Finally! A dream turns into reality for me. My first international photographic job. I can hardly believe it. And my destination in New York. My plane leaves on January 1st. All on my own, on my way to the US.
So how did I prepare for that? I'm not really that "systematically planned" kind of person. I like to approach things more in a hustle & bustle style. First I had to put thought into the requested motifs provided by my client. Which lenses will I need? How do I get the press appointments done and where can I get the special licenses needed?
How large & heavy can my carry-on be on the flight? Which parts may go in which bag? So many little things that have to be dealt with. My professional tripod (not a tiny, light travel thingy) and my other travel essentials fit into my suitcase. Three fast lenses, my Canon 5D IV, a fast tele lens, various filters, mountings, speedlights and last but not least: Chocolate! All in all my camera backpack had to go through boarding procedures with a weight of around 7 kilos. But hey, you should never ever let your equipment leave your sight and all batteries belong in the carry-on anyway.
Testing the weight and carry at home: Whoa, heavy thing! But I just thought: "Man up now, woman. You are a female photographer. We can take a few things smiling. Off to NYC we go!"
Now I find myself at immigration authorities carrying a backpack that gets heavier by the minute. Oh dear, this really takes ages. Where's my candy? After waiting for an hour I was done and the first appointment already approaching. A sprint to my yellow cab. Finally in New York, my suitcase rolling next to me and that block of a backpack on my shoulders. I'm here. Unbelievable. What a huge, wonderful, impressive and colorful place. Those were my first impressions.
I faced some exhausting days. Walking 25 kilometers (almost 16 miles) daily is a lot, even for a true New Yorker. Lugging around 10 kilos of photo gear plus a massive tripod didn't help.Get down to the subway and back up again. Photography-wise it was also a chellenge. You gotta be quick and on point all the time. Most of the time I had to change lenses in the blink of an eye. Even on the first day I kept my camera with the tele lens (5 kilos of weight) in my hand at all times because I simply couldn't get to it fast enough if I had put it away. I wasn't able to fit that combo in my backpack anyway. What a bummer.
Starting on day one I felt the pressure points on my shoulders and collarbone. The backpack and its straps were simply too wide for my slender girl shoulders. The tripod I mounted in the rear of the pack pulled me downwards all the time. I had that wide waistbelt but it didn't really help because on day two I already looked as if someone had shoved me in front of a bus. I was covered in bruises! And I had 5 days to go...
I didn't have time to go out for a nice, fancy dinner but here's a tipp: Try out those little snack shops you can find for just about any nation's cuisine. They often don't look like much but the food is fresh, fast and relatively cheap. So one day I did have African food, the next day I got vegetable soup from China and so on.
Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, One World Trade Center, these are some of the most impressive skyscrapers you can find. And the security checks are as strict as they are at the airport. For anyone visitor, mind you. You are a photographer with a special permit? That doesn't matter.
Did you know that just about any famous sightseeing spot in the city of New York will not allow tripods? And please do buy your tickets online before visiting. You can save money and a lot of time that way.
The most impressive sight for me was the view from the top of the Rockefeller Center. Mindboggling! At this place the security did have some understanding for the photographer girl. They showed me the best way to the top without making me wait and also allowed me to take my tripod. A wonderful experience.
Day two and three I monitored by bruises in the evening turning from blue to green and red. Other areas started to become sore. Didn't I see a Wallgreens or Douane Reade somewhere? The following days I planned on doing long exposures of the skyline so that meant taking the full weight of my bag again. The shoulder straps kept rolling and turning to the outside even though I used the chest strap all the time. The pressure on my collarbone was painful. And the general weight didn't help.
Day four and five I clenched my teeth and pulled through with the job. I started to settle in mentally, submerge myself in the buzzing lifestyle and adapt myself to it. The hours before sunrise at Brookly Bridge will be marked in my mind forever.
What is really special about this city are the people and the contrast of life. Nature and urban life constantly blending into one. The light during sunrise or sundown is incredibly intense.
A staggeringly beautiful city! Also for female photographers traveling solo. But please, think about the right backpack! One that fits you perfectly and shifts the weight to your hips efficiently. Don't make the same mistake I made. I suffered for the wrong choice and wouldn't wish that on nobody.
While still in New York I called compagnon and told them about what I was going through. The team knew right away what the issue was. That was the reason they partnered with the German Outdoor backpack brand Deuter which is renowned for creating awesome back systems that really provide the comfort you need.
For hiking- or climbing backpacks there are different models for slender or wide shoulders or longer/shorter backs. Why is that not the case for camera backpacks? We as photographers need more than just a well-thought out interior. A carrying system that really adapts to your size & height and helps you handling the weight is even more important. Shooting for a few hours you might not notice it right away (if you can ignore aching muscles sometimes). But traveling to a city like New York, this changes everything.
Back at home both sizes of the explorer (regular and the plus model) where already waiting for me. I got them both to find the correct size for me and try them on:
So what did I do? I actually went jogging with a loaded explorer, around 10 kilos of weight. Tripod fixed on the outside. And? I didn't feel a single pressure point. No shifting around. The explorer sat comfortably on my body, not moving around, not hurting me anywhere, no heat building up on my back. Other runners that came the other way have looked a little funny at the photographer that must have seemed a bit bonkers to them. But I didn't really care. I was confident I could outrun the folks from the sanatorium if someone would have called them.
I was glad I found out about the amazing things the compagnon team is creating. These products are fantastic. Thank you so much guys! Even the smaller explorer backpack can store everything I need to take with me on any job, even the chocolate!
My next international projects are already nearing. In feburary I'll be going to Iceland, in spring I'll be at the lake district in the Allgaeu region and in May I'm back in the US. I will take my compagnon explorer to all those spots and keep letting you know about me experience with it.
Kind wishes, Dani
(Ponyvilla) Photographer / Freelancer
Creative mind, in Love with photography and ready for adventures