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Old May 16th, 2009, 12:32 AM   #1
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Blacksburg, VA
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Week long stay in Ukraine - Travel advice!

Hello, I will be traveling with a group of 10 people with my church to Ukraine to help our sister church in Kiev do some helpful construction at a local orphanage. I'm semi-professional but don't really have any experience shooting something like this, especially overseas.

I have an XH-A1, Azden SGM-1 shotgun mic, and Miller DV-20 tripod/carbon fiber legs.

Have any of you traveled to Eastern European countries with expensive equipment? Any advice? As in,
- when to, and when not to use the camera
- not sticking out like a sore thumb (though I'm sure that's just going to happen
- advice on a tripod? I don't know about checking it or carrying it on. Also, not sure if I really need it. My audience will be people who may want to donate to this orphanage or go help in the future. I know a tripod would greatly increase the quality of my footage, but I'm not sure about whipping it out in a poor-er country.
- We'll be given a tour of the city as well. I would really like to take the camera on that, but I'm not so sure about waltzing around the city with expensive equipment.
- Any recommendations on a travel bag? I've been looking at kata and petrol...
- Anyone have issues with the local authorities? (I hope I'm not sounding demeaning of Ukraine. I'm just new at this)

I would rather be discreet. I have no desire to attract unwanted attention, but I'm thinking I should just go for it. I would like to take a smaller camera, like a hf100, but I really don't think I can afford one right now...

So do any of you have Ukraine travel/shooting advice for a greenhorn like me?
Robbie Poff is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 16th, 2009, 12:22 PM   #2
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Location: Vancouver, British Columbia (formerly Winnipeg, Manitoba) Canada
Posts: 4,086
Robbie: never traveled to Ukraine, but I've traveled to the Third World as well as extensively through Germany. My travel tips are pretty much the same anywhere.

- Tripod: if you are concerned about calling attention to yourself and don't expect to be doing a bunch of extreme telephoto stuff and don't require super smooth pans, I shoot handheld where possible and use a reasonable priced photo tripod instead of my pro video sticks.

- I'd avoid shooting if there are folks in uniforms around (police, military, officials) unless you have a local "fixer" who says it's ok. Also avoid shooting government buildings.

- On your tour, I'd take the camera. My position has always been that the safest place for a camera in a "foreign" land is in my possession.

- Travel bag: avoid obvious photo/video brands and get a Samsonite or other luggage manufacturer shoulder bag that fits your camera.

- Sounds like you'll be touring with a group. That will make your trip generally safer. Perhaps you'll have a local tour guide. Better still.

The only other advice I can give you is bone up on local customs (to avoid offending someone - for example, in many countries the North American "okay" symbol made with the thumb and forefinger is terribly obscene. I have yet to hear of a country that finds the "thumbs up" offensive) and pick up a few key phrase in Ukrainian like "please", "thank you", "excuse me/I'm sorry", "hello"...

Good luck and have fun!
Shaun C. Roemich Road Dog Media - Vancouver, BC - Videographer - Webcaster
www.roaddogmedia.ca Blog: http://roaddogmedia.wordpress.com/
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Old May 17th, 2009, 08:30 AM   #3
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Location: Tucson, AZ
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Robbie, I would bring a HV20 or HV30, a small size camera that complement well the Canon A1. The two major advantages are:
-you have a back up camera if anything happen to the A1 (stolen, broken, etc)
-you can use the HV in almost any public circumstances without attracting too much attention.
Have a safe trip and enjoy the experience.
Measure twice, cut once!
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Old May 17th, 2009, 10:12 AM   #4
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Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: North Wales, Pennsylvania
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I have been shooting in and traveling to Eastern Europe, from the USA for over 10 years. Kiev isn't like travelling to a third world country lol. But you can sure get ripped off just like any major city in the USA. As already suggested, keep your camera with you, or make sure it is in a protected place at all times. Like a hotel safe for instance. When shooting out in Public and concentrating on a shot, have a lookout on guard for suspicious people eyeing your equipment. Just be aware of your surroundings, that's all.

