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Travel …

I’m somewhere … over the South Pacific, and/or in New Zealand.

If time allows, I’ll upload a post and/or photos now and again while I’m traveling.

If not, you’ll be able to keep track of me via social media.

(Facebook and Instagram are the best bets.)

I’ll be in some remote areas some of the time, but I’ll share photos when I’m able to!

I’m looking forward to shooting as much as I possibly can while I’m in beautiful New Zealand!


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My Camera Bag

Let’s be honest, I own forty bazillion camera bags.

Different situations call for different bags.

I had a difficult time deciding what bag I’d be shooting out of while I’m in New Zealand.

In the end, I knew I didn’t want to haul an immense amount of weight with me everywhere I go.

I decided to transport my gear in my ThinkTank airport roller.

(I have many styles of ThinkTank Photo bags.)

The roller is excellent for transporting lots of gear around – especially when traveling by air.

But, which smaller bag would I want to use once I’m in New Zealand and shooting all day?

I was agonizing over making the “right” choice.

I emailed ThinkTank Photo and told them I was in search of the perfect “daily shooting bag” for New Zealand.

They surprised me by offering to send me a bag, of my choice, for free.

It didn’t take me long (maybe two seconds?) to tell them I’d love to take their new bag, Mezzo, with me to New Zealand.

Each day, I’ll take just what I need for that day out of my airport roller, put it in the Mezzo, and shoot for hours.

TT Mezzo 1 © Suzanne Haggerty 2016 W

ThinkTank Photo Mezzo Camera Bag (flap open) – Designed for women, by women.

The Mezzo is the medium sized bag of ThinkTank’s Lily Deanne series of bags.

The line was developed by women for women photographers.

The smallest bag in this line is called the Lucido.  I love the small size of the Lucido, but for what (and how) I shoot it would be too small.

The largest bag in the Lily Deanne line is called the Tutto.

Based on how I shoot/travel the Tutto would be near-perfect … except, fully loaded, it would be staggeringly heavy.

I am a one-working-arm photographer.

A fully loaded, staggeringly heavy, camera bag is not an option.

The Mezzo, therefore, seems perfect as a daily carry around bag.

(I usually have my camera out of my bag, anyway, so it provides plenty of room for all my essentials.)

All of my gear is “pro” sized gear and the Mezzo is big enough to handle it.

The three styles of Lily Deanne bags come in black (licorice) and/or brown (chestnut).

I’m really tired of black camera bags, so mine is chestnut.

Let me tell you what I love about this bag …


Finally, someone really put some thought into the details!

For instance, the exterior side pockets are expandable so I can keep a water bottle with me in one of them, and my sunglasses in the other.

(I always need water when I’m working because I’m *that* photographer … the one hiking, climbing, hanging upside down, etc!)


The zip opening at the top of the bag is secure when closed and very WIDE and easy to access when unzipped.

So much less fumbling around!

The robin egg blue interior is brilliant.

TT Mezzo 2 © Suzanne Haggerty 2016 W

I love the wide bag opening, and the bright Mezzo interior!

Why do most bags have black and/or dark interiors?

The bright interior of the Mezzo makes it so easy to spot lens caps, etc!

I realize a lot of female hobby-ist photographers like the girly/blingy bags which are available.

But, guess what?

I’m not them.

I need a professional looking bag that looks classy, is tough enough to handle REALLY hard work, and nice enough to have around corporate clients.

The Mezzo is a chic, very professional, bag.

It’s also a very comfortable bag to carry which counts for a lot when you’re shooting for hours at a time.

(I wear mine crossbody, of course, due to my bum arm!)

I won’t purchase/use camera bags that scream, “I’m a camera bag, why don’t you steal me?”

Bonus points for the Mezzo?

There’s an outer flap over the top of the bag.

It folds all the way back to get out of your way when you don’t want it – as seen in my above photo.

And, it secures with quiet, magnetic closures.

(No loud velcro screaming every time you reach for something!)

There’s a zippered interior pocket to keep your wallet/passport/keys extra secure.

The Mezzo also comes with a custom rain cover – which will be essential in New Zealand.

