Photographing a large and complex event like TED2009 isn’t something you can just show up for. Well, you could, but you won’t get good results. Not at all. To do a good job, make the client happy, and set yourself up to make great photographs, you have to do quite a bit of planning and preparation. Unfortunately for me, I only found out that I was going to be shooting TED a week before the event started. To complicate matters, I was away from home on business at the time and slated to return to Portland the day before I needed to be in Long Beach. To make things even more interesting, I already had travel plans to be in New York for the week after TED to shoot the O’Reilly Tools of Change conference.

By the time everything was sorted out and airline tickets were rebooked, I had thirteen and a half hours in Portland to prepare for both TED and TOC. Luckily, this wasn’t my first rodeo. In the days before returning to Portland, I crafted several lists and action plans to make the most of my limited time to prepare. That way, as soon as I got home to Portland, I could simultaneously unpack what I had taken to the Bay Area and repack for Long Beach and New York.

The first thing I pulled together was my camera kit. This is was on my list to go into the bag:

Two Nikon D700 camera bodies Nikkor AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8 G lens Nikkor AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8 G lens Nikkor AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8 G lens Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.4 G lens Batteries and charger for the D700s Monopod Tripod with ball head R-Strap Artic Butterfly sensor brush Lens cleaning paper Rocket Blower Shootsac WhiBal card Compact Flash cards (mix of SanDisk 8GB and 4GB)

This is probably what you’d expect to be on the list. A great range of lenses to cover any situation. Two camera bodies so that I can switch quickly between wide angles and close ups and also survive a failure in a body. The problem was that I didn’t have quite all of this in my kit to pack. If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that I’m in the process of building up my Nikon kit and have been using my Canon kit as backup. It wasn’t practical, however, to haul two systems on this trip. I’ve therefore pretty much had to finish building out a complete Nikon kit before leaving for Long Beach. It was certainly a good thing Portland’s Pro Photo supply is open at 7:30AM on Mondays! I was there first thing before heading to the airport to catch my flight to Los Angeles and certainly made the salesman’s day.

Next up, I pulled together the lighting gear:

Two Nikon SB900 speedlights Orbis ring flash Five Pocket Wizards and associated sync cords Nikon TTL sync cord Rechargeable AA batteries (8 sets of 4) Maha 8 battery charger Two lightweight stands Two umbrella adapters Two shoot through umbrellas Two Super Clamps CTO gels Honl Speed Straps Honl snoots Honl grids Gaffer tape

If I were just shooting TED, I probably would have taken about half of this lighting gear and might have skipped out on the light stands entirely. But, the TOC stage in New York will probably be weakly lit and I’ll have to supplement with my own light on remote triggers. So, it all came along for the ride to Long Beach.

After all that went into a pile, next up was the computer gear:

MacBook Pro Power adapter Time Machine backup drive Two 100GB external drives SanDisk Firewire CF Card Reader Cables, lots of cables Power strip EVDO card iPhone charger cable Business cards

I’ve found over time that bringing along a power strip helps things amazingly. And, you can never have too many FireWire cords or USB cords. As far as the business cards go, I’ve got some lovely new ones in the works, but for this trip am using a batch I had printed up at Overnight Prints.

Finally, there were clothes. Black pants. Jeans. Shirts. Shoes (Ecco!). That kind of thing. I’ll spare you the list, but I did have one so that I knew what to toss into the washer when I got home.

All of this gear and clothes went into three bags:

ThinkTank Shape Shifter backpack for the camera gear and laptop A Pelican 1510 hardcase for most of the lighting gear, cables, and stands My big awesome Eagle Creek suitcase for clothes and the tripod.

The Shape Shifter is a new bag for me, also acquired at 7:30AM on Monday morning. I’ve been wanting a new camera backpack for a while, but hating almost all of the options as bulky or not flexible enough. The Shape Shifter is a new take on the classic camera backpack and so far I’m digging it. I’ll have to write more about it at some point.

So, how’d it go? Did I manage to have everything I needed on site at TED? The answer is that I did pretty well. I ended up using almost everything but the light stands, but those will come in handy at TOC. The one area I totally fumbled on was hard drive space. During the event, all of my images were going onto TED’s Mac Pro towers (and duplicated across multiple disks… I’ll write about the workflow soon as well), but after all was said and done, I had over 200GB of data I needed to pull. Luckily, a 500GB drive was procured and I was able to play a few data shuffle games to get two copies of it all. In the near future, I’ll be standardizing on two 500GB drives for outboard photo data storage.

The other thing I sorely from my Canon kit is my 300mm f/2.8 lens. Of course, it won’t work with my Nikon gear, but there were an entire category of shots that I had to let go because of not having enough reach. Since I was a second shooter and Asa Mathat (the lead shooter) was on the hook for the ultra tight close ups, it wasn’t a big deal. But, in retrospect, I should have rented a 300mm or 400mm super tele from my friends over at BorrowLenses.com. Next time.

So, that’s the gear. Coming up next are posts about how the workflow went as well as some photos from the event!