As I prepare for my Costa Rican Expedition I am keenly reminded of the adage that creation is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. While the anticipation of exotic venues, stunning vistas and poignant artistic expressions is foremost in my mind, I know I will never get there without the sweat.
Debbie Allen, in the television series Fame , said that “fame costs and right here is where you start paying-with sweat”. She’s right. For me, prep started a long time ago. I began learning rudimentary Spanish, read about techniques and studied wildlife. Perspiration, for me consists largely of preparation. To that end, I have been reviewing, refining and restoring gear for a month or so now. Nothing is worse than being there and having the equipment fail at the decisive moment.
Some tips for you:
1. Study your airline regulations and determine what must go in Carry On and what must go in Checked Baggage. Keep abreast of rules concerning things like Fluids, Lithium Ion Batteries, tools, etc so that you don’t have to discard a crucial piece of gear like a spare battery, sensor cleaning materials or a screwdriver.
2. Separate your equipment into Carry On and Checked piles and and do a dry run on packing. Weigh and measure your bags and make certain you are within the airline’s limits. You don’t want to have to leave your gear bag with the attendant rather than keeping it under your watchful eye.
I discovered during packing that my laptop was just smidgen too large to fit in my new backpack-in spite of the manufacturer’s specs. I had ample time to procure a smaller laptop for the trip and prep it because I started early.
3. Review your batteries. You should have a batter in each piece of equipment and either a spare battery or a method to recharge your existing battery, preferably both. Charge each battery a couple of days in advance. Some charges take hours so don’t leave yourself short of time. Package and store your batteries in accordance with airline requirements. Don’t forget little back up batteries-those coin-sized items that keep date and time functional.
4. Clean sensors if needed before you go. Don’t rely on cleaning them midstream because the conditions will be less favorable in the field. Clean lenses, filters and other optical surfaces as well. Put protective film over LCD display surfaces. Wipe down the camera and the exterior surfaces in accordance with your camera manufacturer’s guidelines. Don’t forget to take some basic cleaning materials with you on your trip. Things like air blowers, optical cloths and solution are great ideas to brush up equipment in the field.
5. Memory cards should be offloaded and reformatted so that you have the maximum amount of image storage. A back up plan should be available to ensure that you don’t loose images and you can offload images in the field. You should carry twice the memory you expect to use in one day at the minimum.
6. Review your camera’s manuals and documentation and review the menus on your LCD screen. Make sure you know how to change modes, format memory, active flash and other common functions. If the guide is too bulky to carry, photocopy a couple of key pages and cut them out and keep them in a pocket for reference. That way you won’t be fiddling unnecessarily with the controls when you should be shooting a picture. This goes double for DSLR owners. Manuals are complex, thick and have much information you might need in the field.
Try out unfamiliar techniques like shooting flash on manual, syncing with the rear curtain, using a reflector, unusual tripod configurations, self-timers, bracketing and anything else you might be tempted to try while in the field. Having done it once with the manual and no pressure will go a long way toward repeating the process in the field.
At this point you can start sealing up the gear bags and getting ready to board the plane. That perspiration and preparation will pay off when that 1% inspiration comes to call.
Rikk Flohr © 2008