Behind The Scenes: Pre-Flight Pre-Race Photography Preparation

Posted on 23 Mar, 2015 by Scott Jones
Photography Preparation

I keep hearing from readers how much they enjoy my Behind The Scenes stories and info, so here’s what goes on around here before I get on a plane and head to a MotoGP race. Can photography preparation and packing be interesting? Let’s find out…

The first race of the 2015 MotoGP season is a week away, which means I’m about to board a plane and head to the Middle East. A lot of things have to happen before I leave for a race weekend. And since this is the first race of 2015, I pay extra attention to each of the many details because there’s no telling what items may have wandered away during the off season.

For example, last weekend I pulled some gear out for a one-day motocross shoot. Then yesterday I had some different kit out to shoot my elder daughter’s softball game. When things are coming and going out of my roller like this, it’s easy to leave an important item lying on my work table or in the truck.

But before I start going over my checklists to pack, a fair bit of work has already been done. Travel preparation begins nearly two months before the race when I book my flight, hotel and car rental. Each these can be affected by whether or not I’m sharing any of them with colleagues. In general the best airfare hits around 6 weeks before departure, so I have my calendar set to remind me to start looking at fares well ahead of time.

I also make sure my passport isn’t going to expire any time soon. Turns out I have until early 2017, so I just set a calendar reminder for November, 2016 to make sure I get my renewal application in right after Valencia.

In the same box where I keep my passport between trips, I have quite a few envelopes with currencies from the different countries I visit. Just found about $45 in Qatari Riyals, which I’ve tucked away in my back pack.

Ready For the Gear

As the departure date approaches, several prep lists come in handy. Beyond the regular type of travel packing, as a photographer I have some specialized things to attend to. A previous post explains my Photo Packing Checklist, but Losail is a special place, being the only night race and the first race of the season. So things are a little different as I prepare for Qatar.

Since Losail is the only circuit at which I’ll for sure use a strobe, I make a point to have two sets of freshly charged batteries ready, one inside the flash and the other in the zippered ThinkTank Photo pouch. I also make sure to have the battery charger in my suitcase.

Though my Think Tank Airport International 2.0 roller holds a bunch of stuff that I rarely remove without putting it right back, I always check that certain things are there before I leave. I want to make sure I have: my MotoGP hard card and parking pass; some cash in $, €, £; business cards; US State Dept Trusted Traveler ID card; various loyalty program cards; United drink coupons (this year’s are a bit larger than last year’s for some reason); tools to replace HDD in my MacBook Pro; Cat5 cable; ear plugs; Chapstick; photocopy of my passport in case it gets lost or stolen; more ear plugs.

All of the above items are zippered into pouches on the underside of the cover. Beneath them, in the larger compartments, go various items from my Photo Packing Checklist; two bodies, various lenses, etc.

But in addition to the gear, I also include: a clean shirt, underwear, and socks, just in case my suitcase decides to take the scenic route to my final destination. In my backpack, along with other photo gear from the Checklist and my laptop, iPad etc, I have deodorant, a comb, and some Aleve to alleviate the pain of lost luggage.

Usually I also carry my photo vest in the roller, but as we’ll be getting new ones at Losail, last year’s stays home for this trip. We’ll also be getting new hard cards and parking passes, but the old ones come with in order to get me into the circuit on the first day so I can collect my new creds from the Dorna office.

Losail doesn’t require a helmet for scooter riders, so that stays at home. Also not packed (for this one race only) are my various rain protection items. Losail is the only night race, but it’s also the only race where rain stops a session, due to the reflecting lights off the wet tarmac. So my Alpinestars mud coat is the only rain item I’ll bring, just in case there’s a sudden downpour. I can cover up, but I won’t need to shoot in the rain, so no camera covers will be needed.

I also won’t need my circular polarizers or my neutral density filter. Too much light is never a problem at Losail for MotoGP.

Beyond the gear and other items I’ll need for a successful trip, I also load some shows or movies onto my iPad, make sure I have a book or two to read, and include a couple of snacks for the flight. Sitting there for hour after hour is a lot easier when you know you’ve remembered everything you’re going to need when you get set to work a long way from home.

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  • Tim 2015-03-23

    Do you bring a microphone and do video from your DSLR?

  • Scott Jones 2015-03-24

    Hi Tim, thanks for the question. I do not shoot any video with my DSLR because of the restrictions Dorna places on credentials. I have a still photo credential only. Video is a separate entity and require a separate credential process.

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