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My buddy Jeff Revell, who lives in Northern Virginia, invited me to come up for the day to shoot the International Gold Cup Horse Race, held each year in Great Meadow near The Plains, Virginia (some of my shots from the event are shown here—click on them for larger views).

It was a quick trip for me; I flew up first thing in the morning, and back that same evening, but it was totally worth it. We had a wonderful day—-absolutely perfect weather, full access photo passes, lots of laughs (as is always the case when Jeff and I get together), and access to a wonderful hospitality tent that was packed with yummy hospitality. What a great way to spend a Saturday!

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My Sport Photography Gear Air Travel Test
I didn’t have time to buy a new camera bag (though I got some great leads from you guys after my last NFL shoot travel trials), but I came up with something that worked surprisingly well in the interim. My problem was the same; I needed at least three carry-ons, but of course, the limit is two (one large, one small). Here’s what I take for a sports shoot (minimum):

  1. My camera bag, with body, lens, backup stuff, etc.
  2. My Mac laptop
  3. My Think Talk Photo gear belt system
  4. My 200-400 f/4 zoom lens (which has a carrying case of its own).
  5. My Gitzo Monopod
  6. My Husky Gel Knee Pads

So, here’s what I did (as seen below [photo by Jeff Revell]–click for a larger version):

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I used my rolling Pelican Case Cruzer again (by the way; I learned that the Case Cruzer is made by a third-party that customizes Pelican cases, a company called aptly enough; “Case Cruzer” (link) and not by Pelican themselves), and that covered me having to have a separate camera bag and laptop bag. I put the 200-400mm lens inside the Cruzer, but to make the D700 fit vertically, I had to remove the Battery Grip. Hidden under it is my Epson P-5000 (which I use for on-location back-ups). I also have two backup batteries for my Laptop in there as well.

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Now, here’s where I tried something new and it paid off: since I wasn’t spending the night, I didn’t check any bags, so I had to find a way to get the Think Tank Photo Belt System there, so I put it inside the empty Nikon lens bag. One big benefit of this is; it has an outside holder for the monopod (as seen above). Then, I attached my kneepads to the outside of the bag, and that was all it took; I had everything in two bags; and best of all, the 2nd bag weighed much less than normal, since the lens wasn’t in the bag.

It’s not pretty, but it worked!

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This was also my first outing with the long-awaited new Hoodman Loupe 3.0, which lets you see your LCD in direct sunlight. (that’s me using it above—photo by Jeff Revell). A lot of the photographers out there were asking me about it (and borrowing it), and every one of them said the same thing; “I’ve got to get one of these.” I’ve still been using the older Hoodman Loupe, but it doesn’t fully cover the new larger 3″ LCDs found on most new mid to high-end DSLRs. The new Loupe doesn’t really seem much larger than the original (which is good), but the unit, with it’s built-in diopter for getting perfect focus on the screen, feels really well made—-it was worth the wait.

One of my readers, Dave Bergman, is a regular shooter for Sports Illustrated, and he shared a great post from his blog about how he packs for a sports shoot, and if you’re into this stuff, it’s definitely worth check out (here’s the link).

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The Press Passes
Getting the photo passes was easy; there was a section on their Web site where you could just apply for a freelance photo pass–after the event you just have to give them a few of your best shots for their PR purposes, which I was more than happy to do. I met several NAPP members who were shooting the event that day, including one guy who had been to three Photoshop Worlds, and another shooter who reads this blog daily. Small world.

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Lastly, above is a photo I took of my buddy Jeff Revell during the event, who was toting not one, not two, but three bodies that day (two Nikons and a Canon 50D). As Jeff says “I hate to change lenses.” Thanks Jeff, for inviting me and for a really great day!