photo mechanic


I've just finished packing for the Arizona trip and wanted to share what gear I'm taking along and some of my thoughts behind it. I'll break this down into three sections, camera, computer, and accessory.


Nikon D3S, Nikon D700, Fuji X10, 10.5mm, 14-24mm, 24-70mm, 80-200mm, 2x teleconverter, GoPro, SB900, SU800. 

Nikon D3S with a Zacuto Z-1 Pro on a Gitzo Serires 00 carbon tripod

I'm taking three cameras, the Nikon D3s and D700, and my new Fuji X10. I thought about not taking the D700 as a second body on this trip since I will primarily be shooting landscapes and didn't think I would need a second body affixed with another lens for quick reaction. In the end however, I thought if something happened to the D3s, the only backup would be the X10 and while I'm learning to really like that camera, it just does not compare to a full frame DSLR in quality.

I'm also bringing an Nikon SB900 in case I need fill flash especially if I'm shooting during the middle of the day.


Apple 15" Powerbook, iPad, LaCie Rugged Mini 1TB hard drive, SanDisk Firewire 800 card reader, Photo Mechanic, Adobe Lightroom 4.0, Photoshop CS4, Verizon MiFi.

Apple 15" powerbook with LaCie Rugged 1TB drive and SanDisk FW 800 CF card reader.

The plan of course is to process images during the trip, as well as continue to update this blog, so I'm bringing my 15" Powerbook. Simple work flow will be to offload camera cards each day, copying contents to desktop then backing up to a portable hard drive. I will use Photo Mechanic to rename and caption images, then import into LightRoom 4.0, and finish off in Photoshop CS4.

Other than the laptop, I am also bringing my iPad, along with a camera connection kit, on this trip. And it is not just for entertainment, but for practical purposes. Other than the photo apps that may see some use, I rely on the Sun Seeker app which provides you with sunrise and sunset times, shows a map view of sun direction for each daylight hour and 3D views of the solar path. In fact I've already studied the direction of light during the time and day when I will be in certain locations. Two other non-photo apps I will use on this trip are The Weather Channel app and SkySafari 3.


Gitzo Series 00 Carbon tripod, Zacuto Z-Finder Pro, PocketWizard Plus, Blackrapid camera strap, battery chargers, mouse, Belkin surge protector,  Lexar professional 600x 32GB card, Lexar professional 400x 16GB card (2), SanDisk Extreme 16GB, SanDisk Extreme 2GB,  Tenba sandbag

So far it's been pretty straight forward, but the details are in the accessories. I have two tripods, a Bogen Model #3033 that I've owned since 1986. It is a sturdy, dependable tripod, however it is very heavy and not very compact. The other is a Gitzo Series 00 Carbon 6X with a Arca-Swiss Monoball Z1 ballhead. This is a great tripod for travel and backpacking because it is so light, but my concern is that it may be too lightweight, especially for star photography, so I'm bringing a sandbag to help steady along with hanging my backpack should help.

In order to assist with focus at night and to make sure everything is sharp during the day, I'm bringing a Zacuto Z-Finder Pro 2.5x eyepiece which should give some piece of mind as I shoot. For triggering the camera, I'm going to use a PocketWizard Plus. Perhaps a bit of overkill, but without a cable release, this is the next best thing.

The Kelty Redwing backpack with Think Tank change up bag and various Think Tank pouches to keep gear protected during travel.

To transport most of the gear, I'm using a Kelty Redwing backpack. Not a photo backpack you say? That's right. I was at REI and looking at backpacks when the Kelty caught my attention. Plenty of room, good support and the right size to also be used on a two to three backpacking trip. As I've mentioned previously, I use Think Tank test drive bags (now called Lens Changers) and pouches to protect my cameras and lens in the bag. The main compartment has a place to hold my laptop and the front portion has room for my iPad, pens, notebook, phone, etc. This pack also has side pouches to stow additional items plus they have a pass through that will allow me to carry a tripod. The final bag will be a Think Tank Change Up Belt Pack. I've mentioned this bag before in my GOING LIGHT(er) post.

I'll carry on most of the camera gear in the Kelty and the Change Up. Things like chargers, cables and of course clothing will all go in my checked bag.


Equipment used  to cover two day Las Vegas convention.

