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Communications: staying in touch

From: Shooting on the Road, from Gear to Workflow

Video: Communications: staying in touch

When you're on the road, you may want to send pictures back home, stay in touch with people; you may have to send pictures back home if you're working on an assignment or job of some kind. You have a lot of different options in this regard. As I mentioned earlier, one of the cheapest is simply to carry blank discs with you, blank CDs, blank DVDs. If you've got a computer with you, you can burn images onto these. If not, you can try and find an Internet cafe or may be a computer in your hotel. Now, while blank discs offer a lot of storage for very little money, regular mail is typically pretty slow, so this is not a way of getting stuff back quickly.

Communications: staying in touch

When you're on the road, you may want to send pictures back home, stay in touch with people; you may have to send pictures back home if you're working on an assignment or job of some kind. You have a lot of different options in this regard. As I mentioned earlier, one of the cheapest is simply to carry blank discs with you, blank CDs, blank DVDs. If you've got a computer with you, you can burn images onto these. If not, you can try and find an Internet cafe or may be a computer in your hotel. Now, while blank discs offer a lot of storage for very little money, regular mail is typically pretty slow, so this is not a way of getting stuff back quickly.

What's more, whoever's on the receiving end of it has to have a computer that can read the disc and if you're using a particular raw format, read that, and so on and so forth. It's a great way of offloading images if you want to be sure that you've delivered some images safely back home, if you're possibly worried about having your stuff stolen or damaged, that kind of thing, so that's one option. Now you may be thinking, I am just going to do what I do at home; I'm going to find some free Wi-Fi and connect to the net that way. If you live in the States, you're use to the fact that Internet access is not metered. We don't pay by the megabyte; therefore a lot of people are willing to give away their Wi-Fi for free.

In most of the rest of the world people pay per a certain amount of data transfer, so Wi-Fi is usually locked up. That means that you may be able to find some free Wi-Fi in your hotel, but just walking around hoping to find that cafe with free Wi-Fi is pretty difficult, so that's not something that you necessarily want to count on. If you're really needing access while you're on the road, you'll want to check with your hotel ahead of time to find out what they may offer. If you have a 3G or 4G phone, you have another option.

Now there are different kinds of cellular radios in the world. There is CDMA radios, which are what most of the cell phones here in United States use. The rest of the world uses something called GSM. Here in the states AT&T and T-Mobile offer GSM phones. Now what's cool about a GSM phone is that somewhere on it there is a little door you can open, and when you do, if you pull it out, you find a little computer chip here. This is called a SIM card. This is actually a micro-SIM card.

It's smaller than a regular SIM card. It's actually being cut down from a regular SIM card. On the back of it is this little computer chip. What's cool about GSM and its SIM cards is that this is actually my identity on the cellular network. If I take this SIM card and stick in someone else's GSM phone, if you call my phone number, that new phone is the one that rings. What's great about this is I can go to another country, buy a local SIM card, stick it in my phone, and suddenly I'm a local. I've got a local phone number and I don't have to pay international roaming rates.

As you may have already determined from your own cell service, the one you're used to--AT&T for example, charges a lot for international roaming. So buying a local card is way to really cut down international phone calls if you're traveling, and you will probably get data also, and that can give you an Internet connection. Now, there are a few caveats here. First of all, this only works if your phone is unlocked. Here in the states, typically phones are locked to a particular cell company, so if I have an AT&T iPhone, it will only work with an AT&T SIM card.

Many companies will let you unlock your phone. So if I have a phone, I might be able to go into AT&T and say or T-Mobile and say "I'm traveling internationally. I would like my phone unlocked." They'll take it into the backroom, do some things to it, bring it back out, and it will now work with other SIM cards. Apple doesn't allow that. So if you have an iPhone, you have to go through a few hoops to get the phone unlocked. There is a process called jailbreaking. Now, a couple of years ago the federal government here decided that jailbreaking was legal. And jailbreaking is a necessary step to get your phone unlocked.

At the time of this shooting, jailbreaking is still legal. That may change. So if you're really worried about breaking the law, you might want to check into that before you unlock your phone. Whether it's legal or not, it absolutely voids your iPhone's warranty. Apple will not repair a phone if it's broken and you take it in and it's been jailbroken and unlocked. Note that jailbreaking and unlocking is not a one-way trip. You can restore your phone to its original factory settings. So if your phone breaks, maybe you can restore it and then take it in and get it fixed. A couple of other caveats. When you jailbreak your phone, you jailbreak a very particular firmware version.

You may already know that from time to time Apple pushes out a new version of the firmware for the phone and that gives you new features and things like that. If you've jailbroken and unlocked your phone and new firmware comes out, you don't want to do the firmware update, because that will undo your jailbreak and your unlock. If you want the firmware update and you want to stay unlocked, you have to wait till the new version is unlocked and you have to re-hack your phone and so on and so forth. There's a lot of information on the web about unlocking. There are services that will do it for you. You may even be able to find an unlocked phone at auction on eBay.

So those are all options for getting your iPhone to work internationally. Again, if you have a non-iPhone, your phone company may very well unlock it for you or there may be jailbreaking-unlocking mechanisms for it. That gets me an unlocked phone that I can use inexpensively internationally, which means that I can take pictures with my cell phone and easily send them up to the web and so on so forth. But what good does that do me with the pictures I've taken with my camera? Well it may be possible to tether your computer or your tablet or another computer or tablet to your phone. A lot of phones offer a tethering option and basically that turns the phone into a little Wi-Fi hot spot. Or sometimes it works over a USB cable.

Then you attach your device to the phone and it's basically acting like a cellular modem. Your computer talks to the phone, the computer talks to its cell radio, back up to the network, and now you got Internet access through your phone. If you've got a cheap data rate, because you have a local SIM card, that's a very, very viable option. But again, it's contingent on this jailbreaking and unlocking process, so you're going to want to think about that and look into the details for your particular phone. Finally, there's satellite. Satellite is not the kind of thing you want to invest in if you're just interested in updating your Facebook page while you're on the road.

Satellite phones are expensive, satellite service is also very expensive, and you pay it by the byte. So, it's really only a viable thing if you're working a paid gig. If someone else is willing to pay for the satellite phone, great; go for it. Check into coverage of your satellite phone. If you're going to the Arctic or to extreme poles, you may need a very particular service to get coverage. But again, that's really only an option if you've got someone footing the bill, because it's a pretty expensive way to go. So a few options there. You can work by mail. You can may be hack your phone and get it working. Maybe you don't have to hack your phone to get it working. Either way, you can aim for those cheap phone rates and cheap data service, or you can go for a satellite phone.

I would also offer the suggestion that if you're going on vacation, maybe you don't want to mess with this. Don't worry about staying in touch. Relax, take some time off. If you do need to get images back because you're working for an editor or you've promised someone pictures of whatever it is you're seeing, then these are a few of the options that you have.

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Shooting on the Road, from Gear to Workflow

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