It happens not often enough. A few hours (or days) of downtime. Nadda to do but relax and recharge.

Not really. Downtime is when you get the important back lot work done. So here’s a simple primer to keep you from lollygagging about and wasting those precious moments that could make or break you in the field.

Disclaimer: Most of what is listed below I generally take care of daily or after/before each shoot. However, when there is time, that is the time to get into it deeply.

1. Check your kit. Make sure every item in your working kit is in perfect working order. Now’s the time to triple check that little issue you’ve been having with focus or whatever. Track down problems and solve them. Flex cables and listen for static. Look for loose screws. Go through your kit and make sure everything essential is in it/that you haven’t forgotten something. If you have new gizmos, this is the time to run tests to make sure they are compatible. Make sure everything is stowed exactly the way you want it.

2. While you’ve got the gear out and are checking it, give it a wipedown. Brush the bag and get rid of those tiny particles that build up in the bottom. Take off your filters and clean your lens and both sides of the filter. Viewfinder and LCD too.

3. Cables. They are mating snakes if not watched closely. Go through ALL of your cables not in the kit and ID, check, and label and stow with their kin. That includes USB, FW, XLR, excess power cables and more.

4. Even though you have backup batteries, media, and lamps in your kit, run a thorough inventory and order extras as backups to the backups. Nothing kills a shoot worse than no bulbs for a light and no way to grab what you need. Check out prices on media…if there are sales, grab a few extra. While you’re at it, assess the age of your camera batteries and consider whether it’s time to buy a replacement or get them restored.

5. Sometimes your “stuff” is just that. The solution? Assess, ebay, donate, discard. If you haven’t used an item in five years (or bought it and NEVER used it), assess whether it is worth keeping. Be realistic…if in doubt, label and stow away. But really – the unused 100′ roll of 16mm color reversal from 1981??? The twenty firewire cables – do you need THAT many? The free handout software discs from 2001…all that stuff that you never got around to and never will? Your options are obvious. Keep it if you must. But selling it will both bring in some cash and clear space. If it isn’t salable or you’re the generous type, donate. To charity or your local high school broadcasting program. Last resort – toss it. Trashcan it.

I try to keep on top of stuff…but it seems to have a life of its own and keeps building up. These past few weeks I’ve been dubbing Beta tapes down to hard drive (thank you Mike Filson for the loaner) to clear space in the garage. Eventual plan is some kind of long term digital storage. My spare cable box overrunneth…it is on the event horizon. Plus I have to winnow the library. Yes there are some books I will keep (Nurnberg’s “Lighting for Photography” circa 1969 from my college days) but have already donated “The Focal Encyclopedia of Photography” to my old high school. All of the books on that great new invention – the Internet – are laughable and on their way out, as are the software samples from the many conference attended. I wish you luck with your downtime housecleaning. Now…back to the back room…


2 thoughts on “Downtime…

  1. And just what is wrong with a 100 foot roll of unused color reversal? Okay granted in my world it is sitting in a camera case that is virtually frozen in time since the station it came from switched to ENG.

  2. You want stuff like that I have a box full of it – some gizmos time has forgotten and lots of bits and pieces. Hey – now I don’t have to dump them. I can give them to YOU!

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