Road trip time. Where are the pack mules?
Traveling is a major pain for a sports photographer. As you can see there is quite the load of equipment involved in our first road game of the season to El Paso where KU will play UTEP Saturday night.
Even when I was younger and had a lot less equipment, I never enjoyed traveling with camera gear. I once spent 10 days on the road in five different cities photographing baseball for a national magazine. Hauling long lens, tripods and much more really wasn’t for me. That was back in the day when airlines still treated a flyer well, flying was still fun and there was a very good chance your checked baggage would actually emerge onto the carousel at the right airport.
Imagine what it is like for Sports Illustrated photographers? One of the unique sites at any NCAA basketball location is the load of cases SI has spread along the baseline the days before the games. Strobes, clamps, cords, cameras and lens are everywhere. Some assistants with Sports Illustrated actually make a good living taking care of all this for SI photographers.
Due to airline restrictions, most of the huge cases are now shipped via FedEx. Imagine the monthly expense reports and the total cost of such expeditions? As recession and waning interest in print journalism hit all forms of print media, it is no wonder that SI’s photographers are traveling less and less.
No doubt I have it pretty good right now. Most of my work travel is by charter. Those charters fly out of Topeka’s Forbes Field. When the flight from El Paso lands at some very, very early hour Sunday morning, it will be a ten-minute trip home instead of an additional bus ride to Lawrence.
That doesn’t mean my gear isn’t in danger. In 2007, Laura and I traveled with the men’s basketball team to San Jose for the NCAA Regional Finals. Our gear was packed in heavy duty, hard plastic cases loaded with padding. When one case was opened in the arena, three cameras and two lenses were broken. We managed to piece together enough gear to get through the two games with KU losing to UCLA to end the season.
On charters, the ground crew is often comprised of anyone that happens to be around. Managers and passengers help as needed. Gear gets moved into buses fast. No coach or team likes to kill time sitting on a tarmac waiting on luggage. The only explanation for the damage to our gear in San Jose would be that the case fell from the equipment bay of the large chartered jet and fell to the ground landing on an edge. The broken gear all suffered compression damage.
The way the Big 12 football schedule works, with changes in schedule every two years along with longer trips into Texas, there are seasons when Laura and I can drive to all the conference games. This year we must fly everywhere. Later today, we’ll drag out all the cases and luggage, load up and go.
This summer when we visited Kelly in Washington, D.C. we actually used small carry on bags and checked no luggage. We strolled through the airport and jumped right onto the Metro. We were refreshed and not drenched in sweat from hauling gear like a Himalayan Sherpa.
So, that is how most people travel? How strange.