The urban lifestyle (of da camera)

Hi World!

It’s that time of the month!…Kinda. Here’s to another fun-filled??? not terribly late (as usual) post. =D  (And yes, I’m pretty deprecating.) One day I will have to look up whether I can post smiley faces on here. I’m sure you can. Just haven’t really thought to look it up really.

So, the past few days, I’ve been thinking about how to write this post for the month and tonight, decided to write about something else entirely. Since I’ve been hemming and hawing about the other topic, this one I’m about to write would get to your screens much faster!

My current dilemma (of many, actually,) is finding a proper camera backpack to tote around the city. After moving back to NYC, I was using a small shoulder bag. This bag is big enough to carry the camera with two lenses and some accessories. Then I added a small notebook and strapped my tripod to the top of it. With the tripod, it’s a bit inconvenient on the subway. And because I needed to carry more things (and even more things as the months go by), I began using my backpack.

Carrying the tripod inside the backpack is actually pretty convenient, except when I’m trying to pack and repack the camera/lens bags, notebook, and whatnots with the tripod. My straps and zipper are starting to go. Is my bag really that heavy? When I’m tired, walking around all day, YES!

I feel like I’ve been looking at camera backpacks forever now, off and on. When I was at Photo Plus Expo in October last year, I was roaming around the exhibition hall and came across Lowepro’s Rover Pro AW bags. It’s supposed to allow you and your equipment to get out into the backcountry. I suppose it reminds me of my days in AmeriCorps, more specifically Utah Conservation Corps. I got excited because, 1) it looked like it would help distribute the weight well like my own backpacks from Kelty. Not the one now, the camping one. And 2) it would be hard for someone to steal something from the pack. But now that I’m looking at it again, it won’t make sense in an urban setting. It has units for you to place your gear in, which is great. But since I take my equipment in and out of the bag quite a number of times a day, that’s just going to be inconvenient. This morning, I saw Lowepro’s DryZone Rover bag. I got excited because it was waterproof. Not only would I not have to break out a rain cover for the bag, it would be an option to take with me for when I go sea kayaking in the future.

I’ve been looking at Vanguard bags as well. I like the fact that they look compact, without a lot of fuss that people unknown to you might want to mess with. I still need to review their line of backpacks again.

I just happen to be one of those people who have to research things to death. Which, incidentally, takes me forever to make up my mind and buy something. Ideally, I would get to try it out before buying it, but the camera stores may or may not carry a display for me to look at. So coming down to it, the following factors are what are important to me in choosing a bag:

1. Carry a camera body and up to four lenses. Don’t think I really need more lenses than that. Of course, carrying two lenses and a tripod is heavy enough, I don’t know what I would do with four lenses, plus other gear I only carry when I need it, i.e., for portrait work.

2. Have room for all the accessories. Maybe flashes in the future?

3. I love having a gazillion pockets, which also equates to carrying more stuff. Want at least one pocket big enough for a book. I wasn’t planning on carrying a book around town since I now read on my phone. But, the phone goes through battery so fast that it’s nice to be able to have something tangible to read if the phone does die. And to answer your question/comment, can’t always charge my phone during the day.

3. Have the bag open from the back, more of a security issue for me. And maybe an OCD clean issue too where my bag that touched the ground won’t touch my back.

4. Be inconspicuous. Not really wanting a screaming orange.

5. Tripod placement. I’ve noticed some bags have the tripod on the side. I kind of wonder how lopsided the weight distribution would be. There are some that you can strap to the middle which seems better for my center of gravity. (Can you tell I’ve been backpacking?) But I think I would want to put a rain cover over it like I do now just to keep the tripod out of sight. However, since the tripod is outside the bag, I will have to see how much harder it is to cover it. I’ve already poked a number of holes through the one I have at the top where it goes over the tripod head.

6. Also, I’ve been thinking about how to carry the backpack and tripod/stand bag (for whenever I get one. Yep, still researching.) together. I may have to settle for carrying the tripod/stand bag in my hand but I’d rather not.

7. Ooooo, something that I really like, and it’s a throwback to the camping backpacks–having a hydration reservoir. Yes, I think I’ll look weird sucking on a hydration tube, but they are so convenient!

I think those are the most important points for me in choosing a bag, though I’ll probably remember some more once I publish this. =)  With this potential traveling studio, I think I need to bring a mule with me to my shoots. Wonder if it would need a metrocard?

Til next month! Take care!

 

 

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Business cards

Hi everyone,

I’ve been struggling with my new batch of business cards. Not in design but in terms of which images I want on them. moo is awesome! They allow you to choose different paper surfaces, thicknesses, corners, and you can have a different image on each card, up to 50 images. This time around, I may go with their shiny surface which they just started. It’ll make my images look more like mini photos. If I do that, I may forego the rounded corners though. Haven’t quite decided on that.

