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Packing for Brazil with Professional Photographer, Marc Serota

By Marc Serota Aug 4, 2016

Camera travel case with Polaroid cameras, stickers, other equipment

As a professional sports photographer, traveling to one of the top sporting events in the entire world is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’m fortunate enough to be heading off to Rio de Janeiro this year to photograph the big event. Getting the chance to capture moments that the whole world is watching live is huge, and it’s crucial to be prepared.

No matter where in the world you’re traveling to, what’s in your travel bag can make or break your assignment. So what are some of the most important things to bring with you? I’m diving into my travel bag and sharing with you what I’m bringing.

Camera and Audio Equipment

  • Two 35 millimeter DSLR cameras. These cameras are great for still photography. When I travel, I have two lenses with me for the camera bodies I use. I have a 17-35 millimeter lens for wide angle and 70-200 millimeter for telephoto, keeping one mounted on each body. With these two lenses, I can essentially get any shot I need at any time. With your cameras, be sure to bring a wide range of lenses; from 300 millimeters to fisheye lenses and more.
  • Converters. Converters are great items to pack when traveling. They turn shorter lenses into longer lenses, allowing you to travel lighter and make room for some other essentials.
  • Polaroid Cube lifestyle action cameras. These tiny cameras are perfect for capturing behind-the-scenes photos, videos, interviews and more. I always have a Polaroid Cube with me, either hanging around my neck or on one of the several different kinds of mounts.

Laptop with office supplies and travel equipmentPolaroid Land Camera with other camera accessories

Smartphone Equipment

  • Smartphones. In order to get the best shot, back up phones are critical to bring with you. Whenever you travel, it’s always a good idea to bring several back up smartphones with you. To Rio, I’m taking a Polaroid Link smartphone and several iPhones, ranging from the 6, 6S or 6S Plus. The stabilizer on the iPhone 6S Plus is incredible and perfect for live action shots.
  • Mounts. In order to get the best shot, you need to bring mounts that allow you to capture all angles. I have a handheld rig that allows me to mount my phone and add all sorts of extras to enhance my photo and video quality- such as lighting systems, audio equipment, and professional lenses.
  • Lenses. Speaking of lenses, big assignments like this mean you need to bring an assortment of lenses for your smartphone(s). I bring a variation of lenses, like fisheye and wide-angle. The wide-angle lens is great for scenes that are tight photos, like capturing photos of venues, stadiums and gymnasiums.

Storage and Power

  • Thumb Drives. Thumb drives to store your photos is one of the most important items to include in your travel bag. I use models that are made specifically to connect smartphones to laptops; one side has a lightning adapter and the other a USB. Terabyte thumb drives are perfect for big-time storage. After each long day, I’ll transfer all my photos from these terabyte drives onto my laptops while I sleep. Backing up your photos is incredibly important.
  • Laptops. The worst case scenario of shooting a big event like this is running out of storage. Every night, you should transfer all your photos over to your laptop. Before you clear them off your phone, be certain that the files have transferred properly! I always pack a Mac and a PC laptop, to make sure I can accommodate whatever file types my clients may need while I’m there.
  • Battery Power. The second worst case scenario would be having your equipment die mid-shoot. Be sure to bring backup power sources for everything.

Personal Items

  • Medicine. Getting sick while out on a long-term assignment is not ideal. Vitamins, antacids, aspirin and anything else that will help you fight off illness while shooting should make it into your travel bag.
  • Food. You never know what to expect when you’re shooting an event this big. You could be running from one event to the next to the next, and you certainly don’t want your stomach grumbling and distracting you. I always pack protein bars and sports drink powders to insert into water bottles to help me stay full and hydrated. It’s also a good idea to pack water bottles with built in filters--you never know when you’ll have access to clean water or water bottles otherwise.
  • Clothing. Brazil is hot and sunscreen is problematic when working with delicate camera equipment. Instead, to protect your skin from the sun pack long sleeves, neck guards and big floppy hats to give provide shade. I recommend fishing style pants that zipper at the knees to easily convert into shorts if it gets too hot. The best kinds of shirts to pack are UV protection shirts or dry-fit fishing shirts because when you’re running around shooting the scene, you’re going to sweat. At the end of the day, dress for comfort and safety, not style.

To learn more about Marc's unique approach check out this article in Popular Photography and follow his journey on Instagram at MarcSerotaPhoto.