What is this article about?
Now that you’ve picked your equipment, you’re probably wondering what’s going to happen when it starts pouring rain in Patagonia or maybe how you’re going to backup all your files in the middle of nowhere. These are all the things I’ll try to address in this article.
Check out my other related articles here.
Who is this article for?
This article is not for experts but neither it is for beginners (if you don’t know what exposure, ISO or aperture means, I guess this is not the right article for you). I mainly target enthusiast photographers who wish to hone their skills while travelling for a long time. In other words, those who are willing to invest a lot of time and (unfortunately) money to bring fantastic memories from this once-in-a-lifetime trip.
Dealing with rain
1Be careful with rain but don’t freak out either. So far, after spending quite some time in Patagonia, I had a single issue with moisture. Otherwise I took my 35mm and my 70-200mm into light to heavy rain, most of the time covering both body and lens with a rain cover when I wasn’t taking pictures. I only got moisture in my 70-200mm when I took it under heavy rain and cold conditions for 2 hours without protecting it properly the whole time.
2Build a rain cover. I repurposed the rain cover that came with a Thinktank Digital Holster. I tie the cover to the blackrapid snap hook to prevent it from falling on the ground. The cover has an adjustable elastic strap that makes it easy to adjust it around your camera/lens. If you keep the camera close to your body, almost no water is going to get on it. Very cheap, very lightweight, and very convenient!
3Always use the lens hood. Use the hood whether there’s sun or not: it’ll help you protect the lens from rain drops and dust. You’ll also be able to put the camera lens down on your thigh in a panga (inflatable boat) or a car ride.
4Know what to do when you get moisture in your lens. Apparently, the trick is to place your lens and camera in a closed container with rice for 1 or 2 days. I didn’t have to do that: I kept my equipment at a reasonable distance from a heater for 1 hour. In some cases, I read this could be insufficient to fully get rid of the moisture.
Keeping your equipment safe and secure
5Always keep your equipment on you. We travelled for about 4 months through South America, which isn’t exactly known for being the safest place on earth. We read and heard many horror stories from people we met there. Needless to say that you need to always keep your equipment with / on you (not just keeping an eye on it). However, we didn’t experience any issues. Not sure if it’s luck or us being extra careful. Maybe a combination of those two. Also, remember to take your equipment as a carry-on when travelling by plane as many insurance policies won’t cover theft or damages if checked-in.
6Get a photo gear insurance before starting your trip. All travel insurance I looked at (including high-end ones) don’t cover items above 1000EUR. They also have all sorts of terms and conditions. So go with a specialized photo equipment insurance. However, in several countries (such as France), you simply won’t find any (or maybe something that costs 30% of your equipment per year and reimburses only 40% of the used value 😉 I was lucky enough to live in the UK before starting that trip so I could contract one with a decent policy at an acceptable price with Photoguard. However, you only know if you have a good insurance when you make a claim, which I didn’t have to do so far…
Battery usage and charging
7Think twice before bringing solar battery chargers. I found that 3 batteries are enough even for trips in Torres del Paine where you simply have no electricity in certain refuges. You simply have to charge your batteries and devices whenever you can (don’t wait until they’re all discharged). We used the portable battery charger only once or twice for other devices (like Kindles, feature phone, etc.) but we would have been fine without it.
Geolocating your pictures
8Get a separate GPS logger to save batteries. In my previous trips, I used a smartphone with a geolocation app. Since we decided to travel without smartphones, we had to find something else. Besides, smartphones end up consuming a lot of batteries and are big and fragile (both are no-nos for multi-day treks such as Torres del Paine). I bought a BadElf GPS PRO+ that has roughly 30 hours of battery, that’s water resistant, and that can be connected to a computer via USB to transfer the logs. (Be careful the cheaper model doesn’t provide the ability to transfer over USB.)
9Set the date and time zone right. Make sure that your laptop is set to the same time zone as the GPX files you’re using for tagging. I realised that there’s no time zone recorded in EXIF along with the image, which means that Lightroom cannot match the GPX date time with your picture’s date time and has to rely on the computer’s time zone.
Set the time zone on your cameras before your leave the previous country as you can be pretty sure to take your first pictures with the wrong time zone. This happened to me too many times…
10Geotagging with Lightroom is quick and easy. I then use GPX Editor to aggregate the GPX files before using them in Lightroom for geotagging. The only drawback is that these 2 apps need an internet connection to work (GPX Editor to look at the logs and Lightroom to geotag the pictures). Remember to select All Tracks in Lightroom before Auto-tagging your pictures.
Backing up your RAW files
11Internet backups work just fine. Initially we thought that we’d have to send SD cards with RAW files to France. What a nightmare. We were surprised that wherever we went, we always managed to upload multiple gigabytes of data, providing that you can allow a lag of 1 to 2 weeks. We found very fast internet connections in the middle of nowhere (Mindo in Ecuador) and very poor ones in large cities or upscale hotels. Same goes with airports (we probably found the fastest airport wifi in Cartagena, Columbia). We also often left the computer in our room uploading day in day out for a few days. This would obviously be a bit trickier if you sleep in dorms or move everyday. I don’t know what’s going to happen in China or Central Asia. I’ll keep updating this section.
12Google Drive works great for RAW backups. There’s a ton of storage providers out there. I used Google Drive, which behaved very well on poor and unpredictable connections. After 6 months, I haven’t had any issues with it although I always control the number files in my online drive before deleting my local copy. It’s pretty much impossible to keep everything on your hard drive unless you have an external one. It’s true that I sometime had to keep a few extra copies on SD cards until I have uploaded everything but that didn’t justify the weight of yet another device.
13Pack plenty of high end SD cards. Here’s how I proceed : I cycle through my cards and never delete the cards until everything is uploaded to Google Drive and Google Photos. I copy the content of the cards to my computer often enough so that I always have a backup. Whenever the album is fully uploaded, I format the cards. That’s why I suggest 6 x 32GB cards (better to have smaller cards to avoid putting all your eggs in the same bag). Most of the time, I only needed four.
14Only keep exported jpegs on your laptop. Although I delete the RAW files on my laptop, I keep a copy of all the exports. It’s pretty convenient when you want to show or view your pictures offline.
Publishing your final pictures
15Google Photos + WordPress is a good option. We went with Google Photos to publish and publicly share our albums. This is a wonderful product that has unfortunately 2 downsides:
You can’t embed a Google Photos slideshow in a blog, which means that we have to also upload our pictures to WordPress. It’s not that big of a deal after all. Once the photos have been exported with Lightroom, we use Image Bucket Pro to downsize the pictures and then upload to WP (I resize at 2048px to make the pages a bit lighter and the upload faster). Also, be sure to set your Google Photos settings to Original Size otherwise they’ll be downsized (note that storage will count towards your Google Drive quota).
The Google Photos backup desktop utility isn’t reliable. When you get failed backups, don’t hit Dismiss or you won’t be able to retry! It’s also regularly failing without automatically retrying when using unreliable internet connections (Google Drive behaves MUCH better).