I was at a party last night. A 70th birthday celebration for somebody I’ve known since before I can remember. The birthday girl’s four grandchildren were there and she wanted a photograph of them all together. Of course, I’d not taken my camera - the same way the guy who worked in IT hadn’t taken his network server and the girl who made ceramics hadn’t taken her kiln. Naturally, I was asked where my camera was and I pointed out that every person there had a camera in their pocket the same way that I did and any one of them was capable of taking a family photograph. Looking back through our own family album there’s no more sentimental attachment to photos taken on my Grandad’s Voigtlander than there is to those taken on my Mum’s Kodak. In fact, I find family photos taken at an informal gathering by a ‘photographer’ less authentic - people are aware you’re a photographer and react differently. Nobody stands around at family get togethers where there isn’t a photographer in attendance wondering how the fuck they’re going to get any images of Uncle Bob. In the end the lady’s husband took the shot on his iPhone. Nobody will look back on that shot in another 70 years and lament that it wasn’t taken by a professional photographer on a professional camera.
On the drive home it got me thinking about how - as a photographer rather than a party guest - I arrive at a job. When was the first time I turned up feeling like a photographer rather than an individual with a camera. It came down to what I’d happily argue (I’m generally happiest when I’m arguing anyway) is the biggest rite of passage for a photographer transitioning from amateur to professional - buying your first Peli case. The first time I really felt like I was a photographer wasn’t when I bought my first pro-spec camera or my first lens over £1k or my studio lighting - it was when I decided what size Peli I needed to safely transport enough kit to perform the job plus cover any unforeseen equipment redundancies.
Turning up to a job with my first 1510 was signalling intent before you’d even opened the case. You could pull a Panasonic out of it and it wouldn’t matter - in the client’s mind the photographer has arrived when the Peli case arrives. I even had mild Peli envy recently when I shot alongside another photographer who had sand-coloured Peli cases. Man, this photographer just came in straight from Iraq. Actually it was somewhere nearer Croydon - but the cases rocked.
My first case is still in service and had been joined by another two over the years as requirements grew together with the value of what they’re safely cradling inside. What did need some TLC however was the foam padding inside my main case. The ‘pick and pluck’. Rhyming slang I’m guessing. Over the years I’ve cut and pulled and plucked at it to accommodate different cameras and configurations and it’s completely plucked. So I decided to try the TrekPak system.
I’ve never done a proper in depth kit review and I’m not about to start now - there are people out there that do that kind of thing. Some even use video and manage to look excited. I’ll cut to the chase. It took me about 20 minutes start to finish to rip out the foam and replace it with the TrekPak dividers. You lay your kit out in the case, cut the dividers using the idiot-proof cutting tool supplied and fit them into your case. Add kit. Leave house.
It feels safer and more robust than the padded dividers I’ve had in the past and is more configurable than the pick and pluck stuff. If I temporarily need a larger compartment for something I can just switch the pins around. I prefer having a compartment for everything and all the compartments full - that way I know at a glance when I leave a job whether I’ve left anything behind simply by checking for empty slots. And the TrekPak actually allowed me to pop a few items into the case that had previously lived in my second case so it’s more economical with space too.
I’ve had it in there for about a fortnight now and can’t find a downside. I mean - basically you have three options for segmenting your Peli - padded dividers, pick and pluck or TrekPak. Life’s too short to spend hours on the internet researching which option to go for as they all basically do the same thing - it’s just that the TrekPak does it that little bit better and that little bit smarter.