think tank


The   PacSafe Backpack and Bag Protector   is the perfect way to secure a camera bag. 

The PacSafe Backpack and Bag Protector is the perfect way to secure a camera bag. 

I've been a victim of camera theft. I had a camera bag taken from an unlocked car in my driveway; it was a horrible feeling. I lost just about everything and it didn't matter that it was my fault, the fact remained that if you have your cameras stolen, it will pretty much ruin your day, your trip, or just maybe your livelihood.

Maybe it was that long ago feeling that still makes me incredibly nervous, sometimes to the point of anxiety, when I have to leave camera equipment in my car, that had me searching for the best solution to keep it safe.

And minimizing the ability of someone to relieve you of your gear, whether it's in your car, on a train or back at the hotel, will give you the peace of mind to concentrate on taking great photographs or enjoying a meal during down time.

The Thinktank Airport security bag has both a lock and a built it cable that allows you to secure the bag to a tie down point in your car. You can also run the cable through handles of other luggage and secure them as well.

The Thinktank Airport security bag has both a lock and a built it cable that allows you to secure the bag to a tie down point in your car. You can also run the cable through handles of other luggage and secure them as well.

Even if you plan on carrying all your cameras and lenses on your person, you certainly aren't going to carry your laptop, hard drives, and other peripherals.

So what can you do to decrease the likelihood of theft? Decrease, because nothing will stop a determined thief, especially if they have time.

1. Many camera bags or equipment cases can be locked, so take advantage of that. I use a Thinktank roller bag which has a cable that allows me to secure the bag to an immovable object, like a tie down point in my car.

While a trunk seems more secure than an SUV or hatchback, it's still no guarantee that your equipment is any safer. Out of site is good, but it doesn't mean out of mind.

While a trunk seems more secure than an SUV or hatchback, it's still no guarantee that your equipment is any safer. Out of site is good, but it doesn't mean out of mind.

2. For camera bags that do not have built-in locks, I've found the PacSafe Backpack and Bag Protector to be the perfect solution. Realize that a thief can still reach zippers through the mesh, so I use an additional lock on the compartment where I keep items that could be removed, such as keys, a hard drive, flashlight, etc. The PacSafe also has a cable that can be secured to a fixed object.

3. When I leave my computer back at the hotel or am working in a press room, I use the Kensington Security Cable with a key lock. For a few dollars more you can get the combination lock version.

Final advice is to be aware of your surroundings. If you are at a location known for photography, it pretty much is a given that you have gear in your car. And while you could bring less gear and travel lighter, you've invested in it and after all the effort to get to the best location, you don't want to be without it.

Video demonstration of the PacSafe.


STAIRWELL - Nikon 70-200 at 116mm, f3.2, 1/100, ISO 2000.
What are Hipshots? You know that unmistakable sound of the shutter releasing when the camera is no where near your eye; well that is what I am calling a Hipshot*.

This normally happens to me when I'm carrying two cameras and the one hanging over my shoulder knocks against my side, or Think Tank belt system, etc., causing the shutter to release and giving me a wonderful photograph of the ground beneath my feet.

OUTFIELD - Nikon 70-200 at 200mm, f2.8, 1/2500, ISO 400.
This isn't a new phenomenon, however a few months ago when downloading photos from a corporate kickball game a few of these Hipshots caught my eye. So instead of deleting them and moving on, I decided to save them to a folder and make a point of saving others from my assignments.

INFIELD - Nikon 70-200 at 190mm, f3.2, 1/2500, ISO 400.
I also started looking at them closely and thought they weren't half bad. Art? I'll let others be the judge of that.

Five tips on avoiding Hipshots:

1. Turn your camera off when not actively shooting.

2. Don't carry your camera over your shoulder, but instead leave it around your neck.

3. Use an across the chest strap such as one from BlackRapid to reduce the risk of the shutter knocking against your side since the top of the camera is facing down.

4. If you don't want to turn your camera off or carry it around your neck, be aware that it might occasionally go off without your knowledge. Could be embarrassing in some situations, especially if you are shooting in continuous high shutter mode. Nothing draws attention to you like firing six frames per second at the wrong time.

5. Ask yourself if you really want to avoid them? Don't sweat it and just accept the results. Modern painter and artist Bob Ross was famous for saying, "We don't make mistakes; we just have happy accidents".

PAVEMENT - Nikon 24-70 at 52mm, f2.8, 1/3200, ISO 200.
Don't be afraid to have a few "happy accidents" today and if you do, feel free to share them with me. And besides, I believe most of these photographs are as good as anything I see on Instagram.

*All the Hipshots in this post are shown just as they came out of the camera.


Porta-Brace video camera case and Think Tank Photo roller bag. 

Planning, research and organization are essential. The first thing I do when given an assignment is start asking questions like, when, where, still, video, deadline.

Next comes the logistics, such as will I fly or drive, be staying at a hotel or aboard a ship at sea, need a rental car or will I use my personal vehicle?

Answers to these questions greatly impact what gear I need and how and what I will pack.

Next begins the research phase of the trip. I start with the writer if one has been assigned and see what research has already been done. Sometimes a draft of the story has already been started. Next I'll contact the program manager or subject matter expert, introducing myself and requesting any and all background information they can provide. I also ask them what I can expect to see and if there are any restrictions when I'm on location. Never want to find out for the first time that cameras aren't allowed or something is classified when I arrive.

Finally I print out my Gear Pack List. I'm big on lists and the only way to ensure that you have everything you need when you arrive is to make sure you pack it. I downloaded this list several years ago from another photographer and over the years I've personalized it to include all the gear I own and everything else that I can think of. I just use a sharpie to cross out what I will not need for a particular trip and then use a red pen to check off items as they are packed. Hopefully you have the time to really contemplate what you are going to need, but even if time is tight, the list will ensure you are prepared. Many times it's a give and take, for instance, if I'm driving to location, it is easier to load more gear than I might need, however if I'm flying, then taking a small boat to meet a larger ship at sea, packing light and tight becomes more critical.
Pelican 1610 case with 1615 padded divider.

Most of my jobs require both video and still photography in some capacity, however, during initial conversation I have to determine which is primary. Is this part of a full video production with interviews and lighting requirements, or are they only interested in B-Roll and maybe a short clip for YouTube? For the latter I might be able to get away with just the D3S to shoot both still and video.

All my gear gets packed in either an Airport International Rolling Camera Bag from Think Tank Photo, a Pelican 1610 case with a 1615 padded divider set or a Porta Brace video camera bag. Other less breakable items such as a tripod, light stands, cords, light modifiers, chargers, etc., get packed into a soft duffel or regular luggage with clothes. And don't forget plenty of bubble wrap. I've checked all of these bags on different occasions, with the exception of the Porta Brace, and never had a problem. Although the Pelican hard case almost always pushes the weight limit.

One last bit of advice. If possible arrive the day before the job starts to allow for lost or delayed luggage. It also gives you time to break out and check gear, get batteries on charge, etc. But just in case, I always travel with a laptop, compact flash card reader, one camera body and lens with flash in my carry on so I can at least  capture something if all else fails.

For advice from photographers who have traveled tens and hundreds of thousands of miles each year, Think Tank Photo has posted two free articles, "Fear for Your Gear - Part I," and "Fear for Your Gear - Part II" INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL. You need to provide your name and email address to gain access to the PDFs, but it is well worth it.