Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hitting the Road

I decided to take my camera to Bangkok.  Well, not just my camera.  I decided to take some of my studio lighting gear, at least one light, so that I could take photos of models in Thailand even if I didn't have ample natural light.  Even in a top notch hotel, there is normally only one wall benefitting by the presence of a window.  Making matters worse, hotels are often surrounded by other taller buildings which shadow the building and lower the available light.  Also, if I limited the times I could shoot to daylight hours, that might really narrow down my opportunities to book a model.  So, I decided that if I was serious about wanting to get some photoshoots in, I'd have to bring a studio light.
I have a total of three Calumet Genesis monolights; two 200 watt-second lights, and one 400 watt-second.  I wasn't sure if the Genesis light would run on Thailand's line voltage (220), since we're using 120 here in the US.  I couldn't find anything on the lights themselves, nor in the user's manual, so I made a call to Calumet's technical support line.  The gent on the line told me without hesitation that the lights would only work on 120, and he didn't know what size step-down transformer I'd need.  So, I had to get a step-down transformer for sure.  That wasn't good news, because anything 500 watts or more would be about 10 pounds of ballast to add to my luggage - something I wasn't looking forward to.  I decided to get a 750 watt model, and bring my 200 watt light, just to be sure I had headroom and didn't run into problems once in Thailand.

Everything about this trip was biased towards keeping my costs down.  I knew that no matter what, it was going to be expensive if I wanted to include photoshoots as part of my trip, so I tried to cut corners wherever I could.  Even my airline ticket was a free one (well, sort of), since I was able to cash in some mileage on Cathay to get myself passage.  So I ordered my step-down transformer from Amazon; they had a lot of models to choose from, and it would be free shipping if I used ground.  Well, that choice added to the suspense as I watched day by day go by and still received no shipping confirmation.  As my last day in town arrived (before I'd depart), I was starting to think the whole idea might be a bit misguided.  What if the transformer didn't arrive?  Would I have to scramble all over town looking for a transformer?
When I arrived home from work on that final Tuesday, my eyes immediately scanned the front porch.  There it was - my beloved cardboard box from Amazon!  Oh, I was so relieved, and even excited.  It's probably hard to understand why a grown man would be so thrilled to open up a box to put his hands on this lump of iron and copper, which doesn't really do anything other than change the line voltage.  In fact, I didn't even have a way to test it out, but at least I had it in my hot little hands.  Wow, that thing sure was heavy.
For the past few days, I'd been creating a list of what I'd need, and staging things to prepare for the final process of packing.  I tried to think of all the different things that might trip me up once in Thailand.  Spare battery for the wireless strobe trigger?  Yep, and it was some oddball thing I had to track down at Radio Shack beforehand.  What kind of light modifier should I bring?  I had lots of ideas, but in the end I narrowed it down to my reflective umbrella, and one small 5-way reflector. 
I'd been wracking my brain about how I'd pack the light stand, since it was far too long, even collapsed, to fit into my suitcase.  Heck, even the umbrella would be too big.  I finally came up with the idea of wrapping the stand and umbrella in a bath towel, and attaching a velcro tie-down strap around it, which I used as a sling over my shoulder.  With this thing over my shoulder, I figured I'd just carry it onto the plane, which actually worked out just fine.  I did have lots of questions about what the heck it was I was carrying, and more than one person guessed it to be a Samurai sword.
So, there it was - my pile of gear and my two small roll-aboard suitcases (which I did check).  I had the monolight, its reflector, the boat-anchor transformer, an extension cord, four lenses, a small backdrop, the reflector, on and on it went.  This was after abandoning a few things I initially thought I'd bring.  In addition to the photography gear, I also packed half a dozen lingerie items, several silk scarves, and some clips I could use for on the spot tailoring.  Some people might have thought I was a bit nuts to pack all of this stuff (especially lingerie!), but I wasn't telling anyone and I figured I'd be glad I had the stuff at some point.
I finally managed to arrange everything to fit within the two suitcases.  I even remembered to put a few of my own clothes in there, but I didn't need much since I was going to such a warm climate.  I was lucky enough to have a friend of mine drive me to the airport the next morning, and when she saw my two suitcases (plus felt how HEAVY they were) she was commenting on how I certainly don't travel light.  I didn't try to explain to her that I planned to photograph beautiful, scantily clad young women in Thailand.  I think she would dismiss me as some kind of creep, so I just shrugged and said, "Yeah, it got to be more than I figured at first".  It was a little embarrasing for me, though, as I usually travel super light.
Soon I was hugging my friend goodbye at the departure drop-off point, wheeling my suitcases to the counter, and sitting in the terminal coffee shop waiting for my boarding call.

No comments:

Post a Comment