while traveling for work appears glamorous to those that don't do it, trust me, it is not all that it is cracked up to be. while i won't say it's a horrible thing either...there are some perks and silver linings (which i'll cover in my next post)...traveling for work is still just that - work. making travel arrangements, arriving early, security checks, picking up rental cars, checking in to your hotel and finding your work location can all be a challenge depending on who is on the other side of the counter. sometimes it's a breeze, other times you just wonder where the heck do they get these people from?
having done more than my fair share of traveling, i have seen a lot of the good and the bad and have learned to prepare myself for the worst. i'm not a pessimistic person, but being prepared for the worst is what makes traveling easier. at least for me it does. not only are you prepared for the worst, should it happen, but you place yourself in the mindset that you're prepared for anything and everything, which is a much better place to be in mentally than hoping for easy travels only to be disrupted by a flight delay or customer service agent in training. i've seen irate passengers scream at gate agents over a delayed flight. it's not the gate agents fault people. i've seen a passenger cry over a delayed flight. it's not the end of the world. stuff happens. be prepared.
i just got back from a 2.5 week trip that criss-crossed the country. i spent 18 nights in 9 cities and a MD-80 (red eye flight). the first half of the trip felt more like i should have been following the election, spending 8 nights in 6 cities and a plane. instead, i photographed my friend's family and then flew out of SFO to work as a lighting assistant on the college preview issue for sports illustrated. which, by the way, is on the newsstands now!
i was looking forward to the shoot because i got to work with Robert Beck, and his number one side kick Kohjirro Kinno (aka:Kojo). i owe a lot of where i am today to Beck. back when i was a punk kid freelancing for Volleyball Monthly, he helped me out, taught me a few important things, asked me to be his assistant a few times and introduced me to a few people that eventually led me to my Lighting Technician job at Sports Illustrated.
anyways, back to the shoot...had this been a normal cover shoot, i probably would not have been called to fly across the country. normally they would hire local assistants to help out on shoots. however, this was not a typical cover shoot. periodically, SI runs regional covers. for this particular issue, they were running six different covers that would run in 6 different regions. the cover in atlanta would be different than the cover in chicago which would be different than the one in los angeles.
for the covers, Beck shot one of the leading players from the men's and women's basketball teams at U Conn, U North Carolina, Pitt, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Arizona State. i worked on UNC, Notre Dame and Pitt. these are the covers that are being used...
because of the tight schedule, i was the one-man advance team. my job was to prep each location and ensure that the shoot ran smoothly. in addition to being the lighting assistant, i served as the equipment coordinator, location scout and prep person for UNC, ND and Pitt. i helped to arrange for the two sets of 15+ cases of lighting equipment to be shipped from Samy's Camera to UNC and Notre Dame.
i arrived a day early at each location to meet with the Sports Information Director (SID), arena personnel and to make sure all the equipment arrived and checked it all to make sure it was all working properly so that on the day of the shoot, there were no equipment surprises. i also took photos of the location and emailed them to Beck so he could see the location before he and Kojo arrived. i also had to make sure there was enough power available for the lighting equipment because you can't just run a power strip from one outlet to plug in 6 power packs. that would be too easy. instead, each power pack has to be on it's own circuit...otherwise, you'll likely blow a circuit and then you'd have two (or more) lights that wouldn't be working, not to mention a very perturbed photographer, an SID wondering if we knew what heck we were doing and two impatient student-athletes standing around in the dark while we scrambled around looking for two (or more) new outlets. needless to say, it may seem a small issue, but having enough power is pretty essential. most arenas are well equipped, but at one location we were put in the practice gym, which usually aren't as well equipped. this one happened to work out fine.
at UNC, i never saw the dynamic duo of Beck and Kojo as i had to leave for Indianapolis to pick up so more equipment at Robert's and drive it to Notre Dame in South Bend Indiana. after the Notre Dame shoot, i elected to drive the equipment to Pittsburgh rather than ship it to ensure that all the equipment arrived. it eliminated the shipping expense and the anxiety of wondering if it all would get there on time. if it didn't, we'd be screwed because the shoot was scheduled for saturday morning (but changed to the afternoon) and there would be no time to get replacement gear shipped in.
i didn't mind the driving so much. it wasn't all in one day (14 hours total) and i got to see the changing colors of fall in the midwest.
getting to see things outside of Southern California is one of the bonuses of traveling for work.
when i got to Pitt, the SID was surprised at the amount of gear i arrived with. not just because it was 15 cases, but that i was actually able to pack it all in my SUV rental. he, as well as most people, didn't realize how much equipment was needed for a cover shoot. sometimes it amazes me. but we bring what we need and then a little extra, just in case, because you never know what might happen. part of being prepared for the worst.
so why doesn't SI hire photographers who live near the location of the shoots? they could save so much money on travel and shipping expenses. the simple answer is for consistency. as you can see from the covers, they are all very similar. there may have been a little retouching done on the background to clean it up, but for the most part, the cover is the way Beck shot it. if you were to send a detailed lighting diagram, a sample image and hire six different photographers, you would still get six different photos of varying quality that would require more post production work to create a consistent looking cover.
the other obvious answer is that SI has the best sports photographers in the world and even though the price tag to ship equipment and fly everyone around the country may be high, the consistent result is worth the expense. using the same photographer, the same set-up means getting the shot right in the camera and ultimately very little post production work for the art department. quality is of the utmost importance. this is why SI is the best sports publication in the world.
if you want to see the covers bigger, click here to see a multimedia show.
or you can see them here in the SI vault.