Are You an Active Photographer? MindShift Multi-Mount Camera Carrier

The  MindShift Multi-Mount 20  hangs securely and unobtrusively from my riding pack.

The MindShift Multi-Mount 20 hangs securely and unobtrusively from my riding pack.

If you’re an active photographer, traveling via 4 wheels, 4 legs, 2 wheels, or 2 legs, you’re probably in a constant search for the perfect camera carrying system. I’m always trying to find a more convenient way to: A) have quick access to my camera so I’ll use it more often, and B) carry it comfortably and securely so It doesn’t get in the way of my activity or experience. 

I’ve been a long-time fan of the MindShift Gear backpacks, with their Rotation 180 technology. MindShift is a division of ThinkTank, which makes some of the finest camera bags on the planet. I’ve taken my Rotation 180 Pro backpack all around the world with me and wouldn’t use anything else for my extended adventures. Sometimes, however, you need something simpler. Maybe you just need to carry a camera, lens, and some accessories. Maybe you are engaged in a highly physical activity, like motorcycle or water buffalo riding, and need to keep your camera super secure and out of your way–yet with instant easy access. This is especially important during water buffalo mating season. 

The Multi-Mount carrier can work solo or in tandem with your normal backpack. It could also be added to your MindShift Rotation 180 pack for super easy access to even more gear. In fact, this is the setup I’ll be using when I lead our MotoPhotoTour of Italy this fall. When used solo, it can be slung over your shoulder, neck, or as a hip pack. The clever part is that is has multiple connection straps for securing the carrier from swinging around and getting in your way–which can actually be quite dangerous if you are engaged in high-risk activities. 

The full line of Multi-Mount carriers. Cameras not included. Duh.

The full line of Multi-Mount carriers. Cameras not included. Duh.

When attached to your normal backpack, it can be worn in front, threaded on the backpack waist belt; or it can hang from your backpack straps, and is secured with the stabilizer straps. This method keeps the carrier up higher than your waist, which is essential for mobility during riding activities like motorcycling, biking, horseback, or water buffaloing. 

There are so many clever ways to attach and secure the Multi-Mount carrier, that you’d be hard-pressed to find a reason not to bring it with you.

I took my Multi-Mount 20 on an off-road motorcycle ride to see if it really functioned as well as it looked. We rode hard for almost 80 miles through forests, single-track, and fast fire roads. The amazing part is that I never even noticed the bag was there. It rides so securely and out of the way that it never interferes with your activity. Even through (uh-hmm) dismounts and pushing my bike through knee-deep snow patches, it never got in the way. Usually, I didn’t even remember I had it on. It just seems to disappear–at least until a perfect vista appeared and I could simply stop and whip out the camera without even getting off the bike. 

As with all ThinkTank and MindShift products, the quality construction is second-to-none: Beefy, smooth zippers. Thick, rip-proof fabrics. Bomber stitching on all seams. Everything seems to be really well thought out and tested. There are just enough pockets for your accessories and, as with most of their camera bags, MindShift includes a rain cover. 

The Multi-Mount carriers come in a variety of sizes: 10, 20, 30, 50. I chose the 20 size as it carries a smaller DSLR or mirrorless camera with zoom lens attached. This is generally what I want immediate access to while riding or hiking. There is an outside pocket with plenty of room for filters, cards, batteries, wallet, keys, and your water buffalo mating call device. 

Niggles? The connection straps provided to attach to your backpack strap is designed for attaching to vertical accessory straps, although many backpacks (my bike pack included) have horizontal accessory straps. It still works fine, not a big deal, you just have slightly twisted straps that may throw the OCD person in to disarray. Using another swivel clip, like the one used on the other end of the strap, would have been a more universal solution. Granted, the MindShift backpacks have vertical accessory straps, so it works perfect with those. 

On the left is the way the strap attaches to your backpack horizontal accessory strap. I would have preferred a swivel connector like on the right (which is used on the other end of the strap to connect to the carrier).

