PART 1 – GEAR AND FILM
When travelling, one has enough concerns on his mind: accommodation, the roads (if travel by car), time schedules for trains and buses, plane tickets, and the rest of the stuff that makes a journey well planned. The luggage seems to be an important part of the planning too, and it is.
However, my priority list has cameras and film, right at number 2, the first being reserved to how to get there of course. But no. 2 is always at no. 2, because I always put aside a day or two to see the places and meet the people wherever I go. As I travel mainly for business, you can see why this is. And for those days I can spare in order to roam the places I visit, I take my camera(s) and do some damage to my shoe soles.
First thing on the photography stuff list are my Minox cameras: I usually pack a couple, say a IIIs or B and a C or LX, for those rapid, unexpected snaps. Having a Minox without a battery is very useful, I have found in the last 20 or so yrs since I am using these little jewels. I remember being in Istanbul once, had only an LX with me and the battery died in the first day. Of course there is no 5.6v battery in the whole Istanbul to be found at short notice.
It took me a while to remember the ad-hoc battery pack solution (3cms of selotape, 3 x LR 44 and 1 x LR43). A Minox IIis or a B would’ve come handy, but there was none in my bag. Ever since, I always pack some of these batteries and a mechanical Minox, and believe you me, these saved my hide in many situations. A good thing the SLR’s I carry are using the same LR44 batteries for metering.
Next, Minox film: I pack a couple of 25 or 50 ASA (Pan F50 or Rollei 25), some 3-4 rolls of 100 BW, usually Agfa APX or Delta, with a Tri-X or HP5 for those night or late evening shots. And of course, a couple of 100 colour film, usually Kodak Ektar. Obviously, I was never able to shoot all the films I take with me, but you never know; better to err on the safe side of travel photography and its needs. A small tripod with Minox head is also welcomed.
Re 35mm films, always some 400 ASA, either Tri-X, APX 400, HP5 or XP2. Slower films too, 25/50 and 100 (I usually go for a combination: APX 100, Fomapan, Rollei Retro 80s. A couple of Ektar or Fuji, as colour choice. To be honest, I almost never manage to shoot the entire number of film rolls I take with me.
A good and reliable light meter must accompany me, and I take a Minox one, which is still keeping the right cell sensitivity, and either the Lunasix 3 or my (refurbished) Weston Master III. Both brilliant meters, both reliable and fully dependable tools. OK, I am not metering all my shots, but I have been in tricky situations where the light was playing tricks with my eyes. So, yeah, it is worth your while to keep a good meter handy.
The 35mm cameras that I may have with me are my Nikon FM3A or Nikon F4, with a back up consisting of an Olympus OM1n. Alternatively, a Voigtlander Vito CLR, Kodak Retina 1a, a Zeiss Contina or a clean and trusty Retinette 1B can also be seen in my bag. Lens wise, three Nikon (Micro 55/2.8, 30-70 and a 80-200) and a couple of Zuiko 50/1.8 and 135/2.8, the old model. Brilliant glass all of them, albeit heavy on the road. Depending on the place I am going to shoot, I pack my bag in the morning accordingly. And YES, I always need the lens I left in the hotel room, so YES, you’re not the only one to experience the Laws of Murphy (photography version).
What I do not pack is a flash unit. I mean I have a small Minox bulb flash with me and a supply of say, 20 bulbs, but I never take a flash unit for my 35mm cameras. Don’t ask me why, I do not use one. Let us say that I like my photographs raw and without any artificial light when travelling. I also have found very early in my photography days that a flash unit is fidgety and troublesome when I travel. So, none at all is the best for me.
In the summer, I store my films in a small styrofoam box, underneath the seats of my vehicle, with no cool pads or anything of the sort. A couple of small silica gel bags inside, to draw the moisture if temp is changing rapidly. Film that was shot travels in the same box. Never had any troubles, but then again, I never keep my vehicle in very hot sun, always try to park it in the shades, if possible. If I stay more than 1 day in a location, I try to process the colour film there, if any labs are available; the b&w ones I always take with me to be processed at home. The cameras are stored in the same way, but the box is a bit larger, true. While it is not always convenient to carry around that box in the vehicle, it has its advantages, trust me. Preparing for strong sun and high temps pays off in the long (and short) run.
If I walk long distances, or spend a lot of time in the town or whatever, I never take with me one or two cameras max, a spare lens and a couple of films. And I always try to take the lightest bag possible when exerting myself on the mountain tracks, or tiring my feet all day somewhere: for instance, if I am visiting some rough terrain, or woods, or anything of that sort, I never take the Nikon 4 with the large battery pack. It’s cumbersome, heavy and at times, you may be tempted to leave near a tree 🙂 . For the F4 with all the bells and whistles, there are places where you can use it, and places where carrying it is a burden. Choose something smaller and lighter.
This is part 1 of my unending rant. If you are not yet bored to death, part 2 here soon. Easy travels !