Tag Archive for 'travel'

Customs travel shortcuts for Americans – Nexus / Global Entry / TSA Pre


Wan to avoid this?


I’m going to start by qualifying this, I travel a lot, but not even close to as much as a lot of photographers I know.  I do travel enough though where I’m looking for every shortcut I can to make my life simpler when it’s time to hit the road or the airport.  As a photographer that tends to travel very heavy with lots of lighting equipment dealing with border crossings and airport security can sometime be a major hassle.  I’ve had a lot of situations where I’ve been detained to the point where I’ve missed my flight due to US Customs officers not really knowing their jobs, or just being assholes in general.  That being said, I have to be a red flag while travelling with 60lbs of camera/computer gear on my back, 40lbs of lighting/computer gear in my carry on roller, and 120-140lbs of lighting/ski gear and clothes in the remaining two bags.

There are a few things you can look at to make your life easier at airport security checkpoints.  One of which I’ve covered before with Customs screenings coming back into the USA which is US Customs form 4457.  Take a closer look here.  Walk into the customs office with your gear and get your gear registered.  This way no matter what they say, you are travelling with proof of ownership of your equipment in the case you are caused of buying gear abroad to bring back and sell without paying duties and taxes.  It’s happened to me before and it wasn’t fun, and I missed my flight because of it, and had to pay a large change fee to get on another flight after.  Going into the CBP (US Customs and Border Patrol) office to do this takes ten minutes (or more depending on how much gear you bring in) and you’ll never have to deal with it again as long as you own that equipment.  This is of course a lot more difficult to do if you don’t live near an airport with a CBP office, but if that’s the case, stop by next time you fly through an international airport in the USA.


The second option is NEXUS and Global Entry.  These are programs with the CBP and DHS (Department of Homeland Security) that are “trusted traveler” programs that allow you very very quick and easy customs interviews and border crossings by land, sea or air.  Global Entry is the airport program that if you’ve flown into any of the major US airports during a busy time you’ve likely seen and have been super jealous of as you’ve stood in a line over an hour waiting to talk to a CBP agent, only to talk to another one about your baggage, and potentially be “interviewed” yet again about the $50k in equipment you may be traveling with.  Global Entry allows you to cut every customs line in the airport.  You know those forms you fill out with all the check boxes (US CBP Form I-94) and declare the items you’ve brought home with you from a foreign country?  Well, with Global Entry you don’t fill that out, you cut every line then go to a kiosk and check a couple of boxes on the screen, scan your passport, the kiosk takes a photo, you take a printout and go get your bags, hand your printout to a CBP agent (again where you cut every line) and walk out the door and leave the airport or hop on your connecting flight.  The last time I went through US Customs with Global Entry it saved me an hour and a half, cutting in front of at least 400 people.  Add to this that I didn’t have to deal with the hassle of getting the third degree about all my camera equipment.  This is pretty well the best thing travel related to me that I’ve found since I started travelling internationally.

So, what do you have to do to get this privilege of easy US Customs entry?  You pay a $100 fee that is good for five years, they do a background check on you (no felonies) and you have to go into a CBP office that’s part of the Global Entry Program (basically every major US international airport) to be interviewed and fingerprinted.  The interview is more of a formality at that point as it’s mainly for fingerprinting and to verify your identity.  The only difficult thing about that is that the interviews are scheduled and when I scheduled my interview, most airports were booked out at least 1-3 months, if not longer.  So if you do not live in a city with one of these CBP offices it can be a bit more difficult.  However that being said I missed my interview time due to a late flight (I scheduled my interview during a layover in LAX) and when I showed up there was nobody waiting to be interviewed even though there were five more interviews scheduled after the one I was late for.  I bring this up because after seeing that, I wouldn’t be guess that after your online application has been approved and you schedule an interview, you could just show up to one of those airports outside of your scheduled interview and just wait for an opening and get that out of the way unscheduled.  Don’t quote me on that but from what I saw, I’d bet that it would work.  The other part of awesome that Global Entry gets you is TSA Pre.  Now while on paper it seems to be pretty meaningless it can be pretty nice.  TSA Pre is a third line in airport security that cuts all the lines, even the first class / medallion member line which even that can sometimes be big at major hub airports.  The extra part that is pretty minimal is that you don’t have to take your laptop out of your bag, or your shoes or belt off.  Pretty minor however I’ve noticed I get a secondary search on my camera bag a lot less.  Again most of this is pretty meaningless unless of course you arrive at the airport 30 minutes before your flight to another country.  One other note for the Global Entry program, if you are an American Express Delta Reserve, Platinum or American Express Platinum card holder, part of your benefit is you will be credited for the $100 global entry application fee.

