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-   -   Traveling to India for charity shoot -- advice? (http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/open-dv-discussion/535164-traveling-india-charity-shoot-advice.html)

Steven Reid January 2nd, 2018 05:50 PM

Traveling to India for charity shoot -- advice?
 
Greetings. I've read old threads (c. 2005 and later) about experiences and cautionary notes on shooting video in India. I'm keen to read about more recent experiences and guidance from others because I'm considering a trip (my first) to India in July. A few points about it:
  • I'm American, and I plan to obtain a tourist visa well in advance.
  • The shoot would occur over a week while I travel with a charity to document charitable activities at very remote locations, e.g., village, orphanage, etc., though I'll stay in decent hotels within driving distance. For all intents and purposes, I am part of the charity.
  • No tourism stops, like the Taj, etc. I know that the govt can get persnickety about those locations.
  • I'm a one man hand with kit that includes an FS700, lenses, audio bag, a few mics including wireless lav, usual bits and bobs in any camera bag, video tripod. I have a soft case for the tripod, but I'd prefer to check it in a hard case. I'll have numerous rechargeable batteries.
  • Lodging is at hotels; I'm aware of potential brown-outs and need for electrical plug converters.
  • It's hot, it might be rainy, I'll drink only bottled water, I'll be armed against mosquitoes.
  • My traveling companions are native Indians, perhaps my built-in "fixers" if I need such. I know of some peculiarities, like not shaking/offering with the left hand. I love Indian cuisine - not an issue.
  • I attract mild attention with gear in the States. I fully expect to generate a ton of it with the locals.

Mainly I'm curious to know how easily I'll get through Indian customs and airports if I (honestly) play the role of a tourist there specifically and solely for charitable purposes.

Should I be thinking of additional considerations for getting into and around the country?

Thanks!

Steven Digges January 2nd, 2018 08:21 PM

Re: Traveling to India for charity shoot -- advice?
 
Steven,

I understand your concerns. I do not know if anyone can answer your questions.

In my experience many unpleasant things have happened on the road and everyone of them was surprising and unpredictable by me. They never happen when I think I may be at risk.

I have been escorted at gunpoint by two soldiers armed with machine guns through the airport in (of all the hostile country's you can think of) Geneva, Switzerland! Really? Yes!

For some reason I have incredibly bad luck going into another hostile country. Every time I go there customs takes me into one of those special little rooms you never want to end up in, for further questioning and searching. That country would be our next door neighbor Canada!

And by far the most hostile country I have ever tried to enter is the USA! Yes I am an american citizen based out of Phoenix, AZ, USA. On a trip back from France I was detained and searched for over two hours in Cleveland, Ohio. Because I declared on my customs form I bought a bottle of Absinthe at the duty free store at the Paris airport. My two work mates did the exact same and walked right through their lines. It is random depending on the person you get. My agent repeatedly threatened to arrest me for violating the exact same law as a cocaine smuggler. BS!

By and far my international travels have been amazing experiences. I loved them all and wish there was much more. My point for you is to plan the best you can and expect the unexpected.

By the way, no one with a FS700 or any PortaBrace bag has ever passed themself off as a tourist successfully!!!

Kind Regards,

Steve

Steven Reid January 2nd, 2018 08:47 PM

Re: Traveling to India for charity shoot -- advice?
 
Good heavens, Steven, I appreciate you taking the time to reply with tales of woe and horror; I was merely asking for experiences of shooters who have actually traveled to India on the presumption that they could, in fact, answer with anecdotal information. I don't in the least regard that country as hostile. Hopefully my OP didn't give the impression that I took complete leave of caution and common sense.

I'm dismayed to read of your travel experiences here and abroad. I'm also quite sure that I'll never travel with you. ;)

Stripped down completely, the FS700 looks like a demure and rather boxy affair. I was hoping that it's low profile in this configuration wouldn't flag much attention.

Steven Digges January 2nd, 2018 09:35 PM

Re: Traveling to India for charity shoot -- advice?
 
