Mar 102014

Once Zeiss started making lenses for the Sony Mirrorless NEX system, I was sold.  My NEX-7 paired with the Zeiss 16-70mm f/4 is an awesome combination.  The focus is noticeably faster with this lens than just about any other Sony lens I’ve tried.  That said, I’ve always been left a bit “wanting” with the NEX-7.  Great camera but, especially for street photography, a bit slow on the focus.

Here comes the new Sony a6000 (release is slated for mid-April) which I got to touch and try at WPPI last week.  Sony is touting this as the fastest auto-focus camera on the market and I believe it.  Not only will it shoot 11 frames a second, but it will focus individually for each frame.  Typically, the focus occurs on the first frame only.  When I tried it out, the fast hybrid auto-focus, with 179-point phase detection and 25-point contrast detection achieved the claim.

There are a ton of other improvements including, most importantly, a 24.3mp new APS HD CMOS sensor with BIONZ Z processor.  Sony claims usable images up to 25,600 ISO.  We’ll have to see on that one!

Anyway, I’ve already sold my NEX-7 in anticipation of this bad boy.  The camera felt great in my hand.  And with additional features such as built in WiFi, anti-motion blur and built in HDR, Pano & Time-lapse, I’m very excited.  Stay tuned for a hands-on review in April.

Sony a6000

Sony a6000

 Posted by at 4:29 pm
Feb 272014

For years, I’ve been using the Really Right Stuff ballhead and have always been happy with it.  But, I’ve recently discovered the Acratech GP Ballhead and have been blown away.  Engineered and manufactured in the U.S., Scott at Acratech has come up with an incredibly designed and aesthetically beautiful ballhead.

Weighing in at only 454 grams, this lightweight ballhead doubles as a gimbal head. It can also be used upside-down as a leveling head for panos.  I haven’t tried it for panos yet, but with the Acratech pano bracket, I plan to.  The ballhead also has a quick release clamp that’s adjustable to any Arca-Swiss compatible plate.  The movements are silky smooth and I like the double speed nobs much more than the tightening lever on my RRS.  Once tightened down, even heavy combos such as my D800 with grip and 70-200 f/2.8 lens doesn’t move a bit.

Functionality is essential and this ballhead scores on every level, but as a gearhead, I have to say that this is one sexy piece of equipment.  The black anodized finish is great to look at.  I love the built in bubble level as well as the laser engraved degree markings.  The ballhead itself is fully exposed so there’s no way for dirt or moisture to get into the inner workings making this very easy to clean.

At $400, it’s not an investment to take lightly but I have to say that you get what you pay for and with the Acratech GP Ballhead, you are getting a piece of art as well as a highly functional tool that will last a lifetime.

By the way, they also make the Swift Clamp which provides a quick and easy way to connect your camera’s Arca-Swiss plate to your Black Rapid strap!

Acratech Ballhead

Not just a tool, but a piece of art.

 Posted by at 11:35 am
Dec 102013

There’s no better way to improve your photography than to look at other photographs, particularly the life’s work of the masters.  You can take all the workshops, read how-to books and magazines and spend a lifetime on forums, but there are really two ways to get better.  The first, and most important, is to get out there with your camera and shoot.  Shoot with purpose and shoot lots.  A photographer I admire said, “Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.”  There’s no other way to improve other than to shoot and shoot some more.  The second best way is to look at what the masters have done and that brings me to the first part of the BlackRapid Holiday Gift Guide.  These are some suggestions for great books with some amazing photographs.  This list is not comprehensive, but rather some books that I own myself and can endorse wholeheartedly!  Continue reading »

 Posted by at 11:31 am
Dec 062013

Let me start out by saying that all of my camera bags (and I have about 8) are Think Tank bags.  I’ve been looking for a small, lightweight shoulder bag with sling-style access for my Sony NEX-7 Mirrorless camera for quite some time.  I’ve finally found it.

Just released by Think Tank, the TurnStyle 5 is designed for mirrorless cameras.  My NEX fits nicely in the main compartment with the addition of 2-3 lenses including my two Sony zoom lenses as well as my Sony Alpha flash.  There is an outside pocket for the iPad mini which is awesome because, hey… if you’re going to carry a mirrorless, you might as well carry the mini instead of the full-sized iPad, right?

The sling-style is great because the bag can rest on your back and you don’t even really know it is there.  Then, you just swing the bag around to the front and grab your camera from the easy access zippered main compartment.

Even better is the fact that, in seconds, the bag can go from a shoulder sling to a waist-belted bag.  This is great for cycling or other times when a shoulder bag would just get in the way.  I love this feature!  In the usual Think Tank way, there are also smaller pockets for memory cards, batteries, cell phones, etc.  The bag weighs next to nothing which is why you’re carrying a mirrorless in the first place.  Oh, and like with all Think Tank bags, there’s a rain cover built into a side pouch.

The bag retails for $75 and can be purchased here!  It also comes in two larger sizes for a DSLR.  Watch for a review of the larger version soon.

