Final Packing for London – Remotes, Rain Gear and Cables

Today is the day, I am checked in, almost all packed and in general have my life together, well as much as it is ever really together. I do feel that I am prepared for a three-week trip.   I once received some travel advice to Take half the clothes and twice the money, while  that is really solid advice, I do take a limited amount of clothes but for me, I do have a tendency to take a lot of gear. Having said that, it is a fraction of what the guys from SI take.  I will only be setting up 1 or maybe two remotes and controlling them myself.

This morning I want to highlight some gear that I hope I don’t get to use on my trip, but then it has been known to rain in both London and Copenhagen.  If I need it, I will get a shot or two of what it looks like in action and how to use it, but for now here it is.

Once again from the great folks at Think Tank Photo we have several versions of the Hydrophobia. I have covers for my 70-200, (with and without a flash), as well as my 300. Both of which have seen too much use this spring in Minnesota.  I also have the add on to cover my remote. I hope I have brought too much rain gear, but I am sticking with the theory The more I bring, the less I will need.

This morning, I am also finalizing packing all of my card readers, cable, jump drives and other stuff that I need. Again, I am relying on my Think Tank Cable Management System.

I particularly like the clear front panel so I can immediately see which bag I need.

A final comment, since I had snaps of all of my camera bodies, I used my Canon G1X to shot the photos. This is a sweet little point and shoot, that you can shoot Raw, HD video and use in Manual, and Shutter or Aperture priority.  While not small enough to fit in my pocket, it fits nicely into a Think Tank pouch that I have on the shoulder strap of my Street Walker backpack.

Next post from London!


Follow me on Twitter @CompImagePhoto for daily shots from London!

Packing for London

It is now two days until I leave for London and the Olympics. Typically, I pack before the day before I head out to a race, but this time – it is my first Olympics and I want to make sure I have all of the right stuff, and just the right stuff and as such I have been working on this for a couple days.

Not only do I have to carry everything with me at the race, but it is almost more complicated to get it from Minneapolis to London with as little as stress as possible.

There are a couple of major differences between what I am bringing to London versus other events, instead of bringing my 400 mm f/2.8, I recently added a 300 mm f/2.8. Both the 400 and the 300 are fabulous lens, but the good news is the 300 travels much easier than it’s big brother.  It is substantially smaller and has about half of the weight.  I am also bringing 4 camera bodies instead of 2 and a couple of extra lens.

Here is the challenge:

For the last 7 years I have used Think Tank Photo gear. Its well made, really well thought out and it is always there when I need it.

Usually I use an Airport International and my Shape Shifter on the plane and then packed the Glass Taxi in my luggage. On site, I use my modular set / belt system and my glass taxi.  I started using my Airport international, when I went to China to shoot the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup Soccer Tournament.  My rough guess is that it has logged about 250,000 miles. It is served me well, but gee, I want to look good at the Olympics!

Although I have never visited the Think Tank facility, my guess that they sit around saying wouldn’t it be cool if we had a product that did _____?  And, then they make it.

A few of the cool things they have come up with are the Street Walker Pro, an updated Airport International 2.0, with a low divider set so a laptop can be included and then there is the entire Retrospective product line.

WOW – it all fits!

Now with the Artificial Intelligence Laptop bag on top for my Mac & iPad.

Zipped and ready to go!

Heading to the race venue I will add my Modular Pack and belt, which will be all that I use during the event, with the 300mm carried over my shoulder.  My lap top and cases will be parked in the Photo Workroom at the Venue. (Oh yea, the guy on the moto photo on the Modular Set box is me).

The Street Walker Pro is great, holds a lot and is comfortable to carry, but what about when you just want to ramble around and take a few happy snaps.  Sometimes there is fine line between locations scouting and sightseeing. When I ramble around, I generally carry 1 camera, 1 lens and take 1 shot at a time. I love to carry the 5D because of its size and it doesn’t really look like a Pro body. Here is my Retrospective 7, which also easily holds my iPad.

Rambling in London, I think will require more than one lens!

Here I am in the Arabian Desert with my Retrospective 10, I am still trying to vacuum the sand out of it!

