Safety

I am ambivalent about this topic; it may appear paranoid and, simultaneously, reveal some of the things I do to protect myself and my valuables while I am alone in the landscape. On the flip side, some of my experiences may help others. Regardless of whether I am traveling with a cheap or expensive camera - the value does not matter - nefarious individuals may view me as a target because I am alone with property.


I always cover my property in the truck with clothing or towels; this curtails the imagination of someone looking for an easy opportunity to smash and grab. While staying at a hotel far from home, the last thing I want to wake up to is a broken window and property missing. While staying overnight somewhere, I never open my truck and touch my camera gear in the parking lot. If I need to put a camera or lens back in the case, or if I need to grab film or a memory card, I stop a couple of miles away, long before I get to the hotel. Furthermore, in the event of a break in, it is not easy for criminals to remove my property; equipment cases are chained to the frame and it would take many minutes or more to break them out. Most opportunistic criminals look for easy or fast targets; if they are not certain, they will likely look for a better mark. Nonetheless, better safe than sorry.


Sometimes I leave one or two valuable items in my hotel room when I am out in the landscape working. To help prevent theft, before I head out, I always put the Do Not Disturb sign on the door knob and turn the TV on low but high enough for someone to think the room is occupied. I also try to keep my items together in the room so when I checkout, there is less of a chance of leaving something behind.


Trouble can occur in a city or in the forest (have you ever seen the movie Deliverance?). When I am alone, it is my responsibility to maintain a low profile i.e. I do not flash my camera around as if it were a Gucci handbag. I am not in the landscape to show off or play with expensive toys. I take my camera out of my backpack only when I know what I want to do with it; then I put it away when done. I keep my camera and lenses in a padded backpack to prevent damage if I slip or fall; if the camera is in my hand while I hike, it will be the first point of contact with the ground.


I am always courteous with the people I meet on my travels. Sure, it is important to be polite, however, I may need their help if I have truck problems or similar. If I greeted them previously with a friendly smile, they may be more inclined to be kind. On several occasions I have had to avail myself of the help of a local resident. While in the Gaspe Peninsula, my Jeep died; I rammed it into a snowbank and locals found a lady who spoke English. She invited me into her home while the Jeep was towed and repaired. Be kind and it will be returned to you tenfold. I also do not trespass on private property (if there are no signs I ask or proceed cautiously); not following the rules can lead to trouble or worse, delay my work.


Some of my journeys are multi-day drives to get to my destination and it is extremely important to carry extra supplies, including water and food. A proper diet is crucial for keeping me alert and I must stop when I am tired. When I plan my routes, I look for multiple stops along the way just in case I cannot drive the intended distance for that day. I also carry extra tools, a floor jack, air compressor and extra tire plugs in the event of a flat tire. I also keep two quarts of motor oil, engine coolant, wood blocks, a couple of tarps, five gallons of water, snow chains, rags, rope, medical kits, hand warmers, blankets, heavy duty work gloves, work goggles and a breaker-bar with a long pipe to unstick tight lug nuts (I injured my lower back getting a lug nut off my tire while in Labrador). While I would rarely use most of these items, when I might need them, I am nowhere, and one of them could help prevent a bad situation from getting worse. By preparing for the worst, I ensure a greater chance of success.


With regards to my work, I make multiple backups of files; I carry several 2TB or 4TB drives and copy images onto them every evening. Fact of life: mechanical and electrical devices fail. I never want a device failure to stop an entire photography trip. I also stay connected while travelling; while it is much easier to find Internet today, I also use a WeBoost in my truck to boost cell signals when I am far from civilizations.


When I am outside of the United States, which most of the time means Canada, I am respectful of local customs and differences. For example, in Quebec, I first apologize for not speaking French (even thought I took four years of French in high school!) before asking if they speak English. A little humility goes a long way!


All my travels are a learning experience; I am observant, take precautions and try not to panic when something bad occurs.



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