Photography Checklist: Pack What You’ll Need!

Posted on 9 Oct, 2014 by Scott Jones
THink Tank Airport Roller with Nikon Gear

Is anything worse than sitting on a plane for hours and hours, then renting a car, getting a hotel, and finally showing up to a race only to find that you’ve forgotten a crucial piece of equipment?

Well, sure, lots of things are worse than that. But this is certainly a situation to be avoided if possible. And the good news is, it is possible to avoid this by having a solid preparation routine and sticking to it.

An important part of your routine is a sports photography checklist, which relieves you of having to remember many important details as you’re packing for your trip.

EVERY TIME I pack for a race, I use the same check list to make sure I don’t forget to do/pack something important. Some of the items on my sports photography checklist are there because at some point in the past, I forgot to pack them! Others are there because at some point I thought, Wow, it would be lousy if I forgot to pack THAT!

At the moment I’m preparing to leave for Phillip Island, so I’m going over my own list right now. I’m going to share my sports photography checklist in the hope that it may help you devise your own, forget fewer things, get better photos, and be a happier person.

First of all, I keep my checklist on my computer in a place that’s easy to find. A checklist is sort of like a helmet. If it’s hard to find and a pain in the neck, you’re less likely to use it every time. SO make sure your list is easy to find.

Next, I recommend composing it in at least two sections. The first section is activities that need to be done ahead of time. At least a couple of days before you leave, take a look at the list in case you need to make a run to the store, and also pay attention to activities that require some extra time, like charging batteries.

When you start working on your packing list, refine the items a race at a time to see what is missing. It will likely take a few trips before your list is complete.

My Checklist

Pre-Packing Activities:
Charge All Batteries – I have more batteries than chargers so it takes some time to do this. I like to have it done a couple of days before my flight.
Change Time Zone on All Bodies – I often forget to do this once I’ve arrived, so I like to change the time zone before I leave as part of my race prep.
Clear All Memory Cards – Sometimes I will use a memory card for family pics or some other job. So before I leave I check all my cards to make sure theres nothing on them I want to keep.
Buy Survival Food – Clif Bars and trail mix. You never know when a late arrival at a hotel will mean there’s no other food to be had.

Packing Checklist:
(Everything on this list is carried either in my backpack or my Think Tank Airport International 2.0 unless noted otherwise.)
Laptop and power cord
Foreign power adapters
Car phone charger – carried along with cables below in a small container to keep related items together.
Old and new iphone/ipad cables

Credential
Parking Pass
Dorna Vest – These three items live in my roller, but I double check that they are all there when I’m checking the camera gear.

(For details about the items below, please take a look at my Gear List.)
D4
D3x
D700
14-24mm
24-70mm
70-200mm
105mm
500mm

500 lens hood – won’t fit in roller, so carried in checked bag.
500mm CPL and Normal filters
Is Arca Swiss plate attached to 500mm? – always good to double check.
UPstraps – since these are often detached, have to check to see they are both in the roller.

Flash
Flash batteries/charger

ND filter

Lens cleaner cloth
Lens blower
Sensor cleaner fluid and at least one swab

Monopod
Is ballhead attached to monopod?
– might be on my tripod!
Monopod Holder – important for my style of using long lens.
Belt and bags – supports monopod holder, carries lens bags.
Rain Gear: Astars mud coat, hydrophobias, umbrella, Northface parka

CF Card Readers with both FW800 cables
Ext SSD Drive and short FW800 cable

Ext USB drive – maybe I should do a post on back up strategy…
Powerbook back up boot drive – not easy to keep this current with latest system and software but I try to do so. I worry about drive failure less with an internal SSD anyway.
Large batteries and chargers
Small Camera batteries and charger

Rentals? – sometimes I rent a specific piece of gear that I don’t own.
Large strap – a spare strap comes in handy from time to time.

Media Docs – if it’s not MotoGP, I will need some documentation to get my credential.
Business Cards – so lame to run out.

Ear plugs – just a quick look in the roller to make sure there are plenty.

Scooter helmet – Needed at some tracks, including Phillip Island!

Memory cards – I keep these in a Pelican case which I carry in my vest. I fill the case when I clear the cards (see above) but I also have to remember to bring the case with me!

Audio recorder with extra batteries

If I arrive with everything above I should be in pretty good shape. Your list will probably have items not on mine, and not everything above will be on yours. But I hope this will be a good example to help you make your own checklist.

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