nexus_20logoThe third is one I hadn’t really paid attention to since I haven’t done much travel over the road to Canada recently is the NEXUS program.  This program works in the same way as the Global Entry program does at the airport for the most part only it’s been put in place for border crossings to and from Canada and Mexico.  The difference with the NEXUS program is that they actually do a more extensive background check where even traffic tickets can get you kicked off the program.  I’m sure you’ve been in the same long border crossing lines going to/from Canada before if you shoot skiing or snowboarding and know cutting those lines could save you hours if it delays you to the point where you are say, stuck in Vancouver rush hour traffic on your way to Whistler.  Since I’ve also dealt with having my entire car searched and being interrogated about ownership of my car like I was hiding terrorists in my spare tire compartment in my trunk I’d also reccommend it, especially if you cross the border a few times a year, and especially for your filmmakers that are always sketched out about being turned away at the border.  If you have neither yet then it would be the best if you signed up for the NEXUS program instead of Global Entry.  I say this because the NEXUS program also gives you Global Entry and TSA Pre access, and it’s only $50 instead of the $100  for Global Entry.  You still have to do an interview and be fingerprinted but for NEXUS you only have to do this once and you get all of the programs.  If you are a Global Entry member, you still have to go in for another interview to be a part of the NEXUS program as well.  You can use your Global Entry card to use the NEXUS lines entering the USA from Canada, but not the other way around, to enter Canada, so getting a NEXUS card would be the way to go as you get access to all the programs.

I hope that wasn’t too confusing.  If you haven’t checked the links within this post I’ve added them below to get directly to where to read up and apply for these programs.

Happy Travels!

– More information about NEXUS on the CBP website

More information about the Global Entry program

TSA Pre program

– Apply for NEXUS, Global Entry here: Global Online Enrollment System (GOES)

Quick Pic 13 – Welcome to Tokyo


I came across this guy the first day in Tokyo, cruising through the insanely busy streets of the Shibuya district with Jen Hudak and Julian Carr last February.  This guy, damn.  If I were a bum, I’d probably look exactly like him.  Scary look into the future huh?  We tried to have an impromptu Discrete Headwear shoot but even after we offered him money, he declined.  But I at least got this one.

Home, Spring park shoots are over!


My Civic with 43,223 bugs making a new home on the front bumper7246 miles (4584 miles on the road), 47 days, and 7 terrain park shoots, and 43,225 dead bugs on my car later my season is finally over and I’m finally home back in Salt Lake City, Utah.  This year’s Spring terrain park shoot season was shorter than last year, but the amount of travel between shoots really wore on me this Spring.  It was nuts actually, and home never looked so good.  My own bed, my own space, not working on my slow laptop, and having my golf clubs, being able to sneak out for some golf in the work day, everything, all the comforts of home…finally!  However, it was all completely worth it.  I got a lot of great action shots with a lot of the usual people but also some new faces.  I got to spend some time with some good friends I don’t get to see a lot, visit new places, see family, oh and to find out that 4th gear in my Civic tops out at 130mph!