All ThinkTank bags come with extra dividers so you can customize them to your particular gear/needs.

There’s a large pocket on the back of the bag where I can store model releases and/or a magazine while traveling.

Also, very important for me, the Mezzo has a back slide/pass-through pocket, so I can slide my Mezzo onto my roller bag/suitcase for easy carrying while traveling.

(Saving arms and shoulders?  Priceless!)

A few other nice details include an interior padded cell phone pocket and plenty of room for storing memory cards, personal items, and small gear-related items.

Yes, there’s even an interior, padded, area for an iPad/tablet.

(I think I’ll be storing my travel journal in it!)

A very small detail, but a NICE one, is the attractive contrast stitching (in the same robin’s egg blue of the bag’s interior).

My new Mezzo is a gorgeous, very functional, bag with well thought out details.

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Packing Tips, Part II

Last week, I shared with you some general tips to take into consideration prior to traveling.

If you missed it, you can see that post by clicking here.

Today, I thought I’d share a few general packing tips.

After all, sooner or later all of us end up having to pack a suitcase, right?

First of all, I recommend you make stacks of everything you think you should pack, by category.

For some people, a category is a clothing item you wear like “pants/shirts/underwear.”

For other people, the actual day (or event) is a category.  For example, “On Tuesday, I’ll be at a fancy event.  I’ll need a dress, stockings, high heels and special jewelry.”

After you make stacks of what you think you’ll need,

Put about half of it back in your closet.

Overpacking is the biggest mistake we’re all prone to make.

If you’re traveling by air, I recommend you do everything possible to take a roll-on carry bag and one other small, carry-on, item like a purse/camera bag/laptop bag/etc.

Avoid checking a bag if at all possible.

If you’re like me and you have to use your two allowed carry-ons for camera gear and/or technology items (expensive stuff which should never be checked),

You will have to check a bag.

If you do, make sure you carry with you a change of clothes, any and all medications, and whatever you need to survive 24-48 hours in the event your checked luggage is lost.

(Oh, the humiliating horror story I could tell you from my early days as a professional in the corporate world!)

Packing cubes can really be a huge organizational bonus when you’re traveling.

Some people pack the cubes with what they’ll need by day/event.

Other people pack the cubes by clothing category … all socks in one packing cube, for instance.

Personally, I pack the cubes by clothing category.

However, if I’m attending a big event, I may have a separate packing cube with everything I need for that ONE special event.

(Families often use different colored packing cubes for each member of the family.)

I mostly use Eagle Creek packing cubes.  I like their very lightweight Specter line best.

I know some people LOVE using whatever shampoo products are “free” at hotels.

Most of the time, however, the free products leave me with “hotel hair.”

I like to bring my own products from home because I know they work for my skin/hair.

But, packing a cosmetic bag has always been an incredible hassle.

I’ve tried several methods, and I think I finally have my “forever” solution.

I keep a travel cosmetic bag of everything I need, ready to go, always.

Yes, I’ve gradually accumulated both a duplicate makeup and cosmetic bag (with all my shower stuff in it).

They’re both ready to go on a moment’s notice.

When I return from a trip, I refill my shampoo bottle and/or anything else I’ve depleted and I’m ready for the next trip.

I will only use GoToob travel bottles for shampoo/conditioner/etc.

They’re made out of a soft, squeezable, bpa free, plastic which allows you to get out every drop of product.

They also have big openings for refilling and/or cleaning … which makes the whole process WAY simpler.

(I used to buy miniature bottles of my normal products, but they’re overpriced and such a PAIN to clean/refill!)

I’ve also found the GoToob bottles almost never leak.

(I won’t say “never” because if I do say “never” someone will write and tell me they found one that leaked.)

I also use GoTubb small containers (even when I’m not traveling).

The GoTubb small containers are awesome for small portions of hand lotion/lip gloss/etc. which you might want to keep in your handbag or cosmetic bag.

For my most watery-liquids (like makeup remover), I use small, clear, spray bottles.

They’re the least likely to leak.

I’ve also been known to use a little washi (masking) tape around bottle seals as an extra precaution against leakage.

