The Traveling Photographer Column on Photofocus.com
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The Traveling Photographer: Powering Up!

How many times have you pushed the shutter release on your camera, to take that perfect photograph, only to find your battery is dead and you don’t have another. Let’s face it, as photographers we are only as good as the battery power on hand.

Battery power can be challenging at times, when traveling. Lots of batteries mean lots of extra weight. Battery chargers take up precious space in your suitcase. Many hotel rooms don’t provide enough working electrical outlets to charge all of your devices at the same time. If you are in the wilderness or there is a power outage, there are no working electrical outlets.

Batteries

Let’s start with the basics. I don’t think I need to remind most of you to bring lots of extra batteries when you travel, and to remember to take more than one extra camera battery with you when you leave your hotel room. I carry at least three batteries, usually four, when I am out for the day. Probably a bit of overkill at times, but I figure what if I am down to two batteries and one just doesn’t work. Or, what if I have taken an uncharged battery by mistake.

If you are going backpacking, and won’t be overnighting at a power supply, calculate how many photos you may take a day, estimate how many images you can take using one battery, and plan accordingly as to how many batteries to carry. You can also rely on portable chargers, which I discuss below, but I would still bring as many batteries as you can handle in your backpack.

Chargers

Normally I take three chargers with me—one for my carry-on bag and two in my checked luggage. I don’t take the charger that came with the camera. I have travel battery chargers that are lighter weight and easier to pack. One of my chargers holds two batteries and can be attached either to a computer USB port or a plug .

Electrical Power

When traveling outside your own country it is important to bring a universal battery charger. Electricity is delivered differently in different countries, and a universal charger should work anywhere. Most chargers I have seen are universal, The input is AC100-240V 50/60HZ. If your charger is not universal, you may need a converter so that your charger will work in the location you are traveling to. It is probably cheaper to just buy a universal charging unit instead.

I also travel with a power strip that holds three plugs—very useful when there are limited outlets in my room. Depending on available space and my suitcase weight, I carry a large, heavier travel power strip with surge protection by Simran (still smaller than a normal one I use at home) or I take the risk and pack a small power strip with no surge protection.

In some hotels, particularly older ones, the electrical outlets may only accept two-prong plugs. Just in case, I always pack small adapters that convert my plug from a a three prong to a two prong plug.

If you are traveling to another country, even if you have a universal charger, you may still need an adapter so that the plug on your device will fit properly into the holes of the electrical outlets of the country you are visiting.

But what if you have no electrical outlets available to you, or there is a power outage? You can use a portable charging unit suitable for charging camera batteries, such as Anker 20000mAh. I have attached my battery charger with USB ports, loaded with two batteries, to the Anker charger, and both batteries have charged up. Of course the portable charging unit must be fully charged beforehand, so that it will be able to charge batteries in the field, and it must have the capacity to handle camera batteries.

If you are traveling by car or other vehicle, with the right cords and battery charger you can attach your charger to the vehicle’s USB port or to a cigarette lighter.

One solution I have not yet tested is a solar-powered power supply unit. If any of you have experience with solar power, I would appreciate your insights.

Don’t Forget

Traveling with the right equipment is meaningless if you forget to charge your batteries. Have a set routine that you follow when you travel. For me, any time I come into my hotel room, even if only for a few minutes, I put depleted batteries in battery chargers.

Whether you travel near to home, or far, it is always important to plan ahead, particularly with regard to your power supply. It is usually very hard to find what you need when you are on the road and far from home.

Checklist

 

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