Your OP was fine. My reply...every word true...however, it is intended to be tongue in cheek. Just to be clear I am a very proud American. My limited travels abroad are what has helped me understand why much of the world hates us ;-) This is DVinfo net, enough said, I hear Chris's footsteps coming down the hall!

In all seriousness, one of the real things I have learned from my travels is to hope you never end up in a small room. All small rooms mean something bad has happened ie; your luggage got lost, your passport showed an electronic hit, a manager wants to talk in private because his staff screwed up and no one has a place to put you for the night, and worst of all...authorities take you to small rooms for questioning! Small rooms on the road are bad!

Kind Regards,

Steve

John Nantz January 2nd, 2018 10:23 PM

Re: Traveling to India for charity shoot -- advice?
 
That's a long trip!

You probably already know this but just in case, CBP Form 4457 is a good one to have before leaving. https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/det...r-to-traveling
There may be an office available at the Phoenix airport. At Seatac the office is located way inside the airport and is a real hassle to get to,

Speaking of US CBP office/clearance encounters, ... for years SeaTac had this really long "S" serpentine line to go through and on an international flight it took forever to get through moving a few steps at a time. Last year they finally found a way to streamline it.

On long flights, get up and walk the aisles to avoid blood clots in the leg. I know one couple who takes some kind of blood thinning medication and I know one other person who had a blood clot right after their 8-hour flight from Seattle to Europe.

Jo Ouwejan January 3rd, 2018 05:22 AM

Re: Traveling to India for charity shoot -- advice?
 
I have travelled through India seven times sofar. The last time last november.
I always carry a larger handheld with an external mic on it. I only was restricted to use it on a few renowned tourist sites, nowhere else.
Also take care not to eat in less used restaurants as they might use bad water to wash salads aso. July is the wet season, so carry a raincoat for your camera.

Steven Reid January 3rd, 2018 12:17 PM

Re: Traveling to India for charity shoot -- advice?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Steven Digges (Post 1940066)
In all seriousness, one of the real things I have learned from my travels is to hope you never end up in a small room. All small rooms mean something bad has happened ie; your luggage got lost, your passport showed an electronic hit, a manager wants to talk in private because his staff screwed up and no one has a place to put you for the night, and worst of all...authorities take you to small rooms for questioning! Small rooms on the road are bad!

Yikes. All heard and understood, Steve. Really, thanks for the cautionary note.

Quote:

Originally Posted by John Nantz (Post 1940069)
You probably already know this but just in case, CBP Form 4457 is a good one to have before leaving. https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/det...r-to-traveling

No, I didn't know about that form. I would intend to document equipment and serial numbers of gear before I traveled, if only to assist in an insurance claim should I need to rely upon one.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jo Ouwejan (Post 1940073)
I have travelled through India seven times sofar. The last time last november.
I always carry a larger handheld with an external mic on it. I only was restricted to use it on a few renowned tourist sites, nowhere else.
Also take care not to eat in less used restaurants as they might use bad water to wash salads aso. July is the wet season, so carry a raincoat for your camera.

Jo, should I assume that the expected restrictions at major tourist sites constitute the 'worst' of your video experiences in India?

Seth Bloombaum January 3rd, 2018 03:07 PM

Re: Traveling to India for charity shoot -- advice?
 
Regarding CBP Form 4457, you don't need to have your gear inspected on your way to your flight to complete this form.

Have it inspected any convenient time, at any customs office, when your gear list is complete. They'll only record the items with serial numbers. All it does is to help establish that this gear was in the US to start with, and that you're not importing it when you re-enter the US.

Jo Ouwejan January 3rd, 2018 03:41 PM

Re: Traveling to India for charity shoot -- advice?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Steven Reid (Post 1940084)
Jo, should I assume that the expected restrictions at major tourist sites constitute the 'worst' of your video experiences in India?

Because it did not happen often, it came to me as a surprise. But after I experienced such event once or twice, I found myself a solution.
Solution 1): carry a smaller camera as alternative, that saves in a format equal to the one of the big brother.
Solution 2): buy myself a Canon XA20, that has a carrying handle you can dismount, so it looks even smaller.

Chris Soucy January 3rd, 2018 10:04 PM

Re: Traveling to India for charity shoot -- advice?
 
Hi, Steven.....................

Probably the most useful piece of information you have left out is where, exactly, in India you are going. It's not like going to NY, San Fran or Miami, it's barely smaller than the entire US of A. Think "Anchorage, Alaska or Miami, Fla at any time of year" and you get the idea.

With that information supplied I can probably give some more detailed pointers, however, I will say this up front:-

DO NOT at any time even hint to any Indian official that you are affiliated to, working for or have even looked sideways at any "charity" of any sort.

Stick to "tourist" no matter what happens. They have a special hell for overseas charities and Americans involved with same especially (who, incidentally, are NOT their favorite people to start with). More on this subject when I know where, exactly, you are destined.

Regards,


CS

Steven Reid January 3rd, 2018 10:17 PM

Re: Traveling to India for charity shoot -- advice?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Chris Soucy (Post 1940101)
Hi, Steven.....................

Probably the most useful piece of information you have left out is where, exactly, in India you are going. It's not like going to NY, San Fran or Miami, it's barely smaller than the entire US of A. Think "Anchorage, Alaska or Miami, Fla at any time of year" and you get the idea.

With that information supplied I can probably give some more detailed pointers, however, I will say this up front:-

DO NOT at any time even hint to any Indian official that you are affiliated to, working for or have even looked sideways at any "charity" of any sort.

Stick to "tourist" no matter what happens. They have a special hell for overseas charities and Americans involved with same especially (who, incidentally, are NOT their favorite people to start with). More on this subject when I know where, exactly, you are destined.

Regards,


CS

Chris, thanks immensely for these words. I would start in Hyderabad, then work west (EDIT: East) through rural points to end in Visakhapatnam in the state of Andhra Pradesh. In July, if you'll observe from my OP.

The irony in your warning is that the charity, though US-based, is Indian, in fact, and it has Indian arms. Nonetheless, I take your warning to heart. I'm just an American tourist with some nice kit. (They don't much like Americans? I think that might apply to countries that are not America.) Anyway, could you please explain why India takes such a dim view of foreign charity?

Steve

Steven Digges January 3rd, 2018 10:21 PM

Re: Traveling to India for charity shoot -- advice?
 
Steven,

No one has ever passed them self off as a tourist with a FS700 or ANY PortaBrace bag ;-)

I mean that whole hardheartedly. And I own a lot of PortaBrace bags. I was taught 25 years ago that one of the differences between an amateur and a professional is that amateurs proudly display their gear, professionals hide it. I have no doubt that advice has served me well. For example, PortaBrace blue is recognized the world over. Not just by video pros, by every baggage handler, check-in agent, cab driver, and doorman I have ever met. Many have commented on my "video gear" before I ever say a word. And a lot of bad guys know it too. I can say that because of the guys I know who had their Chevy Suburban windows smashed out to get the gear.

So what do I do to protect it? I have a bunch of cheap duffel bags I zip over camera bags, gear bags, or cases if they are easily recognizable when I do not want them recognized. They are just cosmetic camouflage, the case inside is doing the protecting. But when I check it or travel it is not screaming I am a VIDEO PRO. I also have a lot of cases, backpacks, and bags. I rip off brand name labels and trademarks. If it has VIDEOPRO emblazoned on it I won't buy it. That is to make amateurs feel good until they get mugged :-)

Kind Regards,

Steve

Steven Reid January 3rd, 2018 10:43 PM

Re: Traveling to India for charity shoot -- advice?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Steven Digges (Post 1940103)
Steven,

No one has ever passed them self off as a tourist with a FS700 or ANY PortaBrace bag ;-)

I mean that whole hardheartedly. And I own a lot of PortaBrace bags. I was taught 25 years ago that one of the differences between an amateur and a professional is that amateurs proudly display their gear, professionals hide it. I have no doubt that advice has served me well. For example, PortaBrace blue is recognized the world over. Not just by video pros, by every baggage handler, check-in agent, cab driver, and doorman I have ever met. Many have commented on my "video gear" before I ever say a word. And a lot of bad guys know it too. I can say that because of the guys I know who had their Chevy Suburban windows smashed out to get the gear.

