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|| News Item: Posted 2005-08-04

In the Bag: Digital Means Less is More
By Steve Apps, Wisconsin State Journal

Photo by Steve Apps, Wisconsin State Journal

Photo by Steve Apps, Wisconsin State Journal

This is what Steve brings to a game in his Lowepro Stealth.
A lot has changed in the nine years that I have been covering the Green Bay Packers for the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison, Wisconsin.

Gone are the days of lugging around a huge, back breaking metal case that held two Lightware cases, one with a 400mm 2.8 and the other with a computer, Nikon CoolScan, and all the other items you need to work with film on deadline.

I don't miss that case, but I do remember some of the stories. That case would crush other luggage that happened to still be on the belt when it barreled down the ramp at the luggage return. I remember looking around the conveyor belt seeing the damage the case would cause if it were put on the ramp at the wrong time.

I also remember playing games with the gate agents when asked about the weight during check-in. I would usually answer "not much" and try to smoothly put it on the scale with most of it off to one side.

In a stupid way I was thrilled to see the scale read 45-pound or at least 30-pounds less than the true weight. I know the paper would pay for the excess weight charge, I just didn't want to pay it.

The reporters I traveled with loved it. You need at least an SUV or Towncar to hold that case so they always had to upgrade to the nicer vehicles. Funny thing, with the case gone for years, they still seem to need those big nice cars.

Switching to digital might have been a big pain while we waited for the technology to catch up with film quality, it did significantly reduce the amount of equipment I need to take for a road Packers game.

The older I get, the less I really like to take on these trips. I know I'm really only going to be shooting for three to fours hours so I don't pack for a three-week photo safari.

The Packers home games are no problem since the media parking lot is only a short walk to the photographers' workrooms. I carry my equipment like I do for a normal workday.

The road game flights almost always include at least two connections and with the weather sometimes being a problem in the fall, I like to travel light enough to be able to keep a fast walk to my next gate, which is usually across the airport in either Detroit or Minneapolis.

For the past four years I have based my travel packing around the Lowe Pro Stealth AW II. I have thought about switching bags and even bought a Lowepro DryZone 200 for daily assignments, but have always come back to the Stealth when I need to carry any long glass.

Photo by Steve Apps, Wisconsin State Journal

Photo by Steve Apps, Wisconsin State Journal

Steve's Lowepro Stealth.
Lowepro Stealth dimensions:
Size (exterior) 15W X 6D X 22H in.
Size (interior) 15W X 3.5D X 20H in.

Outer Fabric water resistant and includes ballistic Nylon.

It includes an all-weather cover, cell phone pouch, and a removable padded notebook case, which I removed. The notebook case is too big for my Apple 15-inch PowerBook G4 and I wouldn't trust the "Velcro" to keep the case closed.

The reason I like this case is that it is a comfortable soft-sided backpack and has plenty of space for my equipment. With the notebook case removed it easily holds my towel wrapped 400mm 2.8.

Obviously there is not much protection for this lens, but the Stealth Bag does fit in most overhead compartment of planes I fly. I'm not sure about small prop planes. Also, the weight of the equipment is easily handled when the lap belt is used on the bag.

Here is what I take for a NFL road game: In Stealth bag.
*2 Canon EOS-1D Mark11 bodies. (These fit in Stealth's two padded Neoprene pouches.)
*1 Canon 400mm f2.8L lens. (hood removed and packed with checked luggage.)
*1 Canon 70-200mm 2.8 zoom with hood. (packed in middle top Neoprene pouch.)
*1 Canon 16-35mm 2.8 zoom. (packed top pouch.)
*1 Canon 1.4x extender in Canon pouch.
*1 Canon 550EX flash.
*3 Canon NiCad batteries, two in cameras and one inside pocket.
*1 carry case for pile of Lexar flash cards.
*1 Olympus C-8080 Wide Zoom digital camera. ( I love this camera. You can turn the shutter sound off for complete quiet operation. Last season I used this 8 Meg camera to shoot sideline features before the game. The files also look great.)

The Canon Ni-MG Charger and my old and falling apart monopod go in my checked bag.

Photo by Steve Apps, Wisconsin State Journal

Photo by Steve Apps, Wisconsin State Journal

This is how Steve carries his laptop in a Pelican 1470 attaché case to Packer games.
My Apple PowerBook G4 is protected by a Pelican 1470 attaché case.
Outside dimension:16 11/16" L x 13 1/16" W x 4 3/8" D.
Inside Dimensions: 15 3/4" L x 10 9/16" W x 3 3/4" D.

I really love this case for its protection, and that it is watertight. I just throw this under the airplane seat in front of me and rest my feet on it. It has plenty of room to hold all the computer related junk and enough room extra for my Apple mouse, Lexar Firewire card reader, Defcon CL computer lock, and my iPod mini.

Part of the reason for traveling light is that my system for shooting a game includes using only two cameras. Since I shoot most games solo, I have developed a method that gives me the best chance to be in position for key plays.

I spend most of the game shooting from the end zone about ten yards in from either corner. The main reason for this location is that in the end zone you don't have to deal with the network or NFL Film photographers setting up in front of you seconds before a play starts.

I'm using 400mm with and without 1.4x extender. When the action gets inside the 30-yard line I'm also ready with the 70-200mm that is around my neck.

Shooting from this location does eliminate those great John Biever - style corner shots, but you have a clear view, goal line to goal line, and you are never blocked by a player off the bench or one of those dish mic guys that think that moving forward will give them better sound.

I stay in front of the Packers as long as they are winning and only move behind them when they are down by more than seven points. The reason behind this is that if the Packers win, the editors want pictures of them looking good, and if they lose, they want photos of them looking bad. This system has on average, really works for me.

What I really hate are the nail biting games that bounce back and forth by a few points, then you really have to keep your head in the game. Win or lose, a blowout game makes for a real easy day.

(This fall Steve Apps will begin his ninth season of covering the Green Bay Packers for the Wisconsin State Journal, in Madison. He has previously worked for the Post-Crescent in Appleton, Wisconsin; the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida; and the Daily Herald, in Wausau, Wisconsin.)

Related Links:
Apps's member page

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