A Glimpse Inside the Camera Bag of a War Photographer

What would you pack if you were assigned to cover a war from the inside? The photo above shows what photographer Umit Bektas decided to pack in his camera bag for his embed with a US military unit in Afghanistan.

I was going to need two cameras but to be on the safe side, I took a third. As I was planning to do a multimedia piece as well, I packed an audio-recorder and GoPro Camera too. Also a Bgan to give me the internet access necessary to transmit my photos and the Thuraya to ensure communication at all events. As I placed my laptop in its bag, I thought “what if it breaks down” and added a nine-inch backup laptop too. Also packed was one spare battery for each piece of equipment that ran on them. For my cameras though, I took two spares each. As I would not be able to carry large lenses, I packed a converter, chargers, cables, memory cards, cleaning kits and adapters. All this filled up my largest bag.

Also in one of his bags was body armor and a helmet: a requirement for being embedded.

Are you ready for your embed? (via PopPhoto)

Image credits: Photograph by Umit Bektas/Reuters

  • 8fps

    Looks like too much of everything.

  • Tomislav Peric

    I heard somewhere they’re selling bulletproof cases. You might want to look up for that. Have fun ;)

  • Whattheduck

    Funny, it’s the EXACT same setup I use for our Disney World vacations.

  • 8fps

    The >D< in Disney stands for dangerous?

  • Anonymous

    “When I was unpacking after returning from Afghanistan recently, I realized there was not a single piece of equipment I had not used, or had carried to Afghanistan unnecessarily.”

    I carry about 20% as much and I still can’t say the same.

  • Nathan Blaney

    Maybe a little dated, but also see:

    Also, this is hardly complete since what one might pack for a conflict zone depends largely on local environment, embed vs independent, etc. And even then, there are certainly guys covering conflict with iphones, etc.

  • gabe sturdevant

    Too much of everything? You realize this is a war photographer. If he’s in Iraq or Afghanistan, theres sand. A LOT of it. It gets extremely hot, and actually pretty cold too. No pro would shoot a wedding without a back up, Imagine having no second shooter, being 3 thousand miles from home, no direct communication with family/friends. 

    There is no such thing as “too much of everything” in war, except for enemy bullets. 

  • guest

    That’s nothing , you should see what I take when I go fishing.

  • Kyle Bucher

    curious as to what bag does he use? 

  • Erik Lauri Kulo

    “Enemy bullets”, what’s that for a journalist?

  • Dennis Marciniak

    Backup backup backup.

  • Eric

    I’m kind of surprised he doesn’t carry a sidearm. Maybe it’s in his “other” bag. Probably best that people don’t know he’s concealing. 

  • 3point9fps

    It’s not so “too much” as “badly thought” out in an efficiency standpoint. Hope he has great support and great camera bags. That better not be compressed air in the upper left of that photo… *facepalm*

  • will hall

    i wouldnt dare carry a side arm, as soon as you do you identify yourself as a combatant rather than press

  • Anonymous

    I’ve got one of those encryption tokens, never brought it on a shoot before… then again, I’m shooting naked ladies not enemy combatants. If I were this guy, I’d throw in a 135L, oh wait, I think I see it there. SDHC(10) cards are less than a buck a gig, no excuse for only having two; I’ve snapped a few during excitement. Might want to change that EX2 for a EX1.4 That just leaves an ultrawide angle… he will be really sorry he didn’t have one mounted to the second body. I’d guess the majority of award winning war photos are wide.

  • kendon

    so why not show a pic of the full equipment, or did he only bring two lenses?

  • Phil

    Where’s the film?

  • Robb Montgomery

    Hmm. Pretty good rig, but could shed a few pounds and gain significant value in a few of areas. Versatility is key, getting things that work together make reaction times faster an problem-solving easier.

    1) If the second camera was a micro-four-thirds body, you gain several advantages. One is a doubling of focal length when using your SLR lenses, the other is concealment  and pocket-ability when all you are able to use in the moment is a point and shoot.

    2) The other area is the backup laptop. I would probably use an iPad here instead. Longer battery life and great functionality for field production and connectivity is possible with the right configuration. Also all phones should be smart as they provides yet another backup camera option. Why not an iPhone 4 or Nokia with a nice lens/sensor combo?
    3) Add a carbon-fiber tripod. I carry a compact SIRUI with me on my global assignments and it is light as feather with quick set-up and a detachable monopod. A dream, not a burden at all. Sticks instantly upgrade your ability to make broadcast quality video footage as well as stills. These sticks are compact enough to travel inside your suitcase.

  • Mutualxslump

    Maybe he doesn’t like proprietary, over-priced, fragile, bullshit, apple hardware?

  • Dave Vaughan

    As the owner / user of a Panasonic Toughbook, Laptop, Netbook and iPad. For an assignment such as this I would take the iPad in an Otterbox and the Netbook everytime. The weight, battery life and functionality of both far outweighs that of the Toughbook or Laptop.
    As far as the rest of his kit in concerned, I dont see how any of us can really comment unless you’ve been there and done it…

  • Tomashakin

    Love loads of people commenting with their own wisdom that he’s packed too much etc. etc. with absolutely no fucking clue/experience/authority! :p

  • Nouv

    why no duct tape??