Motorbikes, Trains, And Automobiles
Advice For (Photo) Road Warriors Page 2

Few of our readers will drive elderly Land Rovers, but all vehicles pose concerns about vibration and (once again) theft. A good camera bag--we use mostly Billinghams--helps, but it is still a good idea to isolate it as far as possible from unyielding surfaces.

Put the bags on the rear seat, where the foam should filter out the vibrations that can undo screws and loosen lens groups (aircraft present a similar risk). We did this on our two 10,000-mile round trips (to the East Coast battlefields and back) when we were living in California and working on Civil War books, and we often do it with the Land Rover, too. Otherwise, rest the camera bag(s) on coats or on low-density foam in the trunk: use rubber tie-downs if needed to prevent sliding about or falling off the foam. Low-density foam guards against vibrations; high-density foam guards against knocks.

A camera bag on the rear seat, or in the back of a minivan with no trunk, is an invitation to thieves. When you are driving along, especially in cities, it may be a good idea to lock all doors and keep the back windows at least partly closed. Leaving a coat over the bag also makes it harder to see and harder to grab, though you wouldn't want to rely on this as an anti-theft device when you park.

The beautiful university town of Pecs (pronounced "Petch") in southern Hungary is noted for its art deco architecture, but it's not particularly handy for air travel. Trains and cars (or motorcycles) are another matter.

When you leave the car, it's best to take the camera bag with you. We normally do. Alternatively, consider serious security. All three doors on our Land Rover have locks that can only be opened with a key: you can't force (or break) a window and open them from the outside. You can get auxiliary locks for lesser vehicles, too.

As well as that, we have a big steel luggage trunk in the back of the Land Rover. It can be bolted to the floor, so you can't easily steal the whole trunk, and it has two hasps that can be secured with padlocks. It wouldn't last long against a crowbar, but most thieves, faced with this level of security, will look for an easier target. We don't worry too much about leaving camera bags in the trunk.

What about the motorcycle? This is the most demanding of all. The cameras must be small, because you can't carry much on a bike. And they must be tough. Even our BMW twin (the same R100RS we have had for over 20 years) generates plenty of vibration. Singles are worse: we have covered thousands of miles in India on Enfield Bullet 350 singles. Both Voigtländers and Leicas are small and tough.

The trick is to carry them in the tank bag, on top of a layer of foam or (at the very least) a layer of socks or something else that will absorb vibration: folded T-shirts are a bit too solid, though they are better than (say) atlases. Take the tank bag with you when you park the bike. Divide the film between the panniers: you can also store a spare body or least-used lenses (well wrapped) in these. We use hard-side BMW panniers, far more secure than soft-sides, with removable suitcase-style inners to make it easy to carry the luggage to our hotel rooms.

To protect the cameras from fluff and from possible rain ingress use Zip Loc or similar self-sealing bags. Our last extended trip was 3000 miles in 300 hours, for our travel website http://motorcycletouringineurope.com and we carried two Voigtländers (R2 and T) and four lenses (21mm f/4, 35mm f/2.5, 50mm f/2.5, and 90mm f/3.5) without problems.

That's about it: well over a quarter of a century's experience in a bit under 1300 words, about 50 words a year. If we can do it, you can. So what are you waiting for? Bon voyage!

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