Travel and photography go hand in hand. Who doesn’t dream of taking incredible shots to wow your friends and colleagues with when you return from some exotic destination? Unfortunately, there are a few down sides to travel photography that you probably need to be aware of before you go, especially when it comes to traveling in poorer areas.
Depending on where you are going, security is going to be an issue. Sure, you are probably (but not always) reasonably safe in your own country or places like New Zealand or Europe. But in a lot of other places, especially in third world countries, the cost of your photography gear is equivalent to a year’s wages (or more) for the locals.
Discretion is Your Friend
It is quite staggering to see so many people whip out a $1500 camera setup to take snaps in some tourist hell in the third world. Pull your Canon DSLR with a 300mm lens out of your Lowepro backpack and you are going to attract attention! And yes, the thieves will have an opinion on Canon vs. Nikon.
Now, I am not saying don’t take these things, but lets think of a few ways you can be a little more discreet.
Mess Up Your Camera - A little imagination and your camera can be made to look like a very un-tempting target for thieves. This doesn’t do any damage to your camera whatsoever, but it will make your camera less appealing than the next photographer’s gear to a potential thief. A bit of gaffer tape and some artists paper can make it look really bad!
Mess Up Yourself – If you’re wearing Armani jeans and an Omega watch in the third world, then you are already a target. Dress down. Be discreet.
Choose a Pack Wisely – I know that there are some fantastic packs out there, but a lot of them aren’t exactly shy about splashing their logos all over (and thieves know which ones to look for). Your options here are to get a less obtrusive pack or disguise your existing one (cutting off logos or blackening them with shoe polish is one way to do this. Even some gaffer tape will mess up the shiny, clean look well enough). When choosing a camera bag, choose one for a specific job.
Twist Ties – Remember those pieces of wire wrapped in plastic that used to be used for tying bread bags? They are fantastic for wrapping around zips and ensuring that things are difficult for prying hands. Take a few and make sure that your pack zips are always difficult to prize open in a hurry.
Be Aware of Your Environment – Take a look around and see who is looking at you before you bring out the camera. If you can move to a more unobtrusive spot to take a shot then do so. If you are in an isolated area, don’t bring out the camera gear until you are more sure of your environment.
Beware Hotels – Just because your gear is back in your hotel room doesn’t mean it is safe. Utilise the hotel safe or the safe in your room. If they don’t have one then take your gear with you.
You are never going to eliminate the potential of being robbed. In many places, even a poor westerner is still considered a prime target. But personal security is not about eliminating the possibility of being targeted. It’s about making yourself less of a target than the next tourist. A bit of common sense and awareness of your environment will put you ahead of most people.