So what do I do to protect it? I have a bunch of cheap duffel bags I zip over camera bags, gear bags, or cases if they are easily recognizable when I do not want them recognized. They are just cosmetic camouflage, the case inside is doing the protecting. But when I check it or travel it is not screaming I am a VIDEO PRO. I also have a lot of cases, backpacks, and bags. I rip off brand name labels and trademarks. If it has VIDEOPRO emblazoned on it I won't buy it. That is to make amateurs feel good until they get mugged :-)

Kind Regards,

Steve

Heard and understood, Steve. I love the idea of duffle bags. My gear/camera bag is blocky black and red from Digital Juice; it pretty much looks like a carry-on, but I have no problem taking the precaution of wrapping it in a duffle bag. Would something like blue with the Nike logo in neon yellow work? Just kidding...

Other gear, like my sound bag, I intend to wrap carefully in clothes inside my checked baggage. I'd disassemble my tripod if I could and pack it the same, but, alas, it will have to go in a checked hard case.

Chris Soucy January 4th, 2018 01:54 AM

Re: Traveling to India for charity shoot -- advice?
 
Ah, foreign - especially American, "charities" in India (or anywhere else, as it happens).

Time was, back in the day, before the so called "heathens" actually took control of their own countries (think China, India and most of Africa) the West in general, the US of A in particular, took great solace in dispatching so called "missionaries" (in the main, bible thumping born again whack jobs) to lead the unwashed into the light and turn them to Christianity.

A bit of a bummer if your a Buddhist, Moslem or Hindu etc, etc etc, think every other possibility out there and you can't go far wrong.

When said "heathen" countries actually got control of their own lives and countries, they invariably rounded up said "whack jobs" and deported them 'en mass, since when they have been particularly sniffy about foreign so called "missionary's" or charities.

Now, to turn this on it's head, ponder this (this is not a political statement , simply a mental exercise):

North Korea and Iran jointly decide, in light of the terrible problem of homeless people in the USA, to send a charitable team to the USA to do something to aid those poor benighted souls living on the streets.

What do you think the average US Joe Public is going to think about this?

Switch this around again and don't be too surprised at India being sniffy about anybody interfering in it's domestic affairs, which is how they see it.

__________________________________________________________________________________

Just quickly as I'm falling off my chair with fatigue, if you start at Hyderabad and work your way West, you ain't going to find Visakhapatnam (its correct spelling) you'll end up in Kerala. Try South East and your close.

India: July (OMG), Southern India (yikes).

More on this tomorrow if the vultures haven't shredded this post before.

Regards,


CS

Paul R Johnson January 4th, 2018 07:21 AM

Re: Traveling to India for charity shoot -- advice?
 
So we're recommending somebody enters a country on a professional shoot with lots of expensive equipment on a tourist Visa? Seriously?

Nowadays this is totally crazy. A colleague already in the US with a visa for a serious news shoot got a call asking if he could shoot one of those "sorry I can't be there" pieces for an awards ceremony, which he did.

Somehow on exit the authorities knew, and he got his visa revoked - which also wrecked his chances of a tourist visa with his family later in the year. "Have you ever had a visa refused or cancelled?" YES!

India and the UK have reciprocal arrangements and entering a foreign country as a tourist when you are not, is a damn risky thing to do now. Isn't there somebody currently locked up for doing some news stuff while there apparently on holiday?

If one country flags you upon for visa infringement, do they share this? probably!


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