Packing equipment for a multi-day shoot

Road Trip - Multi-day shoots
Some shots from last week’s road trip – location portrait on a vineyard, a lovely spot for lunch on my 15 mile hike, teaching a lighting demo for the Royal Navy, and 1 of hundreds of physio shots in a studio in Bournemouth.

A few times a year I end up having mini road trips, multi-day jobs where I’m out on the move for several days at a time.  Usually what happens is a few jobs have come in, spread out around the country, and it makes more sense to keep moving like the littlest hobo, rather than come back to London every night.  Often these jobs are also varying in nature – one might be a studio style shoot, with the next being a location portrait, or a race event, and as such I need to think very carefully about what gear to pack, and how to pack it.  I did one of these trips just last week, and here was the basic outline:

  • Wednesday AM – Location portrait at a Vineyard in Sussex for Runner’s World
  • Thursday all day – teaching at the Royal Navy Photography Symposium in Portsmouth
  • Thursday evening – black tie dinner with Royal Navy
  • Friday all day – Exercise instruction shoot in Bournemouth for YourPhysioPlan

So, mostly South Coast based, and Nikon (who I’m teaching for on Thursday with the Royal Navy) were generous enough to shout for a Hotel in Portsmouth on Wednesday and Thursday evening.  This makes the logistics much simpler – I don’t fancy the early starts required if I had to head back to London every night.  Knowing whereabouts I was going to be during Wednesday, and aware that the Runner’s World portrait would only take a couple of hours, I planned to spend the afternoon hiking round one of my favourite parts of the world, down near Liphook, so hiking boots, packed lunch, and a rucsac have to figure into the mix as well.  Here’s the gear I took for 3 days to do 2 shoots, teach for a whole day, and go for a wonderful 15 mile hike:<

The gear for last week. Clockwise from bottom left: Travelpak battery and cables, personal rucsac (hiking, plus overnight gear), stand bag (3 x stands, plus long extension cable), suit bag inc tie, shoes etc, small stand bag – actually for teaching demo purposes, but handy to have anyway, main camera bag, laptop bag inc all extras like hard drives and teaching materials, tripod bag with small tripod and 2 x softboxes, small flash bag – again for teaching purposes, but useful to have, and finally Lowepro rolling case with 2 x Bowens 750 pro’s and all associated bits.

And here are some general suggestions for these sorts of multi-day trips

  • As with any job, always find out as much as you can in advance.  Obviously I always do this with shoots as a matter of course, and choose the appropriate equipment, but there may be less obvious bits to look out for.  In this case, the “black tie” dinner bit rather threw me a curve ball.  I don’t own a dinner jacket, and would like to get through my entire life never having worn one, as I think they look stupid.  I do however, own a Savile Row tailored suit, and after a quick word with the Royal Navy, I found this was perfectly acceptable.  If I’d turned up in my usual work gear, I may well have been refused dinner, or at the very least faced a hefty port fine!
  • Choose gear that can do more than one job.  I’ve already talked about this in terms of clothing, but clearly it’s equally if not more important with photographic equipment.  Having a piece of kit that’s fantastic in the studio, but no use on location (or vice versa) would be a bit of a bind on a trip like this, as I’ve got to do both.  It’s one of the many reasons I love my Bowens Pro monoblocs, they function exactly the same with either mains or battery power – all I need to do if I want to use them on location is remember to pack the Travelpak battery.
  • Be self-sufficient – by which I mean take all the chargers you think you’ll need, hard drives to back work up to each night, and in my case I had copies of the presentation I was giving on memory sticks on the off-chance my laptop refused to work with the Royal Navy’s gear.
Road Trip 2013
A fairly complicated road trip from June 2013 – golfers at Stoke Park in Berkshire, Leeds Rhinos (in Leeds, obviously) for Multipower, Runner’s World portrait in Stoke, then later that evening in Morpeth, overnight in Scotch Corner before heading to Northampton for the last shot on the right.
  • One golden rule for trips like this, where you’ll be moving around a lot and parking in lots of different places – make every effort to keep your gear self-contained in the boot where it’s not visible.  It would be tempting to take the kitchen sink on a shoot like this, but I’d then be very wary about where I left the car.  This ties into choosing gear that can do more than one job – essentially pack as little as you think you can get away with!
  • Something I do as a matter of course for any trip, but particularly ones like this, is start packing in advance.  At least the night before, but where possible the day, or even days before.  I can guarantee you that if you leave things until the morning you’re leaving, you will forget stuff.
  • Check the weather forecast.  It’s never 100% accurate, but at least you’ll have a rough idea of whether you need to pack for Arctic conditions or sweltering heat.
  • Don’t overlook the personal, practical stuff as well as the professional – where are you going to be sleeping each night – hotel, hostel , B+B, mate’s sofa, campsite, a shelter built in the woods?  I’ve done all of these (some more than others) and obviously, the requirements are different for each.
  • Keep your cases of gear self-contained and as self-sufficient as possible (there’s a post coming about this soon, promise) so that you always know what’s in each case.  If you juggle things around whilst out and about, reset them as soon as possible.  Picking up a case and expecting x, y, or z to be in there, and then realising when you get on the job that you swapped it out for something else can be very inconvenient indeed!
  • And last, but not least, be prepared to improvise.  On a multi day job last year I was hoping to spend one night in a tent, only to confirm what I had long suspected, which is that my lightweight one-man tent really is too small to sleep in, and I’m not even 6ft!  Cue emptying out the boot of the car, loading the gear into the tent, then flattening out the luggage shelf in the boot, and setting my sleeping mat and bag up in the boot of the car.  It’s a very glamorous life being a location photographer!
Camping - Multi-day shoots
Anyone want to buy a tent? Would suit munchkin or oompa-loompa.

In practical terms, multi-day, multi-shoot jobs are just an extension of the same sort of logistics you should already be doing.  I find they just require that bit more forethought, but I usually find they also offer lots of opportunities to squeeze in a few pleasant stops along the way.

Struggling to understand any of the technical stuff in this or other posts?  Try my Technical Fundamentals course out.

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