Sometimes, you take pictures, and at the end of the day, you just want to delete them all. And then run the SD card through a shredder, just to make sure they're really gone. You realize that your photography is mediocre at best, and the neighbour's kid across the street probably has more good shots with his crappy cell phone than you with your high end camera. You figure that with the money you invested in photographic equipment you are unable to use properly, your child could go to university until he's 47. You could drive the car you always wanted, instead of the beater you own. You know you could sleep in on weekends, instead of hunting yet another botched sunrise. If you stopped insisting with this bloody hobby, you would be the one in the pictures with your kids, and not just your spouse. You would pick family vacation spots because they're fun or relaxing, not just photogenic. You wouldn't ever have to worry about too much dust, humidity, charged batteries and enough memory on your obsolete computer. If you only stopped hunting after yet another million dollar shot that never comes, you could finally enjoy life.
And then, as you convinced yourself that it's time to call it quits, to admit to yourself that you're better off with another hobby, and you grab your camera to put it away, you realize that you just can't let her go. You suddenly remember the good moments. The fun you've had. The satisfaction. You realize that photography and you, you're made for each other. It's been love at first sight, and it will always be love. Love hurts. Like hell. But it's still a beautiful thing.
Peak Design's Cuff and Leash aren't some kinky sex toys, but the most versatile and comfortable wrist strap/neck strap combination I found to date.
I wanted a wrist strap I can put on the camera or take off it in a second flat. Comfortable and durable. I also wanted a shoulder strap I can adjust in length from really short to super-extra-long cross-body. Same comfy, durable finish. And my OCD demanded that my wrist and my neck strap be "a set". They have to look like they belong together. Duh.
I wanted both to be hot-swappable, without ugly dangly-bits hanging from my camera that catch onto stuff, snap off teeth, scratch the finish, come off too easily, etc. etc. I wanted to be able to carry both straps with me at all times, without using up too much real estate in my camera bag. Look at the neck strap (to the right): This is how small it is all rolled up. Tiny!
Cuff and Leash fit the bill. Yes, the connectors dangle from my camera, but they're neither big nor icky. They're actually nice looking, with little round connectors that are as big as a penny, in a cool black-red, with super strong kevlar threads. The threads are too thick to fit into my camera's lugs, so I had to use my split rings, but Peak Design let me know that they are looking at alternatives for camera owners like myself who suffer from "small lug syndrome". I am personally hoping for connectors with thinner threads that will be sufficient to handle the lesser weight of typical mirrorless cameras. The strap itself looks like it's made from a small, thin seatbelt material, but it's oh-so-soft and smooth, just amazing. If I want to use the camera "naked" (camera naked, not me naked. Just thought I'd specify that for the gutter-minded readers), the connectors aren't in the way at all, and I don't mind them one bit.
Peak Design is a company that came to life through a Kickstarter initiative. Most cool companies these days start up like that. In this case, a photographer frustrated with lacking solutions for his needs developed 'Capture', a camera clip that is a really cool alternative to a neckstrap. Leash and Cuff are actually only a by-product to Capture, and I'm truly happy they developed it. They work for me. Oh, and just you wonder, I am not affiliated with the company at all. I bought my own stuff and now I'm recommending it, 'cause I like it. :)
Well, check them out at www.peakdesignltd.com. You can thank me later.
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Is one really ever done setting up the perfect photographer’s kit?
I’m not sure. I’ve been working on perfecting mine for the last 5 years… I started to work on it pretty much as soon as I realized I wanted to take photography more seriously than any Point & Shoot camera was letting me do. Got a DSLR and lenses and such and tried to make it work for me, but there was always something else that didn’t quite make it fit.
Fast forward to the point where I decided to get rid of my DSLR and go mirrorless instead. Smaller camera body, and smaller lenses. Smaller and lighter everything – but without compromising quality. Now that I found the perfect camera, I could finally work on accessorize and organize it to work with it, so the kit would work for me, and not the other way around.
1. Camera bag
There is no perfect camera bag. Forget it. Unless you only use your camera for one specific way of shooting, e.g. bird pictures on hiking trips in the mountains, you will need different bags for different occasions. Sunday afternoon outings with your family. Hiking in the mountains. Vacations in Mexico. If you bring your camera wherever you go, you will need suitable bags or backpacks. I own one camera backpack for hiking, one messenger bag with camera insert for outings and a camera insert for my everyday purse(s).
a) Kata Backpack 465
My backpack is different from your regular camera backpacks. For starters, it’s beige. For me, it needs to fit not only ALL my gear, but also other items such a bottle of water or a lunch. If I go backpacking, that means I’m out for a while, so it needs to fit everything I will need for an entire day. My Kata backpack is fairly small, VERY comfortable and fun (aka, not black). I love it dearly. Unfortunately, they don’t make it anymore… (http://goo.gl/OtVVw). But so far, it’s holding up great, and I hope I don’t need to replace it anytime soon.
