Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dispatches From the Edge: 40,000 Feet

When I talk to friends and colleagues, every once and awhile the conversation turns to how I accomplish whatever multitudes of projects I am juggling. Many friends get emails from me at 3am, others via my iPhone midday, many wonder about the intern program I maintain year-round, juggling speaking and answering e-mails from a variety of colleagues about their own negotiations, running the blogs, and, oh, right, shooting (which is what actually pays the bills).

The answer to how I do it is:
(Continued after the Jump)

Time-slicing and multi-tasking. Above is a photo of my workspace at 40,000 feet, enroute an assignment overseas for 14 days. Normally, the time from when someone leaves the office to when they board the plane to arrive at their final destination would be down-time. Here's what transpired during that time for me:

Depart Office - 11:45 am - Took assistant with me to discuss what she's doing and the analog-to-digital project she's working on. The ride was 45 minutes. 35 minutes was spent discussing that, and 10 minutes was spent on the phone with a photographer in the midwest who was looking for advice on how to handle pricing an assignment he was being asked to do. I'd previously taken his call before leaving the office, and asked him to call me at 12:30, which he did.

Arrive at airport - 12:30 - Once past the TSA checkpoint, an e-mail came in from a client looking for an estimate for a job mid-September. I forwarded that e-mail on to my post-production manager to do the estimate, and gave her guidance on the fees for it. When I called to confirm she'd gotten it, I was in line for lunch near my gate. She informed me that she was on the line with a photographer in New York who needed some job pricing a job that was shot on spec and now the possible client wanted the images. Grrrr. No Spec! Anyway, I walked her through that while waiting for the order I placed to be made.

1:15 - Waiting to board plane - checking e-mail another estimate request came in for an assignment the day I get back. Call the office, and use the iPhone to conference in the the prospective client (editorial) and confirm their budget, and other details. Hang up from conference, and get onboard plane at 1:30. While waiting for other passengers, re-connect with post-production manager about the estimate, and have her prepare the estimate. 1:44 - update Facebook status. 1:45 - Wheels-Up Washington enroute JFK.

1:55 - 10,000 feet. Begin Season 1, Episode 1 of Entourage. I know, I know, you Entourage fans. I am late to the game. I downloaded the whole season from iTunes, and will time-slice and watch what I can when I can. I get through 21 minutes of the first episode (already hooked - Jeremy Piven is awesome in the Sushi restaurant scene where he talks to "pizza boy" about a $4M deal for the actor they both are advising. Preparing for landing, so gotta shut it down for now.

2:35 - Arrive JFK, and head to wireless access point (WAP) and power source. Connect online, and call office. Review estimate that was sent to me while in-flight. The PLUS language on the contract was not consistent with this assignment, and so I asked my office manager to make the changes to the paperwork, and then it was okay to send.

3:10pm - Prior to departure, my assistant who had driven me up had done copywork (Returning to the (Digital) Darkroom, 6/5/08) of 302 medium format images we're sending off to JaincoTech to get scanned and keyworded. The 302 images were in about 47 files. At the WAP, I reviewed all 302, and had to write captions for about 110 of them. I used my PhotoMechanic software to edit the images. Each image was easily viewable and had 9 separate small images. I was able to put the captions into each file for nine images at a time.

4:15 - mid-September client changes timing for assignment from 7am-11am to 5am - 10am, and wants a revised estimate, and wants to know if that changes the price. (Answer: Yes, it does!). Call office and have a revised contract sent.

4:30 - Video conference with post-production manager about questions she had for work she was doing. Handled that at the same time as continuing to caption.

4:45 - Reviewed the liveBooks website that will go-live in the next 24 hours for my post-production manager. It looks great. (Yea - it went live while I was in-flight - check it here!)

5:05 pm - from the WAP, I emailed back the 47 files using PhotoMechanic's handy and automated "e-mail files" feature. I had to end the video conference because of bandwidth issues, and the files went to her via e-mail and she got them all.

5:10 - A call from a colleague needing help with e-mail language because her client was saying she was too expensive, so we had to justify the value she brought to the assignment.

5:15- Video conference with colleague who will be changing jobs soon and we discussed the landscape that they are entering (and also that they're leaving.)

5:30 - Head to gate. E-mail comes in from mid-September client wanting to extend the rights package and add in advertising. I responded that we'd get her two new estimates in the morning. She tries to tempt me with "this will be an annual thing" but she wants longer than a year for the use. In my response, when justifying the added rights package costs, I explain that with the extended time, that diminishes her need for me next year.