In the previous post I discussed the idea of going lighter on several upcoming assignments, mostly driven by strict weight restrictions on the final trip. Well as sometimes happens, that final trip has been postponed until later next month, but I do have some initial thoughts from my second trip, one that I went even lighter than I originally anticipated.

To recap, I was traveling to Las Vegas to cover a multi-day convention and made the decision to bring a minimal amount of gear. Not a stretch considering I have covered these events dozens of times and pretty much could anticipate what photos were needed. So I brought one camera body with a fully charged battery and loaded with 32MB and 16MB compact flash cards, two lenses, a flash and a Verizon MiFi and packed it all in a ThinkTank Change Up bag.

The real difference on this trip was that I also brought my iPad for all post production and transmission needs. I have about a dozen apps related to photography loaded on my iPad, but would rely on Filterstorm Pro, mostly because captioning images is a must in order to transmit for publication. Filterstorm does have the ability to post process photos as well, but if I really needed to make some adjustments, I would probably use the Snapseed app.

Getting back to work flow, I used a USB cable to connect the camera to the iPad. When a camera or camera card are connected to the iPad, thumbnails will automatically appear and you then have the ability to import all or select individual images for import. Since I was shooting an average of 200 to 300 photos a day, I choose to select individual images to import. The problem is that there is no way to enlarge those thumbnails, which makes editing a challenge and I ended up importing similar shots just to make sure I could later enlarge and see the details, such as focus.

iPad screenshot of Filterstorm Pro showing IPTC data at left.
After I imported photos, I opened Filterstorm and made the final selection of images to caption and transmit. After renaming the images I wanted to transmit, Filterstorm allowed me to save a caption template which I then applied to those images. Lastly, I opened each image and refined individual captions to reflect what was going on in that specific image. Since much of the information is the same, I did end up using the PlainText app to type the captions, then cut and paste that information into Filterstorm. This proved to be a bit clunky.

Last step was to transmit the images. Again, like caption templates, Filterstorm allows you to set up email lists. Additionally, you can determine what size the final image will be when transmitted and assign that to a specific email address. I set up several email lists, one for, which would receive the uncompressed original, one list of several coworkers that would receive compressed images for use in social media, in our internal publication and lastly, my email address so I could confirm the photos were transmitted correctly.

What lessons did I learn? I was not as fast working on the iPad as I am using the computer. Normally when using a computer I would have PhotoMechanic, TextEdit, and a Web browser open simultaneously, so I quickly switch between programs as I'm working the captions. You have all these programs on the iPad (well not Photo Mechanic, but that is another story), however, switching back and forth between the apps takes more time. When transmitting images the second day I tried to save time and only transmit once, so I selected the three preset emails and hit send. received the images, but caption data was missing, and my coworkers received the email, only the images were missing. I think the problem was since each email address was designed to send different file sizes, it somehow confused the Filterstorm. The first day, and during testing, I transmitted to individual emails and never had a problem.

It was a good experiment and in the end I had several of the photos published. This for sure was a minimal amount of gear and I look forward to working with the iPad more and refining my work flow.


Screen grab from the program Photo Mechanic.
Screen grab from Photo Mechanic.
Something that continues to amaze me is the complete lack of caption information I receive when requesting photography. I'm not talking about photos from a scientist in the field or program manager documenting their technology, rather I am talking about photographs from professional photographers. I'm also somewhat surprised to learn that many photographers don't see this as part of the process when they are hired for an assignment.

Time after time, I have to follow up after the fact just to get some basic information about what I'm seeing in order use the image. No information, no names, no sense of what is going on, means no publication. While adding the who, what, where and when is a basic tenet in the photojournalism community where it is recognized that without proper caption data a photo just can't be used, the rest of the photography world seems to ignore this, or worse, see it as a major inconvenience.

My suggestion to all photographers is to spend $150 on the software program Photo Mechanic. Not only will Photo Mechanic save you time when editing large numbers of photos, it will also allow you to quickly rename, add caption metadata, including copyright information and then copy images to multiple locations. And you can do all of that when you ingest the images from your camera cards. A few minutes spent refining your workflow and you'll wonder how you ever managed.
Set your photography apart and increase your marketability by making sure you gather caption information. Added bonus is that when embedding caption information you are also embedding information about yourself, including photo credit, and if applicable, copyright information.

If you are serious about photography, download a trial version of Photo Mechanic for free, I dare you not to purchase.

UPDATE 2/10/12: Two websites, and tell you everything you want to know and more about what I've described above.