear coming with me into the cabin has been shown 'respect' after a careful and tactful discussion at the check-in counter and security check points (if required). Don't be an ass when you deal with them because they already get enough of that and it will just get you shut down in micro-seconds. They are doing there job so let them know that you understand and explain your situation politely. It also helps if you study the 'culture' before you travel to those areas so you know how to 'talk the talk'.

Jul 12 13 03:04 am Link

Photographer

afplcc

Posts: 6000

Fairfax, Virginia, US

RKD Photographic wrote:

It sounds like you're a seasoned traveller, but none of that's going to work outside the US where regs. are much tighter.

You'll not be allowed to wear kit in a vest on the aircraft; it'll be taken off you at check-in and you'll be told to place it in your hold-luggage. You'll not be allowed more than one item of carry-on luggage (and the sizes are getting smaller as people realised that a good way of avoiding luggage charges is to carry the biggest possible 'handbag') - we're now (as of this month) limited to a small bag which includes laptop cases - so one or the other. Forget tripods or light stands - they can be used as 'weapons' (yeah, right) so there's no way they're coming in the cabin.

Unless you intend to travel with a compact DSLR and a kit lens, then a Peli-Case is going to be the only option.

Air France:  1x standard baggage item that respects the following maximum dimensions: 55 cm (l) x 35 cm (w) x 25 cm (h) – including pockets, wheels, and handles.
Lufthansa: A piece of hand luggage may not be larger than 55 cm x 40 cm x 23 cm and may not weigh more than 8 kg. Foldable garment bags are an exception to this; they count as hand luggage up to a size of 57 cm x 54 cm x 15 cm.
British Airways: Your main piece of hand baggage is up to the dimensions 56cm x 45cm x 25cm (22in x 18in x 10in), including the handle, pockets and wheels. Plus laptop or accessory bag.

These are for Economy passengers - Business and 1st Class have additional allowances.
Budget airlines have smaller allowances.

Yeah, but the OP is talking about a domestic flight within the US so that is what I responded to.

Ed

Jul 12 13 04:26 am Link

Photographer

RKD Photographic

Posts: 3265

Iserlohn, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

de BUEN PHOTOGRAPHY wrote:
Unless your 'vest' contains 'ballistic' panels or you're hanging BIG lenses or other large items you should have no problems. I have been through Frankfurt, Barcelona, Madrid, Paris, London, Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Naha, Kumamoto, Santiago, La Serena, São Paulo, Buenos Aires and Sydney and other than the usual plant, wild life, prohibited items/endangered species list of don'ts, my gear coming with me into the cabin has been shown 'respect' after a careful and tactful discussion at the check-in counter and security check points (if required). Don't be an ass when you deal with them because they already get enough of that and it will just get you shut down in micro-seconds. They are doing there job so let them know that you understand and explain your situation politely. It also helps if you study the 'culture' before you travel to those areas so you know how to 'talk the talk'.

Unfortunately it can also depend on what the asshole in front of you has said before you get there: I once managed to successfully 'negotiate' additional cabin-luggage onto a BA flight from Heathrow to Calgary, only to be told to check all of it as hold-luggage (at considerable extra cost) on the return flight by Canadian baggage staff...apparently they were all in a bad mood because someone had made life difficult for them a few minutes earlier... or their Moose died or something... Canadians, 'ey.... sad

(as an aside - I do travel sometimes with ballistic armour and helmet as some of the places I travel to are less benign than others... but I wouldn't wear it on the flight as it's bloody uncomfortable to sit in for hours on end and you smell like a dead goat after a while...lol)

Jul 13 13 12:48 am Link

Photographer

Dan Howell

Posts: 2317

New York, New York, US

Good Egg Productions wrote:
I tried checking my lights once.  That will NEVER happen again.  Both of them came out broken.

afplcc wrote:
First, I don't check gear.

While damage and loss do happen, these are simply not practical suggestions for the OP. I regularly check my lighting equipment on national and international flights. I have clients and shoots all over the country that simply require more lighting than can be carried on. My camera case + computer fill most of my carry-on allowance to begin with.

It's great to make bold statement like above, but I don't think it has any relevance to the OP. Domestic flights are getting more strict about carry-on pieces meeting the requirements (those chrome frames at the gate your carry-on is suppose to fit inside). I can't imagine how little gear you must carry if you can fit it into carry-on.

I have invested in Tenba Air cases for my Profoto Strobes and my 27" monitor. I have a large Tamrac Rolling studio case for stands, tripod, lighting control, etc. Each case is carefully packed and padded. I have not had a broken flash tube or modeling light from flight yet. I might have cracked a Pyrex and bent a reflector from time to time, but I have had more damage to strobes from general use than flights.

I have had a bigger challenge keeping each case under 50lbs, but because of the amount of flights I have taken over the past couple of years, I am allowed to fly domestically with 3 70lbs cases without an extra charge. However, even sometimes that is not enough to transport all of the equipment I require on some projects.

Twice a year I have to transport virtually all of my equipment to the west coast to set up a studio there. On those occasions I fly with half of my equipment and ship the other half by FedEx Ground or UPS (at my client's expense). I have found that the wear and tear on ground shipping is roughly equal to flying but there less weight and size limitations. It takes roughly a week to ground ship from coast to coast.

If the OP has the lead time and can be separated from his equipment for some time, consider ground shipping some or all of your lighting equipment in well-packed containers. If you are flying with it, look for cases that are rated for flight--Tenba Air designation for example, not all cases are rated for flight.

Jul 13 13 06:48 am Link