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Jan 11

THE KIT…..The bag of a travel photographer in Madagascar

By julietlemon January 11 2012 - 03.00 PM

Here is a piece that I wrote whilst in Madagascar last month that I hope you find interesting…..

Greetings from the west coast of Madagascar, where it is a sweltering 40C  in the shade. The lenses in my sunglasses have started cracking as a result of the heat and if you’re fortunate enough to grab a chilled bottled of Three Horses Beer (the local brew), you best drink it quickly before it acclimatises to the ambient temperature and starts simmering!

Having enjoyed an absolutely incredible three weeks during my adventures in Madagascar filled with several great photographic assignments for some NGOs, I can’t believe how quickly the time flew by.  Isn’t this always so when you’re having fun!

I have really been loving the backpacking way of life, where all you have in your possession is all that you are able to carry.  My bag of clothes weighs in at just 9 kgs whilst my camera bag, which of course is filled to the brim, comes in at a hefty 16 kgs.  For you fellow ‘togs’ out there, I thought I’d let you know what camera equipment I’ve brought with me to aid me during these two months whilst I’m out here as a travel photographer.

The Contents:

2 x 5D mkI (one called Nickin & the other called Chugget)
70-200 f/2.5 USM IS
27-70 f/2/5 USM
100 mm f/2.8
16-35 f/2.8
2 x 580 EXII flash guns
Lasolite reflector
Manfrotto 482 table top (sturdy enough to steadily support a camera body with the 70-200 lens and a flash gun)
MacBook Pro & magic mouse
All the relevant batteries and chargers
A multitude of zip lock bags in a variety of sizes
Silicone sachets
Lots of 8GB memory cards
Lens cleaner fluid and papers
Small 400G hard drive
Blank DVDs
Permanent marker pen
Photo copy of insurance documents


The  Bag:

thinkTank Airport Antidote V2.0

I generally lug my camera equipment  around in Pelican 1510 airline carry on roll model.  The hard casing provides excellent protection and being able to pull it along on its wheels saves my back from taking the weight.  It has served me well when I have travelled abroad, but this time around, I decided it was time for a change and to go for a style of bag that didn’t make me look like an assassin.  The bag I decided to give the responsibility of looking after my camera gear was the thinkTank Airport Antidote V2.0.

I highly rate the design of the Airport Antidote V2.0.  The bag is all black with a small thinkTank logo, a very basic front design without a multitude of exterior zipper compartments. I knew the plainness would draw less attention to itself compared with a bag that looked really flash and high-tech from a distance.  I know from experience that it is best to draw as little attention to one’s camera equipment as possible and a big help is when, to the untrained eye, a camera bag doesn’t really look like a camera bag – although us togs are of course able to spot all types of camera bags from miles away!

The thick, padded shoulder straps ensured maximum comfort whilst I was carrying the full bag around.  Just 2kgs when empty, I carried it with ease when I only had a few of my camera bits in it, but with it full and weighing 16 kgs in total, the straps didn’t cut into my shoulders and I was also able to use the waist belt when needed.  The sturdy handles on the outer rim of the bag made it easy to cary upright or on its side.  The convenient side pocket is ideal for a water bottle and there are a few slots for tripods and mono pods.

One of the features, which really appealed to me, was the laptop compartment. The bag comes with a case, which holds a laptop up to the size of 15” and this fits into the front pocket of the bag, so it rests on top of the camera equipment.  Most of the other camera bags I had seen on the market had the laptop positioned underneath the camera gear and I just wasn’t happy for my MacBook Pro to take the constant pressure/strain of my heavy camera gear.

Inside the bag, the padded dividers were connected to the interior with Velcro, meaning that the layout could easily be altered to best fit the gear you had in there.  Taking different lenses and equipment out each time, I could quickly fix the dividers to secure my gear with minimal effort.

The security wire, with attached combination lock, was a feature of the bag that I loved.  Located in the pocket beneath the front flap, the lock is there to secure the laptop case to the bag.  I took it one step further and used this safety feature to give me peace of mind for the whole camera bag – be it whilst catching some precious sleep in a very uncomfortable position on a bumpy 23 hour taxi-brousse (bush taxi) journey, that is filled to the rafters with people and almost as many chickens, or grabbing some grub from a street stall, I was able to lock the bag to the chair leg or a suitable fixed object.  On the taxi-brousse journey, the suitable fixed object was a slightly different one… I wrapped the rubber coated wire around around my ankle whilst I  kipped (or tried to kip!). I knew that my camera bag was safe!

Designed to fit into the the overhead compartments on planes, I  had no problem.  It was only an issue in the smaller aircrafts, in which I flew during my internal flights in Madagascar, where the overhead compartments were slightly smaller than those of a Boeing 747. To make the bag fit  I had to take the laptop out and put it under my seat, which was no big deal.

Considering the amount of travel I was doing throughout the two months, from Boeing 747s to Cessna 206s, speed boats to mekorros (dug out canoes), helicopters to tractors, taxi-bruosse to tuk-tuks, my equipment could have taken a real pounding. However, the Airport Antidote V2.0 provided excellent protection and I’m pleased to report that none of my camera equipment was damaged.

I did enjoy travelling with the thinkTank Airport Antidote V2.0 and it protected my gear perfectly for the two months I was away for, although when filled with all my gear it was quite a burden on my back.  That isn’t anything to do with thinkTank’s great design, but there are two solutions to this problem; either find a willing subject to carry my camera bag for me or to take less gear away with me, and it certainly ain’t going to be the latter!!!

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A big HELLO and thanks for having a peek at the blog! So a little bit about me.........well I absolutely love the wonderful world of photography. I'm lucky enough to work with great people and at each shoot make sure that we have fun whilst getting great photos. I'm based in the UK where I photograph a lot of weddings and lifestyle shoots but also get to travel to far flung destination for a spot of travel, wildlife and car photography. I'm a Licentiate of the Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers as well as a Licentiate of International Nature & Wildlife Photographers and have won awards for my photography. My work has been published in national newspapers, wedding magazines, travel guide books, blogs and wildlife publications. My favourite colour is orange!
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