Traveling with Your Camera Gear

By Sara Goodnick

Since there have been a few questions regarding flying with camera gear from some of our participants on various workshops, I decided it might be helpful to put together some info for everyone. Some of these tips have come from my fellow photographers and I thank them.

If you plan to travel a lot, consider applying for Trusted Traveler and TSA Pre-check status. You will get entry into quicker security lines, and for Trusted Traveler, quicker re-entry into the USA if traveling abroad.

Airline seating: be sure you are not in a bulkhead row so you have a seat in front to stow your gear under.

Carry your camera gear on board as carry-on luggage. Do not under any circumstances allow your cameras or lenses to be checked. Carry them on with you and keep them with you. Place them under the seat in front of you or in the overhead bin ahead of you so you can see them at all times. There are many stories of photographers checking a well-packed camera bag and finding their lenses in tiny pieces when they arrived. Keep the other essentials right there with you, too, such as the chargers, batteries, the memory cards, and laptop.

Regarding camera bags as luggage, be sure of the weight and size limitations by checking their specific rules online, and measuring your bags. Be prepared to move everything fragile into a smaller collapsible bag that you can place under the seat in front of you if forced to gate check your bag. I always keep an extra nylon bag, or collapsible daypack and a sweater for padding for the fragile gear in my camera bag carry-on. If flying with a partner, maybe that person can take on some of your gear in an emergency. Have another collapsible bag ready.

Remove the lenses from the cameras and use the body caps to cover the sensors, and cap both ends of the lenses. The extra stress on a camera and lens bumping around together can damage the connection between the two.

Bring a good tripod. A few years ago at the Grand Canyon, one of our participants had set hers up a few feet back from a steep cliff preparing for a beautiful sunset. It was quiet with no wind. She turned away to get something from her bag, and when she turned back, her camera and tripod had gone over the edge never to be seen again! It was a good camera on a light tripod that just became unbalanced.

If you bring one of the smaller, lighter tripods, you can stabilize it with a strap, or cord attached to it and your camera bag, a rock, or other large heavy object. Do not extend it to full height.

I know people who take their tripods on as a carry-on piece of luggage. Some airlines do not even count it as one of your carry-on pieces. Check with your airline ahead of time.

Scott-E-Vest a company that specializes in travel clothing with many pockets for everything. They have clothing for both men and women. Their vests are great for photographers. I don’t have the specialty photographer’s vest because it’s new, but I love the one I have. They don’t look like traditional photographer vests, so you might be less of a target for thieves.

Speaking of thieves, I always remove the brand name neck strap that comes with a new camera and replace it with a plain one (with extra padding for comfort). I don’t want anyone knowing what my gear is. Some even go so far as to cover the brand name on their camera with black electrical tape.

For cold weather destinations, wear your hiking boots on the plane. Take layers, including down sweaters, windbreakers, and wind pants, as well as your jacket, hat, and gloves. Look into purchasing fisherman’s specialty mittens that free up your fingers for photography purposes.

Safe travels!

Sara Goodnick is a Volunteer Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes.

Traveling and Photographing in Japan

By Meng Tay

Photographers are always looking for new subjects or scenes.  If you are tired of the same old, same old, why not consider traveling to Japan?  First, let me give you the reasons why you want to travel to Japan.  Next, I will give you some ideas on what to photograph.

  1. It’s very safe – guns are illegal here and the crime rate is very low.  Never once was I threatened or scolded in any way, even when I accidentally bump someone.  Such a contrast to the US when anything can cause a confrontation.  As a matter of fact, most Asian countries are very safe, contrary to what most Americans think.
  2. It’s very clean – the Japanese are fastidious about their cleanliness.  Every restroom I went to was clean (and free).  This includes public restrooms in busy tourist areas, shopping centers, etc.  The streets, parks, buildings are all clean.  I even had a hard time finding trash cans.
  3. Japanese are helpful and polite – I’ve heard stories of Japanese actually walking a tourist to his or her destination instead of just pointing and giving directions on how to get to a place.  Most of the signs have an English version but Japan’s twisty streets are sometimes hard to navigate.  Unless you ask someone local, sometimes it’s almost impossible to find it on your own, but ask.
  4. At today’s exchange rate (US$1 = ¥112) it’s a bargain to travel in Japan.  Yes, hotels and certain things are still expensive but it’s less expensive than some of the European countries like Norway, Iceland or Switzerland.
  5. Public transportation is very convenient and easily accessible.  Ironically, one of the biggest car manufacturing countries also has one of the best train networks.  Learn how the train system works and you will love riding the shinkansens (bullet trains).  If you have a big group, perhaps 4 or more, maybe it’s better for you to rent a car but trains can get you almost anywhere in Japan.
  6. Japan has a long history.  If you want to understand how it went from a sheltered country to an international economic powerhouse, an Oriental culture to an International culture, this is the place to learn.  The blending of east and west is everywhere.
  7. Food – you will love the food.  Be open-minded about sushi.  The Japanese eat a lot of things raw.  They have been doing this for centuries.  It’s healthy and after you’ve acquired a taste for it, you will love it.  You will never want to eat sushi or sashimi anywhere else.

