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|| News Item: Posted 2011-05-15

The Three Gerrys

By Gerry McCarthy, Dallas Morning News

When Sports Shooter founder Bert Hanashiro and I were first chatting about this, I joked that I should call it "In the Trunk," because like a lot of my colleagues, I live out of that thing.

Photo by Gerry McCarthy

Photo by Gerry McCarthy

The "Daily Gerry" is very laid back and does most of his daily assignments with minimal equipment. Is he efficient or lazy?
Now before I go any further, I want to make something clear -- this is not a "whoa, look at me and my all my stuff" thing. People who know me well can attest that I'm really not much of a gear-head. No, what I hope this will be for some is a look into what it's like to be a daily assignments photojournalist at a large-market paper. I'm expected to be a lot of things (photographer, videographer, cleaning lady), so accordingly, I have to be properly equipped.

So anyway, I went back and looked at all the old "In the Bag" articles, and many of the recent ones were attached to specific events -- Olympics, a safari -- or specific types of shoots, like food, so I thought I'd just do a catch-all, if that makes sense. As a daily assignments shooter, I basically do it all. And actually, I think of myself as three different people -- there's Daily Gerry, there's Assignment Specific Gerry, and then there's Video Gerry. There's also a fourth Gerry that likes to burns things and wets the bed at night, but we don't talk about him.

Daily Gerry
This guy is super laid back. In fact if he were anymore laid back he'd be catatonic and probably living off short-term disability. Anyway, Daily Gerry rolls with the following gear:
• Canon 5d Mark II with battery grip
• 35 /1.4 (I know, how cliché)
• 70-200 /2.8 II (great lens, BTW, and worth the money)
• 1.4x tele-converter
• 580 EX II flash plus off-camera chord
• lots of CF cards
• paper and a pen
• chewing gum (preferably Trident orange-flavored)

I would say this guy does about 95 percent of his shooting with the short glass and pulls out the flash about once every two or three months. Some might call it laziness; I just think of it as efficiency. That combo works well for almost all the situations he gets in to on daily, non-sports assignments. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Oh, you're probably wondering about that other camera. It's a Lubitel "Amatuer" (the one series, basically) from the early 50's. Bought it off a dude from the Ukraine via eBay. Love that thing. I also have a little Lomo LC-A+ (35mm) that I schlep around now and then. Will be adding a Graflex 4x5 Speed Graphic to the rotation. I love me some film shooting.

Assignment Specific Gerry
This guys’ considerably more Type A -- squirrely would be a decent adjective. This is the Gerry you'll see when he gets sent to a sports assignment, food shoot, or a portrait where he's literally forced to light it (because, more often than not, he just reverts to the above nature and uses window light, aka the "Washington Post softbox."

Now, I'd do a super detailed breakdown of this Gerry's gear, but it would take a while and probably make me an even bigger target for a break-in.

Photo by Gerry McCarthy

Photo by Gerry McCarthy

The "Assignment Specific Gerry" can be neatly packed into the trunk of his car.
All of the gear sits in two rolling cases -- one Think Tank Airport Security V2.0 for cameras, lenses and such; and, a smaller International case for lighting gear.

In the camera case are two bodies, and lenses from 16 on up to 400. Basically, everything necessary for sports or spot news. There are also filters, batteries, some stuff for remotes (I actually have a smaller bag with all my clamps and such, but that's usually only in there if I know I'm setting up a remote). Tandem with that bag are two monopods, a tripod, kneepads and rain pants, as well as water housing for the long glass.

The lighting bag is sort of a hodgepodge. I have a Dynalite Uni400 head, two Jackrabbit battery packs; a second 580 EX II; and, on old Dynalite 500 power pack and head for it. Thing about the head is, it's not fan-cooled. After about two minutes of the modeling light being on it starts to smell like something burning. Funny game I play with people -- after a while "They'll say, do you smell that?" to which I say, "Nope." I let this escalate to about the point where they think they have a really bad sinus infection. Good times.

I'm pretty slim on the modifiers -- one Chimera medium sized softbox (gonna add a fabric grid to that some day), couple umbrellas, a set of metal grids and a big ass, SP Systems reflector. That this is amazing. Often times I'll just shoot a head right into that to basically have a giant, soft light source. Also, it's a good icebreaker when I unfurl the thing and whack myself in the face so hard the gum I was chewing goes flying out of my mouth.

Lastly, I have a handful of Pocket Wizards and an insane mess of cables, extension cords, etc. It's upsetting how unruly I've let it all get. Oh, and light stands … obviously.

Video Gerry
This is the newest guy to the bunch, having only existed since about 2009 when he was finally trained on how to shoot and edit video. Most of Video Gerry's gear lives in a big, blue Porta Brace bag, with odds and ends in a smaller Porta Brace shoulder bag.

