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“De Havilland DH89a Dragon Rapide”
May 2013

HCD 24
1/160th @ f/4.8
ISO 200
Hasselblad H5D-50

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Photographers on a Plane
How many full frame DSLR cameras can you load onto an airliner before it just can't take off and fly?

The Photography Blog

Sometimes I think about modern air liners and all those tonnes of steel hurled into the sky by the ignition of jet fuel. It seems so unlikely that these aircraft could ever fly, but they do. On a recent flight from Bangkok the aircraft was so full of photographers and their overweight camera kits that I wondered if maybe this plane wouldn't fly, not this time.

These high flyers were tall and scruffy, as though "Asia via Thailand" was now an official category. Torn t-shirts are matched to Pelican 1510 cases or the latest in heavy loading backpacks from Kata. At least the Pelican can't be overstuffed for volume, just weight. Some poor young girl would get quite a shock if one of these tumbles out of the overhead lockers with 18kgs of lenses and full frame bodies.

I'm the odd one out in the passengers list. I'm too short and not very fit, and I don't look good in ripped apparel of any kind. My kind of scruffy is a little bit different, not so much the kind that results from running along the beach in the mornings and getting too much sun while surfing. I don't shave because I'm lazy, not because my nightlife is too demanding for spending the extra time in the mornings.

My camera bag looks pretty modest too. Just one camera body and three lenses. One of them is non essential to be honest, dragged around Central-Asia for 5 weeks in order to get two days worth of festival shots. It spent more time in the hotel room than in my camera bag. Plus I'm carrying an unnecessarily large DSLR body in order to have access to the best possible autofocus systems. Much like my unshaved face, my choice of camera kit reflects a little laziness too.

In a perfect world I'd go even smaller, am just waiting for the camera designers to fit the performance of a Canon 1Dx into a body the size of a Leica M. Ideally I'd love to have my camera hide inside a laptop bag, I'd like to avoid looking anything like Mr Pelican or Mr Kata. And yes, I realise that in reality a camera bag full of gear is about all I have in common with these guys.

Small is good, that's always my motto for travel. Very small groups, very small tour operators, very personal connections. But a small camera is a dream rather than a reality, because a big sensor is my source of much delight when shooting.

Size isn't everything, but it does matter. It probably matters when an airline is stuffed full of highly dense photographic technology instead of cheap shoes and sarongs. I heard that the Concorde air disaster all began by loading the plane with too much over weight luggage that wasn't properly accounted for and the plane literally failed to reach navigational velocity.

There were other factors, but I'd love to know how many full frame DSLRs it would take to crash a Boeing 777. Fortunately I have my tray table stowed and the seat in the full upright position. I should be fine in the event of emergency so long as my camera bag doesn't fall out of the over head locker and hit me on the head.

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