What would discourage you from traveling to Japan?  Language may be the biggest challenge.  Very few Japanese speak English.  But this is no different than some European countries.  With today’s travel aids like Phrase Books, Google Translate, etc, this should not be a big hurdle.  I find that most Japanese studied English in school but because they are shy, they don’t get to practice it a lot.  Speak slowly and with a little bit of gesture, you should have no trouble getting around.

If you don’t feel comfortable traveling on your own, why not join a tour?  Tours will get you to many places where you have excellent photo opportunities but may not offer you the freedom of going where you want to go and for longer than you want.

What are some subjects that you may want to photograph in Japan?

Temples:  Because of its long history with Buddhism, temples are everywhere.  You find them in villages or big cities.  They are intriguing because their architecture is so different from churches or cathedrals in Europe.  The predominantly red color of Japanese temples make them stand out.  Here are some examples:

Food:  Food is the essence of a culture.  If you look at what they eat and how they eat, you can tell a lot about a culture.  That’s why I love going to markets when I am in a foreign country.  Japanese food is a contrast to American food.  That’s why it’s always an interesting subject matter for photography.

Landscape:  There is more to Japan than Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto or other big cities.  What is not known to most tourists is that Japan has a beautiful countryside.  Hokkaido is arguably, most beautiful of all rural areas..  Go there in the fall, when the leaves are changing color.  If you are lucky enough to go during the cherry blossom season (sakura in Japanese), they will be everywhere.  They start in late March to the middle of April, depending on which part of Japan you go to.

Other topics of interest may be people, traditional buildings, castles, etc.  Japanese ladies in kimonos is a good topic.  If you happen on a geisha (very rare nowadays), that’d be the ultimate photo shoot.  Towering castles that were built during the shogun days are also good subjects.

If you want to read more about my travels in Japan, here is my blog:

It’s in reverse chronological order.  Click on the year 2017 on the right.  It will drop down a menu of months.  Click on March, April or May.  You will see my posts on different places in Japan that I traveled to.

You can find out more about travel in Japan at the following sites:

Meng Tay is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Capture Your Moment: Macro-Photography

Bruce Taubert will be presenting two learning sessions at Arizona Highways Photo Workshops’ 30th Anniversary Symposium.  Here’s more about his “Macro- Photography” Session.

Macro Photography - Glass Frog

Bruce takes photographs of small things because they are beautiful, and he can only really appreciate how beautiful and unique they are by having an image to look at. It is almost impossible for him to see the scales that make up butterfly wings or the pollen on a bee’s legs without viewing a photograph.  He never really appreciated the intricacy of a dragonfly’s eyes or the interweaves of a bird’s feather, again until he saw a close-up photograph of them.  There is an incredible WOW factor when he looks at images that show the pieces of the natural world that he has never seen before. Even though many of his images of small things may never be published, it is through these images that he better appreciates the beauty of the small pieces of our world.

Macro Photography - Moth

Macro-photography is normally defined as “taking photographs of small items and making them larger than life size”.  This definition, for most photographers, is too limiting.  It can be defined more simply as “close-up” photography, allowing photos of less than life-size subjects to be included.

Macro-photography is unique from other forms of photography in that it requires the use of different types of equipment than landscape, portrait, and most wildlife photography.  It also requires some different skills than other forms of photography. The cameras are the same, but only through the use of specialized lenses and other equipment can the photographer take photographs at 0.5X and it is even more complicated as we attempt to photograph at magnifications greater than 1X.

Macro Photography - Gecko

In the “Macro-photography” learning session, you will learn all about the specialized equipment, techniques, and art of macro-photography.  Bruce’s hope is that after you digest all of that information, you will better understand how to use the cameras, lenses, and associated equipment to open up the special world of macro-photography.

To read the post on Bruce’s other learning session, “Hummingbird Photography,” visit our Capture Your Moment page.

Bruce Taubert is a photographer for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

For more information and to register for sessions like this, please visit the AHPW’s 30th Symposium website.

