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|| News Item: Posted 2014-02-06

Thinking or OVER THINKING: packing for that 'Big Assignment'
USA TODAY's Robert Hanashiro shares how he packed for his 12th Olympics.

By Robert Hanashiro,

Photo by
Every athlete has a goal. And getting ready for covering the Sochi Winter Olympics I came up with my own goal: Get there with just three checked bags.

You would think after covering 12 Olympics I would have this packing-thing down.

But noooooo.

When you get a "big assignment," whether it’s the Cowhide Game prep football in Visalia, Calif. or an Olympics, you eventually come around to thinking "gear." And your first inclination for that "big assignment" is to bring EVERYTHING you have.

In a lot of situations, you might be able to. And the Olympics? You're damned right I am going to "kitchen sink" this thing and bring everything.

The cost of doing business is paying for getting your gear to the gig and most of the time I’m OK with spending the company’s money - though I am sensible about this. But for covering the Olympics, at least for me, it was weeks of thinking about not what gear to have with me but what I leave behind.

Bring the 400mm AND the 600?

Do I really need the ultra wide 14-24 zoom?

How many remotes will I be able to install?

Do I mix and match camera bodies (Nikon D4 and D3S)?

This Olympics we’re being assigned specific sports, and mine will be speed skating. While I won’t get the variety of shooting different sports, it does make most of my equipment choices simpler and my packing/hauling easy.

But the goal is: Keep my check-in bags to three. (And by comparison, most of my colleagues checked five bags.)

So here is a rundown on my gear, how I packed it and why.

The first thing I decided was to leave behind my 600mm. Yes shooting the straightaway at long track would be cool with super-long glass. But unlike a lot of my colleagues, I really love using teleconverters. So I am going with the Nikkor 400mm f/2.8, this gives me a speed telephoto and if I need to good really long, I use the TC-14 (effective 560mm) and TC-17 (680mm).

Ultra-wide zooms are ultra heavy. When you need it, you love it, especially for those cool fireworks photos at open ceremony. One-trick-pony lens- left behind in the closet.

Remotes were something I went back and forth on for a couple of weeks. Positions and access are limited at the Olympics and speed skating is a tough sport to do this.

Finish line? Overhead- is there catwalk access? Is there even a catwalk? So I decided to leave it.

Then decided to bring it.

Photo by
Then decided to scale it back- so I packed a set of PocketWizard MultiMAX transceivers, Bogen Friction Arm, Super Clamp and ballhead. This is about half of what I usually would bring- just in case.

My first inclination was to bring every camera body I had. But again, weight and space were considerations. I decided to leave my D3S bodies at home and take just 3 D4 bodies. That way I didn’t have to bring two different sets of batteries and chargers. (Plus I was picking up another camera from Nikon Professional Services after I arrived in Sochi.)

Indoor venue lighting has become less of an issue at the Olympics than the first few Games I covered (the first in 1988 I actually shot a lot of chrome!) - newer digital cameras' low-light capabilities are much better. Plus the TV networks have helped standardize the light intensity and the color balance.

This makes my favorite sports shooting lens, the Nikkor 200-400mm f/4 zoom, very valuable. The wide range, and I am not afraid to throw the TV-14 on it, relative small size and weight make it very versatile not only in shooting but traveling.

(Canon shooters - the new 200-400mm zoom with the built in converter I’ve heard is pretty cool too!)

The most important piece of equipment I used in the last days before leaving for Sochi: A small luggage scale my daughter Emma bought in Japan. I’ve had a couple of luggage scales over the years but this one is the best. It has a nice comfortable handle to lift and weigh the bags.

Why just three bags if I could pay for more?

One thing my past Oly experiences has taught me is that transporting 5 – 8 bags around the airport, on a bus, off a bus, walking it possibly several blocks to our media housing complex, up curbs and stairs - in a country that’s never heard of ramps and handicap access is a killer- no matter how old or experienced you are. As my good friends Bob and Ron like to remind me, I ain’t as young as I used to be.

Three Checked bags

Lightware 1629 Case - 48 pounds
• Think Tank Photo TakeOff roller
• Nikkor 400mm f/2.8
• Nikkor 200-400mm f/4 zoom
• 2 TC-14 Teleconverters
• TC-17 Telecoverter
• 2 Nikon MH-26 battery chargers (w/AC cables)
• 4 Nikon EN-EL18 camera batteries

Large Eagle Creek Duffle Bag -- 47 pounds
• Pants (3-jeans and 4-511 Stryke Tactical pants)
• Shirts (mock turtle necks and long sleeve denim); 6 black t-shirts, 6 Neoprene long-sleeve t-shirts
• 22 pair of socks; plus 4 Neoprene liner socks
• 22 pair of underwear; 4 Patagonia Neoprene lightweight leggings; 3 pair of Patagonia mid=weight leggings
• Fleece vest, fleece jacket, long plush "turtle fur" scarf
• Helly Hansen waterproof high-top shoes, Columbia snow boots
• Shaving kit (with first aid items and prescription drugs)

Photo by

A small luggage scale Hanashiro's daughter Emma bought in Japan.
Military Surplus (rectangular shaped) duffle bag - 44 pounds
• Pelican Case
• 2 PacSafes
• 6 US to Euro AC plug adapters
• Large roll of Gaffers tape
• Set of PocketWizard MultiMAX transceivers
• Bogen Friction Arm
• Bogen Super Clamp
• Manfrotto ballhead
• Tri-Kart equipment cart (dropped into duffle at airport check in)

Two Carry-On Bags
• Think Tank Photo ShapeShifter Backpack
• 15-inch MacBook Pro laptop w/ power supply
• Small pouch (2 USB card readers, USB cords, laptop lock
• 2 Nikon D4 camera bodies
• Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom
• Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom
• Kindle e-reader
• Documents (passport, credential/visa, U.S. and Russia Customs forms for the gear

Think Tank Photo ChangeUp v2 belt bag
• Nikon D4 camera body
• Nikon V1 w/ 10-30 zoom
• 2 TTP card wallets with CF cards

Yes I accomplished my goal of just two bags, which took packing and repacking probably 5 or 6 times over the course of the final week before departure.

Do I have the feeling I "left something behind?"

Heck yeah I do…

(Robert Hanashiro is covering his 13th Olympic Games for USA TODAY. You can follow his (mis)advertures in Sochi, Russia via Instagram: and on Twitter: @SptShtr_Bert)

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