The smaller the tripod the better. Shoot hand held except for long wide shots and zooms. Make sure you have power converters if you need them. More than likely your battery charger will run at either 120 or 240VAC. You will need the 2 prong adapter plug for powering your equipment in Kiev.

I am shooting a documentary in Russia next month myself.
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Old May 17th, 2009, 02:19 PM   #5
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Location: Madison, Wisconsin
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I was in Kiev and Pripyat (near Chernobyl) two years ago on a video shoot. At the time, I had a Sony PD-150, a Miller DS10 tripod and a minimal lighting kit. I carried the PD150 onboard in a Kata CC-193 case that fits nicely in the overhead bin. The rest of the gear was checked and arrived in fine shape.

Kiev is a sophisticated, modern European city -- not anything like the third world. It's very easy to navigate, with excellent public transportation. I had no trouble at all walking the city with camera and tripod, and no one batted an eye when I set up on the sidewalk to shoot. I felt safe and, having grown up in New York City, felt very much at home. (Much of New York's culture, after all, came from Urkrainian Jews who emigrated to escape the war. For example, all the local restaurants in Kiev serve excellent borscht.) I speak no Russian, (or Ukrainian), but many folks speak at least some English.

In general, the rules are pretty similar to any large city. Be watchful of your equipment, be polite and cooperative if police and military personnel ask you not to shoot (this happened to me only near military installations). Do be prepared for a very long wait at customs at the airport, as Soviet-era bureucratic procedures die hard. Also, be advised that rules about transporting liquids out of the Kiev airport are considerably more lax than they are in the rest of the world. I purchased a liter of Ukrainian vodka at the Kiev duty-free shop, but had to reluctantly abandon it -- unopened -- at security in Amsterdam.

Be sure to visit the Monastery of the Caves, the fascinating, thousand-year old heart of Kiev, and the really superb Chernobyl museum. There's also some great nightclubs in town, if you're up for some dancing. Also, if you're a coffee drinker, you'll be happier if you order espresso, as anything else is instant Nescafe.

Have fun!
Documentary for the masses!

Last edited by Brian Standing; May 17th, 2009 at 02:23 PM. Reason: Added additional information.
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Old May 17th, 2009, 02:43 PM   #6
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In case anyone has misinterpreted my previous comment:
I mentioned the Third World and Germany in the same sentence with the intent of showing that my tips are pretty much the same wherever I travel: poor OR well developed cities/countries. In no way did I intend to categorize Ukraine as Third World . All apologies if there was any confusion.
Shaun C. Roemich Road Dog Media - Vancouver, BC - Videographer - Webcaster
www.roaddogmedia.ca Blog: http://roaddogmedia.wordpress.com/
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Old May 18th, 2009, 08:37 AM   #7
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Houma, La.
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I don't know about gear or shooting advice but I can highly recommend going to the Holocaust Museum in Kiev. I was lucky enough to go about 15 years ago and it was one of the most impactful things I've ever experienced. It wont be a fun family day, but it's not something you'll ever forget. I was younger and not paying much attention but I think I remember it being near the Mother Motherland statue. Also, now that I think about it, I don't know if it was a dedicated Holocaust Museum or if it was just an exhibit at some other museum. Maybe someone else here knows better than I, it's a fuzzy memory.

Oh and I do have a word of advice, don't use the zoom too much. Try to frame nice shots without relying on the over used zoom in/out.

Happy travels, happy shooting.

-Ethan Cooper
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Old May 18th, 2009, 09:36 AM   #8
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Hi Robbie, 4 years ago I went to Kiev and stayed there for a week alone. I took a Sony PD 170 and a basic tripod and literally shot around Kiev with no problems. Kiev is a beautiful city and since your traveling in a group you won't have a problem. I would take your camera and tripod with you on the plane with you. I would not check them in. And tell customs that you are a tourist visiting Ukraine.
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