Travel Security

Discussion in 'Travel' started by marbing, Jun 11, 2003.

  1. I would like to get people's thoughts on security...not airport
    security I'm afraid but personal and physical security when you are
    tavelling in unfamiliar locations with thousands of dollars in camera
    What measures do you take to safeguard your equipment...Some people
    opt for 'camoflage' and carry their gear in the rattiest looking bag
    they can find. Some use 'stealth' and carry small and concealable
    gear that won't attract too much attention. Some go the cheap route
    and only take their most expendable gear in case it is stolen.<P>
    What measures do other people take?
  2. I do a few things:

    1) I avoid the really nasty areas, but I'd do that with or without the camera gear. I have no desire to meet criminals, foreign or otherwise :)

    2) I carry my gear in a backpack-style bag from Tamrac (the 750 -- Nobody looks twice until I open it.

    3) I keep the important pockets on the bag locked (with luggage locks, obtainable in any travel store -- make sure you can put them on the bag properly!) Try to get ones that blend with the bag, not shiny ones that stick out.

    4) I keep the bag on and locked, except when I'm pulling something out of it. When it's on, I keep the front strap on -- that makes it tough to pull the bag off from behind. I also keep a VERY close eye out when I open it. If there's someone sketchy hanging around, I go elsewhere.

    5) I will admit to walking around with my camera out a lot, which is a no-no, but I try to keep it around my neck and off to the side, with a hand on it, so it's tough to get close at take it without a struggle. My guess (hope) is that in a crowded urban area, a thief is going to go for the tourist who isn't guarding his stuff instead of me, despite the expensive equipment. When you're being chased by a tiger, you don't have to be fast, you just have to be faster than the guy next to you.

    Some of these rules are relaxed when I feel safer (i.e. if I'm in the middle of nowhere the locks stay off, etc.) but mostly I stick to the rules. Oh, and if I set up the tripod to do a photo of myself (travelling alone), I don't do it if there is anyone even remotely sketchy around.

    So, keep your stuff close (and hidden when possible), make yourself a tough target, and keep an eye out for anyone suspicious (eyeing your equipment with something more than mere interest, following you closely, etc). Oh, and I've found that having a nice metal tripod to swing around can make you feel a bit more secure sometimes...
  3. Don't have a bag with brand names all over it.
    Don't have clothes with recognisable brand labels.
    Don't have a camera strap with brand names all over it.
    (Unless they're paying you to advertise them, in which case I doubt replacement of kit is a major concern).
    Avoid those shiny aluminium cases that scream "Steal me!"
    Don't wear one of those vests that says "Photographer!"
    Consider a monopod.
    Consider travelling light, such that (in cooler climes at least) you can carry all you need in the pockets of a long overcoat.
    The coat is also good for carrying your camera beneath with the strap over one shoulder, inside.
    Try to be inconspicuous and blend in with the locals.
    Avoid garish colored clothing, unless you're a cyclist or working in the middle of a road.
    Look like you have as much right to be in that space as anyone else and be assertive, but not confrontational, in your body language.
    Try to avoid becomming so engrossed in picture-taking that you become unaware of the greater surroundings and other folks about.

    Relax. In most places your chances of being robbed are really very small - its easy, but understandable, to mistake cultural differences for something one might feel threatened by - don't allow paranoia to spoil your enjoyment of an interesting new place.
    Get insurance and don't worry.
    In the highly unlikely event of the worst happening, write it off to experience - it's only gear/your wallet/money - all quite replacable.

    Upon preview, I guess this is all pretty obvious, really.
  4. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I keep my camera (usually a Mamiya 7 when I travel) out and visible. I carry a book of sample prints and I carry business cards. Africa, Latin America, Europe (including the "dicey" neighborhoods), Canada, the US (including some very, very "dicey" neighborhoods), it doesn't matter where, I've always done this. When people question me, I tell them who I am and stand my ground, and it has never caused a problem. No-one has ever taken anything, even after threatening me (this has only happened when I was shooting in gang neighborhoods in the US.) I think it's a whole lot better to be up-front about what you are doing than look you have something to hide.

    I do feel much safer in the "Third World" than in the US or the bigger cities in Europe. The only place I ever thought I might lose stuff (and it was luggage, not gear) was in a train station in Paris.

    I do have insurance, and I do have someone that will FedEx replacement equipment if I need it. So far, nothing has happened...

    I am very careful about leaving gear in hotels. If there is no safe, I carry it with me all the time.
  5. Thieves looking for easy marks are attracted to lost, bewildered tourists. It's hard to be discreet with larger lenses and tripods, so I try to emphasize the "professional photographer on assignment" look. I'm there to take photographs, I know what I'm doing, and it's all business. That is to say, I bluff.
    One tip I can offer from experience - be aware that "colorful local characters" often work in groups of six or eight, so it would be rather naive to choose say a 24mm lens for this kind of candid shot.
  6. yes there are areas in the world that are higher risk than others. I agree with all the above - going around flashing an F5 and a 70-200 2.8 or whatever is silly, but as long as you're vigilant and sensible, you are unlikely to get into trouble - the Lonely Planet website and books always give giudance on dangers and annoyances in various countries - eg in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, you wouldn't go out at night with the tripod and £2000 of kit to record traffic trails, but by day you could do what you like with no fear!

    Get yourself good insurance. Your stuff is more likely to disappear from your room while you are having dinner than from your back.

    If you have good, bespoke insurance, at the end of the day its all just metal and plastic so it can easily be replaced.

    AP ran an article last week about a guy who swears by an old Olympus Trip for great reportage shots than he can hide away easily instead of something equally discreet but costly like a Leica.

