Here I am, one day away from embarking on a (hopefully) amazing photographic journey to Alaska with Jack Graham and two others and I’m brimming with excitement. It is an experience that has been on my bucket list for quite a while and as such, I want to ensure that I have the best time and make the most of this experience.
This trip has been planned for a few months and I’ve had a lot of time to think about it, get excited about it and plan for it. I was very fortunate that this opportunity came to me during a very dark time in my personal life and it acted like a life preserver to drag me out of the depths and keep me pushing forward to realize this bucket list item. Needless to say, there is a lot of self-imposed pressure to maximize this experience and the photographs that I bring home. Part of that pressure is making sure that I bring all the “right” stuff and my knowledge skills and abilities are as sharp as they can be.
There are two key ideologies that I try to adhere to in preparing for a trip; 1) with a clear head, think through what I need to bring (maybe even create a checklist) and 2) pack/prepare in plenty of time before departure. If I delay my prep, I will be rushed and I will run the risk of forgetting something in my haste as well as not enjoying the lead up to lift off. The other advantage of preparing early is that in typical fashion, life can throw an unexpected curveball and screw up the last minute plans. For me, preparing for a big trip, or even a small trip, is part of the fun and can be part of the overall trip experience. Let’s make it a positive one!
I knew that preparing for the Alaska trip would be a little different because I’ve not been there before and I have to fly to my destination, meaning my choice of gear and clothing would need to be fully thought out. Because I was excited for this trip, I started thinking about which gear to take about a month ago. I wanted to be sure that if I needed to buy anything new I’d have plenty of time to order and have it shipped in enough time for me to ensure it functions as needed. Gathering information about the location, predicted weather and type of shooting I’d be doing, I decided that I had all the gear I needed (more than needed actually) so it became an exercise of deciding which of my gear to take and in which camera bag (of course we all have multiple to choose from LOL)
It’s at this point I decided to start a checklist of all the things I thought I would bring and would use the checklist as a guide/reference as I packed, knowing that the run up to a trip is quite hectic at work and at home and I may not have my full mental abilities 🙂
I settled on taking my two Fuji bodies and a range of zoom lenses from 10mm to 400mm along with teleconverter, manual shutter release, etc. Because I’m also going to shoot a promotional video, I had to think with my videographer hat on and pack the right tools for this job (action camera, mic, windsock, etc). I decided to only take a few of the many filters I have and had to dig out the original carrying cases as I’m not taking my full filter pouch in order to save space. I then went about re-configuring my camera backpack to optimize the layout for this particular assortment of gear and provide easy/intuitive access when in the field.
Next my thoughts to turned to what other supporting gear do I need to bring and how would I pack that? Yup, I listed it out on my checklist. Computer, external hard drive, thumb drives, iPad, phone, every memory card I have (I try not to delete off cards if I don’t have to…another backup source) charging cables for all these electronics, Not to mention 6 spare batteries for my cameras along with a dual charger and single charger. Whew, that’s a bunch of stuff. My camera backpack doesn’t have a laptop slot so the decision was made that I’d have to bring a daypack to carry the electronics (cords and cables packed in big duffle) And oh yea, how am I going to carry the tripod? Now I’ve got two carryons and can’t carryon my tripod…..so I guess my luggage needs to be big enough to fit my large Gitzo tripod. Geez, this is getting complicated!
Now on to the clothes and outerwear. This part was actually easy. Knowing the weather conditions and having a lot of experience in the field, bringing enough of the right clothes was an easy choice. Knowing I tend to overpack a bit “just in case”, I kept a tight reign on what went in the duffle bag (with the help on my checklist). I have a good range of clothing to deal with temps from the high 30’s to the 80’s and from sunshine to heavy rain. The best thing of all is that there is room to spare in the bag!
Over the last month as I was creating my checklist of gear/clothing that I was going to bring, I felt I had that part of the prep in a good place. My thoughts then turned to my knowledge, skills and abilities….getting those tuned up before the trip. Like most of us I used the internet to research and study the locations. I also did some refresher study on shooting wildlife as it’s not something I do frequently. Shooting wildlife typically requires different camera settings and behaviors than when shooting landscapes, so I refreshed some of my knowledge of my camera system to re-familiarize myself with functions I don’t use as often. And lastly, I made an effort to go out and shoot as frequently as I could to keep my muscle memory fresh using the camera, and, make sure my “creative muscle” is in top shape. To exercise these muscles for this trip, knowing it would be different than my typical trip, I sought out different subject matter that mimics a bit of what I’ll be doing in Alaska shooting wildlife. I visited some local wildlife refuges and spent some time shooting birds and lastly a week ago, I went to the racetrack and spent a day photographing vintage automobiles racing on track to help sharpen my skills at panning a subject and testing out various focus mode combinations for shooting action.
Have I been successful in my preparations? Well yes, yes I have! 36 hours to go and I have all of my camera equipment packed, my clothes and sundries are packed, the house is as clean as it’s going to get and the mail is “held” and I’m enjoying the “pre-trip” glow as giddy as a school kid on the last day of school confident that I have everything I need, even if a last minute curveball shows up, I have time to handle it.