Travel shoots: Get out of your mom’s basement

Everything you need for a travel shoot. Say hello to oversized luggage fees. Photo by MC2 Glenn Slaughter.

Sure it’s a cliche joke but if you’re stuck in your mom’s basement and looking for a way out, then listen up. Enlisting as a military public affairs specialist is a great way to get out of the house and start calling your own shots.

Travel shoots can be the best part of our job, if the story, location and team are right. There are two big things to keep in mind about this type of work:

  1.   preparation and movement
  2.   adaptability

Take a look below to avoid a painful travel experience!

Using two camera to shoot the interview gives us more options during editing. The camera on the left is on a slider. Photo by MC2 Darien Kenney.


To start things off, a job is assigned to us by a supervisor. In this case, the job was Bee Haydu, a 95-year-old member of WASP, or Women Airforce Service Pilots. This was a group of women that flew military planes in WW2 to assist in the training of male pilots.

The people assigned to this travel shoot were:

  • MC2 Glenn Slaughter – video
  • MC2 Darien Kenney – photo & assistant video
  • Shannon Collins – print

First off, we are responsible for making travel plans and securing the proper equipment. Get ready to learn the dreaded Defense Travel System software to book your flight, hotel and rental car. Everyone in the military uses it.

To secure gear we head to our camera shop and let them know what we need. It’s a lot of stuff and yes, it sucks travelling with all of it.

  • Nikon D800 kit x 2 with Sachtler tripod x 2
  • Litepanel 1 x 1 light kit with stands
  • Rhino camera slider with stands
  • Assorted microphones including Rode and Sony wireless lavaliers
  • Gopro Hero 4 Silver with Feiyu Tech G4 stabilizer

That above list is easily worth $10,000. Since we’re E-5s, we’re the equivalent of middle managers in the civilian world. Our bosses have to trust our skill level as well as maturity in order to green light travel shoots.

At our level, no one is looking over our shoulders to make sure we get to the location and arrive with the proper gear. They hand us the job and wait for results.

Kenney gathering photos to go with the print story. Photo by MC2 Glenn Slaughter.


The location of the shoot was Ms. Haydu’s home in Riviera Beach, FL. (We flew from Fort Meade, Md.) It’s quite common to do interviews in people’s homes. We need to be able to walk into the space, without ever seeing it, and start to envision where the best spot for the interview is. And it needs to happen while being respectful to the subject. We’re in her personal space after all.

While the camera guys make sure things like light and sound are good, Shannon takes care of the actual interview. When we’re ready she begins to go through a list of questions pertinent to the story. Teamwork is key to a smooth shoot. Remember, this person has never met us and here we are in her house!

It’s not enough to think like a camera person though. I have to be the producer as well. Am I getting everything I need for my video?

I’ve traveled over one thousand miles on the government’s dime. There is no going back to work and saying I missed a shot.

On this particular shoot, I actually called back to base and asked them if I could extend for three more days. No, it wasn’t so I could party! Ms. Haydu had an event working with a group of kids that I knew would be essential to the video, since she’d talked about kids in the interview. My command and I had to be adaptable.

This was a very basic breakdown of what a travel shoot is like. There are a hundred details I could go into, all of them important.

Doesn’t this seem much more interesting than playing video games in mom’s basement? If you have any questions, please send them in!

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