Author Archives: Alan

Think Tank Photo Does It Again with Their Helipak V.2 Backpack for Phantom Drones

Think Tank never ceases to create and improve upon great products. They have filled a need for a lightweight, portable pack to carry the Phantom Quadcopter anywhere and everywhere. For the past couple of years, I’ve kept my Phantom Vision Quadcopter in a Go Professional hard case. While it was packed perfectly and safely, the case was extremely heavy and difficult to carry long distances as it only had a handle, like a suitcase without wheels.helipad

What I wanted was a backpack for my drone so that I could take it anywhere I wanted, whether it was through the city or on the trial. Enter the new Think Tank Airport Helipak. This bag is almost perfect!

helipak3Updating their previous version, this new edition features an outstanding, breathable lumbar support, adjustable shoulder harness and a removable padded waist belt. I can carry this bag forever without really noticing it is there. Inside, there’s plenty of space for any Phantom model including the 4 Pro, or similar sized quadcopters, with plenty of extra batteries, remotes and other accessories. There’s even room for a professional DSLR and a lens or two. The inside of the lid has 2 large zippered pockets for cables, cards and props. There’s an outside pocket for a 15″ laptop, iPad and other things. There is also an organizer pocket for a smart phone, wallet, business cards and the like. I can store my MacBook Pro and my Hoodman Aviator Hood in the outside pocket with no problems. And, as if all that wasn’t enough, there is a side pocket for a water bottle as well as small pockets on the shoulder strap for a snack or cell phone. The interior can be reconfigured as needed. It is sized for either international or domestic travel as it easily fits into the carry-on luggage compartment. helipak1

As with all their bags, Think Tank put a lot of thought into this bag and truly left no stone upturned. My only quibble is that you have to take the props off in order to stow the aircraft. I’m sure this is to keep the bag to a reasonable size and remain within airport standards. A quick visit to the local drone store revealed that most bags and cases require removal of the props. They even provided reinforcements for the rotor threads to protect the inside of the bag as well as your prop connectors. The bag is water resistant and it comes with a full, waterproof cover in case you are caught in a downpour.

As a Phantom 4 PRO owner, I’m very excited about this bag. It is the absolute perfect solution for taking your quadcopter anywhere you want. At only $199.75, this bag is an absolute bargain.
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Top Music Releases 2016

Well it’s that time again. Here are my top albums of 2016 in no particular order:

Gaz Coombes – Matador
Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker
David Bowie – Black Star
John Doe – Westerner
Eagulls – Ullages
Pineapple Thief – Your Wilderness
Riverside – Eye of the Soundscape
Glass Animals – How to Be a Human Being
Kyle Craft – Dolls of Highland
Nick Cave – Skeleton Tree
Angel Olsen – My Woman
Rob Crow’s Gloomy Place – You’re Doomed. Be Nice
Shearwater – Jet Plane and Oxbow
Sturgil Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide To Earth

BEST REISSUES OF 2016:
David Bowie – Bowie at the Beeb)
This Heat – This Heat
Budgie – The MCA Albums
Yes – Tales of Topographic Oceans (Steven Wilson Mix)
Sun Ra – The Singles
Public Image Ltd – Metal Box
Big Star – Complete Third
Led Zeppelin – Complete BBC Sessions
Talk Talk – Laughing Stock

John Doe at KEXP 11-29-2016



 
John Doe, formerly of the band X, performed a solo acoustic show in the Gathering Space at KEXP last night. It was absolutely fantastic. Everybody was so quiet, even John mentioned that he never gets to play in front of such a quiet audience and he felt like a folk singer at a club in the 60s. A total treat!

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The Veils @ KEXP 11-14-2016

If you are not familiar with this band, you should definitely check them out. Finn Andrews is the son of original XTC member and Shriekback founder Barry Andrews. The Veils have an amazing sound. Highly recommended.


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Real Estate Shoot in Woodinville

This funky house in Woodinville presented some challenges as the inside was quite dark and the outside was very stormy. In addition to that, the seller was building a new patio in the back and didn’t want to wait to photograph it until it was finished.

BlackRapid Updates Their Entire Line

br-sportBlackRapid, a Seattle-based camera strap company, has been one of my go-to strap companies for quite a few years. In fact, I worked with them as a consultant and ambassador in 2013 and 2014. They’ve always represented quality and ingenuity by elevating the lowly camera strap to something much more elegant and utilitarian.

After a very long effort, BlackRapid has finally updated their entire line of camera straps and marketing them as the Breathe series. While the build quality was always there, the new series takes it up a notch by adding a poly air mesh in the padding to make them much cooler. Another improvement is the new hook which attaches to the updated FastenR5 which has a nylon molding over it with a rubber washer. The FastenR5 screws into your tripod mount and the nylon molding makes it nicer to the touch as well as scratch protection to your other gear. The new hook system, with it’s barrel lock feels much more substantial and secure. The new locking mechanism seems to have fixed the issue of not staying locked that plagued the earlier models. During my use of the new Sports Breathe, I found it much more secure and stable than the previous incarnation. This is great news!

blackrapid-fr5-02There are several models to select from. The Sport Breathe comes in both right and left handed models. This strap has a substantial pad with an underarm strap to keep your strap firmly in place. This is great for walking or even running while chasing down that perfect sports shot. The Cross Shot is a leaner, simpler strap that goes cross body. As with all BlackRapid straps, these go across your body with your camera hanging at your hip. As you lift the camera to your eye, the connector smoothly slides along the strap. I think these new straps are even smoother than the older models.

