I’m lucky to work for a University with a Global outlook and presence. I’ve seen some interesting places, from Jerusalem to Johannesburg.
But I’d never been to Rome.
That all changed a few weeks ago when I was asked to help with the Board of Trustees winter meeting in Rome. I looked forward to a chance to see this unique and historic place and document the newly-completed Notre Dame Rome Centre.
So what do you pack for a week in Rome with the Board of Trustees? Well, a suit!! But besides that, what photo gear did I need? It’s all about the right tool for the job. First, there were no sporting events, so no heavy cameras or big long lenses. There would be several Masses and visits to museums and other quiet places and that meant small discreet cameras that don’t draw attention to themselves. In fact, I’d been advised that in one or two places it would help if I didn’t look like a professional photographer at all. More on that later!
Oh yeah, and anything I bring I have to carry, so being kind to my back was a priority, too. As I gathered up my gear I snapped a quick photo of the contents:
1. Passport–ain’t getting far without that!
2. 11″ MacBook Air–Back-friendly but packs a surprising punch handling large still and video files.
3. Itinerary and agenda–a trip like this is meticulously scheduled. Gotta know where to be and when.
4. Canon EOS 5D Mark III DSLR–small, lightweight but great for stills and video and has a “silent” mode which is pretty impressive.
5. Fuji X100s–I rented this camera specifically for this trip. It looks like a Leica from the 1950′s but is a fully modern digital camera. It doesn’t scream “Professional Photographer!” and–I can’t emphasize this enough–makes no noise at all. Dead. Silent.
6. Canon 70-200 f4 zoom–lightweight but has the telephoto reach when I need it
7. Canon 17-40mm f4 zoom–lightweight and sharp for wide angle shots
8. Canon 17mm TS-E–a specialized lens for photographing architecture in tight spaces. Heavy, but worth it.
9. Canon 8-15mm Fisheye zoom–I’d also been asked to do some 360-degree photos of the classrooms in the Rome Centre and this is the lens for that job.
10. Sony lavaliere microphone kit–for video interviews
11. Memory cards–CompactFlash and SD. Lots and lots of ‘em.
12. Benro compact tripod–I call it “Flat Stanley” because it folds up flat. Ideally I’d have a more robust tripod for steady video shots, but again, if I bring it I have to carry it.
13. Vivitar 285 Flash–almost never use it but I did need it once on this trip.
14. Pocket Wizard radio remotes–useful for a variety of things, but most handy as an intervalometer for time-lapse work.
15. External solid-state hard drive–for backing up the photo & video files. Solid state means it’s more robust if it gets dropped or handled roughly. (I’m looking at YOU, O’Hare ramp guys!) Can’t over-state how important it is to back up everything, ideally twice. That way if my computer got destroyed or stolen, I still had the images.
16. Extra batteries and chargers–self-explanatory.
17. iPod–Loaded with “This American Life” podcasts for those long-haul flights
18. USB battery pack–for iPhone and iPod
19. Reading material–(Rats, none of my photos in this issue.)
20. Think Tank backpack–Got this several years back. It’s gone a zillion miles with me and it looks like it’s brand-new. There is simply no better bag that can carry all my gear and easily fit into any airline carry-on bin. Just…please don’t weigh it.
21. Plug adaptors–Yay, most chargers these days accept multiple voltages, so I only need to bring plug adapters and not bulky power converters.
22. Gaffer tape–Never, ever leave home without it!!
Whew. It’s all about the right tools for the job and I’m happy to say I used all of it and never felt like I needed more.
Now, onto the pictures. Here’s a brief sample of some of my favorites from the week. (To see more, visit photos.nd.edu and search “Rome.”)
I seem to have bad luck when visiting world-famous monuments & structures in that they’re often covered in scaffolding. That was the case with the Colosseum. The taller, more ornate side of the structure was undergoing repair. Not that it looks bad from this angle, though! I arrived pre-dawn to do a time-lapse and I’m not ashamed to admit at that moment I was wishing there was a Starbuck’s nearby.
Notre Dame’s new Rome Centre. Notre Dame can make…well…anything happen. Parking in Rome is bumper-to-bumper in every square foot possible and some places you thought impossible. But on the day of the honorary degree ceremony at the Rome Centre, they managed to keep the front of the building clear, making it possible for me to get this clean image of the University’s newest global gateway.
Undergraduate Architecture students take a break from their studio and class work to play a little soccer. In the shadow of the Colosseum. How cool is that?
So I’m admitting to breaking a rule, here. Officially, photography is prohibited in the Sistine Chapel. Many reasons for that but one of the biggies is that the frescoes can be damaged by too much exposure to camera flashes. My Fuji X100s made it possible to make pictures in the dim lighting without a flash, and do so silently.
Fr. Jenkins takes a moment for some private reflection before Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica.
St. Peter’s Basilica is, in a word: Massive. This image of Notre Dame’s C.S.C. priests concelebrating Mass at the Altar of the Chair of St. Peter conveys the scale of the place.
We were fortunate to have the once-in-a-lifetime experience of a Papal Audience. I was again “officially” not allowed to make pictures at the event. The small and silent Fuji camera let me get a photo or two from the back of the room without drawing attention to myself.
Even on a rainy day Rome is beautiful. Hope to be back.
- Matt Cashore