Category Archives: Travel

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The Challenges And Benefits Of Being A Traveling Professional Photographer

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Recently, a young talented photographer that is on his way to a very promising career asked me about how I handled traveling so much. You see he was about to accept some projects that would take him away from home for an extended period of time and he was concerned about how he would take it. His question got me thinking… This way of life has become so familiar to me, that I forgot how my life has changed and developed because of it and thus, I’m inspired to create this post that lists the pros and cons of being a photographer that travels for work and how I’ve handled it.

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Need An Indestructible Lighting Case That’s Lighter Than The Competition? The Pelican iM2950

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When you travel on assignment over 100k miles a year like I do, you start to learn the importance of durable cases for your gear and slimming down on weight to save on baggage fees. For years I have been flying around with the Pelican 1650 to protect my flashes. I had it so fine-tuned for weight that it was 69.5 lbs, just half a pound under the 70 pound airline weight class. Although, after recently replacing my White Lighting flashes with the new Profoto D1 Air flash heads, I wondered if I could find a lighter case option.

After some online research, I discovered the Pelican iM2950 Storm Case. It’s just as tough, can carry my 4 travel flash heads and modifiers, and rolls just like the 1650 does. On the inside, the 2950 is a couple of inches larger than the 1650, and depending on what site you read its about 5 to 10 pounds lighter. I ordered the case with the padded divider kit rather than the cubed foam. Unfortunately the kit does NOT come with enough padded dividers to organize my setup the way I needed but thankfully I kept some extra pieces from my old 1650 and made it work. You may want to keep that in mind if you order a setup for yourself. You can see my new case configuration below. The grey dividers are from the old case.

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Currently the case weighs in at around 66 pounds. The extra weight savings will allow me to squeeze in a few more light modifiers or I could just replace the two D1 500 heads with the more powerful D1 1000 heads, which are about a pound heavier each. I know to those that don’t travel on shoots every week, this may not seem like a big deal, but the extra 5-10 pounds of weight savings will give me more flexibility to travel with a lot of the light modifiers and accessories I would need on location.

According to B&H:

The Pelican iM2950 Storm Trak Case with Padded Dividers (Black) is an injection-molded case made of HPX high performance resin, that is virtually unbreakable, dent-resistant and shatter-resistant. It is tough, rugged, lightweight, airtight and watertight. There is a permanently attached Vortex valve that automatically adjusts air pressure without letting in water, and won’t unscrew from the case. Press & Pull latches open with the push of a button, yet stay closed securely under impact or stress. The case has unbreakable molded-in hasps that allow the addition of standard size padlocks. It has hinges with integrated feet that hold fast under impact, and create a flat surface for upright stability. It is carried by three double-layered, soft-grip, solid-core handles, lightweight retractable, telescoping handle and rugged in-line wheels.

Material Exterior: HPX high performance resin
Interior: Water-resistant, PVC-coated nylon fabric dividers
Interior: Convoluted foam pad in the lid.
Type of Closure Five Press & Pull latches
Two unbreakable molded-in hasps
Hinges with integrated feet
Exterior Dimensions 31.3 x 20.4 x 12.2″ (79.5 x 51.82 x 30.99cm) (LxWxH)
Interior Dimensions 29 x 18 x 10.5″ (73.66 x 45.72 x 26.67cm) (LxWxH)
Lid depth: 2.0″ (5.08cm)
Interior Fitting Water-resistant, PVC-coated nylon fabric dividers
Accommodates Items that need protection and organizing
Carrying/Transport Options Three padded handles
Telescoping handle
Built-in wheels
Weight 34 lbs (13.15kg) 1

 

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My well-worn Pelican 1650 (top) vs my new iM2950

You can order an iM2950 at B&H HERE.

You can read more about this on Faivish Pewzner Rabbi.

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I Never Thought It Would Be Possible To Love A Light Stand Like This: Manfrotto 1004BAC

Regular followers of my blog and various forms of social media already know I travel a LOT for shoots. We are talking over 100k miles and thousands spent in baggage fees a year! Thus, a streamlined effective travel kit loaded with gear that doesn’t waste space or weight is crucial for me. I’ve been spending the last month replacing old gear, cases, stands, lights, etc. A lot of my kit had become worn out, bent, and no longer worked properly due to hard use. During a recent trip to B&H in New York City, I discovered the most beautiful travel light stand kit I have ever seen: The Manfrotto 1004BAC stackable light stand kit.

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Why do I love these stands so much?

  • They are light weight at only 6.6 lbs each and extend to 12 feet high and close down to 42.1″
  • They don’t flex and bend like a lot of other travel stands and have a max load weight of 20lbs, which is plenty for my Profoto D1 1000 heads with a huge light modifier.
  • The 3 stands in the kit literally stack and lock together for easy transport.
  • They have this cool “double braced” wide leg stance for more stability, especially when raising your lights really high. I’ve tested them and I am impressed how they don’t flex and feel like they want to topple over as much as other lights. This is great because I cannot always travel with sand bags so being able to walk off of a plane and head to a portrait session and not worry about a light with a softbox mounted onto it toppling over onto a portrait subject due to a weak stand.

My fellow photographer buddy Clint Davis was on set and saw these stands and we immediately lusted over these stands, which are honestly a steal for $329 for all 3 stands. Kinda funny considering all of the gear porn we had on set (Tether Tools, Phase One, Profoto). You can check out the stands on B&H’s website with free shipping here: LINK

Keep an eye on my blog the coming weeks. I have replaced a majority of the lighting, travel gear, and cases I was using earlier this year in hopes of streamlining a better travel kit with the most effective gear of the best value. This includes a new strobe case, camera bag configuration, light stand case and layout, and tether table.

