Monday, December 19, 2011


Phil Irey, lead computer scientist at the Dahlgren Division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center, explains to Department of the Navy officials the Office of Naval Research's suite of information technology tools designed to improve fleet operations during a series of experiments at the Integrated Warfare Systems Laboratory in Dahlgren, Va.
Taking charge early during an assignment allowed me to get my photographs, clear them with local security officials and make it to the airport for a flight that afternoon to next assignment.
The purpose of this post is not to show how busy I am, but rather to offer a few tips on moving things along and taking charge.

A glimpse at last week's calendar would have shown Monday free, several assignments on Tuesday (turned into six, all with end-of-day deadlines), Dahlgren Va., on Wednesday and Panama City, Fla., Thursday. Vacation started Friday. First thought is why does it always seem that vacation interferes with work, second thought, I'm not going to miss first vacation I've taken this year.

How to prioritize? Which job can you cover and which can be contracted out? What is most important to your employer? All these questions need to be answered.

I needed to be in Florida to conduct interviews at the Navy Experimental Diving Unit first thing Thursday morning. This was the last set of interviews and b-roll needed for an overdue undersea medicine video that had an original deadline of December 1st. So I couldn't push that back any further and in order to be there in the morning meant having to fly out Wednesday night. And Panama City isn't the most convenient destination, so best option was BWI on the last flight, 4:50 p.m.

The job in Dahlgren was to photograph a demonstration of a suite of information technology tools at the Integrated Warfare Systems Laboratory. Not the sexiest of assignments and due to both security concerns and the fact that this is a software based experiment, not easy to visually represent.

The day in Dahlgren was scheduled to start at 9 a.m. with briefings, followed at 12:30 with the actual demo. So best case was that I wouldn't be able to start taking the photos I really needed until the afternoon. How would I shoot, edit, caption, and most importantly clear images through security, all before having to drive to BWI for flight? I figured I would have to be on road no later than 1 p.m.

Now you understand the situation. Option one was to rely on a Dahlgren based photographer as was proposed the previous week. And to be fair, I did reach out and speak to the photographer assigned to cover this, however, it became clear that while he would be able to photograph the event, getting timely captioned releasable images of key persons that were needed in order to match up with article being released same day was not going to happen. Plus I got the sense that this job was important to my boss. Not that they all aren't important, but sometimes you just know.

How did I pull it off? I did my best to make clear to those running the demo that I needed to be on the road by 1 p.m. I arrived at the location 45 minutes early to clear security, meet key people, and scout location(s). I also started driving the conversation on how I was going to shoot and then download images on the spot so security personnel and key program managers could review them before I left, which would enable me to transmit quickly. That is not a five minute conversation, but requires persistence and a retelling to many people until the idea sticks. It's about setting expectations.
Scientist gives a Powerpoint presentation.
Photograph taken during the morning sessions.
So after photographing presentations all morning and watching the time tick away, I was starting to think that I was not going to pull this off. Originally, the actual hands-on demo was to begin following lunch which was scheduled at noon. Now I know enough to realize that once lunch started, there was no way they were going to get everyone together for a 12:30 demo. First break of the day came when lunch did not arrive on time so I jumped at the opportunity to suggest to the coordinator that it would be a good time to start the hands-on portion with the VIPs while the others waited for lunch. What a great idea Mr. Photographer! So the demo began, I shot like crazy, left demo still in progress, downloaded and edited images, and by the time the first group returned and started eating their lunch, I was getting the images cleared. Only thing that remained was to burn a CD to leave there and I was on the road to BWI a few minutes past 1 p.m.

There are several take-aways. You can drive the events without taking over. Everyone knew that I had a hard deadline, yet I wasn't pushy. Prior preparation meant during the morning presentations, I wrote my captions, making sure I had names and titles of anyone that might make the edited images.

I finished toning, captioning and transmitting images while waiting on my flight at BWI. Made deadline and two images were published the following day.

No comments: