Joey L. shares some battle-hardened tips from traveling abroad on assignment or personal photography.
My first tip for traveling photographers is to protect your gear from theft. There are theives in every part of the world, not just developing countries. They know how much your pretty camera can fetch for on a black market, and they will risk a lot to steal your gear. When traveling, I make it a point to make my camera look crappy and old. I cover it with duct tape, carry it in a normal, dirty backpack, and make sure all recognizable logos such as “Canon” or “Phase One” are hidden. A nice looking camera case is also a red flag. I prefer typical “consumer” travel packs or using older weathered bags that have seen better days. ??
When I travel with ugly photography equipment, attention is diverted away from my stuff. A potential theif may determine that stealing my camera is not worth the risk of being caught. After all, they can’t sell an old hunk of junk for the price of a “new camera.” Let the theif go after the next unlucky traveler.
??Other than theives, there are other people looking to give you a hard time for your nice looking camera- I’m talking about airport customs officers in foreign countries. In fact, I have a lot more problems with these often uninformed, egomanical workers than theives. This is even more true for developing countries who are not used to living around this kind of expensive looking photography gear.
??I’ve been to many countries where the customs officer at the airport takes one look at my photography gear and gets very suspicious, even if I have a legal work permit for a shoot or letter from whom I’m working for. Is this guy working in the country illegally? Is this guy a spy or photojournalist with bad intentions? Is this guy going to sell the equipment here for profit? A trashy looking camera in a old dirty bag doesn’t look valuable, so it’s easier to get it by with less hastle.
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