Just sixty minutes from Santa Fe are the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks. I got in the car and made sure I was at the entrance to the park at 7am when they were supposed to open. Well, things happen a bit slower here in the Southwest. The park rangers moseyed on in at about 7:10 and then discovered that neither had the keys to the gate. A few minutes later, ranger number three arrived with the keys and I was permitted to enter. With a tripod in one hand, a water bottle in the other and my D800 slung cross-body and hanging against my back, I began my hike on the Slot Canyon Trail. Alone, I sometimes had to squeeze through rather tight spaces as I worked my way to the fairly steep climb to the top. Along the way, I snapped a few shots (below) and began my ascent. Those of you who know me know that I am a rather avid cyclist. As I climbed the rocky trail in the 8am desert heat, already 75 degrees, I realized that I was soaking wet and breathing heavier than I would expect. It wasn’t until later that I found out that Santa Fe sits at 7000 feet above sea level. Okay, I was a bit redeemed. Anyway, here are a few shots from today.
I’ve been using the BlackRapid sling straps for years. Connecting to the bottom of the camera, the BlackRapid sling straps take all the weight of the camera off your neck by resting on your shoulder with a large, ergonomic pad and going cross-body to hang at the opposite side at your waist. With it’s patented slider system, the camera glides up the strap as you lift it to your eye gunslinger style. However, sometimes, it is a bit too much strap for my purposes. Enter The Shot….
The Shot is BlackRapids first foray into a non-sling type strap. They introduced The Shot a few months ago, but it was only available in a very bright orange color that screamed out “Hey, I’ve got a camera!”. I loved the functionality of this strap, but wasn’t too keen on the color. BlackRapid has now released the black version and I’m hooked.
The Shot is a shorter 35″ strap with a comfortable non-slip rubber pad. I find this to be the perfect length, as I can throw the strap over my shoulder so that my camera rests comfortable behind the crook of my arm. With the same hardware as all the traditional BackRapid straps, my camera is easily accessible and slides up the strap to my eye. There is much more room in my camera bag because this strap is much more compact than other sling straps. What I like most about The Shot is the ability to grab my camera and go. I can grab it from the table or the seat of my car and slide it on my shoulder in one quick movement. The black Shot is nicely made with the rubber pad molded onto the strap itself providing a nice pattern without being obvious.
The camera still hangs upside down as it is attached to the tripod mount like other BlackRapid straps which keeps the strap out of the way when looking through the viewfinder. The main thing I don’t like about traditional straps is that they are always getting in the way of the viewfinder, especially when shooting vertically. Yes, there is the attachment on the bottom which can be a bit uncomfortable when shooting with a vertical grip, but you quickly get used to it. The only drawback, like any BlackRapid strap, is attaching the strap to your camera if you use a L-bracket. That is easily remedied by using the fabulous Acratech Quick Release Clamp. The clamp has a tight quick release lever that attaches to your bracket and provides a solid ring to hook on your BlackRapid stap. Because of the bottom attachment, you do have to be careful when putting your camera down so that it is stable and doesn’t rest on the sensitive top of the camera.
The Shot is a great addition to my camera bag and, while there are times when I want the all-day comfort of the traditional cross-body sling straps, I love the grab-and-go of The Shot and it rarely leaves my camera.
Adobe has announced that with Lightroom 5.5, the latest update, if you cancel your Cloud subscription, you will not lose all the work you’ve done previously. The only parts of Lightroom 5.5 that will be disabled are the Map Module and the Develop Module. You’ll still be able to organize, keyword, print and make slideshows with your existing catalog. You will still have access to the quick develop functions as well. This should put to rest some of the fears surrounding signing up to the Creative Cloud.
Don’t forget, Adobe has made their Photographer’s Bundle pricing permanent (for now), so you can get both Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop for only $9.95 a month. I think this is a sweet deal!
Everyone you talk to says you should almost always shoot in aperture priority and, honestly, I’ve done the so for years. But recently, I’ve had a bit of a change of heart in this matter.
Yes, by shooting in aperture priority you control the artistic look of the shot, but you may not always find that your images are sharp. For the past month or so, I tried a bit of an experiment (for me, anyways). I’ve been shooting my street photography almost exclusively in shutter priority. My starting point is 1/125. Why, you ask? Here’s my reason… sharp images in any light. People are always moving, so I know, if I shoot at 1/125, the image will be sharp. If I find a shot where I must have shallow depth of field, I’ll lower the shutter speed to open up the aperture. If I need a higher DOF, then I’ll simply increase the ISO to get the aperture to close up a stop or two. I’ve found that I’m getting more sharp images and can just as easily adjust the DOF on the fly.
I have the great honor of photographing this weekend’s Puget Sound Honor Flight. We are heading to D.C. in the morning with 31 World War II veterans so they can see the war memorials for the first time! We hit the WWII memorial first thing in the morning. We began the journey at SEATAC where I took portraits and, along with some fellow photogs, followed the group to the gate as we were escorted by full dress, honor guard. When we arrived at BFW, two fire trucks created an arc of water over the plane as a welcome. The veterans were met with a flag waving crowd and cheers from the entire airport. It was all very moving and we haven’t even gotten to the memorials yet.
I had the honor and privilege to spend Memorial Day with 30 World War II veterans for a pre-game event by the Mariners. These guys are amazing and I hope my images capture the spirit that still thrives in each one of them.
There are times in your life, even your day, that you just need to breath. It’s not hard… in, out… in out. But because of all the noise pollution surrounding us, we forget how. In this way, photography mirrors life. It is so easy to walk around with your camera, so determined to “get that shot” that we forget to breath and, thus, forget to see. We can be so focused on getting that one, great image in our head, that we can’t see it even if it is right in front of the lens. Thus, too, is life. Human beings need a moment to step back, walk slowly and simply breath so we can see what’s right before us. We can be so focused on the next move, next big shot, that we completely fail to see the incredible moment right before our eyes. It is on all levels. Heck, the U.S. government could use a breather so we, as a nation, can see what could be before us instead of focusing only on the present. So that’s what I’m going to do… breath. Care to join me?
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.
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!
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!