MY LIFE AS A TOUR PHOTOGRAPHER

July 14, 2013

Three weeks into the Justin Bieber tour and I have to say this is one of the craziest productions I’ve ever been a part of. With that in mind I thought it might be worth sharing how I create the photographs and film pieces you see out there. From the cameras to the workflow and everything in between, here’s my life as a tour photographer.

TUMI // Thanks to the gentlemen of Hot Chelle Rae I officially made the jump to the world of Tumi a few weeks ago and I’ll never look back. From the solid construction to the ergonomic design, these bags are perfect for life on the road. The split duffel allows me to store all my clothes up top and use the compartment underneath for shoes and my toiletries bag. That may sound like an insignificant detail but when you’re living your life out of a suitcase every single day your peace of mind lies in the details.

TUMI

For my daily run-and-gun I went with the Alpha Bravo backpack. It holds everything I could possibly need in a day. Emergen-C, Moleskin journal, pens, MacBook Pro, iPad, Mophie charger, cash, water bottle, umbrella…the list keeps going but you get the idea. It feels like the storage is unlimited. I still can’t seem to fill all the pockets. You really have to hold it in your hands to understand but it’s built like a tank and is the most comfortable bag I’ve ever used.

All in all, Tumi is a travelers best friend. Worth every single penny.

PELICAN 1650 // Above is a look at the overall layout of the Pelican and this is the only camera case I have on the road. Everything I need is in here from bodies to pocket wizards to live work/backup drives. When you’re constantly on the move it’s important to keep it simple and have quick access. It took a few small tour runs earlier this year to figure it out but I definitely don’t want to be digging through bags searching for batteries or lens filters when something important comes up at the last minute. I’ve found those spur of the moment things usually give you the best content so it’s best to design your setup for easy access. While I’d love to have a shoulder rig or steadicam and a dozen more lenses, it’s simply not practical.

PELICAN

When it comes to stills I’m not partial to Nikon, Canon, Fuji, or any other brand of DSLR. It just so happens that on this tour, I currently shoot with the Nikon D700 and while there are plenty of newer and more advanced bodies out there, the D700 seems to be working just fine. To prove my point here’s a shot from last night;

RF

As for video I tend to shoot 99% of content on this tour with the Canon 7D and the Tamron 17-50 2.8. The 7D isn’t full frame and doesn’t have the top of the line sensor but it works for what I need it to do. Same goes for the lens. Here’s another example showing that setup in action;

As you can see it’s rarely about the quality of gear but the things you’re shooting. Knowing what gets the job done and what works for the situation is invaluable. Once you figure that out you get to spend the rest of your time working out how to take that next project to a whole new level. Less working and more creating.

MACBOOK PRO RETINA + 8TB G-TECH THUNDERBOLT // This is the current dream team when it comes to my digital workflow on the road. I decided to max out the specs on my MacBook Pro Retina seeing as I can shoot anywhere from 3GB to 40GB on any given day and go straight into post work. When you’re pumping that much data through the funnel I’ve always found it best to spend the extra cash up front and save time, energy, and stress later on. Plus, when you’re working with photos and film, how can you say no to that beautiful retina display…

MACBOOK

For my external storage I use drives by G-TECH. I’m not sponsored by the company, I simply started using them at the suggestion of Chase Jarvis and never looked back. In over three years I’ve never had a drive failure. I’ve dropped them, spilled drinks on them, and worked them non-stop for months on end and these drives continue to handle themselves wonderfully.

GTECH

When it came to choosing my main archive hard drive for a year around the world there was no question. I have the drive you see above set to RAID 1 which brings me down to 4TB of space but if all goes according to plan that will be enough space to hold the first six months of the tour.

ADOBE CS6 // I used to be all things Apple from hardware to software. After too many late nights spent trans coding footage and getting frustrated with the lack of intuitive organizational features in Aperture I began looking for alternatives. I began to hear great things about the Adobe Suite and after using it for myself, I immediately made the switch. If you really want to get into the specific reasons behind why Adobe is at the top you should check out Phillip Blooms review on Adobe Premiere. He’s much better at explaining than I am.

ADOBE

When it comes to how I use the Adobe Suite to streamline my workflow:

FILES

I load cards straight into Bridge. I immediately do a mass renaming of files straight onto my archive drive (G-TECH Thunderbolt) based on the custom file structure I’ve built for the studio. Each day of the tour, show day or not, has its own folder.

Inside each folder I break down the content into more specific folders between masters, edits, locations releases, audio, etc.

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FILES-DETAIL

It continues to break down by device model but you get the idea. Once in its device folder each specific RAW photo/video file is structured by DATE_LOCATION_CAMERA_IMAGE#.

Here’s an example: 20130703_DALLASTEXAS__D700_000009.NEF

That way if there’s ever any need to recall a specific show I can simply search for a city along with a rough date and immediately see every piece of content from that date.

iPAD MINI + EASY RELEASE APP // When shooting on the road it’s important to always be up on the legal end of things which is why I always have my iPad Mini loaded with an app called Easy Release. The app is free and you can purchase the ability to customize releases with graphics, text, and specific fields. Not only that but once it’s complete you can send the release to yourself and the talent. That way everyone has a copy and you’re covered.

iPAD

GOPRO HERO 3 // This is fairly new on my end. While I’m not very well versed with GoPro I’ve seen some great stuff from other people and once I get the thing figured out you can count on seeing it being used in future content.

GOPRO

NICHE // This isn’t gear related at all but just as invaluable to life on tour. Living every day in a bus or airport means you don’t always have the luxury of taking a shower first thing in the morning and sometimes not at all. Niche solved that problem. I came across Niche, or as the are now known on the bus “shower in a towel”, a few months back and have used them regularly since. I keep a couple in my backpack at all times. Even if I’ve already showered that day there’s nothing better than using one of these to wipe down my face and hands mid-day and get back to feeling fresh. As long as Niche is in business, they will always have mine.

NICHE

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There you have it. While I didn’t necessarily cover everything I hope this gave you a decent idea of how things happen out here on the 2013 Believe Tour