This is a topic near and dear to our hearts. I am an avid photographer, and Aaron is passionate about video. Our lifeblood is our media, one of our primary reasons for traveling is to capture photos and make videos, and we plan on using this as a supplementary income source while we are abroad. In short: photography and videography is essential to our trip.
But how do we sustain these hobbies and income streams while traveling?
At home, my workhorse is a late 2011 MacBook Pro with Lightroom 5, Photoshop Elements 11, and the wonderful world of the interwebz. I store my raw photos on a 4TB NAS drive, my in-progress locally, and my finished photos on a 2TB external hard drive. I back everything up to a third-party cloud storage (on top of local and remote redundancy – you should always have your data stored in at least three places!).
Aaron has a similar setup, though scaled up for the increased demands of video.
But how does this work on the road?
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As we will be carrying everything with us, we’ll be doing our best to minimize our overall weight. Unfortunately, camera gear, laptops, and hard drives are notoriously heavy, so this is an area where we’ll want to cut back as much as possible.
What’s the point in taking a lot of photos if a hard drive goes corrupt while we’re abroad, and we lose it all? We absolutely must have a system the maintains the integrity of our media.
Ease of use
We’ll be editing and storing a lot of media. As we will be working with this hardware constantly, we have to love it! It must be comfortable and easy to use. It also must withstand the strain of heavy use; we’ll be knocking it around quite a bit.
So what are we eyeing?
On our person, we need something compact, lightweight, and reliable.
Ideally, we want to get down to a tablet or a very small laptop. I have found I can do most of my editing on an iPad with Lightroom. This is a good lightweight option, but it just doesn’t operate as smoothly as a full-fledged computer. And there’s certainly no way Aaron will be doing regular video editing in this manner.
Realistically, we’ll need to each have a laptop for quick editing, blogging, and other needs. I might also find myself doing some freelance coding work, so a laptop just works. However, we’ll have the tablet on us as well for quick edits, travel assistance, and super portable work on-the-go (think on a train or bus).
Aaron just got an Asus ZenBook Pro, light at 4lbs and powerful for regular video editing. My MacBook is due for a serious upgrade, though I’m bummed about the disappearance of ports on the latest model. They also come with a steep price tag, but I love the feel of the Mac OS, and thunderbolt connections mean lightning-fast transfers, so I’ll just have to bite the bullet on that one. That’ll also cost us 5lbs.
I’ll also have to be mindful of the fact that MacBooks are very recognizable and are a popular target for theft. We will need to remain vigilant and hide it whenever possible. Cases and stickers could also prove quite effective.
I’m not a fan of subscriptions, so I’ve been avoiding buying into Adobe Creative Cloud. However some of the latest features have me tempted, including the ability to edit across multiple devices and automatically have a cloud backup of my most recent project. It’s also reasonably affordable to get just the photography set (Lightroom and Photoshop) at $10/month. Premier alone is double that, so Aaron might stick with the static version.. unless the additional features tempt him as well.
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Now this is important. Where do we store everything? I’m quite fond of my G-Drives at home, but those are too big for travel (and require additional power). Fortunately, Seagate creates small drives with massive capacity (and very affordable pricing). We’re also considering LaCie Rugged drives – a bit more expensive, but nearly indestructible and wickedly fast with a thunderbolt/USB3 connection. Shoving our entire lives into a backpack means we’ll be cramming stuff as much as possible, and we don’t want to break a fragile drive (though the Seagate has a convenient hard case). These are also water and drop-resistant so we can be sure our data is safe. We might also do a combination of the two to balance price with durability.
Aaron will need more space than me; he’ll probably have two larger (5TB) drives for the sake of duplication. I can get away with less storage, so I’ll be rocking a single ~4TB partitioned for duplication.
Cloud storage is also imperative. If we run into the situation where our drive(s) is stolen or lost or goes corrupt, we don’t want to lose everything. We considered Backblaze, a major leader in the area. Our one caveat with it is that it does not back up any network-connected drives, which describes our primary setup at home. If that doesn’t bother you, it can’t really be beat at $7/month for unlimited storage. It is also supported worldwide (with a few exceptions), so you should be covered wherever you go.
However, we personally prefer CrashPlan, which includes our NAS setup at home. It says it’s for small businesses (which we also happen to be), but it’s great for personal use as well. It can be a little quirky sometimes with getting backups to fully complete (especially the first full run), but it totally saved us when our 6GB primary media drive failed a few years back. And at only $10/month for unlimited storage per computer (regardless of how many drives are attached – hardwired or wireless), it was the best solution for our needs.
We won’t have constant internet connectivity, but our drives should last us between hotspots.
All told, we’re looking at about 5lbs for Aaron and closer to 6 for me. We’d have media stored on a primary drive/partition, a backup on a second drive/partition, and a second backup to the cloud (whenever available). We’d each have a system that works for our individual needs and would last us around the world.
This obviously doesn’t take into account camera gear… That’s a topic for another post!