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US Roller Derby people going overseas – how to get or renew a passport.

Since there may be international travel in the future for St. Louis roller derby, and various people have asked me, I have written a guide to getting or renewing a passport.  This guide is intended for United States citizens and permanent residents who wish to obtain or renew a United States passport.  IF YOU ARE A CITIZEN OF ANOTHER COUNTRY, please contact your home country’s embassy in the country you wish to visit for instructions on how to get there legally.

First, a few notes from experience.

  1. Passports are not something that you can wait around and do at the last minute (good grief this should be flashing and 9000 point type.)
    1. At best, if you are a week away from a trip you would have to appear in person at the passport agency in Chicago and wait in lines until they have time to process you.  At worst, they just won’t have time.
    2. The State Department will process things rapidly for life or death emergencies but I can guarantee that “I want to play roller derby” will not be considered a life or death emergency.
    3. BOTTOM LINE:  GET YOUR PASSPORT RIGHT MEOW and avoid the stress.
  2. If you do not have a valid passport that expires at least six months AFTER the trip, you will not even be allowed to get on the plane overseas.  This means that even if your passport is valid but expires at, say, the end of 2017, it will not be enough.  You need to renew it unless it expires in, say, mid 2018.
  3. Do you need a visa?  Probably not.  If you are the average US citizen, the UK and Sweden both have visa waivers that allow US citizens to basically show up at the border and come in for a maximum of 90 days as a tourist.
    1. You will need to show your return ticket or other proof that you are going back home (such as a travel itinerary).
    2. You may also be asked questions about what you do, why you are there, etc.  Everyone gets asked those, don’t worry about it.
    3. If you are flying into Denmark (Malmo is very close to Copenhagen), your passport will be stamped there but then you can cross into Sweden without problems as both are in the Schengen Area.
  4. I recommend spending the extra money for expedited service.  If the passport agency gets bogged down for whatever reason, it can delay things horribly but the expedited requests still go first.
  5. I recommend getting both the passport book and the passport card.  It costs a little extra but then you have two forms of passport ID which can help if you lose one.  You cannot use the card for flying overseas, but you can use it at land border crossings and as a government ID to get onto a domestic flight.
  6. This is accurate as of February 2, 2017.  Things can change rapidly so be sure to stay on top of it.


  1. Go here:  US State Department Passport Page
  2. Click the “Get Started” button and click past the notice.
  3. Go to “Complete Form Online” at the lower left of the screen.
  4. Fill out the online forms.  At the end, it will have a PDF for you to print out.
  5. Once you print the PDF, you will need a photo to staple to it in the indicated area.  Walgreens can do the photo for $10 or so.  Also, if you have an office that has photo ID badges, maybe the security department can print a passport for you.
  6. If you are renewing a passport, you can send the application form, a check for the proper funds, your old passport, and the photo via mail (I recommend Priority Mail) and you don’t have to go to an Acceptance Facility.
  7. If you are applying for a passport for the first time, you need to go to an Acceptance Facility to formally apply.  These are usually post offices.    Note that some of them have photos onsite as well.  Note that most of them do not accept credit or debit cards for passports, you will need a check or possibly a money order (neat loophole, post offices sell postal money orders so there you go).

You will need proof of identity (for example a drivers license) and proof of US citizenship or residency.   For people born in the US, this is a birth certificate.  For others, your mileage may vary.  The US Passport application form lists various valid forms of ID and proof of citizenship.

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Nikon Repair Experience – November 2016

So I managed to screw up the lens mount on my D5.  This post will track its progress through the system.  I have had one good, rapid repair experience with Nikon, one kind of okay experience that took a while, and one that was absolutely awful where they had a lens of mine tied up for almost four months with no status updates.  So we’ll see how this one goes.

November 8. 2016:  Created a repair case at the Nikon website.  They provided a packing slip instructing me to send it to the Los Angeles facility.

November 9, 2016:  Sent the camera via UPS Ground (insured, of course).  It is scheduled to arrive on November 14th.

November 14, 2016:  Package arrived, signed for by “VELASQUEZ” according to UPS website.

November 17, 2016:  earlier today, I put in a support ticket on the Nikon website asking for a status update.  Just got an email from their service system that the camera is now in “Estimate Accepted” stage, and the order number that they enclosed works as well so I can track status.

November 22, 2016:  Ticket is now in “Shop” status.

November 28, 2016:  Ticket is now in “Billing” status.

November 28, 2016:  Ticket is now in “Shipped” status with a tracking number.  Guess I get my camera back Friday!  Will update once more once I check it out.

December 2, 2016:  Picked my camera up from UPS depot.  Level “C” repair (that is pretty major for Nikon).  New lens mount and various adjustments, sensor cleaning, and firmware upgrade (I didn’t know that there was a new firmware, but sure whatever… maybe lens definitions or something).  Everything seems to work.  I will be making sure next week when we start the new derby season!