If you’re traveling internationally, you’ll probably need some type of power adapter.

If you travel a lot, it’s well worth investing in a universal power adapter … which will work in just about ANY country.

What’s the best way to pack your clothes?

I like to roll many clothing items, but everyone has their own preference.

I always have extra plastic bags in my suitcase.

One bag is a large trash/compactor bag for dirty laundry so it won’t get mixed in with clean clothes.

(Some people use a compression bag or packing cube as their dirty laundry bag.)

I, also, keep a few assorted sizes of empty ziploc plastic bags in my suitcase for emergency wet/leaking/messy items.

Remember to keep all your liquids in small containers, in an easy-to-get-to, see-through, bag for airport security.

(If you’re a frequent flyer, consider getting approved for TSA pre-check and/or Global Entry so you can avoid the entire liquid hassle.)

Lastly, all my shoes go in Shoe Sacks.

I can’t think of anything worse than getting to your destination and finding all your clothes smell like FEET.

(And/or have dirt marks on them from your shoes.)

Do you have some packing tips to add?

I’d love to hear them.

Because while you’ve been reading this …

I’ve been busy packing!

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Packing And Pre-Travel Tips: Part I

My trip to New Zealand will be here soon.

My head is spinning with all the details of the trip.

I’ve traveled a lot in my lifetime, so I thought I’d share a few pre-travel and packing tips with you.

Obviously, what you pack will be determined by where you’re going and what weather is expected.

But, for ALL trips there are some common travel tips.

For my trip, I also need to take into consideration the following “complications” ….

•  I’ll be experiencing every type of weather at some point during the trip (snow, rain, blazing sun).

•  I’ll be working in several locations throughout the country.

As a photographer, I’ll need my gear, technology, back-ups to the technology I take, and back-up gear.

•  My trip is a “long” trip.  Most of my business trips last for a few days to a week.

This trip will be longer which adds another level of potential complications.

Here are a few, very general, Pre-TRAVEL TIPS I thought I’d pass along:

•  International travel has more travel “to dos” than domestic travel.  

Is your passport current?

Do you understand the history and current culture of the country you’re traveling to?  (You don’t want to be the stereotypical, ignorant, American who thinks the world revolves around YOU, do you?)

What is necessary in terms of converting currency?

Do you need any special immunizations?

Is your bank/credit card company aware you’re traveling?  If not, they’ll likely freeze your account the first time they see an international charge.  They do this for fraud protection.

Will your driver’s license be legal in the country you’re traveling to?

•  If possible, have someone house sit (and pet sit!) for you while you’re gone.

It makes your home safer while you’re away, and you’ll have less to worry about if you know someone is there to handle anything that comes up.

(Like broken sprinklers shooting into the air like fire hydrants, package deliveries, ear rubs for your pet, etc., etc.)

If the house sitter is also pet sitting, make sure you have enough pet food available for the entire time you’ll be gone.

•  Have the post office turn off your mail delivery.

Yes, I do this even when I have a house sitter.  It’s one less thing for the house sitter to deal with.

I have the post office deliver all the accumulated mail on my first day home.

(The house sitter can handle any UPS/FEDEX deliveries.)

•  Pre-pay any bills that will be due during the time you’re gone.

(Unless they’re already on automatic payment.)

•  Make sure you have your medications with you.

Have enough of each of them to get you through the duration of your trip plus one additional week “just in case.”  

(Drugstores can ask your insurance for a “vacation renewal” if you need a prescription prior to the date it would normally be renewed.)

Do NOT “check” any medications … carry them with you.

What if your luggage is delayed or stolen?

Or, what if someone steals your medication?

I learned this lesson the hard way several years ago.  I spent half of a day in Hawaii talking to the police, airline personnel, my doctor, and various pharmacies because pain medication was stolen out of my checked luggage.  (I had just recently had surgery.)

**  Some countries require a letter from your doctor if you’re bringing prescription medications into the country.  Check out the rules for where you’ll be going prior to travel! **

•  Talk to your cell phone provider regarding coverage if you’re going to be out of the country.

•  See your doctor about getting some “just in case” prescriptions to have with you in case you become ill.

