Taking your camera on the plane. It stresses me out. In any case, packing for a flight already gives me the jitters. How many kilos of luggage am I allowed to take, what should go in the hand luggage and what should go in the hold? Is everything well protected and is it in the right size suitcase?
I can start collecting stuff to remember days in advance, I use checklists that I double-check.
And then once at the airport nervous about whether my bags are too heavy and whether they don't secretly weigh the hand luggage anyway.
That happened to me once and yep, of course way too many kilos in the hand luggage. Eventually it worked out and I was allowed to take an extra bag as hand luggage for a fee. That's not convenient, gives a lot of stress, I felt so unhappy!
And because it wasn't all stressful enough already. Have you ever sat at the window in the plane before departure? While the suitcases were being loaded into the hold?
Then you know luggage is not handled gently.
It is thrown from the trolley onto the belt.
Or worse, it falls off the trolley or the conveyor belt.
Or your luggage gets lost and you arrive at your destination without it.
Doomsday scenarios enough to worry considerably about your precious and fragile camera on the plane.
All those amazing diving destinations Egypt, Bali, Philippines, Bonaire and more! Perfect diving spots for extensive underwater photography, but how do you take your underwater camera with you on the plane?
OK, you get my point: so your beautiful, expensive, fragile photography gear doesn't go in the hold luggage but in your hand luggage.
Because camera equipment is heavy, big and clunky. With the 8 kilos, or if you're lucky 10 kilos, you still have a challenge.
Do you then put parts of your equipment in checked baggage? Batteries and batteries out? And what about those actually?
In this blog, I'll give you all kinds of tips for taking your camera on the plane.
Write down what you take with you
Make a list of all the equipment you bring, with serial numbers where possible. Should you lose something in any way, at least have the serial numbers. For when the insurance company asks for them.
Such a list also comes in handy when all your luggage is stolen. At the police report, you can immediately hand over a list of all the materials you had with you and not have to panic thinking about what was in the bag. At the risk of forgetting something.
I also always take a photo of my packed hand luggage bag. Because then I can immediately see what was in it, but it also comes in handy on the way back. Then I know how I packed everything on the way there.
Because somehow, packing on the return journey is always trickier than packing on the outward journey.
What are you going to photograph?
It might be useful to read up in advance on what you might encounter. Are you going to a place where you shoot macro? Or just wide-angle?
Dive from a boat or from the shore.
You must be wondering, what difference does that make to packing my camera gear?
If you know in advance that you will only shoot wide angle, you could leave your macro gear at home. (But to be perfectly honest: I always take everything with me, because I just want to have everything to hand).
If you know you will be diving from a boat, you might be able to bring more batteries if there is not enough time/opportunity to recharge between dives.
What I like to do as diving holiday prep:
I find out which marine life is common in that location and make a list of the animals I would like to photograph.
Sometimes I also think about how I would like to do that. With a black background, for example. From a certain angle or a specific detail. Does the animal have certain behaviour I can portray? That way I am prepared for anything.
What is your limit, how much luggage can you take?
Find out in advance how much luggage you can take with you. Every airline has different rules. Some allow 7 kilos of hand luggage. Another might allow up to 10 kilos.
It is also useful to know what dimensions your hand luggage is allowed to have so you can bring the right photo bag.
Depending on what dives I am going to do or where I am travelling to, I use the CineBags CB80 onderwatercamera tas SquareGrouper XL.
You can read more about these bags and others here.
Are you travelling with someone?
If you are travelling with someone, ask them if you can use some of their hand luggage kilos. If that person is an underwater photographer themselves, then you already know the answer. Because then that person will need the kilos themselves and won't have any space to spare.
But maybe the person is diving with just a gopro and there is still some room in the hand luggage.
My partner Marco and I don't travel together by plane very often, mostly we are in our campervan on our way to European destinations. But when we fly together, we divide my camera equipment between both carry-on bags.
Test your underwater camera before getting on the plane.
Assemble your underwater camera and check that everything works properly before packing all the parts in the bag. That way you can be sure you have everything and that everything works.
Also check the o-rings for cracks or irregularities. Nothing as annoying as finding out just before your first dive that something is still at home or not working properly.
Don't ask me how I know that.....
Okay, I'll just tell you. The batteries I brought for my brand-new Backscatter snoot didn't fit. Just a millimetre or so too short so they didn't make good contact. I had to go through a lot of dive shops to find out that they were not available at my destination. Finally, in the last few days of the diving trip, I was able to buy batteries from a fellow diver I spoke to. A stroke of luck.
