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|| News Item: Posted 2005-12-22

In the Bag: Junk in the Trunk
By Trent Nelson, The Salt Lake Tribune

Photo by Trent Nelson / The Salt Lake Tribune

Photo by Trent Nelson / The Salt Lake Tribune
Maybe you've noticed that as far as camera equipment goes, we're all carrying pretty much the same cameras and, especially, the same lenses. So for this episode of "In the Bag", I'm keeping my 70-200's and 16-35's to myself. Since June I've logged nearly 15,000 miles driving to and from assignments all over Utah. During those long hours on the road I've realized that what's in my car is as important as what's in my camera bag.

The car of a photojournalist is a unique beast. I've seen people prepared for anything. And while I'm not the most prepared, I've learned from watching some of the best. I'll never forget the time they cut down the presidential Christmas tree in the mountains of Utah and Doug Pizac of the Associated Press pulled out a clear face shield so he could work up close to the saw as the wood chips bounced off his plastic mask. Who else would have thought to bring one? And several years ago we stumbled upon a co-worker's eighteen point list of plans for his new car. In secret, we looked over the guy's numbered list.

"#1. Police Scanner"

Okay, that's good.

"#2. Cooler for film and food"

Okay, good idea. On and on it went, and then...

"#18. Toilet?"

Instant laughter- rolling on the darkroom floor laughter. And yes folks, #17 was written with the question mark included.

I don't know how that photographer ever solved the problem of in-car urination. That's one of the mysteries in life, where if you do find the answer, you never tell anyone.

So, as I'm loading up for another trip to the southern edge of Utah, here's what's in the car:

Up Front:
GPS - No matter which GPS you settle on, you need to have one. Nothing is better at untangling the horrible directions and bad addresses supplied by reporters. My Garmin 330 will tell me the way to any address in the country and is invaluable for finding hotels, food, schools, arenas, etc. I've also got a handheld unit that is great for hikes and other off-road use. While the higher end GPS units are pricey, you can find them online for a big discount. And there are a variety of websites that will help you determine the best type of GPS system for you. There are handhelds, car only, and palm-type units, and none of them does everything, so pick the best for your situation.

iPod/video player/portable DVD - You need to have your music handy. And Podcasts are a great way to timeshift radio programs. But once you've worn out your tunes and you're sick of NPR, there's nothing better than putting on a TV show or movie. Keep in mind, safety is important. So here are a few tips if you are dumb enough to watch video while you drive:

1. Never play video when driving in traffic.
2. Put on a show you've seen before. That way you don't need to take your eyes off the road; the scenes will replay safely in your head while you watch where you're going. Those "Seinfeld" or "Simpsons" episodes you've seen a million times are great examples.
3. Never watch any DVD with "UNRATED" on the cover. As soon as the actors take their clothes off, you will crash.
4. Look for shows that don't require you to watch to know what's going on. A show like "Real Time with Bill Maher" is a good example of this- it's all talking heads (and who wants to look at Bill Maher?). Shows like "Arrested Development" or "24" are too visual for drivers and you'll end up running off the road trying to see everything that's going on.
5. Final safety tip: Never watch video while you drive. It's that simple.

Portawattz power inverter - For around thirty bucks, one of these units gives you one or two outlets in your car. No need to spend $40 on car chargers for cell phones, iPods, laptops, etc. But don't use it when the engine's not running- too much of a drain on your battery.

Gamepad - How else are you going to play MAME or Game Boy games on your computer while you're waiting for something to happen? With the keyboard? You've got to be joking! What better way to warm up before shooting a football game is there than to pop a quarter into the classic 1983 videogame 10-Yard-Fght?

On the Back Seat:
Camera bags, computer bag
Jacket, gloves, hat
Books, magazines
A good pair of headphones - I'll let you in on a secret: your earbuds provide the sound quality of a Lensbaby. Get some quality phones.

In the "Very Back":
Water - If you're going to pay for water, might as well buy it by the case.
Snack food - Just things to keep you from starving. I've got a few granola bars, Powerbars, etc. Candy - This month I'm stocking Costco-sized bags of M&M's, tootsie rolls, and a big bag of PEZ that I won at a Thanksgiving bingo game.
Sleeping bag. A good pillow- If you frequent hotels in small towns, you've already figured this one out.
Snow clothes, boots
Folding camp chair - You can find these on sale for around $7.
2 monopods - One's wired with a remote.
Gaffer tape
Misc. cords - All the crap I don't want in my computer bag goes here, like dial-up phone cords, etc.
Notebooks, pens

Bonus Item:
Don't expect the people writing articles for Sports Shooter to reveal all of their secrets. We won't tell you everything. But here's a bonus item that I've found very useful: Fake Cigarette.

Make sure you get a good one. The tip of mine is coated with realistic ashes and some orange glitter. It actually looks like it's lit, and has served me well for ten years. Another option is the candy bubble-gum cigarettes that are filled with flour so when you blow, "smoke" pours out. But those won't hold up under close inspection; you'll be outed as a faker.

You're wondering when this actually comes in handy? Oh, come on. When you're on the sidelines covering BYU football, nothing makes the fans scream hate at you like a fake cig hanging off your lip.

(Trent Nelson is the chief photographer at the Salt Lake Tribune and is a regular contributor to the Sports Shooter Newsletter. You can checkout his work at his member gallery:

Related Links:
Trent's member page

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