(This can save you SO much time and misery if you catch “airplane germs” and find yourself in a foreign country, sick, and with no doctor.)

•  Travel insurance is ALWAYS a good idea.

•  Make sure you have boarding passes, your itinerary, and any/all confirmation numbers with you before you depart.

•  Make sure someone you trust has a copy of your passport and any credit cards/important documents you have with you.

If they get stolen it will make it so much faster and easier to “fix” if you can easily access all that information to report.

•  If you’re taking a laptop/tablet with you, back it up prior to traveling.

Next week, I’ll share Part II of this post where I’ll discuss a few simple packing tips to make your traveling life so much easier!

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What I’m Thinking About Lately

I’m SO busy right now.

There’s a lot I need to do before I begin traveling.

And …

There’s even more I need to do prior to surgery.

I know I’ll never get it *all* done, but that doesn’t stop me from stressing about it.

(Will I get the silverware drawer cleaned out before my surgery?  I DOUBT IT!!)

Do you use packing cubes when you travel?

I never have before, but I’m going to use them for my trip to New Zealand.

Everyone tells me I’ll experience “four seasons per hour” in New Zealand.

I find four seasons very difficult to pack for.

Maybe I’ll have a packing cube for each season?

One with beach/bathing suit/short type things.

Another for the snow.

Another for rain.

And one for “normal” weather and evening clothes?

It doesn’t help that I’ll be traveling all over the country and, therefore, in several different micro-climates.

I’ve actually purchased a raincoat.


I’ve also purchased a “compression packing cube” to smash the raincoat  down to a pancake (??) in an attempt to fit it in my suitcase.

Oh, and all the camera/tech GEAR is such a pain.

There are no words to convey how I agonize over what gear to take, how to transport it, how to keep it dry when the rain pours down, etc., etc.

(All of the gear-tech-stuff is made MUCH more complicated by one-arm-ness existence!)

In the meantime, every night lately, I’ve been watching episodes of Jane The Virgin.

Have you watched it?

If you’re male, you probably wouldn’t like it at all.

It’s very girl-oriented and it’s very corny humor.

It’s really a weird show, but I find myself laughing out loud at every episode.

I’m hooked!

(I can’t ever do ONE thing at a time, so I make lists of all my travel to dos while I watch!)

If you have any good TV/movie/book suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

I’ve got eons of air travel ahead of me and I’m looking for ways to keep myself entertained!

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Fred Update, And ….

Fred got his hair cut about a week ago.

Fred the Newf Haircut © Suzanne Haggerty 2016 W

Fred The Newf  —  Groomed

My daughter accused me of “cutting his ears off,” but this is what Newf ears are SUPPOSED to look like.

Fred didn’t seem to mind being groomed.

Fred continues to grow.

I haven’t had him weighed lately, but I would guess he weighs at least 160 pounds by now.

Fred snores as loud as a freight train.

Seriously, you can hear his snoring from far, far, away.

Fred seems to be out-growing some of his teenage misbehaviors.

I can’t say he never indulges in bad behaviors, but he’s maturing and remembering his training more often than not.

(Thank goodness … I think he lost his brain to teenage-ness for a few months!)

He did go on a hunger strike for about three days last week.

I couldn’t figure out what was going on with him.

He wasn’t sick.

I bought a new bag of his food thinking the old bag had gone bad.

But, still Fred wouldn’t eat.

In the end, after talking to many Newfie owners, I changed him to a new food.

Fred has been eating heartily ever since.

Over the weekend, Fred went with me to do some light shooting.

(I’m trying to go easy on my arm, but also get my muscles accustomed to shooting again.)

Fred LOVES to be my photography assistant!

Fred and I were walking along the beach.

It was after 5:00 p.m., and the lifeguards were no longer on duty.

A man approached me.

I thought he was approaching me to ask a question about Fred, because so many people do.

But no, the man wanted to yell at me for having a dog on the beach.

I was so startled/shocked by his tone of voice – I couldn’t even answer.

(Fred was obediently by my side, on a leash, and doing nothing wrong.)

My initial reaction was that of a child who had been yelled at.

I felt bad, I felt like I’d done something wrong, and I ended my shooting to take Fred off the beach.

It wasn’t until I began walking on a nearby paved walkway that I got angry.

The man who yelled at me was not an authority figure.

He was just a man going for a walk … a man who, apparently, doesn’t like dogs.

I have service dog papers for Fred with me at all times and LEGALLY Fred is allowed to be wherever I am.

Fred is too big to fit in service vests anymore, but service vests are not required here in California.

I should have told the man off.

Why did I let him intimidate me when I was well within my rights?

And who does he think he is, acting like he has the right to tell anyone else what to do?

I’m mad at myself for being so easily intimidated.

But, those of you who know me well won’t be surprised I plan to return SOON to the exact same spot with Fred.

Yep, I think I’ll be shooting there frequently for awhile.

I just HOPE the same man rambles by again.

I got the impression he’s a local and considers it “his” beach.

Won’t he be surprised next time he tries to bully me?

Because …?

He’s going to get a whole different reaction from me next time …..

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Happy Friday!

I’m really looking forward to the weekend.

Idle Hands  –  taken while hiking yesterday

I’ve had a day or two to digest the, “I’m going to have another surgery,” concept.

I think, now that I’ve made my decision,

I’ll try to stay focused on all the things I want to do once my arm works better.

It doesn’t take the fear away.

But, I have to believe I’ll be more capable to do the things I love once it’s done.

I’m choosing to focus on THAT as much as possible.

I’m also busy making preparations for shooting New Zealand.

I have to make some adjustments due to my arm.

(For instance, instead of two professional camera bodies I’ll only be taking ONE.  I’m also limiting my lenses as much as possible.)

I’m taking multiple arm/wrist/elbow braces with me which I’ll wear faithfully the entire trip.

I’ll be shooting a lot of locations within New Zealand, but I’m most excited about visiting Milford Sound.

I’ve wanted to photograph Milford Sound since I was a child.

I’m in awe of the natural beauty there, even though I’ve never seen it with my own eyes.

My trip to New Zealand will involve a lot of hiking and exercising and very “physical” photography.

(Honestly, that’s just my style of shooting.  I *work* for my photos … I’m not a sit and shoot type of photographer.)

In preparation for what will be a very physically exhausting few weeks,

I’ve been concentrating on preparing my body for the trip.

It’s not much different than any other type of training ….

Lots of sleep, lean protein and veggies for food, lots of exercise, and –

Because I’ll be shooting nonstop, as much arm-rest as possible.

(I’m trying to get my pain  arm-inflammation  to calm down as much as possible before I depart.)

I’m also taking lots of probiotics to build up my immune system, along with some basic vitamin supplements.

Of course, you know I love many different forms of art and creative expression.

I plan on keeping a travel journal as I make my way through New Zealand.

It’s such a little thing, but I look forward to documenting the experience of photographing New Zealand.

My paternal grandmother traveled all over the world after she was widowed.

New Zealand was a location she raved about.

Because of my grandmother’s love for New Zealand, my parents also made a trip there.

I’ll be the third generation in my family to make the trip.

For me, of course, it’s not just about the experience.

(Although, I’m very excited about the experience!)

For me, it’s a mission to capture beauty with my lens.

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Feeling Terrified

Yesterday, after weeks of procrastinating, I booked Surgery #10.

I am terrified.

And, trust me, I don’t use the word “terrified” lightly.

(Thank you to my forever-friend, Joanne, for explaining to me I’m experiencing something similar to a PTSD reaction and it’s normal based on what I’ve gone through – car accident plus NINE surgeries.  Joanne was my college roommate, is a lifelong friend, and is also a nurse.  HI JOANNE!)

I swore I’d never let anyone perform surgery on my arm again.

What could possibly change my mind?

Basically, I have no choice.

My elbow (and, most likely, my wrist) now have damage from trying to compensate for the rest of my arm and shoulder.

The working parts of my damaged arm are no longer working well, and they won’t work at all if something doesn’t change soon.

Factor in the news, my “good” shoulder now shows signs of damage due to overuse and ….

Well, the rest of my body clearly can’t keep compensating in the way it has these past nine and a half years.