    You'll be fine.
  7. The three most important aspects of gear security are insurance, insurance, and insurance.<p>Thank you, Jeff, for introducing us to reality! An area North Americans and many Europeans may consider dangerous might be quite safe, and vice versa. When in doubt, rely on the locals' opinion.<p>Technically, I prefer to carry a gear bag with the strap worn diagonally, keep an eye on my surroundings, and try to be a moving target. In crowded areas, that really helps. Psychologically, I try to just be there, not intrusive, not evasive.
  8. I agree with some of the mentioned points. 1st don't look like a tourist. 2nd look between poor and professional. Be able to run if you need to.
    I always used old worn equipment and army bags or fishing vests. I believe thieves are in the cities and prefer easy to sell new looking autofocus cameras.
    If I had a leica I'd paint the brand label black. I even engraved my name in oldere lenses I'd might loose.
    I don't trust insurances. They like to take money but make contracts enabling them not to pay anything. - I like camping and travel by motorbike. An important thing is not to worry about your camera in obvious body language.
  9. Take the same level of care with vehicles. The only "crime" problem my folks ran into on any of their trips was in Italy, their van - all windows!! - was broken into at a popular tourist spot. The van was unwatched and the windows made it easy to see lots of luggage. Avoid leacving obviously tempting items in plain view in parking areas, use care when putting things out for valets, etc. I'd be concerned about leaving things in rooms, housekeeping staffs may well be too casual or too occupied to control access to the rooms.
  10. For the last 45 years I've traveled all over the world. Even in war combat zones while serving in the U.S. Navy, many years ago. I've always carried just one camera out in the open. No case, plain strap. Most of my equipment looks old and is, in fact, quite old! Maybe that's why no one is interested! <P>I started using a photographers vest a few years ago, a gift from my wife that I really wanted. It has worked very well although it can get pretty warm when going on a long walking journey. If I have other equipment I usually find a place to store it like a hotel-cruise ship-room safe although I have left equipment in my "room," usually kept somewhere out of sight. Maybe it's luck but I haven't had a loss yet. On a recent trip to Europe, taken with a group of arboretum nuts, I got to know the bus driver real well and he locked up whatever equipment I didn't want to lug around at any given time in a compartment up front, right by his seat. <P>I find that a sincere, happy face helps anywhere. Saying, "please" and "thank-you" always helps. Being courteous to people will help a lot, especially to those people who usually don't get any respect but receive a warm smile and a true how are you and I'm willing to listen and get to know you. It helps with my journeys. <P>I've always worn clothing the regular people wear in whatever country I'm visiting. I've been told that a sure sign of an American tourist is someone who has a billboard T-shirt, jeans and tennis shoes on. So I avoid them. I try to blend in as much as I can with the regular folks with the clothes I wear. But I can't change some aspects of my body! <P>I was in Athens a couple of years ago with a group, got lost, we saw two police people, a nice woman and a young man. They talked to the woman. <P>I walked up to the young man and he said, "where are you from?" I said, "U.S.A." He said, matter of factly, "No foolin!" After laughing some, he then said, "which state?" I said, "Minnesota." He exclaimed, "Minnesota. You've got the Timberwolves! Kevin Garnett! Great player!" <P>Can you believe how small this world has become!<P>People are people no matter where you go. You can have something terrible happen to you in your own home town. I haven't ever felt threatened. Maybe, again, it's been luck. <P>I'll leave you with this last story. I was at a convention in Chicago, visiting with a gentleman and mentioned to him how I've really enjoyed the public transportation system especially the "L." He said, "I would never ride the 'L!' I said "Why not?" "I got robbed!" "Oh, that's too bad." He continued, "I was in Las Vegas a few years ago." I knew he wanted me to ask, so I did, "how was that trip?" He said, "I got robbed coming out of my hotel in Las Vegas." <P>Maybe it's a little to do with demeanor!
  11. This business of having insurance sounds like such sage advice! How about naming a company that will insure a non-professional traveling out of country?
  12. The topic of photography insurance has come up on Nikonians a few times. The general concensus there was that State Farm provides excellent policies for amateur photogs that covers you regardless of where the equipment is used. Unfortunately for me State Farm does not appear to be registered in Massachusetts so I cannot use them. However, it may be worth checking your Yellow Pages and seeing if there is an agent in your area you could call.
  13. Wrt to dress code, if you want to look like a tourist, wear<br>sunglasses in any weather (if you're not a local, you can't know whether a blinding beam of sunlight won't shoot through the clouds in the next second);<br>a baseball cap (to protect you from the terrible heat of the North Pole);<br>a city map out in the open (you may get lost any second, so always must know where you are).<p>All these are pretty good, but the following ones are the "must haves":<br>sneakers (for the long walks--some foreign countries actually have pedestrian areas where no vehicle is allowed!);<br>a waist pack (how else can you keep passport, wallet, coins, pen, notepad, pocket knife, sweater, rain poncho,
    spare batteries, first aid kit, sunglasses, city guide, brochures, cell phone, PDA, GPS, survival kit, etc., within easy reach?);<br>shorts (how else can you prepare for the typical 5°C of Europe?).<p>If you want to blend with the locals:<br>Jeans are OK. They're worn everywhere in the world now.<br>So are sandals in most places, even the Teva-style ones.<br>Ditto for backpacks. European bankers sometimes carry them to a suit.<p>And please, spare us the photo vests. They shout "precious contents!" like few other things.
  14. i go to third world countries alot for projects...this is what i do, i take electric tape (utility tape) in different colors- gray, red, and blue...and then i tape up my camera and make it look like its broken with careful attention to covering up any labels. i carry it in a plain tote bag, NEVER a camera bag. i take my shots, when i am not taking my shots i put it away. its difficult and if you can help it dont shoot alone, bring someone with you in the mroe dangerous countries.
  15. I have discovered that in many 'southern' countries, such as Central/South America, the Caribbean, many parts of Africa, and India, shorts are not standard wear for men. Perhaps it is because of British social mores having been exported in several places; i.e., males only wear shorts until they are 12... in other places, shorts may be a sign of femininity... Regardless, I make it a policy of never wearing shorts (except to a beach) if I would like to blend in more in a foreign country.

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