5:45 - On plane, doors still open. E-mail comes in on iPhone responding to my e-mail. I respond to hers.

5:55 - (10 minutes late). Doors close. I inadvertently leave my phone on, and while we're sitting on the tarmac holding for 30 minutes, I get another e-mail from her. Convinced that sitting on the tarmac and not moving at all, I respond to her e-mail, CC-ing my office so they are in the loop on the entire conversation.

6:45 - We reach 10,000 feet. All devices ok to be turned on. Laptops come out. I have a portrait of Ludacris (left screen) to edit (including DNG processing) note the PNY "Eyes of History" thumbdrive in the photo below, and on the right screen I have about 1,500 or so e-mails to wade through - about 98% of which are spam, but I need to find the 2% that I want to keep. I like to take my in-flight time to clean up all my inboxes, migrate files to folders for archiving, and so forth.

7:45 - Appetizers served (see behind laptop). I pause to pull out the Nikon D700 I am getting used to, as it will be an integral part of this trip. The camera is new to me, and I am excited to check it out, since it just arrived earlier this week. I decide that making a frame or two of my in-flight office would be of use, so that's how the above photo came to be. DNG processing is going along just fine on second laptop.

8:29 - Finish up with the D700 (yes, somebody will check the EXIF data to confirm that, I know.) Flight attendant is hassling me about finishing my appetizer, so I do. Open up the files I shot of my workspace and make them look their best. Feel free to click the image to see it larger. Nice how the D700 holds up at 6400 ISO, and gotta love that FX-Full Frame! (Click photo at top to see it larger).

8:45 - Begin writing this blog entry. Not sure how to approach it, at first. I know people will give me crap about my accommodations, but it's workspace people. Can't you tell I am working here? Salad arrives. I choose both chicken and vegetables to accompany it.

8:55 - Flight attendant hassling me about being ready for my main course. So I pause to finish the salad.

9:02 - Dinner arrives. Work on this blog entry some more. I know you have high expectations.

9:26 - Flight attendant hassling me (seemingly after every bite) "are you done with that". I guess most people don't take 24 minutes to eat a small plate of food.

9:30 - Finish dinner. Much to my pleasant surprise, he offers a hot fudge sundae, then, he offers butterscotch. Damn. That's like choosing Kirk or Piccard! Make my choice, and he whisks away my dinner and 2 minutes later, the sundae arrives.

9:35 - Finish sundae, DNG's finished processing. Head back to killing spam e-mail. Note I didn't linger on the time it took to consume the dessert! Hey - the ice cream would have melted!

10:25 - finished with spam, all mailboxes nice and neat and tidy.

10:26 - Settle in to the end of Entourage 1:1. My mind needs an interlude.

11:10 am - Crack open my ASMP 7th Edition Professional Business Practices in Photography that arrived (A Must Read - ASMP's Professional Business Practices in Photography, 8/2/08). I am excited about all the fresh content. I am especially excited to revisit advice from Emily Vickers and Elyse Weissberg, who were mentors of mine from 15 years ago. Their pieces are re-purposed here even though Elyse has passed away - her genius lives on, and I am excited to re-read her counsel which is just as valuable today as it was then.

12:05 am - Crashing. Not the flight. Me.

Changing to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). That's DC + 5 hours. It's now Wednesday.

6:07am - Landing. The flight. Not me. (that would be 1:07am Eastern Time for those math-impaired).

7:10am - Though security, and looking for the lounge where I can get to a WAP. A big thank you to my intern John Birk, who noticed that I was using for my day-to-day travel around the US the ThinkTank Airport Security. John commented that I needed the ThinkTank International because it was just an inch smaller on two dimensions. So, the day before I left, we stopped by the local camera store to pick one up. Sure enough, spying my bag as I rolled through security, I was asked to put my bag into the form to see i it was oversized. I took a deep breath, and slipped it in. It fit so snugly that when I lifted the bag to remove it, it was slightly wedged into the form and the form actually came off the ground before I was able to slide the bag out - and I was allowed to proceed. Damn those ThinkTank people know what they're doing!

7:20am - Get to a WAP. Connect, and let my laptop update all the deleted and moved e-mails I worked on offline thanks to the beauty of IMAP. Outbound messages get sent.

8:00am - Post this blog entry.

Nap until flight at 11:15am to Stockholm. Gotta sleep somewhere. It might as well be a lounge in LHR. They do have showers here.

So, that, friends, is multi-tasking and time-slicing. The above is, to answer the rhetorical question that friends and colleagues keep asking, how I do it.

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