John Swainston, Australian Photographer, travels to Mauritius for a Birthday shoot and onto Britain for 20 Cathedrals, with 11kg of gear, a Flipside 400AW II and a Lowepro Highline Rolling Travel bag.
When news broke about a new Lowepro Flipside series in recent weeks, I was keen to evaluate its suitability for a particularly tough sequence of photo shoots, both out of Australia, and completely different. The first was a 15-hour flight from Sydney on the east coast of Australia to Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean, to shoot the week’s festivities of a couple celebrating a 140th Birthday! (Both were turning 70.) The second assignment took me to London’s Gatwick Airport and then a 1,750 mile drive over two concentrated weeks through Western England and Wales to shoot the interiors of 20 Anglican cathedrals for an exhibition, and a possible book project. The choice of bag for both these shoots was critical to success.
I’ve been a Lowepro user since 1989. I must have more than 20 different rolling, backpack, shoulder and pouch bags. But this pair of jobs suited none of them. I couldn’t take my Pro Roller 200AW – too big with my other carry-on luggage – and wheeled bags are not permitted in Cathedrals, or suitable for beach photography. My backpacks were either too small or not suitably configured for the lenses I needed to carry. While I love the ProTactic 450AW, it is also so solidly built that it would mean 1kg less of camera gear. I checked the specs, took my gear in to the Australian Lowepro distributor, C.R. Kennedy. After looking at samples of the 400AW II and 500AW II, selected the smaller lighter bag.
The Flipside series is not aimed primarily at the Pro. But it managed my MacBook Pro 13in., iPad Pro 9.5in., Sennheiser noise cancelling buds (for video-audio monitoring), Nikon D850 body, Nikon 19mm Tilt Shift, Samyang 8mm Fisheye and Tamron 15-30 and 70-200 SP f/2.8’s and my travel zoom, Tamron’s newer 28-300mm, along with Nikon SB-700 Fill flash, plus spirit levels, spare tripod plate, filters, cloths, and RFID-screened travel wallet. Three spare lithium camera batteries, triple wrapped for safety, were also included. Total weight was just under 11kg. The airlines I was on had a 12kg carry-on limit for the second bag. My Manfrotto 3-way head and travel tripod were in my Lowepro Highline Travel bag.
The photos gives you some idea of configuration. I had a 90mm Macro and 24-70, both f/2.8’s in the Highline as backup, along with my second body, a much valued Nikon D810. Clothing was shorts and T-s for the Mauritius shoot, the rest was black shirts, T’s and other necessaries for 3 weeks on the road. The Flipside 400AW II pack was a legend. The AW Cover did a great job in the frequent British rain, as did one of the two elasticated carriers to the side of the pack, which held my small umbrella, while the other one was used as a water bottle carrier. The rear dedicated tripod holder managed the travel tripod kit and large Manfrotto head perfectly. The straps adjusted to clothing, with the sternum strap helping ensure my back stayed whole when often walking up to a mile from the car park to the Cathedral. In the end I only used the Macro lens on one shoot of flowers for the birthday backgrounds, and the 24-70 came out at dinner functions for event coverage. The backup body proved vital for an impromptu video of speeches on the final night of the birthday dinner.
The ease of access with the secure body-side twin zippers to all my camera gear in the Flipside enabled me to move from place to place in cathedrals quickly opening and closing, replicating my workflow out of the rolling bag. The security as I walked between venues was comforting, knowing nothing of value was open at the back. (I left the laptop, drives and cables in hotel rooms and packed the iPad in the laptop space for on-site shoots, stuffing my rain-jacket in the personal zippered space front-side.) Flipside bags have an enviable reputation. This new Flipside 400 AW II series is my absolute favourite Lowepro yet. I will return to England in April 2018 to complete the remaining 19 Cathedrals for the series of 46. The birthday client will get their 120-page Photobooks in a few weeks time on completion of editing. And if you are wondering how I went with the new Nikon D850? Legendary dynamic range and image quality, with breathtaking shadow detail.
You can find some of my interim results of the Cathedral shoot on Facebook, under my name John Swainston. My posts are all Public. A UK photographer, Alan Bennett kindly made a short video of the work in Ely Cathedral which explains what the project is about. It’s a personal project aimed at interim exhibition of 30 large format images within Australia in 2018 and the entire body of 50 images in the UK in 2019.
All images © Copyright John Swainston, 2017