As a journalist on the road and on the run I’ve often been asked what computer I use. My answer: I don’t.
Well, let me correct that to some extent. Except on rare occasions I leave my reasonably lightweight MacBook Air (original version) at home and set off on the next assignment with just a 16gig iPad mini, a wireless ‘dongle’, a bluetooth keyboard, my excellent Fuji X10 and a card reader (although I have a cable with which I can plug the camera straight into the iPad mini).
How times have changed. Working as a foreign correspondent with a background in photography (admittedly way back in my late teens) I used to set out in the 1980s, 1990s and the early part of the new millennium weighed down with equipment – a Macbook Pro, a Canon DSLR, two zoom lenses, a flash and a back-up point-and-shoot. While that equipment didn’t exactly weigh a ton, when compared to what I carry now it certainly seemed like overkill.
I can slip all of the equipment pictured above into a small bag not much wider than the mini and with just a little more depth than the Fuji camera. But how do I make such seemingly limited equipment work for me when demands are upon me in these days of internet-speed news to file stories and pictures at the drop of a hat?
Here’s a make-believe scenario on how it all works….
I’m walking beside Sydney harbour and a man falls off the jetty. He’s splashing about but people are already jumping in to help him (thankfully, because I’m a useless swimmer, but if it was just him and me, then I’d forget the story and try to help the man). OK, he’s being rescued. Out comes the Fuji. Its zoom isn’t incredible but certainly good enough for this job. My back-up Panasonic point and shoot has an 18X zoom, so I could have used that for close ups if really needed. But with the Fuji in hand I fire away. I take sequential shots, covering the incident right up to the time the man is driven off to hospital for a check up.
I dash into a nearby cafe, order a coffee (must order *something*), activate the wi-fi dongle (the cafe might have wi-fi but there’s no time to ask for passwords and then suffer what might be a very slow connection) and get down to work. I open up Gmail and send a quick note to the paper alerting them to the fact that very soon my story and pictures of the rescue will be arriving. Then I download a selection of pictures with the card reader attached to the iPad by a camera cable, edit them with an excellent Lighroom-like app called Laminar Pro (crop, sharpen, resize), open up GMail and attach them to a brief message, three at a time to overcome GMail’s restrictions on size.
With the pictures out of the way, I then open up a writing app called Byword, which gives me a word count. As this is my story, with names and descriptions of the event in my notebook, I don’t need any outside reference material. I type the story using my bluetooth keyboard, then copy and paste it into GMail. Ping! Gone. Story and pictures in the office in less than half an hour.
But what if I had needed to call on extra information, such as, for example, whether the rescued man – whose name I had – was someone well known? I would need to refer to his background while writing. But flicking backwards and forwards from the writing page to a reference page on the iPad would be time-consuming and frustrating. Enter Side by Side, an app that allows me to split the screen so that I can write on one side and draw on reference material on the other.
Now, I could do all of the above with my MacBook Air and any other digital camera under the sun. But why would I need to lug the laptop around when, as the above example shows, I can do the job with my teeny-weeny equipment? So far I haven’t come across any major barriers to using the iPad mini on assignments and I’m particularly thankful for the 10-hour battery life and the much longer life of the bluetooth keyboard. My wi-fi dongle is good for about four hours but I hope I’m never going to need it for that long in one session before a recharge.
Yes, times have changed. I try to not only keep up with the Joneses but to stay one step ahead. That is until I sit on a train and see a teenage girl sending messages on her iPhone tapping away with her thumbs and not making any mistakes. I sit there dumbfounded. I’m no match for her. Thank heaven she’s not a journalist….


One Response to On the Road With Just an iPad Mini and Camera – Can it Be Done?

  1. Asrul says:

    I’ve read your article about Surabaya Zoo today. It’s been like years without any certainty, locals NGO is battling with the government and push the to act immediately and save that zoo. There’s too many conflict interest about that zoo.

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