Everything You Need for Your Next Trip

Author: Sara Goodnick

In the past 12 months I have traveled to Europe five times, and also to Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Hawaii, California, Oregon, and South Carolina. I’ve become pretty good at getting comfortable on planes, especially the long flights to Germany. I thought I’d share some tips for fellow travelers/photographers.

After lugging around my full sized DSLR with all the lenses, and getting a very sore neck, I made the switch to a micro four-thirds mirrorless camera system for overseas trips. While no camera is perfect, the mirrorless is the only camera I take to Europe anymore. There is even a great little tripod for these cameras, from MeFoto, and it comes in colors, too!

En route, there is much to be said for arriving rested when you get off the plane. To that end, I create a nice little nest with the items shown here.


For entertainment, I love Bose headphones for movies and music, but will switch to ear buds and iPhone when trying to sleep. I put a green clip on the headphone case so they can be hung easily on the outside of the seat pocket, or on my carry-on bag. Writing in my travel journal has been one of my favorite activities over many years. It has also served to settle arguments between my husband and me when our memories differ.

Many planes now have electric outlets between the seats, so to keep the electronics charged, I bring my phone and laptop chargers. Once at my European destination, a foreign electronic adapter is necessary, but not necessarily a converter. Check with your own devices, which may have converters built in. In the US, there are never enough outlets, or they are in odd places, so I bring an outlet extender. A little device with elastic, made by Cocoon Bags, helps keep everything in its place. Available online through Travelsmith and Magellan’s, and at The Container Store.

For comfort, the best neck pillow ever, is the Evolution Pillow by Cabeau. It’s filled with memory foam, can be secured under your chin, and has a pocket for an iPod. Not as small as some others, but really comfy! My own travel blanket has kept the chills away when others were shivering, and the lumbar pillow is great support for my back against those horrible airplane seats. For me, at 5’2″, because my feet don’t always reach the ground, an inflatable foot pillow has been a godsend. It’s also good insulation from the floor, since I always take off my shoes and slip some over-socks on for the trip. Your feet will swell, so get those shoes off!

That little pink thing is not what you are thinking it is, so stop snickering. It is the most comfortable eye mask ever made, and for you ladies, it won’t smear your mascara. It also comes in black. In order to sleep, your pituitary gland, just above and between your eyes, must be in the dark, so an eye mask does the trick. Earplugs can help with the screaming child or non-stop talkers behind you problem. Did you know there are disposable toothbrushes that have tooth cleaner already in them and that you don’t need water to use them? I found them at my dentist’s office and ordered some for myself. End of yuck-mouth when you finally deplane. If those little electric device lights in your room keep you awake, get some “Dimmys”. They temporarily stick on to block those lights, which are believed to disrupt sleep.


Last of all, ScottEVests makes great travel clothing with tons of pockets! Your vest or light jacket can become another carry-on with all your small items in it. Just throw it on the security conveyor belt with all your stuff in it, and you won’t have to empty your pockets. Once on board, you won’t have to rummage through that carry-on bag for those things either.

Happy travels!

Sara Goodnick is a volunteer trip leader for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Travel and Photography

Author:  Meng Tay

Travel and Photography are inseparable twins.  In today’s age of inexpensive point-and-shoot digital cameras, smartphone cameras and DSLRs’, you can’t imagine traveling anywhere without taking pictures.  Photography can enhance and enrich your travel experience.

Most travelers take pictures to remember where they’ve been .  They take pictures of themselves in front of famous monuments or buildings.  However, by focusing on a few subjects, you can build a collection of pictures that can make your trip memorable.

For example, I love the small shops in Europe.  Compared to the small shops in boring, nondescript strip-malls in the US, the shops there are usually very colorful.  Below are some examples:

Belgium is well-known for chocolates.  In Brussels you find shops selling chocolate everywhere.  When I see this picture, it reminds me immediately of Brussels and all the nice-smelling chocolates in the shops.  Then I start remembering walking around the Grand Place in Brussels and all the other streets in the area.


This shop above in Nice, France, sells only soap products.  In order to attract customers, they have color displays to attract the attention of passers-by, including me.  Whenever I see this picture, I remember walking the narrow streets of Nice and the Flower Market or as the French called it, Marché aux Fleurs.


This shop in San Sebastian in northern Spain, next to the French border, sells fruits and vegetables.  By displaying all the colorful fruits and vegetables in front of the shop, the owner is hoping that passers by can’t resist but to stop in the store to buy some produce.  Small, independent produce stores are popular in Europe. This picture reminds me of the beautiful city of San Sebastian, where I cross over to France to the city of Hendaye to take the train to Paris.

