Australia 2008 – Epilogue

Date October 19, 2008

Well, it’s been a few weeks now since I got home.  Our trip was amazing and although we were gone for just over four weeks, it was too short.  We actually had to cut out some things we wanted to see from our itinerary.  But that’s ok, because it just means we’ll have to go back there again one day.

I’ve posted photos on Flickr and there are also a bunch going up on RawPixels (my photoblog) over the next week or two (and probably longer since I got so many interesting shots).  So feel free to check them out, and please leave comments if you like them!

I had grandiose ideas of blogging while on the trip, but the reality of it was that I just didn’t have time.  We decided to leave the laptop at home for this trip (still on the fence if I’d do that again) so that meant a dedicated trip to the internet cafe whenever we needed to go online.  In the future, I’d consider bringing a small laptop, or maybe one of those ultra-mobile laptops that are becoming popular.

In the prologue I talked a lot about the new gear I was thinking of acquiring for the trip.  Here’s what I ended up with:

GorillaPod SLR Zoom

I decided against spending the money on a travel tripod at this time.  I went on a limb and brought the GorillaPod SLR Zoom instead, as some people indicated it was acceptable for support, and the size and weight are great for backpacking.  I used it a few times and it did work pretty well, as long as there was something for it to hold on to.  In the outback of Australia, there aren’t many strong tree branches or steel railings to use, so this support was essentially useless.  I did get some pretty good results at one location that had steel handrails. See for yourself.

Of course, a tripod would have been better and next time around I think I’ll bring a small one like Feisol offers.  We traveled in buses and rental cars most of the time, so having the tripod would have been a bit of a nuisance at times, but I probably could have lived with it, especially if it fit inside my backpack if needed (say for checking on the plane).

Gisteq PhotoTrackr

The Gisteq Phototrackr worked quite well, and I’m very happy I travelled with it.  Its memory capacity is 250,000 samples so I calculated that at one sample every 8 seconds it would fill the entire memory in 30 days (assuming it was logging only about 18 hrs per day).  Of course I over-estimated, and when I got home, the device had used less than 50% of its memory.  The one annoying thing about this device is that you need to have registered software on your computer in order to download and change settings for the device.  I honestly think Gisteq is going to lose customers because of this, but they’d probably gain more if they opened up their device a little bit.  I mean really, you’re paying for the hardware mostly, and you can’t use the software without it, so why be so anal about having registered software just to download the data?  It really is stupid.  But I digress…

Hyperdrive Colorspace O

Probably the most important device I brought with me was the Hyperdrive Colorspace O.  I ordered the case only version directely from Hyperdrive and it was promptly delivered.  I added a 120GB hard disk drive that I picked up locally.  The device worked well, except if I let the battery run out.  There was at least one time when my heart stopped when a message appeared on the device saying “the drive has not been formatted…”.  I thought I had lost everything, but I let it charge longer and everything was fine the next time I turned it on.

My original backup strategy was as follows: backup all full memory cards every day or two and leave the images on the cards for redundancy.  This worked for the first few times, but then it became difficult to remember if the cards were backed up or not.  So after a few instances of me backing up duplicates, and some frantic in-the-field questioning if the cards had been backed up, I decided to forego the redundancy of leaving the images on the cards and just erasing the cards once they were backed up on the Colorspace.  This system worked better, but I had all my eggs in one basket.

Of course, with all my photos in the Colorspace I kept it in a safe location.  During the day, if our hotel had a safe, I’d keep it there.  If not, I’d hide it in my backpack left in the hotel room.  When travelling or on multiple day excursions, it had a home in my carry-on backpack.  The system worked and I had no troubles.

I calculated I would need about 40GB of storage based on my previous trips to image-rich locations (NYC, SanFran, etc) and when I got home, sure enough I had just about exactly 40GB of photos.  The 120GB drive will last me quite a while, even if I upgrade to a higher res camera.

Packing my Gear

One thing I had a hard time researching prior to the trip was how to pack for such a long trip, and specifically how to pack lightly.  Most of the info I found simply stated that packing light procluded bringing an SLR and multiple lenses.  Other places went the opposite direction and said that since you’re taking your SLR, you’re obviously packing heavy so bring everything.  I posted a similar question on a photography forum and got a little bit of useful advice, which I took, but mostly I was on my own.

I ended up bringing the gear listed below:

  • Canon 20d Digital SLR
  • Canon 10-22mm ultra-wide angle
  • Canon 17-85mm with image stabilization
  • Canon 70-200mm f4 L telephoto
  • Canon 50mm f1.8

I packed all of the above except the 70-200 telephoto into a Lowepro Toploader 75 that I had kicking around.  I put the 70-200 in a Lowepro Lens Case 2 wich can attach to the Toploader if needed.  Both the Toploader and the Lens Case fit snugly into my daypack (small napsack) with some room to spare on top for a small jacket, lunch, etc.  As the toploader opens from the top, it was fairly easy to access the camera.

I found this setup slightly more convenient than using my Lowepro Rover II backpack.  This setup is also smaller and less cluttered than the Rover and all its straps.  If I can’t find anything better for the next trip, I’ll happily use this setup again (though it was a hassle going through airport security, but that’s a story for another post).

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