Gearing Up for London

A sports photographer seldom needs any excuse to get a new piece of equipment. Somehow in the back of most sports photographers’ minds is the lingering thought, if I only had that lens, if I only had a faster frame rate, if I only had the newer (insert current item of lust here); think of the shots that I could get!

Part of this of course is the curse of being able to visualize the effect of the new piece of equipment can do, particularly when dealing with a new lens!

I admit it; I have some great equipment. I have been lucky and been able to upgrade along the way, while still making use of my prior gear. Although many have asked for my hand-me-downs, they are most often residing in Chicago with my son Jonathan, although my original Canon 1D is now solely a museum piece.

I am just like the rest, I love the new gear, I rationalize it by saying it’s not really me, but my clients demand the highest quality images! There is that and also shooting endurance sports you have a tendency to beat the crap out of your equipment, not even thinking about when mine got bounced off the hood of an SUV and on to the pavement (yup, with me still attached to it all).

Here is my current excuse for new gear! Next week I leave for the 2012 London Olympics. I will be working for USA Triathlon both the shoot the Men’s and Women’s races but also to work with the team on a behind the scenes basis, to tell the story and to allow people to get to know these five amazing individuals that will be racing for the US.

When the new Canon flagship 1Dx was announced, I called my local dealer, National Camera Exchange to get on the list! Trust me, I called as soon as they were open and I was already number three on the list.

With the vagaries of delivery by Canon, in June I purchased the new Canon 5D Mark III.

It is an amazing upgrade compared to the 5D Mk II, which I thought was pretty fabulous. I have only been using it for a couple of weeks, but of the many things I love about it are:

  • 61 point focusing;
  • 6 fps frame rate; and
  • Shooting multiple images in stealth mode.

And of course, there is the amazing image quality.

Naturally a week after receiving the 5D MK III, I got a call from my friend Julie at National Camera and WOW, the 1Dx had arrived! I picked it up on July 5th.

I thought about including images of the camera bodies & lens, but you can see those on the web with better lighting than I am willing to set up today. Instead, here are 3 images shot with the 1Dx and the 300, and a final image shot with the 5D Mark III and a 24 to 70mm.

I have been shooting as much as I can with both bodies and they are indeed all they I was lead to believe. I am still trying to understand the intricacies of the new (and amazing) auto focus system (there is a 48 page manual on the auto focus alone, as well as about a dozen short videos). The results have been fabulous.

It is also so cool to be shooting full frame again!

As a long-time soccer photographer, I have a 400mm f/2.8 lens. It is the go to lens on the field of play. Particularly great if you get to sit down to use it and shoot from a fixed position, which during a triathlon I do not! I have opted for the new 300mm f2.8 IS II. Fabulous glass, great images, fast and by my standards a lightweight.

Just one more new lens for the trip – I have borrowed the 8 to 15mm f/4.0 zoom from Canon a couple of times and found it to be a fabulous artistic tool.  I am particularly excited about using this lens at some of the new Olympic structures in London.

Rounding out my kit will be:

  • Canon 1D Mark IV;
  • Canon 1D Mark III;
  • Canon Powershot G1x;
  • Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS II
  • Canon 16-35 f2.8;
  • Canon 24-70 f2.8;
  • Canon 24-105 f4.0;
  • 2 Canon 580 EXII flash;
  • Tripod;
  • Monopod;
  • 280 gig of Cards;
  • 4 Pocket Wizards & cables; and
  • Mounting brackets for remotes.

There are cameras and lens that I will be leaving at home as well. There is absolutely no need to bring everything I own, it is really a matter for determining what you are going to need, how you are going to deploy it and how much can you carry and handle on race day.

Remember just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should.

The next blog will be how I am packing all of the gear in my Think Tank Photo bags for the travel to London and what I am going to use to carry it around while I am there.

Optimizing Your Work Flow

We have just past the midpoint of 2012; it has been an exciting, busy, fun and sometimes exhausting year. Having said that, the best part is yet to come!  This year I have traveled from Abu Dhabi to California, and Madrid to Minneapolis and have lost count of the images that I have shot.

Although I started to work on this blog post on the plane returning from Madrid last month, I am in a better late than never mode and it feels just a bit incongruent to be a month late and still writing about workflow.  While I would love to apply these techniques to the piles on my desk and elsewhere, I will concentrate on how to shoot an event and most efficiently identify which images you want to keep and distribute.

