Our own Kurt Stepnitz just started a 7 week marathon trip around the world working on a multimedia project for Michigan State University. This is the first in a series of posts chronicling his journey:

Michigan State University producer Kevin Epling is thinking if there's any way this is all going to fit. We still photographers have it easy I must admit. Photo by Kurt Stepnitz/ Michigan State University

To my colleagues and friends of the UPAA,

After months of planning and about a 30-person support crew behind us, there are 7 weeks of travel and story gathering ahead. Tonight begins a journey for a crew of 10, certainly like nothing I've ever experienced.

The first wave of the Spartans Will. 360 crew leaves East Lansing for Detroit. First stop, Beijing. Photo by Kurt Stepnitz/ Michigan State University

We are going to visit and gather multimedia content that highlights just a portion of Michigan State University's research around the world. Three 2-person video crews will leap-frog from one story to the next, and a 4th crew that I'm part of will stop at every location during the 7 weeks to wrap those video projects and gather still images for web, social-networking and print components. You can track most of this through http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2012/spartans-will-360/ and the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/SpartansWill360

Not great airline fodder, but it helps fill the void on long flights. Photo by Kurt Stepnitz/ Michigan State University
Took the cold route from Detroit to Beijing. Photo by Kurt Stepnitz/ Michigan State University
A Beijing resident passes by on a public transportation bus. Photo by Kurt Stepnitz/ Michigan State University
Graffiti on China's Great Wall looks different than from home. Photo by Kurt Stepnitz/ Michigan State University

Logistically, it has been a nightmare, and we can only imagine what curves lay ahead. But we're looking forward to the experience. We begin in China, and while I wrote most of this Saturday evening on the plane, this post will reach you shortly after we arrive in Beijing on Sunday (US time) or Monday. Glenn has encouraged me to post to the UPAA page, and our blog chief, Mr. Jaren Wilkey, will kindly be posting these to Facebook for me as China blocks it.

So this will be directed not toward our university audience like most of the rest of what our team is pushing out, but this should be more of what the hospitality room is known for at the annual symposium. What kind of things that matter to us photographers on a trip of this sort? We all know so well what kind of problem solving we're used to on a daily basis. Those that have traveled away from your campus to the next town know what rocky situations we're all known for solving on the fly. That's what makes us university photographers.

A battlement window on the Great Wall of China frames a section of the wall. Photo by Kurt Stepnitz/ Michigan State University
The Spartans Will 360 crew get some work done at the Great Wall of China. Photo by Kurt Stepnitz/ Michigan State University
MSU producer Kevin Epling prepares his gear at the Great Wall of China. Photo by Kurt Stepnitz/ Michigan State University
Michigan State University and Spartans Will. 360 producer Kevin Epling looks for a shot at the Great Wall of China. Photo by Kurt Stepnitz/ Michigan State University

That said, if you're anything like me, as a photographer you like to know the lay of the land before being dropped onto it. To be able to plan for contingencies, have the correct equipment, etc. To know who you're going to shoot, why, where, about what. Well I'm here to tell you that while I'm traveling with some seasoned, talented souls, there are a LOT of unanswered questions. Been driving me and others (mostly us field folks) nuts for the last month or two as departure time neared.

Some of those details I'll come clean on here, some only under the umbrella of the hospitality room in June (political reasons, of course). These are issues that will have ramifications as we progress through this project, without a question. And we as a production team will have to adapt and conquer our assignments. Its going to be challenging, but frankly dang exciting, too.

Kevin Epling (right) and Jim Peck of the Spartans Will. 360 crew prepare for a shot at the Great Wall of China. Photo by Kurt Stepnitz/ Michigan State University
Typical graffiti scene on the Great Wall of China. Photo by Kurt Stepnitz/ Michigan State University

So I'll sign off this first entry to deal with one of these overseas trip issues. Its a 14-hour flight from Detroit to Beijing, and with the time change we arrive at close to 1am on Monday Beijing time. I need to get a few hours of sleep now so I can get some sleep in the new time zone to be as productive as possible the next morning. Now as a photographer I trust most of you will appreciate that I don't want to miss the two meals included on this flight. The first dinner wasn't bad, looking forward to the next one in 7 hours or so. Don't mind sleeping through the snacks, I brought my own.

Back at ya soon,

Kurt

P.S. - Full disclosure, I ended up not passing up on the mid-flight snack either. More importantly, I just wanted to mention that these posts to the UPAA page are meant for us. What our crews are pushing out to our mainly MSU audience over the next 7 weeks is of course, what we all (UPAA members) do daily, basically PR. I do not intend to be crass or crude in these UPAA posts, but the intention of talking to my UPAA colleagues is in a voice that we know day to day in our own noggins. Not filtered (too much, anyway) like we have to do within our jobs every day.