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Carrying Camera Equipment in Risky Situations.

How do you carry your equipment so it does not shout "Hey, come take my camera!" - What precautions do you take?
12 years ago, November 10th 2008 No: 1 Msg: #54189  
N Posts: 4
Traveling presents unique problems to the camera freak. DSLR's are expensive the least
amout around $400-500. better cameras go up to $8000. not including lenses, cards, multimedia storage devices. The list goes on. Camera bags just scream money and carrying your equipment in a shopping bag is nuts.

How do you cope in your travels? Bring out the good equipment in the jungle and
carry a small Point & Shoot in your pocket in the cities?

What tricks do you have? What warnings?
Have you lost equipment? Reply to this

12 years ago, November 12th 2008 No: 2 Msg: #54395  
B Posts: 5,195
Hi Mike - great topic - one I personally wrestle with from time to time.

1) Camouflage it - I don't have a camera bag - I have a "manbag" - that is just the right size for my camera and doesn't have Nikon logos everywhere, I also put tatty bits of duct tape over the logos on my straps.

2) Don't take it - if you're going somewhere that you really are a target for theft - leave it at home. That's when I like you mention - take a point and shoot.

3) But - if you don't take it what is the point of having it? - I take my camera into situation that some would consider risky - because - if I don't use something that I own - then why bother owning it? Reply to this

12 years ago, November 13th 2008 No: 3 Msg: #54500  
I agree with Ali, this is a great topic that should be discussed more. I have taken my camera into some pretty sketchy places (not as sketchy as some but sketchier than others) and have not had too many issues. My advice is:

a) If your camera equipment is always with you (most likely because you're using it) its less likely to get stolen. Even though I'm a photo-geek and travel with a bunch of stuff, I usually carry it with me ALL the time. I invest in good camera packs that are comfortable and good camera straps that are comfortable so that I can have my camera with me and not feel like I'm being beaten up by it. Check out these sights for places that I've used for equipment: Moose Peterson Travel Bags , Black Rapid Camera Strap

b) When walking through a sketchy area with a camera (specifically a pro or semi-pro camera like Ali and I use) always be aware of your surroundings. If I'm in a sketchy place in the US, France, Africa or SE Asia the same advice always works for me. Travel with a group of people if you can. Don't count on a flimsy camera strap as protection. Always have people standing between you and the street (this works against people who snatch from cars or motorcycles). I usually carry my camera in these areas in one of two ways. (1) With a camera strap fully over my neck and both hands on the camera or (2) With my strap wrapped multiple times around my wrist and my camera in one hand (usually right) down by my side. Both of these ways make it harder for someone to grab them and run. If its harder for someone to steal and you're very aware, thieves notice and look for someone who's an easier mark. (NOTE: I've never been through South America which is notorious for theft...)

c) Always have full insurance on your camera stuff, specially if its expensive. The way I look at it, $5000 US of camera equipment is well worth the $100 US of insurance coverage from a good insurer. This way, when in doubt, if you are held up at gun point you know that you can give it all away and not lose a thing. Its a good piece-of-mind to know that you are better off giving your equipment up than getting stabbed or shot!!!

d) I always have good equipment to protect my equipment. Upon the advice of professional wildlife photographers I always use good protection for my junk (pun intended!!) For instance I use Lens Coats for my expensive lenses and camera bodies for travel. I use a Monitor Cover for my Nikon D700's screen. I also use a Nikon NC Clear Filter to cover the glass on the end of my nice Nikon lenses to protect against dirt.

While I realize that a lot of this protection feels unwieldy and expensive, its important to me. I certainly don't expect anyone else to go through what I do. I'm semi-professional and have sold my photography and therefore take it VERY seriously. This is all advice I have learned from reading and speaking to other pros.

Good luck,

Mike T.
Reply to this

12 years ago, November 13th 2008 No: 4 Msg: #54527  
I live in a city that is a bit more than 'sketchy', and although I'm not a professional photographer the idea of having my camera stolen (again) brings me out in cold sweats. I used to have a relatively large FujiFilm camera, that I kept along with my notepad and pens in a small black bag that I bought cheaply in a market, which had no logos on so attention wouldn't be drawn to it. Thieves are much less likely to risk opening a bag if they don't know for sure that there is something valuable inside - what if it was just my lunch or a spare pair of socks?

I now have a Canon which fits into the inside pocket of my coat, so I can relax on the metro or on trains. My advice is to keep the camera itself next to your body if you can, and keep any equipment in a plain, modest bag. And, if you can, don't pat it or open it to check that everything is ok, as that sends a message to any keen-eyed scoundrels that may be nearby.