I do substantially all of my work in Photo Mechanic ( and Lightroom 4.

First I transfer the images from the card directly into a folder on my hard drive, without the use of either Photo Mechanic or Lightroom.  This takes the least time! There is one exception, which I will go into later.

Once I have everything transferred all of the images to the folder I open a new contact sheet in Photo Mechanic. Below is the screen shot of the contact sheet from the 2012 Madrid Men’s ITU Race.

As I have mentioned in prior posts, I have rules. Rule #3 is Never Let Them See the Bad Stuff! Let’s face it; in shooting endurance sports, there is lots of bad stuff. While a shot may have tack sharp focus, it may be at the low point of a runner’s stride or some other athlete may have crossed into the frame or as you are panning, you have inadvertently ended up with the Porta-Potties in the background. While my shot percentage is pretty high, there are always a bunch of shots that I just don’t like.

When I have the luxury of working back at my place,  I use what I can ‘two –handed’ editing! If I am working at my desk, I have a 30” monitor.

First I open the contact sheet in Photo Mechanic, and then I double click on the first image. In my left hand I use a mouse with a scroll wheel, I keep my right hand on the 10 keypad on my keyboard.  In this way, I can quickly scroll through images and tag the each image that I like. Actually for my first pass, I go as quickly as possible and if the image is in focus and doesn’t suck, I tag it with a number 3.  In Photo Mechanic, tagging with a number 3, highlights the image with an orange tag in the lower right hand corner.

My goal with my first pass is to get rid of images that I am not interested in and to do it quickly.  After I have gone through my entire contact sheet, I hide the tagged images and delete the rest. To give you an idea of how quickly I can go, in February I shot three days of High School Alpine ski racing and shot approximately 4,000 images each day and I was able to complete my first pass of the images in about an hour each day. Many of the images are good solid shots, but based on my experience the skier’s position may have been poor or there may have been something distracting that had come into the background.

A couple of the key elements that makes this process so fast is that, you can scroll through the images in Photo Mechanic very, very quickly. For all of the wonderful things that can be done in Lightroom 4, this is not one of them.

In addition, instead of deleting images one at a time, they can be deleted as a group, saving the time that your computer needs to delete an individual image from the hard drive.

Here is how the contact sheet looks after I have deleted all of the tagged images. Indeed, I actually do delete them, gone forever. If I don’t like it now, the odds are I will not like it later either.

After another pass or two of the images, I get it down to my final file set.

If you are using more than one camera, I also always time sync the cameras. This is a quick and easy process. Although I have set the time on my cameras as closely as possible, I still shoot an image of a timing app on my iPhone or iPad.  Then in Photo Mechanic, I can go to the Tools menu and use Adjust Capture Time and Dates.

Still using Photo Mechanic, I sort the files in order of Capture Time and then Rename them, using an alphanumeric sequence what will specifically identify the event and the image.  For the Minnesota Sectional High School Ski Race, I used ALPSEC12 and then the number sequence related to the section number, for example, Section 4 were numbered beginning with 4001. Similar to giving each image a unique name and number, be sure that you also give each folder / subfolder a unique name.  If you shoot races as I do, and within an event folder which will contain many subfolders with the various things that I have shot over the weekend; instead of labeling a subfolder Race Day, I am more specific and use Race Day LTF12. Otherwise when you import into Lightroom, you will have trouble identifying the difference between the folders.

It is only after I have my final, or near final image set and have renamed the images do I import them into Lightroom.

As I mentioned above, there is one major exception to transferring images directly from the card to my hard drive. Frequently, I have events where I need to get a couple images out immediately for either a Press Release or website posting. In this situation, I will Protect selected images in the camera.  Although I always tell people never trust the back of the camera, it is much easier to protect 100 shots and than to take the time to download 1,000 shots.

Using Photo Mechanic, you can download only the protected images, quickly pick out a few images, often with someone from the event standing over my shoulder and get them selected, post processed and exported very quickly.

Which SLR Should I Buy?

Without a doubt this is the most common photography question that I get this time of year. As we approach the holiday season and the amazing Digital-SLR technology continues to decrease in price, more and more people are considering a purchase of a SLR.

