Monday, June 11, 2018

Traveling by rail across Cuba with Think Tank Photo and Peak Design gear

By Terence R Waldron

As a “semi-pro” photographer (I still have my Clark Kent job…) my desire to travel to exotic places is demanding especially with the need to carry a lot of gear. I have graduated from large, stuff anything in it, backpacks to something more practical. I now carry the Think Tank Retrospective 7 camera bag every day wherever I go. Sometimes I even place my camera in the bag, it's very roomy and useful.

Don’t get me wrong… carrying around a 30-pound bag of gear and supplies is difficult and makes you wonder, do we really need every one of those things in the backpack? The Retrospective 7 taught me the answer is no. 

The Peak Design camera strap system, Slide and Cuff allows me the freedom to be quicker on the draw. I have found that you can travel over 1000 miles, shoot over 10,000 photos and still have a shoulder left at the end of the day.

On a recent trip to Cuba, I hooked up with a group of 21 train aficionados. I caught up with them in Cienfuegos and completed the long grueling journey in Santiago de Cuba. We also did trips to Guantanamo, Las Tunas, Holguin, Moron, Remedios, Santa Clara, Trinidad and I’m sure a few other towns. Fortunately, cameras have geo-tagging nowadays. I also used GPS tracks app on my iPhone to follow my trails.

We made our way along the beautiful Cuban countryside and spotted some incredibly unique old steam locomotives, tenders, rail cars and mid-century diesel engines. Many date back from the turn of the century to the 1950's. It is said that Cuba has one of the largest collections of steam trains, operable and non-working, in the world. 

Traveling through the Caribbean's largest island I knew every moment I saw I should capture in a photograph. Who knows if any of us would ever get back that way again.

I took two DSLR bodies, a Canon EOS 6D and the Canon EOS 80D with two lenses, the Canon EF 24‑70mm f/2.8L II USM and the Canon EF 100-300mm f4.5-5.6 USMtwo chargers, a few cables, journal and assorted travel guides and magazines. I also carried one or two bottles of water each day, and my daily medicine…(we are an aging population) 

When I was not using the Retrospective 7 as a full-fledged gearbox, it also made an excellent pillow and catch-all for the day’s activities. I must admit, up until the night before the Cuba trip, I was seriously considering taking a hard case without wheels, what was I thinking? I was packing my case, and looking over at my camera bag, I realized, that due to my previous experience, the Retrospective 7 would easily hold my DSLR camera body, and two lenses, as well as other items I needed to have in my carry-on. The second camera body I just wrapped in my suitcase, without a lens attached. It arrived safely... besides, it’s a crop sensor camera… I wouldn’t be heartbroken. 

As it turns out, I used the Retro 7 every day of my 12-day journey and I was never happier traveling with my gear. The trip was the most taxing thing I have ever done, traveling constantly, and juggling two cameras but, having to carry around my smaller “messenger” type bag, instead of a backpack was very liberating. 

It was my first real-world experience using the Peak Design interchangeable straps. I really loved the freedom of movement and adjustability of the Slide, and the versatility of the Cuff. I was always able to quickly adapt to the shooting environment, as I was getting off at the next stop. I must add, that having the Cuff or Slide attached to my camera and my hand, afforded me a level of comfort while leaning out the train windows and doors, that’s freaky! I’m glad my mom wasn’t there to see those “moments”! 

Another great aspect was the comfort of the Sling, even with the 70-300 dangling from my neck as I leaned over rails, viaducts, waterways. I would have to say that both of these products are well-designed, built & useful. 

The other great thing about the Retro 7 is that it never gets noticed as a camera bag. If you are into street photography you can quickly open the flap, grab your perfectly positioned camera, raise and shoot.

Here are a few of my images… the memories are incredible 
I have a thousand more… Just ask!