destination wedding photography ..

destination wedding photography

A few times a year I’m fortunate enough to photograph a destination wedding, where I fly out to a more glamorous location than New Jersey.  The Bahamas, Aruba, Jamaica, and even locations within the USA are choice destinations for couples who are looking to have their weddings in an exotic locale. 

The choice of equipment to fly out to photograph a destination wedding, as well as the way to transport them becomes a real concern.  You have to have a flexible selection of gear with you, with a certain amount of redundancy in case something goes wrong with a piece of equipment.  Yet it all has to fit into a portable camera bag or case – and one that can be taken on board a plane as a carry-on bag.  This really is of great importance, since if you read some news reports it would even appear as if thievery from luggage at airports are rampant.

So there is the delicate balance – a sensible choice of equipment that has to fit into a bag that is the right size for international carry-on luggage …

For that the Think Tank range of rollers are perfect.  The Think Tank Airport Security roller cases come in two distinct sizes .. one specifically designed for USA Domestic air travel size; and the other for the international standard for carry-on luggage.   (They also have a wide range of bags, speed-belts and harness systems.)

Last year I posted about my choice of equipment that I take with me on destination weddings, based around the Canon system.  I fit a surprisingly large amount of equipment in the Think Tank Airport Security (version 1), roller that I have.  It was also the roller case that I used when I traveled within the USA to present the workshops on flash photography.

Since then, I’ve changed to the Nikon system, and with me traveling more on international flights, (including the upcoming workshops in the UK and Ireland), I decided to update my camera bag to the slightly smaller sized bag, the Think Tank Airport International. My new bag arrived yesterday, and I was curious to see if I could fit in a solid selection of equipment into the smaller bag.  (This post will then also double-up as a review of the Think Tank Airport International (v2)

The newer case (Airport International) is 3″ shorter than the older (Airport Security) roller case: 

[ on the left is the Airport Security (version 1); on the right, the Airport Security (version 2) ]

So I was curious to see how I would have to re-arrange and re-think a new selection of equipment to take with me on destination weddings, and any other kind of travel overseas with camera equipment.  With some shuffling and re-shuffling of equipment, I was surprised to see everything I managed to fit into the bag.


In this next image, I moved some of the layers out of the bag, otherwise I don’t think anyone will believe me that I fit everything that I did, into the bag.

Looking at the smaller items first:

The rows from left to right, (top to bottom):

  –  Visible Dust – Arctic Butterfly.  I just can’t risk being powerless to remove a persistent dust bunny on my camera’s sensor
  –  two Nikon SD-9 battery packs, which I keep loaded with rechargeable batteries.

  –  Nikon SU-800 wireless TTL transmitter, in case I need to control a speedlight off-camera.
  –  two Tamrac memory card wallets.  
      Each wallet now contains eight 8Gb SanDisk CF cards.  Each camera also has two 8Gb cards.  I rely on the Nikon D3 offering a back-up card slot, giving me peace of mind against the possibility of  any of the CF cards failing.  As an aside, I only shoot in RAW.

  –  a polarizer filter  –  I don’t often use it, but like having it handy in case I want to super-saturate skies.
  –  a business card holder.  (It is the aluminum case with the red ends.)
  –  black hair bands.  (I use this to keep items in place such as the Black Foamie Things.)
  –  two pieces of black foam which I use as my light modifiers,
  –  on top of this I have displayed the cord and plug to recharge my iPhone and my iPod.

  –  NiMH battery charger for AA size batteries.
  –  a spare battery for the Nikon D3.

  –  my iPod, an essential item for traveling. 
      (I actually keep this in the carry-case for my noise-canceling headphones.)
  –  iPhone – indispensable. 
I have everything on hand with the iPhone – my Calendar and Contacts.
  –  the Mophie Juice Pack, to give my iPhone longer battery life.

If you’re interested in any of these items, check out these pages listing all my photo gear –  all which link to B&H’s website where these items can be purchased.  There is also an Amazon link at the end.

That’s already a fair amount of stuff, but I can squeeze those items into the corners and crevices.  The real bulk of the equipment are the following items:

Firstly, the two cameras are both Nikon D3 bodies.  They are currently my camera of choice, and nearly the Best Camera in the World, (but not quite.)   Another good choice would be the Nikon D700, which when used without the grip, is lighter than the D3, and would save some weight and bulk.

The two flashguns in the front are Nikon SB-900 Speedlites.

The lenses are,  in the back row, from left to right:
  –  Nikon 16mm f2.8 fish-eye
  –  Nikon 50mm f1.4G AF-S
  –  Nikon 14-24mm f2.8 AF-S (it’s a big lens, but I just don’t want to leave it behind.)
  –  Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 AF-S
  –  Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VR AF-S

To not have this post be Nikon-centric, please check out the previous posting on my selection of Canon gear that I used to travel with.  As before, it is interesting also to see what can be left behind and not hamper you on an important photo shoot where you aren’t close to your home-base or any kind of back-up

I hope this post, and the previous post will give some insight in the selection of equipment.  You have to be self-sufficient when you travel for a photo shoot such as this.  And paramount is that you travel as light as possible, without compromising quality and flexibility of equipment.

Once again, I am surprised at the amount of equipment that I was able to fit into this camera case.  The bonus of course is that this bag is designed to fit the requirements for carry-on luggage for international air travel.  On top of that, the Airport International bag (and Airport Security) come with a series of locks and cables, to help you secure your bag.

And again – if you’re interested in any of these items, they can be purchased via these pages listing all my photo gear, which all link to B&H’s website.  There is also the Amazon link.

