Travel Tips & Trivia.
Text and images by Ronald de Jong
is well known for its tropical climate that is characterized by abundant rainfall, relatively high temperature and humidity;
it is also infamous for its unexpected downpours, moisture, heat and sand that can affect your camera's performance greatly. If you want to make the most of the many photo opportunities that this wonderful island
has to offer, it is essential to protect your vulnerable and valuable equipment from the sometimes rugged weather conditions.
The right tech gear, practical tips and a few simple precautions can help you to make your trip stress and hassle free, prevent
permanent breakage and reduce the wear and tear of this equatorial climate on camera bodies and lenses.
You can only bring in cameras and
electronic equipment through Philippine customs if they are for your own use. Hand-carry your camera bag to ensure that your
gear is kept safe and secure, to avoid the risk of breaking it is best to detach the lens from the body. Keep your camera,
lenses and other material in weatherproof, well-padded backpacks that will allow some ventilation, put a few silica-gel packets
inside the bag to absorb most of the moisture that can cause mould and fungus growing inside the lenses and the body of your
camera. Many camera bodies are weather resistant, but because of some rubber
gaskets not water proof, increasing the risk of apparatus failure if exposed to too much wetness. If your camera is cold and
brought into a warm and damp environment condensation can appear on the front of the lens, in most cases this will disappear
within a couple of minutes. It's important to keep the lens clean, check it before you start shooting and always wipe out
any visible haze immediately with a lens-cleaning cloth. The numerous waterfalls and rain forests on the Island are mostly
located at high altitudes with conditions producing rain, drizzle or fog. Rain sleeves and jackets for cameras, lenses, and
other flash devices will keep them dry and protected. Make sure not to change your lenses in open air, dry your hands and
keep your fingers free from dirt before changing memory cards and batteries. The negative effects of high humidity can be
reduced if you keep sensitive accessories in Ziploc bags.
On the many white and pristine beaches
of Sarangani strong sea winds can blow sand granules into the lens of your digital camera, causing a lot of damage, it is
best to remove these particles with a lens blower brush and a microfiber tissue as soon as possible. A lens pen will come
in handy for sweeping dusts and smudges off your lenses and filters. The scorching sun can overheat the circuitry within your
camera and cause severe deterioration over time. Don't leave your gadgets out in fierce sunlight too long and do not use your
camera while it's still warm. A good-quality coated UV filter will not only block ultraviolet light, but also serve as protection
when left on the lens at all times. Taking photographs in the mornings and evenings will avoid harsh light and unflattering
shadows, it will even provide a more suitable light to work with and it is the best time for shooting natural scenery's. The
varied landscape of Mindanao comes in all forms; mountains, plains forests, swamps, lakes, rivers, and seacoasts, all with
an extreme diversity of textures, colours and patterns that can require the use of several lenses and filters to fully capture
its mesmerizing beauty.
Power outages are not unusual in
Mindanao and the high temperatures can reduce battery life, keep these items charged and carry some extra for your flash units
before going out. A battery grip is a great accessory, not only does it allows you to use more than one battery at a time
but also provides you with the possibility to plug in AA batteries preventing you from running out of portable power. Furthermore
it will give you a much better grip on the camera, making it easier to handle and it is providing full vertical shooting controls.
Clean the battery contacts in the camera and charger regular, many charging problems are caused by dirty contacts. Disabling
the flash when you do not need it and not turning the camera off after each and every picture will significantly extend the
value of your power pack. Because of the ever changing weather, every now and then resulting in low light conditions, the
use of a good lightweight mini tripod, monopod or a flexible pod can be essential; it will steady your camera and guarantee
sharp pictures. It is also giving you the ability to monitor and compose any scene in much greater detail. Mindanao is really
a photographer's delight, take enough high capacity memory cards with you; so that you can take as many photographs as you
want. For a serious backup, download your images to a small laptop or photo storage device after a day shooting. You will
have to make certain that your chargers and laptop can handle the voltage, in Mindanao 220 volts at 60 Hz with U.S. style
flat blade attachment plugs is commonly used.
Many of the picturesque spots in
Mindanao are located in remote areas, sometimes they can be reached only on foot through winding trails. The occasionally
rough terrain does not make it very easy to carry all your material in a safe and comfortable way. There is a very thin line between having enough equipment and too much of it, hauling several bags, cameras
and a mass of lenses can be heavy and also attracts a lot of unwanted attention. Take equipment only if you absolutely need
it, nevertheless it’s a good idea to carry a second camera primarily to skip out on changing lenses, or as a backup.
In some circumstances a smaller point-and-shoot camera that fits in your shirt pocket can once in a while be an excellent
alternative. If you do have to work with more than one camera, several lenses and flash units, a photographers harness and
utility belt with a camera holster will allow you to carry the appropriate amount of gear and evenly distribute the weight
on your shoulders. Your equipment will always be ready for a fast draw, it will
help you adapting to rapid-changing scenarios by giving you quick access to swap and store accessories. A tactical harness
or vest will give you the chance to travel light, move swift without restricting your picture taking ability and will provide
plenty of freedom of movement excluding the bumping or swinging of a neck strap. When you are outdoors on a shoot, wear a
hat or baseball cap to keep clear of sunstroke and sunburn. Moreover it is important to drink plenty of water; a professional
belt can additionally hold a water bottle or canteen in a soft pouch. If you are unsure about the quality of your tap water,
use bottled water only.
In some public places, like shopping
malls, it is not permitted to take cameras inside, making you have to leave it at the reception or security desk. When your
appliances are left in your hotel, verify that a safe or locker is available for storing your rig. Unfortunately not all hotels
will offer adequate safekeeping to ensure your peace of mind about leaving your stuff behind. If you do have to take your
belongings with you than don't leave anything in full view and keep your eyes on your possessions. Most places in the southernmost
part of Mindanao are in general out of harm's way, regrettably there are a few pockets on this exotic islet where this may
not be the case, keep in mind that the total value of your gear can feed a poor family for a couple of months. It's better
to be safe than sorry, always be prepared and take out adequate travel insurance for you and your kit and kaboodle. Register
and scan the cameras and laptop serial numbers, include your (valid) passport and proof of purchase of your equipment, make
a digital backup copy and place it on a USB flash drive, this will help you with any insurance claims and police reports if
they go missing or are stolen.
Taking good care of yourself, your
camera and outfit helps you to get better images in the long run, choosing and using the most suitable gear is important for
achieving great results, it will enable you to see the beauty of Mindanao and to freeze wonderful moments in time, transforming
them in untold stories that are worth remembering for a lifetime.