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|| News Item: Posted 1998-12-05

Tricks of the Trade
By Robert Hanashiro

The "great shrinking carry-on" has been the topic of great debate on one of Kodak's photo forum lists recently and there's one thing I can guarantee: pissing and moaning won't make the situation better.

Some of the silly proposals bounced around this forum include: getting special dispensation from the airlines for working photographers to check more and carry-on bigger bags (not going to happen); boycott difficult airlines (what are you going to do, drive from LA to Chicago for that ball game?) and allowing photographers to board planes first so we have more access to overhead baggage space (I can't even upgrade with certificates these days, do you think they'll let us on first with a coach ticket?).

When traveling, staff photographers at USA TODAY carry-on enough equipment so we are prepared to work as soon as the plane lands. That means cameras and lenses and computer gear to edit and transmit goes on the plane with us.

As I wrote earlier, we have to travel lighter and most of all, travel smarter. What follows is by no means the only way to travel, however, after spending over150 days on the road the past 12 months (and doing this for about 9 years), I may be able to lend some decent advice to road warrior newbies.

-Pack only what you need. Can you get by with a 400 2.8 and a 1.4 converter instead of bringing a 600mm too? However, there is a delicate balance, bringing an extra SCSI cord for the scanner is ALWAYS wise and you have to have enough film to work.

-Consolidate. Now days, I use Lightware's Travel Kit Case and drop a 400mm, 300mm, extra bodies, 2 monopods and other smaller items into it. I have an old bathroom scale in my garage and I use it to make sure I come in around 60 pounds or so.

-Ship when you can. Is spending $60 to ship a 600mm any different than paying $50 to United for excess baggage? No.

-Fanny packs. You can usually get away carrying on your PowerBook case and your Domke bag AND have a small to medium fanny pack on (especially if it's hidden by a well placed jacket).

-A Porter Case. I know, I know, it's not well made, but it sure is a helluva concept: a roller case that can convert to a cart. On one day trips to shoot games, I pack the Porter Case with a 400mm, 1.4 converter, 2 zoom lenses, monopod and 2 DCS 520 bodies. The case is 14"x22"x8", so it should fit the new carry-on limits. My second carry-on is a computer case. (To check out the Porter Case: )

-Skycap "tips". While this doesn't work at every airport and every airline, it still is a viable method of getting an extra case or two check curbside. Generally $10-20 a bag over the limit will get results.

-Photo backpacks. The one complaint I have with them is that I tend to over pack them. For one day trips to games, I can get a 400 2.8, 2 digital bodies, 2 zooms, small flash and a monopod in my medium Tenba backpack. But it weighs a ton! I know some shooters using the large Tenbas who pack the same amount of gear AND a PowerBook! That's a hernia waiting to happen!

- Research rental houses in the area. Sometimes it's easier to rent what you need rather than carry it all. That's especially true with large lighting jobs.

- Eagle Creek's Pack It system. It looks like a gimmick, but it really works. Eagle Creek has designed a garment folding system that no only organizes the clothes you pack to go on the road, but also compresses them and keeps them relatively wrinkle free. They come in three different sizes and are available where ever Eagle Creek products are sold (I bought mine at a sporting goods store).

- Don't unpack. If you're like me, you've left clothes hanging in hotel closets or in dresser drawers. Now I don't put anything in hotel drawers and leave them in the Eagle Creek Pack It. That goes for camera gear too: I once put a camera body in a dresser drawer to "hide it" from the maid. Of course when I checked out the next day, I forgot to get the camera. The maid was nice enough to have it waiting for me after I had the cab turn around about 1/2 a mile form the airport!

- Chain and lock that laptop. The days of leaving your PowerBook set up and ready to use in the press room without some security are gone. I have emails and calls from several colleagues offering tales of woe after having laptops and accessories stolen from press rooms across the country. (Hey, that PowerBook G3 is a helluva lot better than that old Radio Shack!)

- Check your gear immediately after arriving. This is especially true with computers and scanners. I can't tell you how many times I've been in the Ap work room and heard photographers complain that his computer or scanner isn't working properly. When you're at the game (and especially at halftime) it's almost too late to find out you don't have a working transmitter. I also recommend not putting laptops and scanners in checked bags.

- When in St. Louis, ALWAYS ask the Ap's James Finley for a dinner recommendation.

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