16 Comments, Add Your Own

  1. 2 says

    Tim .. that depends on whether I have someone traveling with me that could take a Q-flash and battery and a few accessories in their bags for me. Otherwise my bags are too heavy and I get hit by over-weight charges. Recently this was as much as $150 per overweight bag! And I can’t see it going down in cost.

    Neil vN

  2. 3Rico says

    Neil, what was the total weight of your bag with all your gear? Also, do you know if the airport still has restrictions when it comes to Lithium batteries? Last time I was asked by the airline that I had to check it. Thanks!

  3. 5Stephen says

    I found this FAA guidelines (this only applies for the U.S.)

    I traveled with my D300 spare batteries in my carry-on and I did not have to check them in as luggage. I think the main principle of the policy is to ensure that battery contacts are covered properly.

  4. 6 says

    I refer to your site all the time for ideas and a better understanding of photography. I am traveling internationally and have learned that Lufthansa has a 17 lbs limit on carry on luggage. The Think Thank International v2 has an empty weight of 9.5-11 lbs depending on accessories. That would leave only about 7 lbs for camera gear.

    So, I think someone asked about the weight of your bag, and now I am very curious about it. And I am wondering whether there might be a lower weight alternative?

    Any and all advice would be deeply appreciated.

  5. 7 says

    Steven .. I just hit that snag on my trip to the UK. The bag is heavy .. but that comes with it being a durable bag.

    This time I got lucky, and they stowed my bag for me elsewhere in the cabin. (Virgin Atlantic were super-nice about this.)

    I think what I will do in future is just keep my expensive items in the bag, such as bodies and lenses – and keep the batteries and chargers and so in as separate items in my luggage.

    Alternately, perhaps have the roller case as checked luggage, and keep the cameras in a light-weight shoulder bag like the Crumpler bag .. or something that doesn’t look as heavy or will attract attention.

    This is a tough question to answer … I will have to rethink and consider my options here. It will remain that tough battle between wanting to protect your expensive equipment (which is also heavy) … and being able to take it as carry-on luggage.

    Neil vN

  6. 8 says

    Did they stow it because of size or weight?

    One way to solve the problem is divided and conquer … by that I mean take an assistant with you and they can also carry some weight…. but that seems an expensive way to solve the problem…..

  7. 9 says

    Steven … they stowed it because of the weight.

    For the flight to Ireland, I carried the camera bodies and lenses in the Crumpler bag, and checked the rest of the equipment in the Airport Security roller. A compromise, but at least the most valuable equipment stays with me.

    Neil vN

  8. 10Steven Seelig says

    Thanks. Given that, a despite people telling me that they don’t weigh carry on, I will plan on not exceeding the weights! Just got to plan for it.

    I was looking at the 8-Bay Pearstone AA/AAA battery charger. I actually called B&H to try to find out if it works 120/240 or does it work in Europe. I also wanted to know the weight of the AC adaptor. B&H didn’t know the answer and Pearstone’s email contact bounced back. Sigh.

  9. 11 says

    Steven, I can tell you now that on this trip to the UK and Ireland, they weighed my bag at two of the four airport check-ins. So they do check, and I wouldn’t want to leave it to chance again.

    RE the Pearstone battery charger, it works on 110 / 240V
    You would just need an adapter for the UK power plug. But the charger itself is happy with 240 V.

    Neil vN

  10. 12Niels Kristian Bech Jensen says

    Hi Neil.

    Could you give an example of the use of a fisheye lens for weddings? Which effects do you use it for?

  11. 13 says

    Hi there Niels ..

    Not from a destination wedding, but a wedding from last year where I blogged a fish-eye image. (ie, the image was ready at hand to show here.)

    The photo at the top is with the Nikon 16mm f2.8 fish-eye, and the 2nd image with the Nikon 14-24mm f2.8 .. that should give you an idea of how they differ in their look. Both were taken with the Nikon D3 which is a full-frame camera.

    Neil vN

  12. 15Niels Kristian Bech Jensen says

    Thanks for the fisheye sample. I think such a lens can be used to fokus the attention to the center (least distorted) portion of the image. Mounting the image in an old-fashioned oval frame might enhance the effect.

    I am shooting a wedding in three weeks time. I will bring my 10.5mm fisheye.

    Regards, Niels Kristian

  13. 16Sean Chandler says

    Neil – I would love some equipment advice

    I’ve been asked to shoot a wedding on a pirate ship in several weeks (my first wedding) – there is an open top deck for dancing and a half-covered bottom deck (fortunately with a white ceiling for bounced flash opportunities)

    This is taking place in Barbados in the afternoon, so we’re reasonably well assured of strong sunshine and blue skies

    I won’t be able to take all the gear I normally take on a real estate shoot (four light stands, two SB-800s, four SB-26s, two SB-600s, two Pocketwizard Plus IIs and a PW Flex tt5)

    That, plus my subjects will not be static at all, so moving around lightstands won’t be an option

    I shoot with a Nikon D700 (Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8, 24-70 f/2.8 and 50 f/1.8) and a Canon 7D (mainly video with a Tokina 11-16 f/2.8)

    Normally in real estate settings I shoot manual flash and half of my speedlights are set to slave mode, but that won’t work in a wedding setting – what with all the camera phones and P&S’ going off all day

    I was thinking to bring my D700 and 24-70 for most of the photos, one SB800 on-camera flash (on top of the tt5) and the other SB800 on a pole in a softbox with one of the PW Plus IIs attached – that would be wielded by my assistant (aka wife)

    I would bring the 50mm along as well and maybe the 7D and shoot some video if time allows

    Is there anything (other than the softbox which I will have to buy) that would be essential for this job?

    Thanks for any advice

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