30 July 2015

Don't chum the waters when swimming with sharks

Gringos -- Swallow your pride and make your cameras, smart phones, tablets and luggage gear look like crap if you want to radically lower the risk of having them stolen.  I might also observe that cargo pants, hiking boots, fishing vests, boonie hats and walking sticks scream RICH GRINGO TOURIST and enhance your likelihood of being a target.  I've learned from some of the best "guys on the street".

Many years ago, I was assistant art director on a very high end P.R. brochure being put together.  At the time, I had been a pretty fair news photographer but knew that the artsy qualities that I wanted for this brochure were beyond my skill set and the capabilities of my equipment.

I made inquiries and arranged for a shoot with a guy who was touted as the "best industrial photographer in Chicago".  His fee was almost as much per day as I made in a month.

On the intense day of the Big Shoot the photographer showed up and unloaded three of the most beat up, falling apart, cheap-ass gear cases that I'd ever seen.  I was thinking, "Uh-oh."

He opened the cases and inside were neatly arranged ranks of equipment that look suspiciously like junk; except, because I had held one every day in years past, I recognized several top of the line Nikon camera bodies by their shape -- but these looked like hell with scratches and worn spots and black electrical tape all over them.

I had to ask.  "What's with all of the tape and how'd those Nikons get so beat up?"  The photographer replied that one of them was brand new and none of the others were more than 2 years old.  "I used to lose a camera or lens about once a month back when everything looked nice.  Now I tape over all brand names and roughen everything so it looks like junk.  Haven't lost a thing since I started doing this."  I then realized that even the man himself was down-dressed.  Nothing about him or his "stuff" would attract anybody's attention.  He could work undisturbed all day and passersby would simply think, "Some guy taking snapshots."

I went home that night and did the same treatment to my equipment.  I now also make sure to always take my crappiest looking travel pack and bag if I'm ever going to have it out of my control or especially if I were traveling to the sketchier parts of the world.  Never lost a camera and only lost one bag -- probably an airline screw up.

Making your bags look like crap also is a big help on airport carousels.  Put tape on them so they look like they're falling apart.  I put dingy straps around mine so that they look like the closures don't work.  When the "all look alike" clean and new bags come rolling around the corner on the carousel it is really hard to tell your bag from any other.  Not my bag.  It's that piece of junk that nobody would steal on a bet.  Now ... that new Louis Vuitton bag over there ...

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