Main camera is a Sony EX1 camera. Works great and uses digital cards, so no more waiting around for tape on the Log and Capture. During SXSW this year, he started using the 5d for video. Now that he's on a month of video rotation, he might actually switch to that. The quality is just so, so much better. Anyway, for that rig he has a BeachTek DXA-SLR unit for audio and a Zacuto Z-Finder for viewing.

Video Gerry is a Nazi when it comes to audio quality, so accordingly, he uses a pair of Shure SE115-K Sound Isolating Earphones. They are awesome -- cancel out just enough sound to focus on the audio, but not so much that you're in the aural version of a sensory deprivation tank.

Lastly, Video Gerry roles with a 17-inch MacBook Pro that's been tricked out memory wise for fast editing. He's slowly covering it with stickers, and he absolutely hates trying to work on an airplane with it. One time, Video Gerry and the laptop were sort of stuck for like 15 seconds in a version of the fetal position because the fat guy with headphone on in the seat in front of him got it to recline farther than Boeing R&D probably wanted it to go. Thankfully, the nice, elderly lady seated next to him finally got the fat man's attention by pulling on his shirt (that came after calling out to him for 10 seconds).

The Odds and Ends
For this last little bit, I'd like to go over all the little things that are a part of my rolling rig. Some are photo related, others not. It's a wealth of information that's come from essentially living and working out of a car for the last eight-plus years.

• Foam core. This shit is almost as invaluable as Gaffer’s tape. Basically, the poor man’s reflector. I keep about two or three pieces of varying sizes. Coupled with A-clamps, they make food shoots a breeze (provided you have good window light).

• Gaffer’s tape. Self-explanatory.

• Two pairs of boots and extra socks. One steel shank work boots, the other knee-high waders (also steel shanked). I also have a pair of chest waders too. Socks are there for whenever I get my feet wet. Nothing ruins a day like wet socks. I also used to keep a change of clothes in the car, but haven’t lately. I’m inviting bad luck.

• Pliers and a flashlight. Have come in handy many times.

• Toilet paper. Self-explanatory.

• AXE body spray. No, I don’t have illusions that it’ll get me laid. I’m hideous. My wife has to wear a paper bag over her head any time I’m naked so as not to pass out from fear and disgust. No, the AXE is there as a courtesy to those around me. This is Texas; it gets hot. Hot people smell.

Photo by Gerry McCarthy

Photo by Gerry McCarthy

Sunflower seeds are a staple of Gerry's day.
• Sun screen and bug spray. Right along with Purell, you can NEVER have enough.

• A towel. See Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for more info.

• Water. Hydration is key.

• Sunflower seeds. I’m an ex-smoker with an addictive personality and some sort of weird, oral-fixation. The sunflower seeds keep from biting my cuticles till they bleed; and really, they’re not working all that well because my fingertips are a hot mess.

• Books. I love to read, although I do it in weird fits. Like, I’ll not touch something for months and then spend about three days obsessively poring over it. Right now I’m re-reading Cormac McCarthy’s “Blood Meridian.” It’s insanely violent and gives me terrible nightmares, but as is the case with all his work, the mastery of the written word is simply breath taking.

• Podcasts. I spend like most of my day in a car, either going to or from an assignment, or staring at the “Don’t Tread on Me” and “Sarah!” bumper sticker on the 4Runner in front of my during rush hour. Better than books on tape because they’re pretty fleeting, short and easy to stop and start, if that makes sense. I’m more a fan of the comedy ones right now—Nerdist, Adam Carolla, Doug Loves Movies. Also a big fan of Moth, TAL and Radiolab. Lately I’ve been getting into Bill Simmons’ one. My man crush on him is wildly inappropriate. Oh, and there’s a decent chance I might start my own podcast before too long. Seriously. Gonna give it a shot. Keep an eye on my Twitter feed for more info.

And that's it, boys and girls. Hope it's been interesting and entertaining for at least one or two folks. Oh, and hi mom!

Gerry McCarthy is a staff photojournalist with The Dallas Morning News. Before joining the News in 2007, he work at the Columbia Tribune in Missouri and Paris News in northeast Texas. He is a 2002 graduate of the University of Texas' journalism program. Before that, he studied music at one community college and one university before completely burning out and sobbing in a darkened dorm room … in a puddle of his own micturition, of course. In 2004 he tricked the most beautiful woman in the world into marrying him, possibly using Chloroform. Last October they introduced a new human being to the planet, and he in turn introduced Gerry to unconditional love. Oh, and he's serious about the podcast thing. Stay tuned.

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