On the left is the way the strap attaches to your backpack horizontal accessory strap. I would have preferred a swivel connector like on the right (which is used on the other end of the strap to connect to the carrier).

Lastly, I’m not super excited about the single color option: green. It’s a nice color and all, but what if it clashes with my wing suit? Fortunately, I’d happily trade a little fashion for a lot of function.

After riding with my Multi-Mount for a day, I can’t imagine going anywhere without it. I have quick access to a real camera and it doesn’t have to get in the way of my fun…and fun is job #1.

The green color of the Multi-Mount looks awesome in B&W ;-)

The green color of the Multi-Mount looks awesome in B&W ;-)

Even at speed, the carrier didn't budge or get in the way.

Even at speed, the carrier didn't budge or get in the way.

When you're chasing views like this, you might want to bring a camera.

When you're chasing views like this, you might want to bring a camera.

Bring your camera, share the beauty!

Bring your camera, share the beauty!

Tips & Tricks for Travel Photography

I think it's pretty safe to say that most photographers fantasize about being a well-paid, globe-trotting, travel photographer. Ahh, to photograph beautiful places, experience the culture, share the amazing imagery, meet wonderful people…sigh. Maybe it won't be a complete reality for most of us, but any photographer can put their vagabond photo skills to the test by embarking on a photo tour or workshop. We've been leading photo workshops to Italy for many years and this year we are also leading our first South African photo safari. Whether you are traveling to photograph for fun, documentary work, or a charitable cause, you can never have enough photo travel tips. So, in your pursuit of becoming the seasoned photo traveler, here are a few to add to your collection.


Rent unusual lenses.

A photo excursion is the perfect opportunity to try out that groovy lens you've been drooling over, but haven't been able to justify buying. Renting is the perfect solution if you only need a special lens on occasion. I even recommend that new wedding photographers rent good lenses for their weddings until they can afford to buy them. Using great lenses helps you get great images, which in turn brings you more business – so don't skimp on image quality, even if you are just starting out. For our African Photo Safari workshop, I plan to rent a nice long telephoto lens to capture distant beasts, and I do hope they keep their distance. LensProToGo.com is my favorite place to rent photo gear. They are incredibly helpful, have great service and prices, and carry just about any piece of gear you could want. They even have an iPhone app where you can browse stuff and rent directly. Sweet!

Carry your gear on your back – and hips.

I learned long ago in my mountaineering days that a good pack can make or break you – and your back. I also learned the importance of a hip belt on that pack. Keeping 80% of the weight on your hips makes a dramatic difference in your mobility and fatigue level at the end of a long day exploring. A photo backpack is essential for the adventurous photographer, so find one that fits you well and carries enough, but not too much gear. The bigger the pack, the more you'll fill it, and you often realize you've packed stuff you don't need and are now too darn tired to even go on a photo walk. Learn to pack light and put it all in a conservatively sized pack with a hip belt and you'll be a happy camper. Two of my favorite packs from Tamrac are the Evolution 9 and the Expedition 7X. Both fit well, carry just the right amount of stuff, and have that all-important hip belt to relieve your aching back. They also have built-in rain covers for all-season protection. For a wee extra deterrent to wandering hands, use a miniature locking carabiner to connect the zipper pulls together. 

Secure your camera.

I'm not a fan of traditional camera straps. If I use a strap, it's something like the Black Rapid or this newest, super versatile strap from Peak Designs. The strap must go across my body, not on a shoulder or dangling un-ergonomically from my neck. What I really like for travel is the Peak Designs Capture clip system. (You can save $10 by using code: kkubota at checkout). This attaches your camera, via a clever quick-release system, to your belt, backpack strap, or just about any strappy thing. Again, keeping the weight off your shoulders is key for extended travel and hitching it securely to a waist belt is the way to go. With the Peak Designs system, you can have a shoulder strap for added security and also clip the camera directly to their Capture belt connector. Both work together nicely. I used the Capture Clip on my last Italy workshop and found it easy to operate and unobtrusive. 

