Quick Tips: Before you go, check these…

The best laid plans of mice and men…

When going on any shooting trip (with cameras folks, not things that go bang), it is a fact of life that the chance of something going wrong is inversely proportional to the number of gadgets you have.

On our recent getaway (courtesy as mentioned before, of Mr Frequent Flyer points), here at Ramada Eco Beach Resort in Broome, we have a large number of them in order to test and report on in use in a real life field operation.

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The list is extensive:

  • 3 x camcorders (Canon G40 HD, Sony AX100 4K, Panasonic WXF1 4K)
  • 1 x Panasonic GH5S
  • 3 x GoPros (models 4,5 and 6 – 5 being in the…
  • 1 x GoPro Karma drone
  • Sony RX0 ultra compact shockproof/waterproof camcorder
  • 360Fly 360 degree camera
  • LaCie CoPilot backup and storage system
  • Logitech Wonderboom Bluetooth sound system

… and various chargers, capacitor “brick”, cables, housings, mounts and a Joby Gorillapod. All fits snugly inside a decent carry all that is waterproof with a bunch of external and internal zip pockets.

Things to look for BEFORE going out of the door.

Power: This is the bleeding obvious but it is of course important to make sure that all batteries are charged (including spares), and if you have one, a capacitor “brick” is also fully charged and can be connected to your device(s) in an emergency.

Memory Cards: I tend to make sure all cards are clean (empty) and formatted before I go, and after even a single use, all files copied off (hence the LaCie CoPilot) for safe keeping and then reformatted. I keep one set of cards per device and label them accordingly ie: teach GoPro has its own card(s) with the volume label set for that specific camera. I also have a waterproof zippered pocket carrying case to keep spare cards in (as well as adaptors for MicroSD cards).

Drone: This may be Karma specific, but once I have reached a location (in this case, Ramada Eco Beach 140Km south of Broome in Western Australia), I tend to reorient the drone to the GPS, make sure all batteries (drone and controller) are fully charged, and that the controller and drone are “talking” to each other. I also preset the camera angleso you don’t end up with vision solely of the sky or the ground due to be unable to see the controller LCD in bright sunlight.

360Fly: As this is primarily driven by smartphone software, I check that both the Wi-fi and Bluetooth connections are operational. It also good form to have the smartphone recording the footage as well as the 360Fly for backup safety. Of course the same principle applies if you are using any of the “action cameras” that also rely on Bluetooth / Wi-fi.

Mounts: Check all connectors are working OK, all screws are tightened and anything that needs lubrication has been treated. I keep a tube of ABU fishing reel oil on hand for this as well as a small tube of Vaseline to rub around all waterproof seals.

Lenses: Make sure all lenses are clean!

Microphones: Many external microphones (we have some Rode and Sennheiser handheld and wireless mics) use battery power. It is easy to leave these left on after a shoot, so double check they are all OK with fresh batteries.

Other: From Coles or Woollies, you can buy cheap plastic airtight containers and I have a number of these for camera gear (and they are great for fishing gear too!) In these are an assortment of spare USB cables, both ‘AA’ and ‘AAA’ batteries plus a 9v (for the Rode mics),  lens cleaning wipes and a fine brush, jewellers screwdriver set and small pair of pliers.

Conclusion

Once I have checked everything, I get Jacqui to do a separate check to make sure. There is nothing worse than being 10Km from the nearest power point, or out in a boat fishing or whale watching and something basic you forgot goes wrong.

Like everyone (I hope!) over the years I have dropped batteries overboard, lost SD cards in the sand and even dumped a drone at sea 5km off shore (admittedly this was a GoPro Karma battery failure, but still …) and every one of these mishaps could have been averted with a bit of forethought.

Postscript: Another REALLY good idea I have only discovered today , is to carry a small rolled up mat with you – about the size of an A4 page. That way if you have to pull something apart, or put it down, it is relatively safe. (Yesterday I knocked the cover from the Sony RX0 between the cracks of the swimming pool here at the resort, never to be seen again. It IS supposed to be attached, but the flimsy plastic hinge had snapped making it free standing … are you listening Sony design gurus?)

Postscript Postscript: Also check once formatted and clean AND inserted in a camera / camcorder the card works. Today, while attempting a high tide flyover with the GoPro Karma drone, the card in the camera refused to initialise. This caused a delay while getting new card from the room … not a big deal, but if we had been 10Km offshore for example…

(Footage from Karma Drone with GoPro Hero 5 at Eco Beach at low tide.

The tidal rise and fall here is 10 metres +!)

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