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Route 66 Road Trip In A 1971 Dodge Challenger

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Recently, I was in the Mojave Desert filming a music video project. The plot was centered around a road trip starring the musician and her friends. I cannot say much more than that, but I can say I had the opportunity to transport the vehicle between locations along historic Route 66. I mean, if you are going to road trip on one of America’s most amazing classic highways, a 1971 Challenger convertible with a 440 6-pack is definitely the way to do it. My heart raced and my skin tingled. The radio was broken, but I didn’t care. The exhaust was its own soundtrack. Although, if I were to do it again, I would have opted for some air conditioning. It was 110+ degrees most days, the car doesn’t have A/C, and that big block does put off a LOT of heat. I may or may not have suffered a bit of heat stroke on the first day. Haha.

Despite a little ol’ heat exhaustion, I was so thrilled to check this item off of my bucket list. The sound of that engine and the beautiful back desert highways with vestiges of the old American west was something that will never leave my memories.

Sadly, the car did not survive the journey. Just short of filming our final scene, the engine sputtered and died on old Route 40. It felt like a carburetor issue, but we had no time or proper tools to diagnose. Sadly, AAA had to be called and she had to be towed away so we could continue with filming. Although, you shouldn’t worry, the Challenger will live to fight another day.

Here are some iPhone photos from my journey. Don’t worry, we took some awesome footage with our Red Scarlet for the music video that I think you guys will enjoy. Stay tuned when it debuts!

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The Challenger after she died
The Challenger after she died
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Catch My Photo / Video Workshops At Profusion Pro Imaging Expo June 2013 in Toronto Canada

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Greetings fellow creatives and Canadians! I have been recruited to teach workshops at the upcoming Profusion Pro Imaging Expo taking place June 18-19 2013 in Toronto. Aside from doing some rad Phase One and Profoto demos, I will also be teaching workshops like: “The Power of Marketing your Personal Brand” and “Shooting a Music Video/Short Film – for Still Photographers”.

You can learn more here: http://blog.profusionexpo.com/video/meet-our-presenters-douglas-sonders/

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Detroit And Its Awesome Photoshoot Locations

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Sure, Detroit may be known for things like its extreme crime, car theft, corrupt mayor, Detroit Auto Show, but it also happens to be one of my new favorite places to shoot in. Detroit has some of the most incredible “ruin porn” locations (places that look like they were ravaged by the post-apocalypse). For example, see Saint Agnes Church below. I may or may not have walked in the wide-open front door of the long-abandoned church with or without a permit and proceeded to do an entire portrait session.

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Detroit has a lot of really awesome locations, just make sure to be careful. Use your best judgement. Do not travel to rough parts of town alone, do not leave gear in your car, do not explore rough parts of town at night. Make sure to hit up the really helpful photographers in the Detroit area for location advice. That’s what I did!

Here are a few photoshoot location that I love in Detroit (I’ve shot in these places or would like to in the future):

- The Packard Plant (dangerous place, use the buddy system, but its an awesome location): http://www.flickr.com/groups/packard/

The Packard Plant via my instagram account
The Packard Plant via my instagram account

- The Garden Of The Gods at the Packard Plant: http://scotthocking.com/gardenof.html 

- The Michigan Theater in downtown. A former ornate theater turned parking garage. For the $8 parking fee per car and if you’re very polite, you can go shoot up there on the top level with the cool ceiling without a permit (that’s what I did) : http://weburbanist.com/2011/01/01/detroits-michigan-theater-the-worlds-most-beautiful-parking-lot/

- The abandoned Michigan Central Station. Recently a 50 Cent rap video was filmed in there. You apparently can permit to get inside, just be weary of the wild dogs that allegedly patrol the property. Yikes: http://www.seedetroit.com/MCS/mcsweb/

- Saint Agnes Church (I literally walked in the front door in the middle of the day) : http://detroitfunk.com/?p=4926 

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Have more questions about shooting in Detroit? Hit up one of my favorite assistants and producers Matt LaVere. This guy has a fantastic can-do attitude and works harder than any assistant I have ever hired. Great shooter too!

Detroit is not a terrible place. It’s just a city filled with a lot of spirit that faced some hard times, but is fighting its way back up. Downtown is full of life and culture. When you’re in town, make sure to hit up one of my favorite BBQ joints: Slow’s BBQ

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Just Got Back From My Photography Speaking Tour Through China

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Phase One asked me to go on a speaking tour through China for a week (Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing) to share about my photo career, creative inspiration, and being a Phase One shooter myself, to demo their innovative new IQ2 digital medium format camera back system. Now, many miles later, I am back in America.

This was a huge honor and incredible experience. Huge thanks to Profoto china and Phase One worldwide for treating me like a king. Something I’ll never forget. Especially all that great food and all of the cool people I met!

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Franck from Phase One in front of the Forbidden City

 

On my way back to Washington DC, I had an extended layover in San Francisco, California. It was either a 5 hour layover sitting in an airport or rent a car and go sight-seeing. The answer is always : adventure

Of the activities I crammed into a 5 hour period, I had a chance to visit the Golden Gate Bridge. What a beautiful sight! I took photos with my Phase One, but haven’t had a chance to edit them yet. I hope you accept an iPhone 5 pic in the meantime!

iphone5 photo of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
iPhone 5 photo of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco