When preparing for a shoot, a trip or a trip to a shoot, one must visualize the known knows and anticipate the known unknowns. A little bit of planning plus confidence in your abilities and you are off to a good start.
Recently I have discovered Live Maps - a more detailed online mapping service - excellent when planning a driving route in unfamiliar territory. Normally Google maps with and without the satellite view is adequate. But sometimes it is hard to tell where highway exit and entrance ramps are - fairly important to have nailed down before getting in your rental car in a strange town. See the following examples of the same location to see the difference:
bird's eye view:
Is it real..or is it Microsoft? Hey, that's catchy.
Especially good feature for a close-up view of exact destination:
This week was a quick 24 hour trip to Toronto - just as much traffic as New York but more spread out. I flew out of LaGuardia in NY - a trip I can do with my eyes closed. No sign of any geese so that's a good start. An Air Canada mini jet makes for a quick 1 hour jaunt across Lake Ontario - wait for the tripod tube, and hit Canadian customs. When carrying commercial goods, even if they are not for sale, you need to declare your items to customs. There are two ways to do this: 1. Purchase and properly use a ATA Carnet, or 2. Get an invitation letter from your client and hope that is enough. I went with option 2 since all I had with me was my operating room tripod - I rented the rest of my gear locally. If carrying my own camera I would go to customs in the US before departing, get the Carnet stamped or whatever, and do the same in my destination country, then reverse the process for the return trip. Next time you have an international trip here you go: http://www.atacarnet.com/
Speaking of customs, I get a bit paranoid about losing my passport, so a trip like this calls for my travel pants. The Zippered pocket is roomy enough for wallet, passport, phone, pen and plane ticket.
Now for the exciting part. 1 hour of flying + 3 hours of driving = not much fun.
First stop, downtown Toronto to Vistek, the Bexel equivalent of Canada. Picked up a HVR-V1U and a JVC 9" monitor.
Next stop hotel about 15 miles North of downtown. The maps made it look pretty easy. The maps did not however depict the wall-to-wall traffic in all directions. Oh well, good thing I left plenty of time in the schedule. One advantage of traffic congestion is the opportunity to drive around neighborhoods and check out the local architecture. Toronto as it turns out has some pretty classy areas, with lots of brick.
As usual, I choose a hotel with free coffee in the lobby, and within walking or short driving distance of shopping/dining. Since it was only 6pm, I had some time to kill and no laptop. I found a bookstore and then a wine bar/restaurant. Drumroll please...and here as expected, is one the famous Mike Cohen camera phone food pictures:
Now to the hospital for the shoot. 6:30am - a late start! Three patients on the schedule, huge operating room, helpful nurses - we like nurses! - life is good.
This I can do with my eyes closed - the "known knowns." Change into scrubs, setup the camera and monitor, get the right angle, ask questions, follow the action, drink coffee. This particular institution offered complimentary coffee, snacks and lunch for not only the staff but for the patients. Nice!
I reversed course - gear in car, drive back to Vistek, return the gear, browse the 3-levels of photography heaven...Turns out the EX1 and EX3 are a lot bigger in person, and very poorly balanced for hand held use.
I don't get too much time to visit B+H in NY, so any time I can browse such a showroom I'm a happy camper.
...then gas up the rental car, find the rental facility, van to the airport, and check-in. I generally book late flights home, not knowing the actual schedule until a few days before the shoot - too late to book tickets a reasonable rate. No worries. Air Canada has a pretty fair pricing system - $50 to change to an earlier flight to the same destination.
You actually go through US Customs at the Toronto airport - presumably there is such a volume of US bound passengers the NY airports would be overwhelmed. Thanks Canada, always thinking of us!
With an hour to wait I spent my remaining Monopoly money on food, got on my plane - this time an Airbus - read a little, slept a little - landed 3 hours earlier than originally planned - luggage, car, yadda, yadda yadda...
Home by 9:10pm as opposed to 12:30am. Very nice indeed.
Having had a shoot on Friday before Memorial Day Weekend, I shall now return to the office after a week to capture and edit and then continue planning the next shoots wherever that may be - one thing's for sure, it won't be anywhere near home!
In summary, adequate planning combined with actual feet on the ground experience makes the knowns confirmed and the unknowns into known knowns. You know what I'm saying?
Thanks for reading.