The thing that’s been holding me back the most is the images I want on the cards. Since I was going to use these cards as a portable portfolio, I was going to put images of the types of photography that I do from architecture to food, products, and fine art (landscapes) Originally, I was going to add real estate interiors as well. But upon thinking it over some more, people were excited to pick my landscape pictures over the portraits in my last batch. I’ll probably include the interesting architectural details but not products…maybe food. It does defeat the purpose of being able to show potential clients what I can do in the time it takes to get my cards out. But to do that or give them something they would appreciate more? Alternatively, I could just get another set to be sent out as promo pieces or part of a leave behind package.

I guess taking days to write this post is to my advantage (Yes, I know this is not a very long post!). moo is having a sale this weekend. That will be my incentive to get them done already! =D

Here’s the card that everyone seems to want. Enjoy!

Beach Walkway

The March’s Lion’s Cousin

Hi World!

I think I need to sit down and brainstorm on topics to write about for the upcoming year. Been having trouble with that. It was suggested that I write about my cat. So, I thought I’d comment about two pictures that I’ve taken of her.

First things first, the background. Meet Shadow. She’s just a regular American shorthair cat. Although her name fits her fur coloring, she was dubbed Shadow due to following me around like my own shadow. She used to sleep on my chest. Really quite hard to breathe (and sleep!) when you have a seven pound cat laying on your chest. She’s gained weight since then. Thank goodness she doesn’t do that anymore!

In the eyes of Shadow.

In the eyes of Shadow.

This first picture came about when I was applying to photography school. One of the photo requirements was a self-portrait. This is what I came up with. It’s pretty subtle as far as self-portraits go, in my opinion. But then, when you look at it and look at it some more, it’s kind of creepy in a way, huh? It makes me think of what she sees when she looks at me.

It was taken with my Nikon D90 camera, 28-105mm Sigma lens with on camera flash. I believe I had it on aperture-priority mode.

 

This second one, you may recognize from my website. This was from a shoot I hoped to use towards the pet photography requirement in photography school for my final portfolio. However, I didn’t think any of the images were good enough for the portfolio and ended up submitting something else. Afterwards, going back through the shoot, I found this one that spoke to me and wish I had “discovered” it to use in said portfolio.

Shadow's official portrait.

Shadow’s official portrait.

It seems like a very studio lit headshot to me. This was made with the Canon 5D Mark ii, 24-70mm Canon lens, and ambient/window lighting, no reflector.

 

I find that I like taking pictures with the background going out of focus. One or two more examples of that can be seen in my website portfolios. Besides it being less distraction in most instances, it can help bring nice color or compositional shapes to the image. Hoping I get to make more of these kind of images if only the sun would come out and play!

See you guys next month!

Continual Shopping

Hi all,

Been racking my brain since the first of the year about what to blog about. So I figure I will ramble on about feeling like I’m purchasing or need to purchase something every month to make my photography life easier and the insights or not of purchasing those small things that make a difference…or lack thereof.

So, last year, I had a terrific bubble level for the camera that I had purchased. And, of course, I lost it during one of my shoots. I purchased another one at a local camera store, which I’m not too thrilled with. It’s not as precise as the other one but it was all I have until I figured out what other brand to purchase. Last month, bought three online thinking they would be better. It was hard to imagine that they could level even worse. Every one of them. Apparently, not every level levels the same. Who would have thunk? I assumed with quality control and these bubble levels needed to be precise, that each one would level exactly the same. I really need to stop assuming things! I, unfortunately, am still on the hunt for a good bubble level. How does the building industry do it? Strapping one of those levels to my camera may be a bit much.

I just purchased some transparent door stops and waiting for them to come in for pick up. It was something simple and useful to get for my gear, but I had waited. Lately, I’ve been finding doors that just won’t stay open so I thought, “Hmm, I wonder if they sell transparent ones?”. Lo and behold, they do.

Besides getting some more lenses (which isn’t happening yet), I think I need to replace a tripod I just bought in August but didn’t start using on a daily basis until October. So, math time… that’s 3 months of continual use and abuse. That is really sad. When I bought the tripod, I knew it wasn’t what I really wanted but it was what the job (at the time) had called for. Not exactly buyer’s remorse since I knew what I was getting, but I thought it would have held up a bit better.

So, what am I looking for in a tripod? Well, the tripod is made up of the head, which is the top part where you secure your camera to, and the legs. For architectural photography, I need a three-way head, where I can straighten the angle on three axes. A quick release plate is always a good idea. I think I prefer the Arca Swiss type head though. This involves sliding the quick release plate into the head and clamping it down by turning a knob versus snapping the camera down in place with a click. Though the second may be more efficient, I’m always afraid that I’ll accidentally hit the lever that releases the plate and my camera will fall off.