Travel is about the experience.  After the experience, it’s the memory.  This is where photography comes into play.  Even years after the trip, a certain picture will trigger wonderful memories of your trip; not just the image, but perhaps the people, the sound and even the smell.  And, if it’s a beautiful picture, you may want to print it and hang on your wall to share your memories with friends and family.  Bon Voyage!

Meng Tay is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

5 Steps to Overcoming Your Fears in the Wild

by Michael Greene  – Wild Moments 

Let’s face it – taking pictures in the wild can be an intimidating experience. Whether you have a fear of heights, tight spaces, wild animals, lightening, or even the dark there are many natural hazards that one has to consider before venturing out into the wild. Whether you are on a photo workshop or planning a more autonomous photographic excursion overcoming your fears can play a big role in improving your photography.

1.    Embrace Your Fear – As human beings, we are hard wired for fear. It’s part of our genetic DNA.  It’s a physiological safety mechanism our body uses to tell us of potential danger or uncertainty in an important situation.  Fear in and of itself is not a bad thing. It’s our mental approach of how we deal with it that usually needs to change. Learn to embrace your fear by working alongside of it is the first step in overcoming your obstacles.

Working in tight spots in Lower Antelope

Working in tight spots in Lower Antelope

 2.    Respect Mother Nature – Make no mistake, there is healthy fear and unhealthy fear. Mother nature deserves respect. She can be dangerous and full of uncertainty. Even in a controlled group situation unexpected things can happen.  However, that doesn’t mean we make mountains out of mole hills. It does mean that we approach each trip with a healthy respect for the environment. For instance, we don’t haphazardly wander down a trail into the Grand Canyon in the middle of summer without bringing enough water.


Open up your photo possibilities by overcoming your fears

3.    Put It In Proper Perspective – Realistically assessing the situation helps remove the uncertainty. What are the chances it’s going to happen?  If you are dealing with a fear of heights, maybe you know for sure that you are going to experience your fear like walking on a narrow section of trail at the Grand Canyon. The next question should be…how long of a section? Is it a ¼ mile or 20 feet? How many people travel on this trail. Is it realistically safe? If you are dealing with a fear of snakes… think candidly regarding the chances that you will see a snake much less step on one.


Stepped on an ant hill making this image.

4.    Educate Yourself – Education and awareness is a useful tool in overcoming fear. Other people have already experienced and overcome whatever it is that is driving your fear. There is a plethora of information online or even at your local library. Read about other peoples’ experiences. Whether they are survival stories, recounts of animal attacks, or even trip reports the information is available to help you prepare yourself for whatever it is you are facing. For instance, know the time of day and seasons where snakes are more active. Learn about the topography they live and how to safely travel over it. Learn about the different species of snakes, which ones are venomous and more aggressive.

An isolated steep climb down near Winslow, AZ

An isolated steep climb down near Winslow, AZ

5.    Know That It Gets Better – You’ve embraced your fear to work alongside of it. You have a healthy respect for your environment. You’ve put your fear in proper perspective and realistically assessed your potential future situation. You’ve educated yourself on possible solutions to the problem. Now you can confidently approach your work in the field knowing you’ve prepared for the problem and each time you experience and overcome it; it will be that much easier the next time! 

Following these simple steps should help you overcome your fears and thus improve your photography. You’ll be more mentally focused, relaxed and be able to travel to places that before you could only dream of. Happy shooting!

 Michael Greene is a nature photographer based in Arizona.  He has been a member of Arizona Highways Photo Workshops trip leading staff since 2008.  To view Michael’s work visit

Reflection Canyon Shortcut

by Shane McDermott

“You can’t access the Reflection Canyon overlook from the lake”! At least that is what I have always been told by numerous other photographers and lake lovers. Judging by few available photos of this spectacular overlook, I assumed this information to be true, but I wanted to see for myself.

Typical access to this vista involves a road trip to Escalante, Utah, a bumpy 40 mile drive down Hole-in-the-Rock road and a trial-less 8 mile scramble over slick rock. Even though I was willing to do this, I still wanted to see if I could access this amazing overlook from Lake Powell.  Well, it turns out you can! However, this non-technical route requires a boat drop off, very good physical agility, decent route finding skills and enough day light for about a two hour round trip.

Copyright Shane McDermott

Copyright Shane McDermott

The access point is a small bay, which can be clearly seen on google earth 600m to the west of the entrance to Reflection Canyon. Head northwest approximately .5 miles to avoid deep impassable canyons. Be sure to wear good hiking boots with plenty of traction, carry enough water, a head lamp and wide angle lens. Have fun!

Shane is a nature photographer based in Flagstaff, Arizona.  To learn more about Shane visit his website Wild-Earth-Illuminations.