Also in this trip I did a lot of fun portraits, spent some time working more on capturing the lifestyle side of things and shot a lot with a Holga which was pretty fun.  Shooting film, the mystery of wondering how things are going to turn out, especially with the thought of a very inprecise piece of camera equipment, adding in the mystery of how cross processing is going to turn out made for some fun stuff.  I just sent it all out to Panda photo lab in Seattle, WA and I’m really excited to see how it turned out.  I’m really anxious to see how it all plays out with the good ol film.  It’s been at least 5 years since I shot any film.

Once I hit the road back home, I was all in, from Bend, OR to Hood River, OR to take a few portraits, then finally home to Salt Lake City, UT.  Did it all straight through, starting at 10am in Bend, then arriving home in Salt Lake City, UT at 3am.  I probably should have stayed the night in Boise but I was determined to sleep in my own bed ASAP, so 17 hours later I was there, at home, in my own bed and was worth every second on the road.

I’ll have a bit more later with some random photos from the spring in a few days.

Farellones, Chile


My Chilean trip continues as we have left Portillo down to Santiago for a day before heading back up to Farellones, home of the 3 Valleys of La Parva, El Colorado and Valle Nevado ski resorts. We were supposed to be heading to Las Lenas, however they decided to back out on the lift tickets they had promised us two and a half months ago so we had to go to plan B.  Heh, we had no plan B!  Soooo we ended up calling Mark Lassiter again over at www.southamericaski.com to organize a last minute plan B.  We ended up with the 3 valleys with a slough of plans including being in Chile on Sept 18th, the Chilean independence day for some partying with the locals.

We arrived on a foggy and rainy morning that cleared out just in time for sunset. Farellones has some amazing sunsets, any day you can see the sun. The smog in Santiago is pretty gnarly but having a positive byproduct of making sick sunsets, just about every day up in the mountains. Farellones is a pretty small town at the base of El Colorado resort and below La Parva and Valle Nevado resorts.  We’ve had quite the contrast of places we have been in Chile from the luxury of Portillo to more of a true South American experience in Farellones.  We have been staying at a hostel called Refugio Aleman which has some really amazing views back towards Santiago and right into the sick daily sunsets through the smog of Santiago.

We will have a few more days here in Farellones with Anna’s friend Benny from Mammoth since Refugio Aleman is only a ski hostel and is closing for the season today!  We have a sunset jump session planned as well as a few more jibs so the shooting should be pretty fun.  After that we will be at La Parva for a day then the last day hopefully doing another road lap day on the Santa Teressa slope between El Colorado and Valle Nevado for fun without the camera on my back, then going straight to the airport and outbound back to Utah.  Here’s a few photos of Farellones

The road to Portillo, Chile


So Anna and I have arrived in Portillo, Chile along with our new friend Chris Taine from NZ.  For the most part Chilean drivers are kinda crazy.  On our ride up our bus driver didn’t think 120kph was fast enough for a bus so he kept passing cars left and right.  When we got to the mountain road on the way to Portillo, he felt that he (and everyone else) didn’t need to wait for trucks and passed very slowly on blind corners.  Kinda sketchy eh?  Now add in the fact that most vehicles on the highway were semi’s and yah, that was kinda sketchy.  Apparently people in Argentina are more agro than drivers in NYC or Boston.  Ha, looks like it should be an interesting ride…I think we will be picking seats in the middle of the bus!

After having a pretty uneventful bus ride up we ran across a road block of a overturned semi with it’s trailer torn in half.  Yah, what do you think hapened there huh?  Anyhoo after driving up 32 switchbacks we arrived at the Portillo Lodge, a beautiful yellow and blue lodge in a steep valley.  The peaks here are big, steep, and very scenic.  I’m stoked to get out and ski and shoot…..when the spring ice softens up!

Santiago, Chile


The Andes mountain range from the plane just about to land in Santiago, ChileSo I just arrived in the first foreign country outside of North America in 3 years.  I’ve been waiting to go for the past 2 months and I’m super stoked to be out here.  I’m shooting a story for Australian and New Zealand Skiing magazine for next Winter’s editorial schedule with Aussie skier Anna Segal.  Santiago was a lot of fun.  After staying in a hotel pretty well in downtown we cruised around the city on the subway and by foot.  Santiago is a pretty cool city of about 7 million people with a lot of bums and street performers that expect money for taking their photos!  From bums runing around with a horn and drum to a group of cheerleaders that would perform at the stop lights, they all expect money regardless of if they jumped in front of your camera or not!

