The thought of finding a power outlet was laughable. Dan Chung was in a ger—a squat, circular tent made from felt and canvas over a wooden accordion frame—out in the middle of Mongolia, on assignment shooting darts players and coal mining activities. Near his ger, a massive strip mine lay gouged from the earth. Coal dust coated everything, including his photography equipment. "Everything I use basically has to be able to withstand a beating," says Chung. "That's planes, cars, all travel, the TSA. You know, the TSA are probably more likely to beat your gear up than a 12-hour car journey in Mongolia. So my equipment has got to survive, and thus far, touch wood, G-Technology drives always have."
For the three weeks he was in Mongolia, the only way Chung usually had to recharge his gear was from his car's lighter. At the end of the shooting day, he needed a storage solution that would be fast enough for editing and big enough for many days of raw footage yet still small and efficient enough to run solely on bus power from his laptop. "To be able to sit there in the semi-darkness with your MacBook Pro sitting in front of you and a couple of G-DRIVE ev units, being able to work on all of your day's photos without needing any external power whatsoever, is just great. So long as you've got a car or a charger, then you can continue to do that for as long as you want. For me, that is totally key." As one of the world's top news photographers, Chung knows exactly what equipment he needs for the job and environment. Getting to that point, though, took years of hard-won experience.
From the Beginning
Chung made his name in news photography and, more recently, videography. As a staff photographer and freelancer for The Guardian, he covered Iraq in 2003, post-tsunami Indonesia in 2004, and earthquake-ravaged Pakistan in 2006. While Chung might not have parlayed his degree in Geography into a career, his academic background certainly hasn't hurt during a life spent circling the world with a camera. He began working for a local UK newspaper, migrated up to city news in Birmingham, then moved to London where he could freelance for Reuters. By the age of 26, Chung became the youngest staff photographer Reuters employed, primarily covering sporting events and following Manchester United around. Interestingly, Chung has never been much of a sports guy. He thought of himself as more of a photographer who shot sports than a sports photographer. And while he might have used those years honing his craft, there's only so much cricket the average man can take. When The Guardian posted a job opening in 2003, Chung jumped at it and proceeded to pursue the world's biggest news stories, from being embedded in the Middle East to following Tony Blair into the Oval Office.
"Around 2006, 2007, I decided that the future for me and probably for the industry as a whole wasn't stills," says Chung. "So I went to the editor of the newspaper and said, "Look, since we're moving online and going away from print, online video is the big thing. We should be getting into this." And he said, OK, figure out what you need to do, go buy some stuff, and we'll see how it goes."
The Right Stuff
Chung experimented with video camera options but wasn't satisfied with any of them. They didn't provide the same sort of control over images that he was accustomed to in still photography. He tried all manner of lights, adapters, and other gear but ultimately found it to be "too much faff, too much of a nightmare." That was essentially the moment that the first video-capable DSLRs came to market. "I was mainly a Nikon shooter at the time. Apart from people in the news business, not too many people remember that even before the 5D there was a D90 that also shot video. I actually got hold of that in pre-production and did a shoot in Tibet for The Guardian. So arguably, that was the first ever DSLR news report, because the camera hadn't even come out when I did it." In recent years, Chung has scaled back his hours with The Guardian in order to pursue additional interests, including running the Newsshooter.com blog with Matt Allard. He professes to be obsessive about three aspects of his business: news, image, and technology.
Many news shooters lack his strict background in photography, and many photographers lack his nose for news and capturing the action in an environment in a way that conveys story and information. The blending of these two forces makes Chung a coveted specialist in his niche, but these two factors alone don't secure his viability as a professional businessman. The third element provides the key ingredient for lasting success: attention to technology and employing the right equipment. Even before he started shooting video in earnest, Chung used G-Technology G-RAID drives to ensure that his images stayed protected in the field and delivered enough performance for on-the-go editing.
Today, all of his computers come equipped with Thunderbolt ports to match his Thunderbolt interface drives, which he demands so that he can edit at full resolution in the field. His favored storage products are the recently released G-DRIVE ev docking system and his trusty G-RAID models, now updated for USB 3.0. "There's no other solution that's seamless and perfect for both field and office together the way that G-Technology is," he says while contemplating the 1.8TB of data he brought back from Mongolia on dockable G-DRIVEs. "I don't think I would like any other drive for field use." Chung has his eye on SSD, but he maintains that current G-Technology products give him more than enough speed for his work, excellent capacity, impeccable reliability—not one failed G-Technology drive to date—and a total cost three to four times less than what SSD would run. All of this matters because, as a journalist, Chung sees great responsibility with his work. He is achronicler, a keeper, a preservationist.