Road Stories

Planes, Hats & Camera Gear

Planes, Hats & Camera Gear

Hauling the necessary gear to capture images of the West can be cumbersome, especially on airplanes.

Planes, Hats & Camera GearPhoto by Tia Tschopp

I often have to apologize for carrying so much excess baggage. When traveling on assignment for Western Horseman, I pack heavy. And that makes airline travel cumbersome. I almost always pack two camera bodies, five lenses, two flashes, a reflector, two tripods, battery packs, gaffer tape—it’s quite a load. And that doesn’t count my laptop, reading material, work files, clothes, extra boots, and sometimes spurs. Somehow I cram it all into four bags, making sure my laptop and camera equipment board the plane with me, and checking my suitcase and tripod bag.

On small planes, I often find myself saying “excuse me” and “sorry” the most often. Boarding a plane from Dallas-Fort Worth to Lexington one time was smooth sailing until I found my seat. I had strolled down the skyway, rolling my camera gear behind, with my briefcase slung over my shoulder, my Western Horseman jacket buttoned, my hat set square on my head, and a cup of coffee in my free hand (not a good idea). My camera bag didn’t fit in the overhead compartment like it usually does; neither did it fit under the seat in front of me. A pile-up of passengers waited in the aisle while I considered my options. Checking in my expensive camera equipment is not an option, as far as I’m concerned. So I momentarily set it down in my seat and tried to get out of everyone’s way.

Now, as I will detail, getting settled into a little plane with big bags, a cowboy hat, and a cup of coffee can be tricky. However, this can be accomplished in 20 simple, yet clumsy, steps.

1. Set the camera bag and coffee in your seat (that coffee cup will balance on top of your bag as long as no one bumps the seat).
2. Cram your briefcase in the overhead (ignore the concerned look from the seated passenger who has already carefully stowed his bag in the same compartment).
3. Smile at passengers standing in the aisle, waiting for you to get the heck out of the way.
4. Grab coffee and sit down in someone else’s seat (remember, your bag is in your seat at the moment).
5. Sip coffee and fumble with cowboy hat.
6. When one wave of passengers gets by, slip into assigned seat and set camera bag in your lap (don’t make eye contact with the flight attendant, who by now is giving you that sir-you-can’t-do-that look).
7. Politely ask passenger across the aisle to trade seats with you (due to the plane’s design, your camera bag should fit in the seat in front of him).
8. Stand up, adjust hat (after bumping it on the ceiling).
9. Step out of the way of gracious passenger who’s trading seats with you (don’t forget to thank him).
10. Sip coffee.
11. Set coffee in your new seat and carefully cram you camera bag underneath the seat in front (apologize to the man sitting beside you, who just lost a little leg space).
12. Pick up coffee and sit down (again, getting the heck out of everyone’s way).
13. Stand up, set down coffee and remove that hot jacket (apologize to the lady behind you who just got backhanded in the head).
14. Cram jacket in the overhead compartment.
15. Sit down, placing coffee between your legs as you buckle up (apologize to your neighbor for elbowing his arm).
16. Sip coffee.
17. Place hat between your feet on the floor.
18. Unbuckle and dig your cell phone out of your front pocket, turn it off.
19. Sip coffee, rebuckle.
20. Enjoy your flight.


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