b) Rickshaw Medium Messenger Bag
After searching for a long time and never finding anything I liked, I settled for a messenger bag that is NOT a camera bag. Pre-made camera messengers just weren’t my thing. Either the organization or the colours… something always was off. In comes Rickshaw. Rickshaw Bags is a small company located in San Francisco, and they make awesome stuff. The Medium Messenger is very comfortable to carry and fits a bunch of stuff. They make it for you with the colours YOU like. I picked brown. It’s just my favourite colour. Now obviously, it isn’t a camera bag, but with a couple of inserts, voila, you can use it as such. I’m a bit handy with needle and thread, and quickly converted the snap closure into a way to strap the tripod to the bottom of the bag. The bottom of the bag now wraps around the tripod, and since this curves the inside of the bag, I made a little padded bottom on which I rest the camera insert. Hard to explain, but very simple, really. Again, the bag needs to fit my gear and some other items, such as phone, wallet, lipgloss, etc. Waterproof, comfy, the exact colour I wanted… what’s not to like? (http://goo.gl/G8tr5)
c) Hand bags
My favourite brand of bags, Kipling, doesn’t make a camera ready hand bag. But since there are plenty of inserts to be had on Ebay, I bought a small one (brown, of course), and added it to my bags. The Ciesta insert I picked has little side pockets which fit a spare battery, lens pen, remote, filters, etc., so I can just lift the insert from one bag into the next and all the accessories remain in place. It’s a hot-swappable camera insert, if you will.
You need the perfect tripod. Is there a perfect tripod? I don’t know. I suppose there is, but I haven’t found it yet. The closest to perfect FOR ME is the Benro A-150 EXU (http://goo.gl/4uRdZ) for a measerly $ 66. What was important to me is that it is very light (1 kg/2.2 lbs), very tall (159.3 cm/62.7”) and not too expensive. There is a lot I like about this tripod. It it even has spiked feet that retract into rubber pods – good for indoors and out. The only thing I didn’t like about it was the ballhead. It’s ok, but not perfect. Unfortunately, this particular tripod doesn’t have a removable head. So out came the pliers and metal saw, and voila, I made my own Frankenpod. The head I used is the Joby ballhead Focus. Lovely thing, perfect size for my camera. Now the tripod is a pleasure to use and I carry it with me everywhere. And that's incredible, considering that two years ago I didn't even have one.
3. Remote Control
There are many different remote controls for many different cameras. I have two: A cable release (when I use it for landscape shots it makes me look like a photographer in the 1800’s), and an iPhone app (Triggertrap). Both work well, and I carry both around with me often. I prefer the iPhone app (set it and forget it), and I just ordered a little iPhone bicycle mount so I can attach the phone to the tripod. Will report when I get it.
There are a lot of effects in photography you can create through post processing these days. But some things you just can’t create afterwards. After long debate with myself and a bit of research (and everyone pulling me from one part to the other), I believe I have found my perfect filter kit:
a) Circular Polarizer
I got the HD2 Cir-PL from Hoya. Not cheap, but also not remortgage-your-house expensive. It lets more light through than some of the others I’ve had in the past, so it will only do what you want it do to – remove reflections and intensify colours outdoors.
b) Black Glass Filter (ND filter)
After a bit of research, and although everyone told me to go get a Lee Big Stopper (!!) I found a very economical one that doesn’t have nasty colour casts like some of the more expensive stuff (are you listening, B&W??): The Hoya X400 ND filter is a 9 stop filter that (in 58mm) comes in under $ 45 and does the trick. Cheap. Works. I love it. Period.
c) Grey Graduated ND Filter
This one I learned from my friend Cameron Siguenza, the man with the insane gear kit that contains simply EVERYTHING: If the ground is perfectly exposed but the sky is blown out, reach for a graduated filter (dark top, clear bottom). Suddenly it’s not so difficult anymore to expose the image properly! Who knew? Tiffen makes a great one called Graduated 0.6 ND Digital HT, and I snapped it up. With $ 65 not the cheapest thing to have, but VERY useful. There are others out there, for $ 12 or less, but I decided to forgo plastic and go with glass.
d) Variable ND Filter
At first, I thought I wouldn’t really need it, but on the weekend in the forest I realized that sometimes you don’t need black glass. Different degrees of dark glass would be good, but if you don’t want to carry a whole array of filters, a variable ND filter comes in handy. Again, Hoya makes a great one that isn’t too expensive. (http://goo.gl/LaKsN) Probably not as good as a Singh-Ray, but for $ 105 I won’t complain. Nice and neutral, it worked quite well when taking that picture of the river on my birthday (http://goo.gl/vKeuj). The forest was just too dark for a 9 stop, and I didn’t want to have to expose the picture for 2 hours. I’m sure the variable ND filter will come in handy for other things as well, with the brighter light come summer, that’s why I also got myself a step-down ring from 58 mm (my wide-angle lens) to 52 mm (my “do-all” lens).
