When It Rains, It Must Be Machu Picchu

Sights Unseen III Back Cover  2eAnyone who’s been to any of my workshops or lectures knows that I always demand pre-production. Our ability to do as much research as possible so we’re able to execute the best possible photograph with the least amount of Murphy-ism (Murphy-ism; whatever can go wrong, will go wrong) is absolutely critical. Machu Picchu is one of the most spiritual places I’ve ever had an opportunity to visit and photograph. I took a very large class of over twenty students there for the mentor series, which worked out great for me because it was on my bucket list. Despite all the preparation, pre-production, and research, I still managed to get altitude sickness. The best way to describe altitude sickness is it makes seasickness feel like a mild pinprick on your index finger. I’m pretty sure it was the worst feeling I’ve ever had; I never want to do that again. I did not properly acclimate in Cusco at 11,000 feet. Coca tea, oxygen, and coca leaves become your best friends.

PS, always visit a doctor before you take this kind of a trip. There are some simple medicines that could have prevented this from happening, and I chose not to take them. I try to keep my drug intake to one baby Aspirin, two Aleve, and one martini.

PPS, notice the rain cover for my camera.

© Joe DiMaggio

© Joe DiMaggio

There have been turning points in the new millennium. The first and foremost turning point was the attack on September 11, 2001 The World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the heroic crash in Pennsylvania.  Up until that point, travel was relatively simple and straight-forward but today travel has become more difficult and rightly so. A bright traveler has so do everything they can  to minimize the shock of intense scrutiny at the airports, ship terminals, train stations and so on.  So the first consideration, is to pack two weeks early.  Once you’ve done that, cut this in half. If you think I’m joking I’m not!  Forty eight hours before the trip cut things back again.  Like most modern day travelers, you will be traveling with a laptop computer – obviously carry on. I also strongly recommend a carry-on camera/video bag and incorporate your personal and mandatory items in that same bag.  For instance, in a side pouch of your camera bag you want to carry a tooth brush, contact lenses, mouthwash (under 3 oz), and maybe a change of underwear just in case your luggage gets lost and any prescription medication.  The concept here is for you to be mobile and self-contained. 

Now as a traveling photographer, in the new millennium zoom lenses are not only acceptable but in many cases as good as prime lenses and relatively fast. For instance  a 16-35mm, 24-70 and 70-200, and two camera bodies. With that you’ve got two travelers covered with almost anything you’d want to photograph on your trip.  Always remember extra batteries and a battery charger.  If you recall, when I told you to cut back on your clothing here is where you don’t cut back on.  You want to double the number of flash cards you think you need and  if you think you need 6 take 12 cards.  This is also a good time to increase your compact flash size to 16 gig UDMA cards and if you’re anything like us and you’re shooting video, you will need large fast cards.  Last but not least, you will need an in-the-field downloading unit.  Also, In your luggage you’d want to put a small light carbon fiber tripod and a monopod.  Last but not least carry a strong zip lock bag and before you get to security put your jewelry, coins, wallet, phone, etc into it.  Much easier to do then in dribs and drabs.