Do you know Murphy's law? Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
You can't escape it, something always goes wrong. BUT you can prepare by taking a few extras with you.
I have a save a dive kit for my diving kit, but also a "save a photo kit". If something breaks on my camera, underwater housing or strobes, I have something with me to repair or replace.
In my case, that includes:
- an additional o-ring for the underwater housing
- an extra o-ring for the flash unit
- a cleaning kit
- silicone grease
- additional batteries
- a second charger
You might need other spare parts for your camera set, depending on which camera you take on the plane.
(This of course applies to any dive anywhere. Because it is also frustrating when you are in your own "backyard" ready to go diving and you miss something.
Put an AirTag in your luggage
I put in all my bags a Apple AirTag when I take my camera on the plane, Both in checked baggage and hand luggage.
They are small round devices less than 2cm in diameter. They transmit a secure bluetooth signal, allowing you to see where the bag has gone via a paired iPhone.
You cannot constantly "see" your suitcase on your phone at any time, they do not transmit their location in real time. An iPhone (whoever's) has to be nearby to pick up signal and pass it on. The owner of that iPhone doesn't notice anything at all, it's purely the signal being passed on from phone to phone.
Even though this system is not foolproof, I still like to use them. Suppose my suitcase gets lost, I am much more likely to be able to show the flight company where it has gone.
There is also a similar system for Samsung: Smarttag .
Essential: the luggage scale
Handy to weigh your luggage in advance. Even on the way back.
That way, you won't face any surprises at the airport.
Still hand luggage too heavy?
Are you going to take your camera on the plane and your hand luggage is really too heavy? Then wear a jacket or body warmer with lots of (large) pockets and put as much as you can in there. Saves weight in your hand luggage again!
What goes in hold luggage and what in hand luggage?
Of course my camera goes on the plane in the hand luggage. No way I'm having it thrown in the hold. I put the camera in its underwater housing to save space.
I also put flashes, lenses and snoots in my hand luggage.
I prefer to put everything related to my camera in hand luggage. If there are two of us travelling and I can divide all the equipment across hand luggage for two, it's easy to do that too. This way, I always have a complete photo set when I arrive. Even if hold luggage is lost.
When I travel by myself, it gets a bit trickier. I dare to pack my hand luggage a little heavier than allowed, but sometimes I end up with a seriously overweight suitcase. So then I have to choose.
I then put the following in the hold luggage:
- flash arms with clamps and floats
- spare parts
- cleaning kit
- and anything that doesn't have loose parts. If I am really in weight trouble, I pack my wet lenses extra well and put them as deep and safe as possible in checked luggage. Fortunately, I haven't had to do that very often.
Batterijen mogen niet in de ruimbagage en moeten in de handbagage vervoerd worden.
Ik heb wel eens gelezen dat er vliegmaatschappijen zijn die willen dat je batterijen elkaar niet mogen aanraken en bedekt moeten zijn met tape, maar ik weet niet of dat een internet fabeltje is. Ik heb het zelf nog nooit meegemaakt. Jij wel? Laat het me weten, toch mooi als we dat uit eerste hand mogen horen.
Bij mij zitten de batterijen en accu’s in de apparaten waar ze in horen. De accu’s van de flitsers zou je los kunnen halen, omdat flitsers vaak erg warm worden als ze bovenwater aan gaan. Zelf heb ik dat nooit gedaan, omdat mijn knoppen van de flitser niet gemakkelijk “zomaar” kunnen bewegen en omdat ik bang ben dat de contacten beschadigen. Ik let wel extra op dat de flitsers in hun eigen “vakje/compartimentje” van de fototas zitten zodat er niets aan kan blijven haken.
Je camera meenemen in het vliegtuig, het is wat het is
Ja het is stressvol. Ja is het moeilijk om je handbagage binnen de gewichtslimiet te houden.
Maar het is wat het is. Als je naar je droombestemming wilt gaan om te duiken en je wilt onderwater foto’s maken. Dan is het wat het is.
Pak al je kwetsbare spullen zo goed mogelijk beschermd in,
Bereid je zo goed mogelijk voor, wees op tijd met inchecken en glimlach vriendelijk naar iedereen. Wie weet helpt het je ooit eens.
Wil je meer tips over onderwaterfotografie? Lees dan dit blog met 8 tips!