The Ultimate Landscape Photography Touring Rig
UPDATE: Exciting news, we've just sold our camper trailer, I can now start to move forward with some of these plans. Let Project eXplore begin!
I'm sure you've heard that as a photographer you shouldn't obsess about gear and investing too much in gear isn't going to improve your photography. Instead of spending money on upgrading your camera or buying a new lens, you should take that $1500 and spending it on an experience like a plane ticket or a workshop. Something that will enable you to get out and explore more and as a result, take more photos.
I'm listening to that advice and planning a project (yet to be named), that will help me get out and explore and photograph more regions across Western Australia and Australia. For those not familiar with Perth or Western Australia, it is one of the remotest cities in the world. Living here is fantastic, being a landscape photographer poses some unique challenges. While WA provided incredibly diverse landscapes, distances between locations can be massive. For example, one area of the state that I'm keen to photography and share through my vlogs is the magnificent Pilbara region. However the drive up alone from Perth is 17hours, not including any stops. The Kimberly region is 8-10 hours beyond that. Access to many of the locations I'd like to photograph is limited to 4WD and require camping and recovery gear of a certain level to ensure it can be done safely and allow me to stay for any length of time. That is what this project is about!
MY CURRENT SITUATION
First a little background to what I do and what I have planned for the touring setup, so you can get an understanding of my requirements for the build. Whenever I’m pulling together requirements, I like to begin by looking at what I’m currently doing and what I’m trying to achieve.
I'm a landscape and travel photographer and videographer. I capture my adventures, and I share tips on photography, travel and camping through videos I publish on my Youtube channel. I travel all over WA, from popular holiday spots with my family (using our camper trailer) to solo travel trips to more remote locations, salt lakes, beaches, coastlines.
I'm planning on including more touring adventures on the channel, so I'm looking to set up my Ford Ranger PXII to make longer stays in more remote locations easier. With the kids growing up, we’ve found we use the camper-trailer less, so I’ve decided to sell the camper trailer. The money from the sale of the camper trailer will partially fund this build project. UPDATE: The camper trailer has been sold, so I’m are in a better position to go ahead with some of these plans.
WHAT DO I NEED?
I've broken my needs up into areas that make sense to me. There will be some overlap, but this is just to provide an overview.
Currently, I pack all my camping and kitchen gear into a storage box (similar to this https://amzn.to/2SLt65P) which I stow into the Ranger tub along with water, swag, table chair etc.. I then pack my camera and video gear in the back seat of the car because of the amount of dust that gets sucked up into the tub.
While this works, it's not convenient for longer trips. If I have people with me, there’s no room in the back seat for the camera gear. Preparing and packing for a trip is not as fast as I’d like. Setting up camp and packing away is not quick or simple, more about that later.
So I’m looking at a touring solution that will provide dust free and secure storage for my camera and video gear. Convenient storage of camping and kitchen equipment in draws that make everything easy to access.
Something like the Norweld Deluxe Canopy Package 3 or Lite Package 2.5. While the doors of the canopy would need to lock, they wouldn't need to link to central locking. This would sit on a tray, probably one that includes a draw for recovery gear, like the Norweld Weekender Tray Package 2.
I've been lucky to get away with a minimum amount of safety gear for the car. Last year, I upgraded the tyres to Toyo 285/65/R17. I currently don't have a Bull Bar which I need to rectify before my luck runs out with the roos. I do lots of driving around sunset and sunrise and I've had plenty of close calls. I don't have anything specific in mind but was thinking of something with a low profile.
I need a solution for carrying water. This doesn't need to be built in because there are advantages to having water stored in containers that can be removed from the vehicle.
The Ford Ranger comes with an 80L fuel tank which I feel is a little small for some destinations I travel to. So I'm considering installing a long range fuel tank for peace of mind. While for some trips I'd only take one spare, there are trips planned, like to the Pilbara, where I'd need the option for a second spare tyre. I think installing a long range fuel tank would mean the regular spare tyre (stored under the tray) would need to move. So with the first spare tyre attached to the back of the canopy, I'd have to work out the best place for a second spare when needed. For this, I may need to look at some kind of roof rack.
Given the extra load I'll be carrying, I need to consider a GVM upgrade. I'll need some guidance on this as I need to take into account weight when I'm packed up ready for a trip and the what the final weight might be as I add things onto the vehicle.
Being a photographer and creating videos for Youtube and social media content for clients, I have a fair amount of gear (with batteries) that requires charging. While I’m on the go, I need to recharge batteries for two cameras, video camera, gimbal, audio recording, my drone as well as a laptop. I also need to power an old Engel fridge, run some camp lights plus recharge a few torches. So the charging station will need several USB outlets and perhaps an inverter with 240V. I think the most convenient place to set up a charging station for the camera gear in the canopy would be on the driver’s side behind the fridge.
I’m looking at a house battery and wiring solution for all of this. Again depending on budget, I'm considering installing a Lithium battery, plus a solar panel that would charge the house battery when I’m off the grid. Speaking of recharging the Lithium, I'd like to find a solution that allows me to recharge the Lithium battery either via the car when driving, 240v outlet when one is available or using the solar panels when off the grid.
With my landscape photography, I’m shooting into the night and usually get up before the sunrises. So my camping and kitchen equipment needs to be quick and easy to set up and pack away. I currently have a simple kitchen. However it’s in a few boxes, and I like the idea of having a dedicated draw (next to the fridge) to access everything. Having a table that stores neatly out of the way would be necessary. Also, a small bench space integrated into the canopy would mean that sometimes I won't need to set up a table.
My current bedding is a Black Diamond swag. It’s comfortable but doesn’t allow for a quick pack up in the mornings making it difficult when I need to drive to my photography location before sunrise. I want to eventually add an Alu-Cab Gen 3 Roof Top Tent, which not only provides a bed that’s off the ground but can be set up and packed away easily in a matter of minutes, which means I'm on the road much faster.
As well as torches and headlamps, I’d need some lights off the side of the truck to light the area when I roll up to camp. Also, some light strips installed in the canopy so I can see when cooking and night or when I'm working on the laptop, backing up data or editing photos and videos on the road. I need to consider what colour the lights should be. Red to not attract insects at night, but a colour that minimises the impact on my vision when I'm editing photos. The ability to change the colour would be handy plus the option to dim the lights depending on the situation.
Down the track, I want to look at adding an awning to use when the weather isn't ideal, and I need to cook or move camera gear in and out of the truck. I'm interested to see if the awning can be attached with and without a rooftop tent depending on how I have the car set up.
So that's the plan so far, as you can see there's plenty of great ideas here, but I have to work out how to make it happen. I'll keep you updated on how things progress and the changes I make as I get into the detail. I'm really excited about this project. It'll be the most significant investment I've made into my travel and landscape photography business. For now, I need to start looking at prioritising and breaking the project down into stages.
So what are your thoughts? What am I missing? Do you have any suggestions? I’m sure this is not comprehensive. I'd love to hear your feedback in the comments below.