And oh yeah, my pain level has been off the charts since mid-November.

What happens when I’m in a lot of pain?

I can’t “do” anything, so I hibernate and hope the pain will eventually go away.

It hasn’t.

I honestly feel I have no choice at this point.

I can either resign myself to living my life from my family room couch for the next few decades,

Or, suck up all the fears I’m experiencing, and have surgery.


But, regardless, surgery is scheduled for mid-March.

I have time to take my (non-refundable) trip to New Zealand.

I also need to visit my parents who live out of state,

And take care of a few other business projects.

(The surgeon is booked until mid-March so it isn’t like I could have the surgery sooner anyway.)

An orthopedic surgeon with Kerlan-Jobe will be performing the surgery.

(You may have heard of them … they do tons and tons of athletes/famous people.)

The KJ doc who will be taking care of me is the orthopedic surgeon I’ve mentioned before.

(Dr. John Itamura – he specializes in injuries to arms/shoulders/elbows/upper extremities caused by trauma.)

He won’t know, until he’s operating, exactly what he will need to do.

But, based on my MRIs there’s already a lot he does know …

It will not be outpatient surgery.

(Yes, I really DO have to be hospitalized!)

And, it isn’t going to be fun.


There are no words.

I’m grateful I’ll have New Zealand to distract me from my fear, and dread, for much of this interim period.

Also, I want to extend a special thank you to Paul Newman (real name:  David Bradley) for not only being a wonderful physical therapist, but also a great friend.

I don’t think I could do this if I didn’t know he’d be helping me (maybe even forcing me?) through the recovery period.

Rumor has it, I might not be the easiest “case” in the medical world.

(I make up for it with my winning personality??)

Ahem …..

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Blonde Moments

Yesterday, was a holiday here in the United States.

January in Orange County – Railroad Tracks along beach

I knew it …

And, forgot it, all at the same time.

I’m expecting a package from overseas and it requires a signature at delivery.

Yesterday morning, I checked the package’s tracking information and it said the package was out for delivery “today.”

My brain accepted this fact as truth – completely forgetting there’s no mail delivery on holidays.

I rearranged my day … putting off my errands and plans so I would be home to sign for the package.

At noon, I began feeling impatient for the mail delivery.

I had stuff to DO … I sure wished my mail lady would show up SOON.

Instead, Fed-Ex dropped off a different (way less exciting!) delivery.

(Fed-Ex, obviously, works on national holidays.)

The Fed-Ex delivery calmed me down for awhile as I continued to wait for the signature required mail delivery.

At 1:00 p.m., I bemoaned how late my mail person was running.

At 1:30 I realized there would be no mail delivery due to the holiday and knew I had wasted most of my day.

At 1:31 I realized I’ll be waiting around to sign for the package all over again tomorrow/today ….

Effectively, doubling the amount of time I’ve wasted.

These are the blonde moments I’m most proud of?

Oh well, my arm is such a disaster right now, maybe it’s best I have a slow day or two?

In the meantime, here’s a photo of a wind-blown Fred playing chase with me on the beach last weekend:

Fred Beach Chase © Suzanne Haggerty 2016 W

“Chase me again!”  —  Fred The Newf

Fred sure has fun romping at the beach.

Silhouette Fred the Newf © Suzanne Haggerty 2016 W

Fred The Newf enjoys watching a beach sunset.

Fred always takes a long nap after beach time.

Walking on the sand is hard work?

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Fred Is Sad

Fred is in dire need of grooming.

I’ve been doing my best to brush his long fur each night.

But, I admit, it’s not easy to brush him for any length of time with my left hand.

(And, I absolutely can’t trim him with one hand.)

Fred’s headed to the groomer for a full bath, and trim.

He’s not very excited about leaving me for most of the day.

I just can’t bare to look at his scraggly, scruffy, ears one more day.

Fred © Suzanne Haggerty 2016 W

Fred feels despondent at the thought of leaving me.

I know, when he comes home he’ll be prancing around proudly.

He’ll hold his head high, puff out his chest, and walk with a Newfie swagger.

Fred always knows when he’s looking sharp!