Pool is a common term in news coverage where 1 photographer or media outlet, still or video (most often 1 of each), is asked to provide images/feed for the rest of the media as opposed to each media outlet having their own crew. In Cincinnati we have 3 newspapers, 4 tv stations, and 2 radio stations – that’s a minimum of 13 people – each needing still images as well as video. Pool is typically used for sensitive events such as large trials, funerals, and the like where having that much media in one location is just not doable. It puts pressure on that single person or team to provide images/video as quickly, professionally, accurately as possible with the best quality for use by local outlets as well as Associated Press and others nationally and worldwide.
Media have their own crews and still photographers positioned in public areas, but pool photographers are the only ones allowed into the private services like the church or cemetery. When we are called, Glenn acts as primary photographer – granted access to nearly all of the services to document for the families as well as the media, and I take over logistics, transportation, and second camera position opposite his if possible.
Logistics for Pool Still Photographer involve getting quality photos captioned and uploaded to some form of efficient sharing as quickly as possible. Glenn & I have been ask to be pool photographers for many situations – most recently for the fire and police funerals of Cincinnati Fire FAO Daryl Gordon (April 2015), Cincinnati Police Officer Sonny Kim (June 2015), and Hamilton Firefighter Patrick Wolterman (December 31 2015) by the fire and police departments themselves.
There were several times during those 3 funerals Glenn couldn’t shoot a key moment because of his position – his view was blocked. Thankfully we work so well together I could anticipate and be on the other side of the action. During Patrick Wolterman’s services, Glenn was headed to the balcony to shoot down on the medals being given, and was not able to capture a critical moment during the Union President’s speech. I was in the back uploading but still paying attention, and when Glenn told me he was going upstairs, was able to capture that moment.
Immediately if not sooner
To share images quickly as possible, Glenn hands off sd media cards at various intervals to me to edit, caption, and upload images to the media sharing folders. For Sonny Kim and Daryl Gordon’s funerals I used my iPad to import, edit, caption and share images. It’s small and lightweight – a big concern when you’re on scene for hours and hours of time. The iPad fits into my everyday black bag – nothing special. A laptop would have been VERY difficult – no matter how small. Built-in storage is adequate, if you’re careful and don’t opt for the base model. I can use it anywhere and connect to cell service without extra parts. Longer battery life than laptop. I didn’t upload from the cemetery – no out of the way spot, and WAY too cold, plus we live only 4 miles away.
Here’s what I used to share images:
- iPad Air2 with cellular connection. I actually had to increase my data yesterday as we left for the services, calling them as we pulled out of the drive to make sure I could upload many high resolution files ($40 on top of my typical data).
- Apple SD card reader
- Photos app to import. Be SURE to hit KEEP after checking images to ingest.
- Filterstorm Neue with preset default caption started the day before as default caption and as little editing as possible. More on that later.
- I was not permitted to use an external keyboard during services due to the noise of keys tapping but I really like my Zagg Keyflexx and use it whenever possible.
- Keyboard text shortcuts set up day before with names of key persons that would be involved in services (helps prevent typos when you’re trying to type quickly and accurately with no time to spare) – see Settings – General – Keyboard – Text Replacement see photo below
- Check your storage on your device! I cleared a bunch of music (huge amount of storage), as well as many non-essential apps and other data. Always be sure to totally shut down, wait a few minutes then restart your device to clear the cache and make the storage available.
- Dropbox – folder created and sent to media liaisons well before the event. Be sure to instruct anyone sharing that folder to COPY images and NOT drag files out of the folder (which happened yesterday). I also upgraded by Dropbox account to Pro before the event ($100).
Even before we got called to be pool, we were reviewing our gear. We had 3 camera bodies, a few new lenses, a few old lenses – NOT enough to cover! I grabbed car keys & drove to Indy to pick up a new Nikon D7100 camera body (holiday rebates – yay!) and 70-200 f2.8 “bread & butter” lens as Glenn calls it – our old one was over 10 — ancient! Glenn had used it recently for a holiday event and was “unhappy”. Yes, the updated new one is $2000 but I’m thankful for $700 in trade ins. Glenn was pretty hesitant, but I’m working on total faith we’d have enough work…
That would give us EACH 2 cameras – one wide, one telephoto. We would be properly able to cover services if the phone rang – which it did as I was leaving the house.
Then the unexpected happened! Always expect the unexpected right? The brand new Nikon body was defective out of the box (I know! What?! I’d looked at specs but not feedback – in a bit of a hurry!) Return shipping $25. So ALWAYS do your homework – check feedback, and try the gear at the store. We’d been buying refurbished so never had trouble – they’re checked by humans before they leave the factory the 2nd time. UGH!
That meant I still needed wide. Yes I could probably borrow something but… We ended up with a mirrorless Sony a6000 body and wide lens. No it’s not at all the same as an SLR but it IS very discreet. And yes. Getting a totally foreign camera the day before IS crazy but it would be my wide angle and I’d have my iPhone6 for backup. Plus Glenn would be “primary” photographer as usual. NEVER capture a big event without backup gear!
- Nikon D600
- Nikon D610
- Nikon 200-500mm lens $1400 see below
- Nikon 70-210 f2.8 $2000 (refurb is $1899 not much different – you pay for “bread & butter”)
- Nikon 18-35 FX but works with DX as well $750 new
- Nikon D7000
- Nikon 70-300, $600 new but $299 refurbished (ED glass, VR, and my favorite M/A switch – you can tweak focus in AF! Great for sports & wildlife!)
