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|| News Item: Posted 2000-02-23

We've Got Mail:
Letters to Sports Shooter

By Robert Hanashiro

Particularly good article on equipment theft. I traveled on some of the Blazer play-off games this year and remember thinking, as I set up our computers in a totally empty room in the Alamodome, "who's going to watch this stuff while I'm out shooting?" As equipment gets more and more expensive and shooting situations get more and more
crowded, photographers end up in a very tricky (and maybe, vulnerable) position. I can't even count the number of times I've "saved" a spot at sporting event with a piece of equipment (if only a bag).

Randy Rasmussen
Portland Oregonian
* * *

On your letter about camera gear being stolen. I have offered time and time again to any pro who wants bags/cases to NOT look like camera gear. Everybody has to have BLACK.

Why? Because it looks cool.

Tony Tomsic had his double lens case made with 3" red webbing instead of black so he could spot it from the rest of the pack. If you need to ship it then disguise it or insure the hell out of it.

Larry Nolan President
* * *

While I don't doubt that theft occurs and that all of the instances mentioned were theft, it is amazing at how lax and careless many photographers can be with their gear.

At horse races and track meets I usually work with a lot of remotes which take a lot of time to pack up so my assistants and I are frequently the last to leave, and the gear we find and return is a little surprising.

Two years ago at the Belmont we found a brand new Canon 400 2.8. We tracked down the photographer, the next day, who was very unhappy with a colleague who was supposed to bring it back. (Don't worry Andy, I won't remind your wife again about the UNINSURED lens you left behind.)

A few years ago we found an Canon body at the Preakness, we called all of the local papers, and sure enough a few days later the owner surfaced and back it went. The next year at the Preakness, we found a fanny pack---with a couple of short lenses and some miscellaneous stuff, the owner, from Allsport, got his gear back along with some fairly serious harassment since he used to work with us.

At the Derby the same year, more than an hour after the race, a 300 f2.8 was still lying in the infield grass --- I sent an assistant with the lens to the offender's darkroom. At a horse race in Florida we found a Nikon and after figuring out who the owner was gave him a call, it took three months for him to make the trip to get it back, and he probably didn't live 5 miles from me.

At the US Track Championships last year in Eugene, our group of four was exiting the track at the far end of the stadium, well over an hour after the day's events had ended when we found a Canon EOS1N, with a strobe and 70-200 attached, sitting next to the track. We knew the owners and knew they were long gone.

The next day we brought the gear back and had fun watching the 3-man group responsible debate among themselves that one had messed up. The list goes on and on. I can't even tell you how many ballheads, mini-tripods, cords, get left in the dust.

The worst of all was at Lipton maybe three years ago. After the men's final there was a canon lens in the photo pit. My assistant brought it in to the press center. We told the desk about it. We told security about it. No one claimed it.

The following year we posted a sign about it. No one claimed it. CPS checked their records, no answer. We posted a sign the following year. No one claimed it. We asked the tournament for a list of accredited photographers. For each one that we had a phone or fax for we sent them a message asking about the lens. No takers. The lens, which was broken, was repaired by CPS and sits waiting for its owner. I suppose we'll try again at Lipton this year.

So, I while I hate thinking about photographers stealing from each other, and don't like having to worry about the crowds, I think that as a group we could be a bit more one top of our gear.

Bill Frakes
Sports Illustrated
* * *

On the latest business column ...
The admonition to finally strive to make money is important for photographers to hear. I've talked with the dean of the J-school here at my alma mater, Indiana University, acouple of times about starting a freelancing class for writers and shooters, but they can't make room for it in the curriculum.

Mark-up on film and other expenses is more correctly based on the cost you incur to carry the expense until you get reimbursed. There might be some profit to be had if the market will bear the extra mark-up, but it's nothing to live off of. Instead, a portion of creative fees should reflect the portion of the useable life of your equipment used on the assignment, not just the hours you work.

From a book on computer consulting I relied on in my early days as a freelancer I was struck by the simplicity that your hourly rate should reflect your operating expenses for a year (including your salary, benefits, taxes, insurance, and budget for equipment repair
and replacement) divided by 1,000 --- the practical limit of hours you can work in a year.

This only translates into 20 hours per week, but the other 20 disappear fast on dealing with the business details (drumming up new work, paying bills, etc). Unfortunately, the business isn't very open to really paying for the hours worked.

The flat fee system of the evil AP is a good example. It's what they want to pay, not what freelancers need to earn. I've gone back to school to get an MBA since the business can't support a person any more. Too bad the media won't acknowledge what they're missing as they drive more and more able shooters out of business.

Garrett Ewald
Kelley School MBA student

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