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Working on a new portfolio.

Unintended side effect of decommissioning the “photo store” was that the decent gallery of decent things has gone away.  So I guess I should work on a new portfolio.  Oops.

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Nikon Repair Experience – September 2015

In this entry, I will be keeping a chronicle of my current repair experience with Nikon.  The last two times I have had to deal directly with Nikon, the service was extremely slow (months to complete repairs) but this time it went pretty fast (about two weeks at Nikon).

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random thoughts

Random thoughts on an old blog post that I started but never finished.


To Friend #1:  You own your body and your image.  If you’re not comfortable with what was posted, ask the photographer to take it down.  It’s okay to be assertive.  Being assertive does not mean that you are being rude or impolite.  If they balk at removing the photos, Facebook has report commands that will get the photos taken down.  I hope it doesn’t have to go to that extent, but if it does, you own yourself and nobody can take that away from you.  You’re a strong individual and you should focus on what is right for you.


To Friend #2:  I believe you’ve learned a valuable lesson and I hope you hold onto it for a long time.  The Internet is a powerful but completely illogical weapon, much like a chainsaw made of lightsabers.  It can kick back when you expect it least in very unexpected ways.  A good path would have been to talk it out with the photographer in question and then post about the results of that conversation.  You’re totally entitled to your feelings about yourself and your image, and I think having that conversation first would have changed the way things went and allowed the light to shine on your original message about body image, which is really important and powerful for people to read, rather than focusing on organizing the Internet lynch mob.


To novice models, in general:  I’m not going to get deep into laws and ethics here; there are enough blogs about that.  The photographer generally owns the rights to the images they take.  They (or anyone who acquires the rights to the photo) can’t usually use your likeness for commercial purposes unless they have a release to do so.  But ownership of the images does not translate into power over your opinion of said images.  You don’t give up your right to an opinion just because someone else pushed a button.

If you are entering into a situation where you might be concerned about how the photos are treated or where they end up, work the specifics out beforehand.  I hate hate hate to bring legal stuff into this, but if there’s even the slightest bit of concern that someone will do something you don’t anticipate or like with the photos, have a photo release or contract in place that states exactly what both parties will pay, will receive, and what restrictions will be observed with the photos – where they can be distributed, ability to review and approve them before publication, etc.  If those items are important to you, write them down!

If you’re signing up for an event specifically as a model, or even just going to an event that has a photo release, read it!  Don’t sign anything you are not comfortable with, and don’t sign rights away that you shouldn’t (i.e. commercial usage without consideration).  If you have questions about the event or the release, ask the organizers.  They probably want to make it go well for you.  If you have concerns afterwards, talk to them.  They probably have an interest in helping, whether that be facilitating discussions, removing images, etc.  You don’t have to go it alone.


To photographers:  Remember that your subjects are human.  They might not be comfortable with how you present them, and they might say something about it.  If someone’s uncomfortable with an image or the way it’s presented, you might want to give some strong consideration to their concerns.  Obviously there are a million ways this could pan out.  If you’re a journalist, you’re not going to pull a news-worthy photo just because someone thinks you got their bad side.  But if you’re doing portraits and someone is uncomfortable with the way you’re sharing their photos or likeness, I don’t think it helps to ignore those concerns.  At the very least you’re going to lose one client/fan/future model; at the worst things could blow up bigger.

And, discuss your expectations up front.  Do you want to put the images on Facebook, or on a website?  Do you want to put them into a print gallery that allows private or public sale?  What other compensation do you expect?  Do you expect that they can refuse a certain image or its treatment?  If you get weird feelings, put it in writing, like I advised above.  Discussing all of this beforehand helps you avoid all of this from the very beginning.

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That’s a lot of wheels.

So someone asked me what leagues I had taken pictures of. There are a lot of people who have been to more but sadly there are many more people who have seen a lot less. Going to see other teams is a very good way to get some real world experience.

If you are just starting to get into photography, look around you. There are very likely some local leagues that are a short road trip away that you can go visit when your favorite league isn’t doing something. Some of the smaller leagues especially are very open to photographers who want to practice their skills. Maybe there’s even an upcoming tournament that you can go to and see a bunch of different teams all at once for a really good price.

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X-Rite ColorChecker Passport – first glance

Today I picked up an X-Rite ColorChecker Passport.  This is a little gadget and an accompanying software package that is designed to help you get accurate colors for your photos.  I think it will be more useful in studio situations than in the field under gym lights, but it was a bit of an eye opener from the first time I used it today. Continue reading

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Pocket Wizard Zone/Group Interoperability

Nerd time.  I bought a PocketWizard Plus III set to remotely trigger a camera.  Then I got curious as to how they interoperated, but there was no good reference on the PocketWizard wiki.  So I sat down and tested with a MiniTT1, FlexTT5, and Plus III.  And here’s what I found…

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