Think Tank’s TurnStyle 5 Sling Camera Bag

 Posted by at 1:16 pm
Nov 292013

I love Thanksgiving.  It is a time of reflection to really think about all the things to be thankful for in our life.  I’m very thankful for my family, my health and my country.  I’m also thankful for my art.  As a photographer, I’ve got the great fortune of seeing things that nobody else sees.  But more importantly, for me anyway, is that I’m thankful for the legacy that I’ll leave behind and I take that very seriously.  The photographs I have made, and hopefully will continue to make for many years to come, will Continue reading »

 Posted by at 4:47 pm
Nov 222013

Yesterday, I was sitting at my at BlackRapid studios and realized I hadn’t seen daylight since early morning.  Needing to get up and move, I decided to take a walk in the chilled, but clear, November air.  Out of habit, I grabbed my Sony NEX-7, hoping that there was some juice in the battery.

As I ventured out, I realized that there was nothing but harsh light thanks to a, rare for Seattle, cloudless sky.  I decided to look for shadows and reflections.  Walking around Seattle Center, a mid-city park originally build for the 1962 World’s Fair, I took a shot here and there of nothing exceptional.  As I rounded the corner of the Experience Music Project building, I saw these fantastic shadows against the metal facade of the building.  Not really knowing how to capture what I saw, I worked the scene for 10 or so minutes (I had to get back to the office) and tried many different angles.  This is the one I like the most.

My point here is two-fold.  Firstly, I had my camera in my hand.  Had I just taken a walk and not grabbed my Sony, I would have lost out.  Sure, I could have gone back another day, but timing is everything and I might not get a chance for a long while.  Secondly, I worked the shot.  The first 10 or so were, well, boring and not exactly getting it.  You may or may not be moved by this image, and that’s okay.  But, I like this image and, really, that’s what’s important.  I hope you like it, but if not, grab your camera and get out and shoot.  That’s the whole enchilada anyway, isn’t it?


 Posted by at 12:14 pm
Nov 142013

There seems to be an ongoing debate regarding whether or not the DSLR will go the way of film in the near future.  With the improvement of cell phone cameras, Micro 4/3s and mirrorless cameras, some people seem to think there won’t be any need for the big, bulky and heavy DSLRs.  Up until now, I’ve written off the debate as a premature.  Until now…

What’s changed my mind?  Well, on my trip to Oaxaca, I found myself grabbing my Sony NEX-7 more often than not.  Until the introduction of the new Sony Zeiss 16-70 f/4.0 for Alpha lens, I wasn’t in love with my Sony.

Previously, I was using the Sony 18-200 f/3.6-6.4.  Costing over a grand, I just didn’t think it performed up to the standards of even my Nikon D7000, never mind my Nikon D800.  Yes, the NEX-7 has the same sensor as the Nikon D7000 and D71000, but I found the lens lacking in focus speed and, at f/6.3 at the zoom, low light capabilities were nil.  The new Zeiss f/4.0 lens changed that.  As with any camera body, it’s all about the glass.  The Sony Zeiss is fast, both in aperture and focus.  No, it’s not a 2.8 or even a 1.8 lens, but at f/4, it’s sharp with great color contrast.  Honestly, when I look back on my daytime shots in Oaxaca, it’s difficult to tell which camera I used.  Night shooting is a different story.  The D800 and Nikon glass outperforms the Sony in every way.

I’m sure the technology will just keep getting better, but I still have to wonder if these smaller cameras will ever catch up to the standard SLRs.  Light is light and my larger, 2.8 Nikon lenses capture it beautifully.  But for walking around the city, shooting street shots and every day things, the Sony is amazing.  If I need to shoot in the studio, weddings, or at night, nothing beats my D800 and speed lights.

The bottom line, for me anyway, is that owning both will cover everything I need.  The Sony NEX-7 is an amazing camera for what it does, but it can’t compete with my D800.

 Posted by at 2:09 pm
Nov 062013

I’m often asked if I have any advice for a person just beginning their photographic journey. The main reason, if not the only reason, to keep snapping the shutter is to create images that come from the heart. Pay no attention to what others say. Look at other people’s photographs and when you’re out there camera to eye, try to pull out what is your vision and express that through the photographs. Love your own photographs because, frankly, nobody else will, initially. It takes time to find your voice so make sure you take your time and take baby steps. Don’t think of it as your financial future, because you will not likely make a living as a photographer. Do it because you love it. It will show with every image.

Nov 042013

As I write this, I’m 30,000 feet over southern Arizona on my way back to Seattle after an amazing, exhausting and exhilarating adventure in Oaxaca, Mexico for the Day of the Dead celebrations.  Organized by Jeffrey Chapman, of Within The Frame Adventures, we were lucky to have David Duchemin along for inspiration.  What made this trip, for me, was the incredible group of diverse talents that we had on this journey.  Ten creatives all bound by Continue reading »

 Posted by at 4:34 pm
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