Mexico City

Sometimes the travel aspect of my job seems like it will be a whole lot of fun, but in the end seems to be more trouble than it’s worth. Last week I was sent to Mexico to shoot a portrait of a partner in our Mexico City office. Initially I was very excited – My first international photo shoot. No small part of the excitement was the fact that my company has a policy of flying business or first class for international flights. This was short-lived however when I was told that policy wasn’t applicable for Mexico and Canada…doh!

Regardless, I was excited to be going to another country, even though the resulting portraits, shot in a style to match the visual identity for the firm would be essentially pretty dry stuff. Over the last couple of months I’ve been working on refining my Strobist-style portable lighting kit for travel portraits, and this trip was the maiden voyage. I now have a travel kit where I can carry-on all of the equipment without having to risk checking anything, which is a huge weight off my mind. It isn’t particularly a weight off my shoulders, but my snazzy new Pelican 1510 case has sturdy little wheels and worked like a charm. The case is a bit heavy, but you can’t beat the price and strength. The nice thing is that with this case I can also ship my equipment in a pinch without having to get another bag. My current travel lighting kit includes:

  • 3 Canon 580 EX Speedlites
  • 2 Manfrotto Lightstands (collapsable to 19 inches, expandable to six feet)
  • 3 Umbrella brackets
  • 2 Super clamps
  • 4 Pocket Wizards
  • 3 Double collapsable umbrellas – two silver, one translucent
  • Flash cards and card reader
  • Extra AA batteries and chargers
  • Various gels
  • Gaffers tape plus other odds and ends

I have also organized everything within the case into components so that if I need to, I can pull individual pieces out. For example I have a pocket-wizard kit, which includes the Pocket Wizards, sync cords and slave adaptors. I found a $1.99 black pencil holder that was meant to go in a trapper keeper which works perfectly for this. Now I know that if I need my Pocket Wizards, I can grab that little bag and be confident that I will have everything I need.

Then in addition I carry a camera bag with my 5D and 30D bodies, along with however many lenses I feel I need and/or can fit. I am in the market for a new camera bag which is a bit bigger and would allow me to carry a laptop as well. Currently I’m putting my laptop in my pelican, which isn’t particularly convenient either on the plane or going through security. In fact, nothing was particularly convenient on my trip to Mexico while going through security. They took every item out of both pelican and my camera bag and sent them through individually. Luckily it was an early flight and the lines were short so I didn’t get held up too much.

Once in Mexico, I started to realize that a 36 hour stint out of the country may not be as fun as I thought it would be. Long lines at both immigration and customs had me wishing I’d hit the bathroom before the plane landed. Eventually I made it through where a very friendly, Deep Purple listening driver picked me up and took me to the W Hotel. Unfortunately, due to the schedule and the travel warnings issued by my firm, I spent most of my time in the hotel bar and in the neighborhood directly around the hotel, which I was told was “about as safe as it gets.” If I’d had more time, I would have explored more but as it was I really could have been anywhere. It was warm though, so that was nice. I didn’t get to do much shooting because I was told that since I was alone I shouldn’t wander around and I definitely shouldn’t be showing a camera. I made the portrait of the executive I was sent to shoot, but then I pretty much sat around drinking Victoria beer and waiting for my return flight.

Best thing about my trip? The shower in the hotel. It was one of those rain-style direct from the ceiling jobs with side jets shooting all over the place. And there was a hammock in the shower by a floor to ceiling window, which was a nice novelty. Four showers in 2.5 days…yee haw.

Mexico City Shower

All in all, I’m glad for the experience, and I’m certainly glad to be getting the work, but hopefully I won’t have to take such short jaunts in the future. I may be headed to Canada next, but at least there I’ll speak the language a little better.

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