I’m getting ready to head to JFK to board an American Airlines flight for my departure to Brazil for the 2016 Olympic Games to be held in Rio de Janeiro. These will be my 8th Olympic Games and I’ve learned a few things after having covered so many major Olympic, World Equestrian and Pan American Games for horsesdaily.com. HorsesDaily's CEO Mary Phelps and I did our first Olympic Games together 20 years ago in Atlanta, and the following year her website was launched. Thus began a longlasting friendship and team work working together bringing an insider's perspective on covering the sport.
While not everyone covers events as demanding as these, I still believe that the things I’ve learned from all my travel experiences could shed some light on how to be more prepared for any assignment.
It’s always wise to plan ahead, but sometimes the workload can be so intense preparing to be away for more than a week, that this is not always possible. However, I start weeks and even months ahead creating a check off list and checking off whatever I can, whenever I can.
To begin with, I’ve got an intern (who is just 13 years old and has the computer skills of a veteran). Ananya has been a big help in preparing for the Games and will also help during the Games.
Preparing in advance is important. Little things like reading what was sent to you so you can map out your schedule of where you need to be and when may sound inconsequential, but as much as you think you’ll have time for organizing once you arrive, it never happens. Knowing the address of where you are staying and creating cards to give to taxi drivers (in their language) can be a big help if you don’t want to get lost. And setting up an Uber account is a new addition to that check-off list and a very welcome one. It means you don’t have to pay in cash and the prices are fair.
Before packing, every piece of equipment is labeled with a label maker and includes name, phone, email and country. This way if anything does get lost or left behind somewhere, it’s one more hopeful way to come home with everything you left with. That equipment is expensive and misplacing or losing anything is not an option.
Other details like what clothes to wear. I’ll be mostly wearing Noble Outfitters line of clothing, mostly their tops, vest and jacket, and fun (and very colorful) socks, because they are lightweight and comfortable but also have a bit of style. Also, they have a wide range of sizes, which makes fitting a bit easier when you are petite. Lightweight is really important when you are a journalist, because the equipment we carry already adds a lot of pounds to your baggage. So, wherever you can cut corners on weight is a plus.
For cameras, Nikon is my go to as I love their equipment. I’ll be shooting with two of their latest models. The D5 is perfect for low light, following the action and getting the job done when you put on the right lenses. My go to lenses are the 70-200 2.8 for awards ceremonies and the 200 - 400 for most of the actions shots. Although for cross-country I’m going to give the new Nikon 300mm f/4 lens a try and possibly the latest 80-400 because both are easier to carry if you want to walk around the course and not be weighted down.
For transporting all that equipment, including a new MSI laptop which is lightning fast and weighs in at only 4.2 pounds, ThinkTank is what does the job. For travel days it’s going to be the Airport Roller Derby because the four wheels make it a cinch to travel through airports on departure and their Glass Limo backpack will allow me to carry the 200-400 lens which will leave more space in the roller bag so that all the equipment will fit in both bags. When I first tried on the Glass Limo, I couldn’t believe how comfortable it felt. So often with backpacks I feel it weighing down on my back but despite its contents this backpack is super comfortable.
What’s great about Thinktank is the variety of items they have, from the Hydrophobia Rain Cover (yep, that’s already packed and ready to go), to the Pixel Sunscreen for putting on the computer so you can see the screen in the sun. I’m also going to give the Digital Holster a try. These are the bags you can wear around your waist. Over time I’ve learned that carrying extra things around your waist relieves a lot of the weight from your back. It also makes it handier when you need to change lenses.
If you’ve never tried ThinkTank’s holsters you will be pleasantly surprised. They unzipper on the top so it’s easy to take them out when you need them or put them away when you don’t. Plus there are lots of little pockets to hold cards, batteries and some of the other things and the weight is around your waist and not on your back.
That said, whenever the four-wheeler can go with me, that’s my first option for storing equipment I’m not using at the moment. What’s also great about the Airport is it has a self-contained lock. And what I love about ThinkTank is that you know the gear has been tried and tested by photographers because it all just works. For instance, the Airport front pocket fits a nice sized laptop and lots of the necessities that go with camera equipment.
Now this one is going to make you laugh. We equine journalists sometimes use bell boots as hoods and so I’m going to give the new Gatorbootz by ThinLine a try just in case I end up breaking or losing one of the hoods that belong with the camera.
Finally, when you’re shooting with multiple cameras, it’s good to have a way to manage them and that I do with the SUN-SNIPER Rotaball camera strap. It allows your cameras to hang from straps at your side that permit you to slide the camera around to the shooting position when you need it. It’s especially good for medal shots when you need to use more than one camera and be able to go from one camera to the other very quickly. The strap comes from Germany and is truly innovative.
What other prep is there? Well Ananya has been on the job for about a month now setting up a new computer and loading the go-to programs. Those include PhotoShop, Pro Show Producer, ACDSee, DropBox and Microsoft Office. I’ll be dragging photos into the Dropbox folder for Ananya to help rename with horse and rider so that by the end of the day when it’s time to write stories and send photos, I can put in a name and be able to find the photos I need more quickly.
The time difference on the East Coast is only an hour, so she’ll be up when I send things. Then there’s uploading photos to the website and choosing some special photos to post here on horsesdaily.com.
Looking for those fun and different shots will be my goal for the horsesdaily readers. Since these days so much is out there from other sources, I’m going to be look for those “special” shots.
I’ve traveled with horsesdaily for a long time and this year my focus will be more on photos than on words. So, if there’s something you’d like me to capture, just shoot off an email as I’m happy to do just that (email@example.com). And be sure to check back daily to see the latest photos from behind the scenes at these Olympic Games.
PREPARING THE PROGRAMS
Oh, and before I go I wanted to pass along some information from my tried and true intern Ananya about what she has learned so far in preparing for an Olympic Games. For all you followers who are truly young and not just young at heart, feel free to ask her some questions as well about the experience. Just email me and I’ll forward your requests to Ananya.
Ananya: Working with Diana, has been an incredible experience. I have learned many things, and some of the key factors that are used in getting ready for an Olympic Games. Preparing for the Olympics seems like something that would take only a few weeks, but the Olympics is something that requires an outstanding amount of hard work, and dedication. I am incredibly glad I got to learn these various things from Diana this summer.
So, now it’s time for the journey to begin. My departure is on August 2nd and my return on August 21 st . I hope you’ll take the journey with me, Ananya and horsesdaily.com. And also be sure to email us your comments, questions, or photo wishes.