 

Another great option is the Cotton Carrier system. They also have a quick-connect attachment for your belt, pack, or chest harness. There are myriad options available for just about any need you'll have. The nice thing about this system, especially for wedding shooters, is the added padding and protection under the connector that guards your body and clothing from abrasion. This was part of my wedding "tool" belt system.

 

Keep used media cards in a pocket, separate from other gear. Label them.

A camera is replaceable, but once-in-a-lifetime images are not. As soon as I'm done filling a media card, I pop it in my pants pocket. If you don't wear pants, find another well guarded crevice to store it in. Just don't put them in your photo pack. Even if my backpack and all gear gets lost or snitched, I know my images are safe with me. It's also a good idea to write your name on all your media cards. I also write "REWARD for return" and my studio 800 number. If you travel internationally a lot, you might put "Call collect…". Also, make sure you actually have enough cards. How much is enough? See the next tip.

Backup cards nightly.

There once was a time when media cards were expensive and rare. There once was a time when simple calculators were as big as iPads and costs nearly as much. Those days are gone, so make sure you buy enough media cards that you don't have to re-use any on your trip. Keep all the images on the cards, and back them up each day when you return to your hotel, tent, or lean-to. If you have your laptop, use that to back them up to a small portable hard drive that you also tote along and keep protected in a small waterproof Pelican case. If you aren't traveling with a laptop, you could use a portable multimedia storage device

A less expensive and more reliable option, provided you have a camera with dual media card slots, is to use the extra card slot for backup. Just purchase a matching size card for the other slot and set your camera to write to both cards simultaneously. It's like a RAID drive for your camera. When the cards are full, pull both out and store them both in separate locations for added security. This option can be less expensive then using a portable multimedia storage device and much simpler and more compact. 

For example, my D800 has a CF card slot and an SD card slot. I'll use a 64GB card in each slot and, using the setup menu, tell my camera to shoot to the CF and backup all images to the SD card – essentially creating two copies of every image on the fly. The D800 shoots HUGE RAW files, each being about 46MB. I can fit about 1400 images on a 64GB card – two of which would be enough for a short trip. To buy an extra 64GB SDXC card is about $50. Two of these is still much cheaper than a portable drive and it doesn't require batteries or the packing space. Double that for a longer trip, shooting 5600 images on 256GB, and you're still only looking at $200 in backup storage. Compare that to at least $450 for a decent portable storage device.

If you aren't bringing a laptop and you don't have two card slots in your camera, then a portable multimedia storage device might still be the best solution. If you are using any other camera with smaller RAW files, then your storage requirements will be more modest. Calculate it out ahead of time to know what you'll be needing and use smaller matching cards if you prefer not to put all your eggs in one basket. 


Bring duct tape, zip ties, and large heavy zip-lock bags.

 

No self-respecting pseudo or bonafide MacGyverist would be caught dead without a sampling of duct tape somewhere on their person. I like to add some zip ties and plastic zip-lock bags too. The ties can also be used as makeshift hand-cuffs in case you participate in a citizens arrest somewhere. The plastic bags can protect lenses and other valuables inside a pack when it really rains hard. I've had one come in handy as a barf bag too for my son on one particularly bumpy bus ride. Remember, when you are traveling and away from amenities, even the smallest break or mishap can ruin your day. Be prepared. It's a great idea to carry a small multi-tool as well, and something like this, from Leatherman, is airline TSA compliant – so it shouldn't get confiscated. Oh, and don't forget that all-important mini flashlight for finding spare change in the bottom of your bag at night and occasional power outages in the 3rd world hotel. Heck, you might even use it for some photographic lighting!

Do you have some travel photo tips of your own? Share them in the comments!