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Don Smith On Traveling Light For Flights

J.J. Cale is one of my old-time favorite artists. Back in 1976, Cale released a song titled, “Travelin’ Light.” So what does a 70’s rock song have to do with modern-day travel photography? Actually quite a bit.

I received my first wake-up call this past June while sitting with friend/colleague Gary Hart in the Auckland International Airport in New Zealand awaiting a flight to Queenstown.

As is the norm, I had two carry-on bags: My Apple Macbook Pro laptop computer in a backpack and my camera gear, in a F/Stop backpack. About every 10 minutes a recorded announcement would play regarding the weight limit of carry-on bags. They were not to exceed 7kg – 15.4 pounds – let me repeat that – 15.4 POUNDS! I was probably within limits (barely) with my laptop bag but was well over weight with my camera bag. It was upwards of 35 pounds! Fortunately, no one from New Zealand Air checked and I made it both going and coming home.

This got me wondering about the state of most international carriers so I did some digging and here is what I came up with with this page: CLICK HERE TO CHECK WITH YOUR AIRLINES.

As of this writing, Alaska Airlines and Alitalia Air restrict you the most at 5kg – 11 pounds!

That’s great if you are traveling with one body and two lenses; however, if you are flying half way around the world for a once-in-a-lifetime photo trip or workshop, that’s not a lot of gear.

Back in my sports photography days I did a lot of domestic travel to cover both the NFL and MLB. I would ship my 400mm f/2.8 and 600mm f/4 in a hard case. I would also ship two cameras with motordrives. My carry-on would consist of another camera body, a 24-70mm, 50mm and 70-200mm +1.4x converter plus all of my film (later replaced with digital cards).

Today things get a bit easier, especially for us mirrorless shooters.

At the start of this month, I was departing for workshops in the following locations: New Mexico, Maui, Wyoming, Utah, Namibia and Utah. This totals six weeks of travel of the next nine weeks.

I fly Delta to and from Namibia and cannot find a weight limit for my carry-on, just a size restriction. As most of you know, 50 lbs. is it for a checked bag and heaven forbid if you go a pound or two over the limit.

Don Smith's total kit, weighing 19 pounds. Not pictured: Sony 12-24mm and Sony 1.4x teleconverter

My new kit has just been completed and weighs in at 19 pounds. This includes the following gear: (1) Sony α6300, (1) Sony α7R II + Vertical Grip, (1) Sony α9 + Vertical Grip, (1) Sony 12-24mm, (1) Sony 24-70mm G Master, (1) Sony 100-400mm f/4.5-f/5.6, (1) Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8, (1) Sony 1.4x teleconverter, (1) set of Fotodiox extension tubes, (1) Giotto Rocket Blaster, (1) card wallet and plates for all cameras/lenses, (1) bag of batteries. This all fits in my new MindShift TrailScape 18L.

This gives me a bag (depending on the camera I use) that has a range of glass from 12mm – 900mm and three bodies – and all under 20 pounds! Try doing that with your large Canon or Nikon outfits.

Besides the many optical benefits of mirrorless, weight reduction is a huge plus!

Learn more about Sony Artisan of Imagery Don Smith here.


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