5. Other Stuff
Well, you may need some other stuff too to make your kit complete. Here are a few items I have:
Lens pen & brush
Lens cleaner spray and micro fibre cloths
Spare SD cards
SD card reader (because I’m hesitant to connect my camera to my computer for various reasons)
Rocket blower to clean the insides of your camera
Lightstand with soft box
Wireless flash trigger
Lots and lots of storage for pictures
etc. etc. etc.
So here you have it. A little insight in my gear. Is it an expensive setup? Not as expensive as some people’s, but it’s expensive for me. Did I ever make a dime with it? Nope. But it brings me hours of happiness and joy. It takes me out there, let’s me meet people, be creative and enjoy life. And I think that’s what makes it a very good investment.
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Long exposure photography is hard on a marriage, if your spouse isn't into photography as well. He drives you to a beautiful location, and you stroll hand in hand down the beach, until you spot a place where a picture wouldn't be a bad idea. Now, under normal circumstances, a "regular" person grabs his or her point 'n shoot and takes a picture. Ok, maybe two. Or even three. "Honey, smile!" Or they stand with their backs to the motive and smile in the camera and take a cute little self portrait together. Sure. 5 minutes, tops. Camera goes back into the bag and off you go.
Now, let's play this again with two different people, one of whom is a "serious" photographer. So, where were we? Oh yes, the stroll along the beach, until you get to a beautiful location where a picture wouldn't be a bad idea. "Honey, I think I'd like to take a picture." Out comes the tripod. Now to find a location for the tripod. Level it properly. Make sure there is a subject to take a picture of in the foreground. NO! NOT PEOPLE!! Are you nuts?? We don't want no people in our beautiful landscape. Relocate the tripod. Relocate again. Ok, now focus. Now mount a polarizer. And now the ND filter. 10 stop. Oh yeah, those screw on filters take time. Now the long exposure. Let's keep it short, say, 2 minutes? Fine. Set camera to Bulb, release the trigger and wait. "HONEY!! DON'T TOUCH THE TRIPOD! Why don't you just wait over there. NOT THERE!! GET OUT OF MY FRAME!! Stay behind me, will ya?" In the meantime the 2 minutes are up. Picture is done. Looks ok. But better repeat it, you never know. And then lets change the location of the tripod again. You know, the area is just so beautiful.
45 minutes later you are lucky if your husband has driven off without you instead of drowning himself in the river.
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Earlier this summer I splurged and got myself a Biolite Camping Stove, when I found out about it on one of the technology blogs I read. What does a camping stove have to do with technology? Good question. Well, this puppy is different from other camping stoves. It uses wood, not gas, to heat up. Any kind thin and small sticks will do, pinecones, stuff the wind blows down from the trees along your street or in your park. Once it's heated up enough, the stove will generate energy from the heat, and while roasting smokeys or hotdogs or marshmallow, or boiling water for your tea, it generates enough electricity to charge your phone (if you have a long enough cord.)
I used it all summer long, at the lake, in the garden, and on the balcony. You can put it on your table, or on the ground. Once it's cool enough, you can pack it up nicely and store it with your camping gear (or in my case, in my picnic basket).
What's not to like? Well, it's a great stove. I would definitively buy it again if it ever broke. However, it does generate a lot of ashes, so the ashes will end up in your hair, on your plate, in your drink. I suppose, ashes are part of fire, so suck it up, princess. Also, you will need to bring some kind of fire starter, otherwise you need to be pro in fire building. I use firesticks (from sawdust and wax). And last but not least, no wood, no fire. If you are out there in the wilderness and it just rained and you didn't bring dry firewood, you're out of luck.
Do you need it? Probably not. Are there better camping stoves out there? Probably yes. Do I enjoy the heck out of this little thing? YOU BET.
So, there you have it. My less than professional review. If you want to have a closer look, you can find more information here: biolitestove.com (I am in no way affiliate with them. I had to buy my own stove and what I wrote is my honest and personal opinion.)
I realized how much useless crap is stored in my brain, behind my forehead, between my ears, in the back of my head. My brain is like a sieve, it loses important information, yet it manages to catch all kinds of stuff I read somewhere, I heard somewhere, I saw somewhere, that will probably never come in handy, yet I have it stored away in my endless databank of information nobody needs.
When I realized that, I got mad. I wish my head was programmable. I wish I could throw things I don't need in the trash bin to clean my harddrive for storage of stuff I do need. There isn't a way.
I have to keep the name of the actor in that movie from 1976 that nobody remembers, and those lines to that song that never went above 27th place in the charts, and the bits about how the sunshine reflected off my son's blonde hair last week when we were at the…
Never mind then.
Does it have to make any sense? Does it need a rhyme or reason? Focus, sharpness, noise… do they need to be tuned and accurate? And does it have to have a meaning, some smart or poetic words to accompany it…?
What does make a photo perfect?
If it catches your eye, it's perfect to me.