On the morning of game day -- about 12 hours before the first pitch -- I begin to gather my gear.
Along with fellow Daily Herald photographers Steve Lundy and Brian Hill, we'll cover the Cubs in the National League championship series at Wrigley Field.
Despite what some people think ("Wow, you're lucky to have such a cool job ... you get in the game for free and get to walk all around ... "), covering a game isn't as easy as it might appear. It's a sweaty, exhaustive, tech-intensive day that requires several hours of preparation before the four hours of shooting.
I bring two cameras and three lenses, taking the shoulder strap off the Nikon body that will be attached to the 400 mm lens. Make sure the fast SD cards are loaded and stored in the rolling bag. Pack a raincoat and rain cover for the cameras. Make sure the extra batteries are charged and loaded in the waist pack.
Empty the trash and clear the cache on the Mac laptop. Download a roster code replacement to make captioning quicker. Write a base caption that will automatically be added to each image with the metadata in the picture-viewing software. Double-check the spelling, format and date.
Make sure the charging cable and all Ethernet cable are in the bag.
The professional Nikon and Canon cameras we use allow us to employ an Ethernet cable, just like the one plugged into your computer at work. It allows us to upload images almost immediately to a file sharing site, where they are accessed by the photo editor and can publish at dailyherald.com and on social media within minutes of shooting.
Brian is the editor, and he'll shoot the first and last innings. Steve and I will stay in our assigned photo pit positions at the end of each dugout.
I make sure I have both 100-foot lengths of Ethernet cable in case Steve or I get moved to the outfield photo pit. I gather gaffer's tape, pencils, notebook, snacks, more SD cards, phone charger and Sharpies and put them in the waist pack. I load both bags in the car. Make sure the monopod is packed. Throw in a hat and gloves. Gas up the car.
Six hours before first pitch, I stop at the office for an Ethernet cable splitter in case we need to share a port with other photographers. Grab a power strip and extension cord.
Heading to Wrigley
I meet Steve and Brian at the office and load their gear in the car. We are riding with beat writer Bruce Miles and we talk about the Cubs and our coverage on the way to the ballpark. We make sure we have the parking pass.
We go through inspection at Wrigley Field and have to open every bag and walk through metal detectors. We make our way across the concourse where the concessions are being stocked. It's still five hours before first pitch.
We take the tunnel to a hidden door that leads to a dingy media work space underneath the seats behind first base. Out come the computers to ensure all connections work. We go outside to the photo pits and tape down Ethernet cords to our assigned positions. We shoot a couple images and test the transmission process.
We walk around Wrigley and make feature pictures while watching the Cubs and Dodgers take batting practice, play catch and stretch.
We go outside the park and make pictures of the gathering fans. Someone always asks, "Is this all you do, take pictures all day?" We take pictures of it all.
We return to the dark work room, which is now very warm because it backs up to the pizza ovens of a concession stand on the main concourse. It's crowded with dozens of photographers, writers, TV crews, Cubs personnel and Major League Baseball people. It's getting sweaty in there.
We file photos we made. Now we have time to get something to eat from the concession stands that open two hours before the game.
Almost game time
Wrigley Field starts to get busy and noisy. We discuss coverage plans and make sure we have photos of the players our writers might feature.
About an hour before first pitch we return to our positions to make sure we haven't been moved. It's crowded in the field photo pit. As many as 10 photographers with giant lenses are shoulder to shoulder in a 6-by-10-foot area. We work together so everybody can get their shots.
Now we're setting our exposure, making sure everything works and sending test images to Brian in the work room. Steve and I will shoot 5,000 pictures tonight. We will send 5 percent of those to Brian via the Ethernet linkage. He will crop, tone, caption and upload those pictures, and at the end of the night he will publish an online gallery of more than 100 of the best photos.
After the game we break down our gear, pack it into the bags and roll it to the car.
We're home at 2 a.m.
We'll get up and do it again later that day. And I can't wait. That's what I do. I take pictures all day.