A trip to Easter Island, Greenland, or Antarctica (to name just a random few) is, for most people, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and most travelers value the photographs of their adventures. Few travel mishaps cause more lasting regret than a non-functioning or poorly functioning camera.
For adventure travelers, the problem is exacerbated by the fact that replacements may be difficult or impossible to find. Today’s digital point-and-shoot cameras take excellent photos, but a few simple precautions can help ensure that the camera keeps working for the entire trip.
Protecting Digital Cameras When Traveling
Digital cameras are subject to all kinds of abuse when used in adventure travel, but four risks stand out: Being dropped and banged, water damage, dirt, and theft. A good camera bag can help prevent all of these problems.
If purchasing a new camera for an adventure trip, consider one that is shockproof. Camera bags should be padded, with compartments to make organizing batteries, and memory cards easy. Specialized camera bags are widely available; for adventure travelers, PacSafe makes a padded, tamper-proof camera bag that can be locked.
Note that most camera bags, especially the little fabric neck pouches, are not waterproof. Either look for one that is, or, when traveling in very wet conditions, take zipper-locking bags for extra protection.
Another strategy is to use waterproof housings, which are available as extra purchases with some cameras. These are especially useful for paddlers and boaters, snorkelers, and SCUBA divers.
Waterproof and water-resistant cameras are also available, but SCUBA divers should check the depth limits, because very often, waterproof cameras can’t handle the depths of a typical SCUBA dive.
Digital Camera Memory Cards, Memory Sticks, and Download Options
Digital cameras have done away with the expense, hassle, and clutter of film. But travelers need to attend to batteries, memory cards, and download options to be sure that they don’t run out of memory just when the lion bounds across the Serengeti plain, that the batteries don’t die in the middle of the night on a crocodile tagging mission, or that the piece of luggage lost by the airline doesn’t contain all the photos from a trip.
Batteries: Digital cameras eat batteries, so rechargeable batteries are a must. Remember that different countries have different electricity outlets, so rechargeable batteries require that the traveler have a converter for using different power supplies. Note that flash photography and cold weather photography are particularly draining on batteries.
In winter travel, keep cameras and spare batteries close to the body, and always have fully recharged spares. Always start the day with fully-charged batteries and spares.
Memory Cards: The rule for adventure travelers: There is (almost) no such thing as having too many memory cards. A lot of amateur photographers make liberal use of the “delete” key on their cameras when they start to run out of storage space on a memory card. However, the way data is stored on a digital memory cards means that the information from some photos may be broken up and stored in different places on a card that has lots of “holes” in it from previous deletions.
This introduces the possibility of the data getting degraded or confused. Professional photographers recommend that travelers simply buy the extra memory cards. (They also recommend not merely deleting photos, but reformatting the memory card, when re-using it.)
Digital Photography Download and Storage Options: On the road, download options include memory sticks (also called flash drives or thumb drives), card readers, disks, and lap-tops.
Professional photographers recommend that the photo images be stored on no less than three separate media storage devices when traveling: For example, on a lap-top, on a card reader, on the cards themselves, or downloaded to a lap-top and backed-up to a disk or memory stick.
The pros also make a habit of storing these devices in different places: For example, the disks or card readers in checked luggage, the memory cards themselves in hand luggage, and the lap-top on their person.
Finally, bring a back-up camera. If a trip is worth several weeks or months of a traveler’s life (and thousands of dollars), it’s worth the purchase of a small, simple, but reliable extra camera – just in case the worst happens. (Note: A good cell-phone camera might be usable as a back-up).
By following these simple procedures, travelers can ensure that when they return home from a trip to Nepal, Namibia, or anywhere in between, they will have photos to provide a lifetime of memories.