- Sony a6000 with 16-50 $549. see below
- 4 Lexar 32 GB high speed pro cards (I had just ordered 4 last week) Fast cards are critical as Glenn was shooting simultaneous to 2 cards so he could hand 1 off to me.
Long Glass Rare as Hens Teeth
Nikon’s new 200-500 Telephoto lens has a long wait list. As soon as I heard about it I wanted my name on the list, contacting our friends at Roberts in Indy right away. Thankfully we were able to get one, trading in my 80-400 and a few other things… I was especially glad to have it as news of the Paris attacks spread worldwide. We never know what’s next, and if anything ever happened here, I wanted to be prepared – in more ways than 1. With Glenn’s decision to leave the newspaper, we definitely needed long glass “just in case.”
I also wanted to get one for wildlife, living less than a mile from over 2000 acres of parks in the middle of the greater Cincinnati area. I’ve seen eagle, hawks, all types of heron, mink, and more right near home. Plus there’s this dream of doing wildlife photo workshops….
Of course I would much prefer wildlife to news for this lens but it was perfect for the cemetery – allowing Glenn to blend into the line of color guard personnel and still be able to capture key moments like the presentation of the flag. He used a sturdy manfrotto monopod, trading with the wide lens off instead of the 70-200.
Trading with the wide lens is much better as you typically only need a few wide shots, but many detail images. This allowed him to continue to capture anything that happened while he was switching. The price of $1400 may sound like a ton of money to a non-pro but too low and slow (f5.6) to a pro sports shooter who uses $5k lenses. We fall in the middle…
First Impressions of Mirrorless Sony a6000
It’s VERY different than a dslr!
- very discreet
- pocket size
- P A S M on top
- hot shoe
- quick exposure control
- easy ISO access
- sharp lenses
- customizable buttons
- keep hitting shutter to wake it up
- slower startup than SLR
- mirrorless controls are VERY different
- more ISO noise
- smaller sensor
20 More Tips
- Dress appropriately! You need pockets, appropriately respectful clothing (indispensable black suit!), shoes to keep you comfortable warm dry that also look nice and enable standing for a VERY long time as well as move quickly without pain!
- Make sure you have workable gloves (made sure Glenn had his for cemetery) and warm enough clothing (as much as we could anyway – still froze!). I purchased a huge scarf the day before and was glad I did!
- Take backup shoes & coats! I remembered my boots in case I had to walk a long way in the mud, but forgot my wool coat that morning. Thankfully I could go right by the house on the way to the cemetery.
- You’ll probably be out in the cold for HOURS so be prepared. You can’t shoot great photos if you’re thinking about how cold you are! Plan for wind too – it was brutal yesterday! Always wind-blocking jackets, gloves!
- Bathrooms may be few and far between – plan accordingly! Go more often than you need when you can.
- Check weather, but be prepared for everything anyway. There was no precipitation in the forecast but it snowed. Hand warmers – required! Foot warmers would have been a great idea yesterday!
- FOOD! Again being on location for hours you won’t be able to eat. We keep water bottles, snacks, granola bars and more in the car all the time. Since I was playing transport I could get food in between but for Sonny Kim’s funeral we were in the procession riding along – no access so I was glad I had granola bars in my bag – plus extras for the guys I was riding with.
- Batteries! Extra camera & flash batteries for cold weather are critical! Thankfully the Sony plugs into a standard USB connection so I plugged that and my iPad in between church & cemetery. We didn’t need flash yesterday thanks to the overcast skies. Be sure to put fresh charge on all devices and batteries!
- Fresh cards! Make sure you download all your media cards at least a day ahead and reformat! Check teeth on SD cards – make sure nothing’s broken and everything’s working!
- Pack light but Pack Extra! Extra hand warmers, water, and especially snacks will go a long way to help the folks helping you – think of others when you’re preparing and packing! Take extra gloves,… they’ll remember!
- Funeral kit: lint roller (yes I rolled a firefighter in the parking lot on the way in to the church), extra packs of tissues, mints, safety pins, mophie battery for iPad/iPhone/camera
- Make sure you can carry it! Thankful for iPad and small camera. Yesterday was not bad at all compared to past funerals but Glenn couldn’t feel his feet walking back to the car at the cemetery. Even the short walk hurt. Think about being cold and tired at the end of the day – would you still be able to carry it all?
- Practice! Check dropbox and filter storm – play with it so when you HAVE to do it you know it works! Do a test run at least a day ahead.
- Phone list! Make sure you have contact info in case something goes awry – like someone drags all the photos out of the dropbox folder!
- SAVE YOUR PHOTOS – filter storm will save images to the photos app as well as send them to dropbox – after you caption & upload – SAVE A COPY!
- Back up your photos!
- Edit down to best of the best first and key moments FIRST! Then go back to the 2nd tier.
- Have a plan in place! Plan routes, photo sharing, etc ahead! Drive by locations! Set up a link or post, hashtags, … ahead of time.
- Do as much work as possible before of the event! Check the keyboard tip at the top! Use text expander or another text replacement tool to prep social posts if possible.
- Have plenty of cards with your contact info.
Glenn’s interview for WLWT (better to knock on our door after an exhausting and emotional day than to go to the fire house and interview fellow firefighters)