Reply to this

12 years ago, November 14th 2008 No: 5 Msg: #54600  
B Posts: 71
I live in Rio de Janeiro. As far as theft and crime is concerned, this city is quite risky. Just being a gringo can be a bit risky in some areas let alone carrying an expensive camera around. Rio is an amazing city to photogaph but there are some things I've had to learn. Photographing in touristy places is fine, you wont have much trouble in Ipanema, Copacabana, Urca and the like however some common sense is required. The problem I've had is in less well trodden places. Even other parts of the city that are usually frequented by tourists like Centro and Santa Teresa aren't always so safe for a big DSLR's.

My trick is to have my DSLR in a back pack rather than a camera bag. Back packs are pretty common so they won't draw too much attention. I took a photo of a Favela once in an area of the city that is not even so safe to walk in let alone walk around with a camera. My trick was to already have the camera set up to shoot in my back pack. Waited until there were a few respectable looking people around me, took it out real quick, snap snap snap, away the camera went and I walked away straight onto public transport. This may sound a little paranoid but a) it worked and b) I like to be safe than sorry.

The idea of a small point and shoot camera is good for several reasons. One for descrete shooting in dodgy places and also if you're going out partying, you dont want to lug around a big DSLR with you. Also point and shoot cameras usually have video on them for some of the fun drunken moments.

The best advice I could give is be as desrete as possible without looking like you're guity of something. Try to look like you should be there (will be tough if you're white and in Africa or Asia) and be around as many peole as possible. Preferably people you know and/or trust. Reply to this

12 years ago, November 24th 2008 No: 6 Msg: #55401  
Two things:

1. As Camo said, use a back pack. You can get pretty decent camera backpacks that look similar to ordinary back packs. Most people are surprised to discover my backpack is actually a camera bag.

2. Buy a cheap camera that won't make you cry if you lose it. I've been traveling around a few dodgy places for the past few years. On one occasion I knew I was going to a pretty silly place where theft was chronic and had my $100 camera stolen. No big deal. I bought a replacement for $100.

3. Put some small money and paraphenalia into a bum bag. If you do get targeted, they'll take that and ignore your back pack. Reply to this

12 years ago, November 30th 2008 No: 7 Msg: #56081  
I would recommend carrying your camera everywhere with you for a few weeks before you go away. That way you become comfortable with having your camera with you and don't feel awkward with it. If you carry your camera naturally you draw less attention to it and become less noticeable. On the other hand if you're not comfortable carrying it you will become more fumbly and draw more attention to yourself and your camera.
Of course this does not guarantee that you won't be targeted for theft but it's all about blending in and reducing the chances. I've debated whether to take my camera and equipment in the past but I bought it with travel in mind and decided a nice camera isn't much good still in the box.
Take out seperate camera insurance which will also help to ease your mind.
Enjoy your travels and get some great pics. Reply to this

12 years ago, December 8th 2008 No: 8 Msg: #56882  
N Posts: 4
Well I've got a week to go before heading to Ecuador. All your suggestions have been great. Very interesting that everyone is so aware while some have lost equipment. When I planned this trip I saved up and bought a pro video camera to take with. I thought it would be great to shoot broadcast quality HD video. I also was going to bring a robot that takes amazing panoramics (http://www.gigapan.org) along with a Canon 20D, and three lenses.

The problem with theft is in the cities. I understand Quito has it's problems. That is one good reason to slim down. Then I found out that during one part of the trip involves a dugout canoe up an Amazon tributary.
The biggest problem -weight limit. Max is 40lbs including clothes. It all weighted 45lbs without a tripod or clothes.

So I trimmed it all down and decided I would not carry a camera bag in the cities. Just a light coat with deep pockets and only one extra lens. Leaving the broadcast camera at home and it trimmed down to a compact HD that will also shoot still panoramics.

I make my living shooting medical images for textbooks and advertising.
What do all of you do with some of the more fantastic looking images from your travels?
It sounds like Team Turner is selling images also. Do you folks do it yourselves or use an agency? Reply to this

12 years ago, February 19th 2009 No: 9 Msg: #63585  
B Posts: 602
Something else you might consider is a tripod that is a vacuum mount. They are easy to attach and stow after wards - out site of thieves. Be careful you go with vacuum and not suction. Suction mounts have no warning when they are going to loose their grip, but the vacuum ones do. Reply to this

11 years ago, May 7th 2009 No: 10 Msg: #72275  
N Posts: 1
I would give 2 thumbs up for bring comfortable with your equipment. I used to travel with a DSLR, changing lens and all. Not only do i get so distracted that i lose sight of the fun of traveling, i appear an easy target. You know, you get tt feeling you are being watched?

So now i travel with a prosumer - Fuji's S100FS. Nv missed a shot, and I enjoy the travel / place even more. Reply to this

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