The tour operator, Mark Lassiter of www.southamericaski.com hooked us up with one of his friends Vince and his friend Chris Taine where we met up for some dinner and drinks after cruising around town.  As it turns out Chris was heading to Portillo and is going to stay with us and ski for a few days too.

More later with a bit of skiing.  We have 7 days in Portillo, Chile coming up, then to Mendoza, Argentina, then off Las Lenas, another day in Santiago before I head home to Salt Lake City, Utah.

Another plane coming in for landing near Atlanta, GABaggage at the airport in Atlanta, GA.  Somewhere, my bags are there, soaking wet, with my soaking wet clothes.  Thanks DeltaSunrise somewhere over the Pacific OceanSunrise still, a half hour later just before the decent into SantiagoAHOY!  Morning tea before landing.Street Performing cheerleaders in Santiago, ChileStreet performing bums in Santiago, ChileA abandoned church in Santiago, ChileAnna's new best friend the evil balloon clown guy.  Homey really wanted some cash for this.Anna Segal in downtown Santiago, Chile

Seattle to SLC


Wind turbines along I-84 in IdahoSo just another jaunt from Seattle, back home to Salt Lake City, Utah.  This time around I had an even later start than normal, had to drive overnight, rolling in at about 11am in SLC.  Hey at least I got to see someone road rage on me with his 10 year old daughter in the car!  Also of course got to see the sunrise and of course snapped a few photos.

F-Stop Lotus photo backpack review


F-Stop Lotus backpack side view, fully loadedWell add to the bag reviews, here’s another one. The F-Stop Lotus. The Lotus was designed as a pack to carry a smaller amount of camera gear than the Tilopa or the Satori, however it just seems to work really well to carry the bulkiest of all the photo gear, the battery powered strobe kit. The Lotus works best with a Profoto 7b kit as you can fit the power pack, 2 heads and a the adjustable reflector inside. With the Elinchrom Ranger kit you can only fit 1 head in there due to the larger size of the Elinchrom Freelite heads, however you can easily fit an extra battery in with the different orientation of the Elinchrom Ranger power pack. With an Ranger kit in the Lotus you can fit the power pack, extra battery, charger, standard reflector and one Freelite head.

One of the great things about the F-Stop Lotus pack for carrying a battery powered strobe kit is how well the pack carries, and how well it carries on the front of your body. Now for most photographers that sounds pretty stupid to carry the pack on the front of your body but for outdoor sports photographers that carry these strobe kits along with the rest of their cameras an lenses on their back it does matter. I’ve skied with this pack on my chest with the F-Stop Satori fully loaded on my back. Now I wouldn’t ski this setup off-trail but skiing with it in a terrain park or something of the sort is much easier than with any of the other packs I’ve tried doing this with.

The Lotus, like all of the current F-Stop backpacks has a partial internal frame which makes these things carry like no other packs on the market. One last great thing about this pack is how small it folds up to. You can put your strobe kit into your Pelican case to fly with, then fold up the Lotus and put it in with the rest of your luggage, taking up very little space and weight. When folded up this pack is a mere one inch thick. To me this is a big deal. It makes traveling with the strobe kit a lot easier.

Volume: 35 Liter
Torso Length: 18.5″

F-Stop Lotus backpack top view with the Elinchrom Ranger power pack, Freelite A Head, reflector, charger and cablesF-Stop Lotus backpack top view, with the Elinchrom Ranger power pack.F-Stop Lotus backpack top view with the Elinchrom Ranger Kit, unpackedF-Stop Lotus backpack, folded up and ready to throw into the luggage.F-Stop Lotus backpack, folded up and ready to throw into the luggage.

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