Although some people are referring to Digital SLR cameras as D-SLR, I think it’s time to drop the D! Digital Single Lens Reflex cameras (as opposed to TLR – Twin Lens Reflex) have almost completely replaced Film cameras. Searching the web, I can only find 5 film SLR cameras that can be purchased, and three of the five are targeted at students who are taking photo classes.

These are the people who want a bit more creative control over what they are shooting, as well as additional flexibility in lens choices and quality.

Based on my totally unscientific conversations, my sense is that this group is made up of people that have previously owned a film SLR and also have a digital point and shoot.

There are very few instances when I can offer advice and unequivocally know that it is good advice, but here it is –

1. First decide how much you are going to spend –
• Put a total dollar limit on the amount you want to spend since it is easy (and I mean VERY easy) to get carried away with an additional lens or two, memory cards and a card reader. Based again on my totally unscientific research, my sense is that there are several price points in which you will have cameras from several manufacturers and great alternatives. The price points are: $750; $1,200 and $2,000.

• With your budget in mind, go to a camera store! Not Best Buy, not Wal-Mart, and not Target. This is your opportunity to become a more informed consumer, so you want to talk to sales people who understand photography. You want to talk to people who are passionate about photography and particularly those who want you to have a successful photo experience. If you have a friend who is a photographer and they are willing to join you, invite them along!

• Within your price range, look at Canon, Nikon and one or two other brands. Make sure that you are comparing apples to apples when you compare them. Some may have several lenses and other things included in a kit, but you should be looking at comparable priced cameras – this should be below your total budget.

2. There are a few key features that each of these cameras must have:
a. Inter-changeable lens;
b. At least 10 Mega-Pixels;
c. Ability to control shooting modes, beyond programmed modes, including: Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, and Manual.

• Don’t worry much about the additional features such as, frames per second, start up time, number of focus points, ISO range and others, at this point you are likely only comparing things that will have nominal importance to you, and in each price range these attributes will be quite similar. However the higher your price point, the better the features will be. One key attribute will be the increase in the number of frames per second (fps) that you can shoot.

3. Finally, here is the deciding factor, which camera feels the most comfortable in your hands, the most intuitive and the easiest to use? Pick it up, see how easy it is to access the controls, see if you understand it or immediately feel compelled to pick up the manual.

I shoot Canon and I have for years. The functional set up of the camera is completely natural to me. It is easy to pick up and shoot. Nikon’s are in many ways set up exactly opposite of Canon. I am not advocating one over the other; both are great cameras, just different. As you consider which brand to buy, keep in mind that substantially all professionals that shoot this format choose either Canon or Nikon. Beyond the sheer quality of the products, from a professional standpoint, you are buying a matched system and not just a camera.  Personally, I rely heavily on Canon Professional Services for equipment loans and repairs.

Most of these cameras are sold as Kits, with a zoom lens that is typically a moderate wide angle to a medium telephoto. If you are considering getting an additional lens with your camera, instead of getting a longer lens, consider getting what has always been considered a normal lens. A 50mm, f1.4 lens from Canon is about $370 and is really a great value. Although, the zoom included as part of your kit will give you the same focal length as this lens. However, an f1.4 lens will let in almost 8 times as much light as an f4.0 lens and will dramatically expand your ability to get good photos in low light situations.

Where to buy your D-SLR? If you are an online shopper, consider B&H Photo Video or Adorama. However, for the first time D-SLR user, many local camera shops offer classes with the purchase of a camera. This will go a long way toward having a successful experience with, and ultimately getting the most value from your new camera

The good news is that the technology has come so far that you can’t really make a bad decision. Have fun with what ever you decide upon, always remember keep shooting, those photons are free!

Somehow I couldn’t post to the blog without a couple happy snaps.

First we have Aussie Luke McKenzie on the Queen K heading back to transition at the Ironman World Championship and being shadowed by the media truck. Try to see what gear they are using and if you can tell if they are shooting stills or video.

Finally, this is not a yard sale of photo gear, it is the finish line photo area taken in the time between the Men’s and the Women’s finish at last week’s Ironman Arizona! Indeed we are a pretty trusting group!

If you have questions, let me know and I will try to help.