Arca Swiss Head

Arca Swiss Head

Three-way head

Three-way head

tripod-6

Quick release plate for three-way head

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although it would be convenient to remove the handles on the head if placing it in a stand/tripod bag, I would rather that they not be removable. I’ve already thought I’d lost one handle because it was loose and slipped off (thankfully into the rain cover I had over my bag). Shooting interiors with one handle is not recommended. Besides these considerations, I also have to think about how much weight will be on the tripod and will have to choose my head accordingly. When I first bought the current tripod, I was only expecting to have my camera body and a 14mm lens on it. But I’ve occasionally had to put a 24-70mm on it. When the camera is shooting vertical, all you will see is a drooping camera because the weight is too heavy.

As for the legs, I prefer to have a tripod that is taller than my height. Of course, this get a little more costly, the higher you go. There were three different ways to extend the legs: twist and lock, the flip lock, and the knob.

Twist lock

Twist lock

Flip lock

Flip lock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I was looking into tripods last year, I couldn’t really find any new tripods that had the knob. Someone had told me to get the flip lock, which I knew I wasn’t going to like tremendously. And that’s true, I’ve had to had one particular flip lock constantly tightened. Otherwise, you have one sagging tripod leg as you’re trying to take multiple exposures. Quite annoying. When I was at Hallmark Institute of Photography, we had tripods that used the twist and lock. I like these a lot better, though sometimes I couldn’t untighten the lock or I would turn the lock the wrong way so that I would be trying to tighten one section of the leg for five minutes. There’s currently a new tripod out where you don’t have to deal with all the knobs, flops, and twists. You just extend the legs out and it locks itself. It sounds really good in theory. I don’t worry too much about having spikes on the ends of the tripod legs since I’m not shooting on any steep, soft incline. I do have to consider whether having the legs fold up in three or four sections is better. Four is more compact, could get the tripod taller, but more unstable because the diameter of the leg sections is smaller than that of the three sectioned legs. For me, I would want to have a center column. Though it’s less stable to have it up, shooting exteriors when I can’t get far enough away from the building to include all of it, even with the legs fully extended, it helps extend the camera up a little bit to where I still can get the top of the building without having to tilt the camera up. If I was doing macro photography on the ground, a center column hinders more since I won’t be able to get closer to the ground. Another consideration I didn’t think I’d have problems with, but I’m now conscious of, is the hinges I pull out to further extend the legs than normal. I don’t necessarily use this for my architectural shots, but having those hinges pull out more readily when I don’t intend them to is a bit frustrating when I’m trying to set up the tripod.

Leg sections & center column

Leg sections & center column

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And one last consideration, (“Geez! Isn’t that enough?! What else could there be???”, you ask.) is what the tripod is made out of. Currently, mine is made out of aluminum. Not exactly ideal. It’s light but not as durable. But running around the city with it on my back, it’s quite heavy enough, though not for the right purpose. There’s steel, but that’s heavy. Then there’s carbon fiber, which is the best of both, light but sturdy…and pricey. I have a wooden tripod, but that’s for use with my medium format camera.

I hope this had led to some insights! Thanks for reading!

Happy Early Christmas/Season’s Greetings!!!!

Hi all,

It seems kind of weird it’s almost Christmas already. No snow except for that one storm a couple of weeks ago. Still trying to figure out my shopping list and where to go. Off and on, I’ve been seeing magazine covers with Holiday cookies, desserts, and projects. It’s making me itch to bake and photograph food again.

I don’t think I’ve ever really made Holiday cookies except for maybe the Pillsbury ones with the Christmas tree in the middle. Always wanted to make a gingerbread house too. Maybe I’ll figure out plans on constructing a Victorian one for next year. Hmmm…stained glass windows. I’d need to learn to play with sugar for that! I saw giant gingerbread men at one of the booths they have set up at Union Square for Christmas. It’s quite a sight if you’re in the area but oh so very crowded. My personal bubble had to be shrunk down to almost (okay, was) non-existent. Found some tempting handmade chocolate snowmen at Whole Foods.

Edible cuteness

Edible cuteness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Decorative street lights were being hung up around Thanksgiving time. So, the snowflake was taken in Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Snowflake

Brooklyn Snowflake

Here’s hoping for a white Christmas! =D   (Just saw the snow on my blog. Forgot about that. That makes me happy!)

Safe travels and holidays everyone! See you next year!

In threes (pt. trois)

Oh my!!!! It all posted! Yay! I can go eat now. Breakfast or lunch? Too bad I can’t make scones. My brother’s kitchen doesn’t quite have all that I have back home to bake and cook with. =) 

But wow, those pics look bright on site. Enjoy!

In threes (pt.deux)