New to the lineup is the Street Breathe. Priced at $39.95 (about half the cost of the sport), this strap is designed for lighter weight, mirrorless cameras. I’ve been pushing for a mirrorless version of their strap for a few years, and we finally have one. Paired with my Fuji X-T2, this strap is lightweight and works perfectly for my smaller camera.

br-double-bigTheir double strap has been a staple of mine for concert and event photography. I can carry two full-frame DSLRs and large lenses all day using this shoulder harnessed double strap. Each camera hangs at a hip for easy access and drop and shoot speed. I’ve loved this strap since day one. The new version is even better. One complaint I’ve had with this strap was it could be quite warm on a hot, sunny day. Since it’s already September here in the Northwest, I haven’t been able to test out the Double Breathe, but just feeling and trying it on, I’m convinced the Breathe will live up to its new name and be much cooler. This will be well received by sports and wedding photographers who know what it’s like to carry 20 pounds of camera gear around on a hot day.

I’m also excited to see the release of a new hand strap, which I will review at a later date.

For me, there’s one downside to the entire BlackRapid line. To use these straps, you have to connect them to the tripod mount of your camera. For most, this may not be an issue. For me, there are a few. I shoot vertical a lot, especially with a grip. This means, when I go to shoot vertical, the strap is connected right in the middle of where I put my hand. Also, I have L-Brackets on all my cameras. That means I need to either attach the FastenR5 to the bracket and removing it to put the camera on a tripod, which negates the advantage of keeping the bracket on the camera, or I have to use an adapter from Acratech or Really Right Stuff which adds even more bulk.

2016-10-31_10-32-32One other downside, though not a deal breaker, is you are carrying your camera upside down. This is great while shooting for several reasons, but chiefly because when you have the camera to your eye, the strap is below and completely out of the way. I’ve always loved this about the BlackRapid strap. Not so when shooting vertically. But, that also means when you put your camera down while holding the strap, you tend to put it down on the camera’s top which is the most sensitive part of the camera. It’s not a big deal if you’re careful, but remember, the strap is attached to the bottom, so you need to pay attention to how you are laying it down. After a while, this can become muscle memory and easily avoided.

All in all, the new updates are a welcome change. The new hook and fastener give me increased security that my camera will stay safely attached to the strap. This is great news for BlackRapid fans. If you already own their straps, I’m not sure you need to run out and drop a hundred dollars on a new one (the Double Breathe is $150, though the air circulation may be worth the investment), but, if you are looking for an advanced, functional strap, the new lineup may be just the thing.

Echo and the Bunnymen at The Moore 9-24-16

Echo and the Bunnymen have created some of the greatest songs in history.  Just ask lead singer, Ian McCulloch who mentioned fan favorite “Killing Moon” as such during their sold out show at The Moore on September 24th.   Unlike many of their 80’s piers, Echo continue to record and release albums, most recently the quite good “Meteorites”.  This gives them an edge when performing as their creative juices continue to flow.

Echo introduced their dark, doors-inspired post punk in 1980 and attracted a huge cult following which continues to follow them 36 years later.  Originally begun by Ian McCulloch and Julian Cope, who left before their first album to form Teardrop Explodes, guitarist Will Sergeant joined Ian in 1978 and finally released their first album in ’80 called “Crocodiles”.  Their output ever since has been incredibly consistent and creative.  Ian and Will are the only remaining members, but they’ve put together a tight and capable band which, this year, includes Sub Pop’s own Kelley Stoltz on rhythm guitar.

Ester Drang opened with a set of experimental, post rock to, unfortunately, a paltry crowd.  It’s their loss because they sounded great.  From Oklahoma, Ester Drang’s music is a wash of reverb drenched beauty.  Personally, I had never heard them and I was completely won over by their Radiohead nodding airy music.  Totally enjoyed them.

Echo hit the stage Going Up off their first album.  As usual, the stage was dark with the band mostly backlit.  In fact, Will Sergeant off the side in complete darkness for the entire show.  What followed was a parade of mostly hits such as Doo It Clean, Seven Seas, Rescue, Never Stop and Bring On the Dancing Horses with a few obscurities thrown including All That Jazz and In the Margins.  It’s no secret that Ian loves The Doors and we were treated to a rousing rendition of Roadhouse Blues.

For an Encore, we got a medley which included an interlude of Lou Reed’s Walk On the Wild Side which was a ton of fun.  Lips Like Sugar concluded the first encore followed by one last ending tune “Ocean Rain”.

All in all, it was a great night.  Ian was in top form as he smoked and slugged bottles of Milk throughout the show.  The band was tight and high energy taking the show to a higher level than most of their 80’s counterparts.  Thumbs up!


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