HDSLR in the Field – Recap of The First 70 Days of 99 Day Project Around the World (Tales of an Insomniac)

I woke up at 4 AM this morning after only a few hours of sleep – my body going through some major jet lag after over 22 hours of flying from Sydney, Australia to New York City via Los Angeles. Yesterday, my full day back, was spent taking care of essentials – like getting my gear to Canon for a full check up and cleaning,

Gear for my first go round.

and a visit to the Apple Genius Bar because my new laptop seems to have a living organism living behind the monitor which shrinks and grows depending on the climate I’m in, and of course taking care of my own personal needs.

As I lay awake in the pre-dawn hours, my mind was spinning with thoughts on what I had to get done before heading to South America on Saturday for the second leg of our documentary Opening Our Eyes. I have only 4 days to recuperate, rest up and gear up for the next leg. The bad part is, I’ve only got 4 days – the good part is, I have those 4 days, and can approach the second leg of this journey with the advantage of having a fresh experience in the field to draw from and make some changes in terms of gear I’m taking on the next leg. More importantly, because my turn around is short, I’m able to stay focused and remain in the mindset of the project.

So as I go over the gear that I brought on my first leg with lessons learned in my head and prepare for the next stint, I’ll share my thoughts with you:

• A good tripod is critical – if you don’t have a decent tripod for video, you can’t get fluid movement, so don’t even try. A locked down shot is better than a jerky shot in motion. I needed to travel light with all the flights that I faced, so I went for a carbon tripod with a fluid head that would fit in a suitcase to eliminate the need for another check on bag. So, for this next leg, I’m seriously thinking of taking my larger tripod because I don’t have as many flights where excess baggage charges could mount up.

• You can never have enough batteries when shooting with a DSLR workflow and by that I mean everything from the camera batteries (and buy lots of them if you can find them for the Canon 5D and 7D) to the expendables for the  DT454 JuicedLink audio preamp, which takes 9 volts to the Samson H4N Zoom which takes AA’s.  By the way, speaking of batteries, don’t make the mistake I made once by not powering the H4N Zoom off before changing the batteries. The manual mentions that by doing so, files can get corrupted. A couple of my audio files did get corrupted – the information was there, but it couldn’t be read.

• I’m leaving my over priced Nikon to Canon lens converter, along with my old Nikon glass at home – I never used them – never felt the need for what I was shooting.

• Can’t wait to edit my timelapse material that I shot using the Canon 7D camera and the Canon timer remote controller TC-80N3.

• I want to get more attachments for my GoPro Hero Cam because there are so many ways to use this camera – it’s amazing and I’m having a ball thinking of all the possibilities in how I can use it. The Hero cam will always be part of my gear kit.

• Always check what audio cords you’ll be needing. I embarrassed to say that I carried around my wireless kit but couldn’t use it with the Zoom because I needed a mini to male XLR cord  and didn’t have it.

• Take 10-20% more memory storage than you think you will need when you’re shooting video. Video is a memory glut. I had been warned by some people that the Lacie Rugged hard drives that I were taking with me, didn’t have a very good track record – but as I write this, my content backups from my Lacie Rugged drives ( over 2000 gigabytes (doubled) ) are transferring to my desktop OWC terabyte drives and seem to be fine so the Lacies did their job. However, they are bulky and I’m going to be getting a couple of 500 gig drives that are more compact. Any suggestions for compact firewire external drives?

• Wish I bought the follow focus with my Zacuto rig. It’s expensive but would have been a real added bonus for visually highlighting one of the beauties of these cameras – the depth of field range that they have.

• Also wish I had a portable dolly like the Indislider but just couldn’t fit it in this trip. As it was, there were some items that I didn’t need to take and will be leaving behind this next leg.

• Wish I brought more mini tools – screwdrivers, allan wrenches etc.

• My Blackberry Tour Verizon phone blew me away. Even when I was in the northern hill tribe villages of Thailand, staying in a bamboo hut without electricity and plumbing – I was able to get my email on my phone! I’m impressed Verizon – I really am. Finding electricity to charge my phone was another matter.

• I could not have survived the 30 flights circling around the world i if I didn’t have my iPod. Thanks Apple.

Feel free to comment and share your thoughts of what has or hasn’t worked for you in the field and you can save me from making potential mistakes as I take on my next leg of this Journey August 7th. We are first headed to the Amazon area of Peru and then down to Buenos Aires, Argentina – again two diverse areas in terms of culture and climate.

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5 thoughts on “HDSLR in the Field – Recap of The First 70 Days of 99 Day Project Around the World (Tales of an Insomniac)

    • Gail Mooney August 4, 2010 / 9:15 am

      Hi Mark,

      Can’t say I’m an expert so please do chime in anytime. The G-drive mini is one I had my eye on – that or a Seagate or Iomega.

  1. Jorge Parra August 5, 2010 / 6:03 am

    Dear Gail, it has been a pleasure to read your amazing trip.
    3 suggestions here:

    – for Hard drives, take a look at the Iomega 500 Gb portable drives. They are amazing fast, compact and offer 3 type of connections to the computer. Best Buy would be the first place to get them. I have seen too many Lacies portables collapsing in the hands of friends and collegues.
    -Try to find ( Costco may be a good source) the Eton NOAA radios,(Etón FR600B Solarlink Self-Powered) offered by the Red Cross and other non-profits. Here in Florida, they are offered in Hurricane season as a must-have, since it is a radio unit that is both Solar powered and has a manual crank to self-recharge it without the need of any external connection. In addition, the radio offers the possibility of recharging the cell phones through a USB connection, so this is quite a solution for autonomous cell phone battery recharge. I saw them yesterday at Costco for less than 50 bucks, and got one.

    -Last but not least, please don’t forget to start your overdose of Vitamin B now that you are in the US. There is a huge, massive epidemics of deadly mosquitoe-induced diseases (known as DENGUE in spanish) in South America these days,( 2 members of my family almost die recently in Caracas because of this), and Vitamin B is by far the simplest solution to keep them away, as your skin will smell bad to the mosquitoes, and will stay away from you.

    All the best of luck in this last part of your amazing trip!!

    Jorge

  2. Mark August 12, 2010 / 12:01 am

    Hey Gail

    I’d also recommend the 500GB G-Drive mini.
    I’ve had one used as my itunes master for a year and a half of daily use
    without a hiccup. A second one,6 months old, is also problem free.

    Out of 8 G-drive 1TB desktop drives I have had three total dead in the past
    year so they aren’t necessarily the heros they are made out to be.

    They are pretty, though :>))

    Good luck on the final leg of your trip

    Mark

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