Camera? Check. Lenses? Check.Tripod? Check. Battery charger? Check. Back up Hard Drive? Check. Extra cards? Check. Phone? Check. Phone charger? Check. Laptop? Check.
And on and on and on. The list of things we have to bring when flying is long and there is almost certain disaster if something is forgotten.
I left for Salt Lake City yesterday and had piles of stuff scattered about before packing. I am here primarily to shoot aerials so sent ahead the gyro stabilizer to my hotel as it is heavy and cumbersome to take with me.
Those of us that do this a lot, friend Lou Jones comes to mind, this traveling to make pictures, have a process we go through in prepping for a trip. It is partly mental and partly procedural. One thing I learned years ago was to break it down into categories: photo, computer, camera support(s), clothing, personal, and so on. Lou is a little different in that very often he's going with an assistant or even a crew. Add lighting to the mix and it gets even more complicated. But an experienced assistant can really make a big difference. I've always gone by myself on these trips. There is no one else to blame but me if I forget to bring something.
As a sideline, in earlier digital days I would go with a backup camera. I no longer do this as I don't want the weight and the expense. Foolish? Maybe, but not so far. What would I do if mine broke? If I could I would probably rent.
Another trick: pack categories all at once. This simply means don't try to pack all your clothes, for instance, over a couple of days. Why? Because you'll forget what you put in the bag and either repeat items or leave things out.
Not packing what you don't need is an art, of course. Weight is your enemy in all things when you travel. That long lens you almost never use when working close to home? Will you really use it on your trip? There is nothing worse than bringing stuff you don't use. This holds true for clothes. Pack light, plan for the climate your headed to and think about less clothes, particularly if you can do a wash when you're there. Teaching in Italy for 5 weeks, I did a Woolite wash every other day or so.
Years ago, when working in 8 x 10 and with more stringent security measures coming into play on flights, I learned to ship ahead. I had a large fiberglass case that was built like a tank. Off would go the camera, lenses and film holders via UPS. I would ship to myself to the hotel I was staying at, or a friend's house if possible. Think about this: having security ask to open your boxes of sheet film to see what's inside. A nightmare if unexposed and worse when already shot. That was so scary I would usually ship the film too. Makes another case for going digital, doesn't it?
Rolling is king too. Why carry it when you can roll it? I use a rolling case for much of the lenses and ancillary stuff and the laptop. This goes on the plane with me as it is sized to fit the overheads. Then the camera and personal stuff like an iPad (with movies I rent loaded on before I leave) and headphones, glasses, wallet, snacks, etc go in a backpack that serves to hold almost all the photo gear when I arrive. I can stack the backpack on top of the roller during those long concourse runs when changing planes, when you've got ten minutes before they board and they've shunted you to a different concourse. Argh! Love those.
Years working in 8 x 10 leaves me with a legacy for always wanting the best quality possible and that means a strong tripod. There is no way around this, sadly. Too small a tripod means I am blowing low light with long exposures because it doesn't hold things steady, too heavy means I am carrying unnecessary weight. Here carbon fiber rules and sadly, money speaks. Although for years I got by with an early Induro tripod (which wasn't bad) I now use a Really Right Stuff TVC-2X with their large ball head. Not perfect but I now get a larger percentage of keepers than before. Big bucks. Maybe Santa will be good to you this Xmas.
This could go on and on but I think you probably get my drift. With practice you can get yourself packed up well for a far away shoot on a tight time frame but it is definitely better to have a few days to plan it all in your head and pack carefully, thoughtfully, with as little weight and redundancy as possible, and not forget anything.
So, Neal, were you 100% this trip? Did you plan for everything and bring everything you needed and not forget anything? Nope. Considering that my phone becomes my nav on a trip like this, I need power for it in my rental car. Forgot that, for sure. First thing this morning? Radio Shack or equivalent.
BTW: Back in time for one incredible party at 555 the 12th. You coming?