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MindShift Gear rotation180° Horizon 34L – long term reivew

Colin
October 13, 2017

The MindShift Gear rotation180° Horizon 34L camera pack has been in rotation among my stable of packs for 8-months now and it has seen use everywhere from the mountain bike trails of Nerang to the Main Range Backcountry near Thredbo.

Through that period of time, the fast camera access has been a boon, while at other times the whole rotation system complicates actually getting to your gear.

You spin me right round baby right round

First and foremost the rotation system is without a doubt one of the fastest and most secure ways to carry your gear. The only other option might be a touch faster is Peak Design’s Capture Pro, but for me personally having a body and lens flapping around on my chest as I descend single track on a MTB shoot, or skiing chasing athletes is unnerving.

The rotation system, on the other hand, offers some piece of mind that your gear is zipped safely into a padded insert on your back. The camera insert doesn’t hold a whole lot of gear, with only enough room for a Canon 5DMKiii with a lens attached, a spare short zoom or prime and maybe a small card or filter wallet if you’re particularly skilled at Tetris.

The whole idea of the rotation system is to allow you to access your gear without putting your bag on the ground, and I found this particularly useful location scouting and when shooting from the bike.

Particularly for location scouting, it allows you to roll up to a potential location and have a look around, take a few test photos with different lenses, zip everything up and head to your next spot much faster than with a standard rear entry bag. The other big advantage to the rotation system is if it’s wet or muddy, you don’t need to put your bag down to get to your gear.

However, when you do put your bag down, the rotation system becomes problematic. For example, if you’re using a tripod, you have to take the tripod off the bag, and finagle the insert completely out of the bag to get to your camera.

The insert itself is completely separate to the pack and beyond a small last resort tether, can be used as a hip pack. I’ve also used it travelling as a small carry on bag.

However, because the waist belt and camera insert are not actually connected to the rest of the bag if you are carrying a decent amount of weight no matter how tight you hip belt, your shoulders still end up carrying a good portion of the load. I do wish the shoulder straps were a bit thicker to better distribute the weight.

What about the rest of the bag?

The top of the bag is cavernous, with plenty of room for spare layers, tools, a bivy and whatever else you may need on an adventure. There is a small mesh pocket, which I would use to keep track of smaller items like food, a small first aid kit and power banks.

Should you want to to take a telephoto zoom lens or other gear that won’t fit in the waist belt, the top compartment is perfectly sized to fit one of MindShift’s Panorama insert. I don’t actually have one of these, but the removable insert from my Thule Perspektiv Daypack which is roughly the same size fits like a glove. 

The top pocket is perfect for things like your phone, GPS/Beacon, and has a key keeper too. I do wish there was a mesh pocket similar to the one in the main compartment in the lid so that things aren’t free to roam around inside the pocket.

On the front of the pack, there is a large pocket which is great for storing things like rain layers and there is a sturdy nylon daisy chain on the front of the bag for attaching other accessories.

The bag has compression straps on either side and a clever system for attaching a tripod. At the top, there is a quick release strap and a small cup that supports the legs to that it’s not swinging all over the place as you walk. Even better when not in use there are small velcro pockets that hide each component so they don’t catch on things.

Tripods can also be mounted to the side of the bag using the water bottle pocket to wrangle the legs.

Speaking of water, there are provisions to carry a bottle, something large like a Nalgene or Yeti Rambler 36oz, but there is also a pocket for a 3L hydration bladder complete with a velcro to hang the bladder as well as routing for the hose.

Final thoughts

This bag fell into an interesting space in my arsenal and was really useful on projects where I didn’t need to tote a whole lot of gear along with me. When I needed to haul a lot of gear I would still rely on something like my F-Stop Tilopa BC, but for travelling light, the Horizon suited me well.

Every time I went location scouting this was my go-to bag, and even a few commercial assignments for cycling brands where I could get away with only taking short lenses it was perfect.

Same with when I would go out to shoot personal stuff or wanted to have my camera handy on a day hike. Even with the ability to stow more gear in the top using a separate insert, it’s not a feature I really used as I felt like it complicated things.

Over the past eight months, I have abused this bag, dragging it through bushes, rain and snow and it’s even seen a few plane trips too and so far, it’s showing no signs of wear.

This pack offers ample room for gear, even on a professional level depending on the job. If you’re shooting on something from Canon’s 1D series, or need big glass this isn’t the bag for you, but for those shooting on smaller gear, and mirrorless systems I think Mindshift have hit a home run with this bag.

Priced at US$260, it’s one of the best ways I’ve found to always have quick access to your gear, but also have it well protected no matter what adventure you’re on!

Where to Buy

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Mail Drop: Miggo Agua Torso Pack 65 and Splat

Colin
June 8, 2017

I have a bad habit of taking way more gear than I need when I go out on a shoot. I am very much of the mindset, ‘I’d hate to need it and not have it,’ but as I’ve learned when I’m trying to ride of a steep climb with a 40lb camera pack, and my models are waiting at the top, all that gear I brought and didn’t use is nothing more then a pain in my neck.

First Look: Mindshift rotation180 Horizon 34L

So when Miggo contacted me and asked if I wanted to test out its new Agua Torso Pack 65 I was intrigued at the opportunity. This messenger style pack has enough room for a pro body, spare lens and a Speedlight, built in holsters for a lens cap, spare card, and a little-hidden compartment at the back perfect for a notebook or tablet.

Highlights

Agua Torso Pack 65

What really caught my attention about this pack, as well as all of the bags from Miggo, is they are IPX3 waterproof/dustproof rated and the exterior of the bag is made from, Tarpaulin, a robust waterproof fabric. The inside is made from a mix of neoprene which adds a bit of padding, and of course a soft velcro to interface with your stock standard dividers.

The well padded shoulder strap is thermowelded to heavy duty webbing and sees a stabilising strap that goes across your body, to not only prevent the bag from swinging around but also bouncing. The strap can also be removed from the bag and used as a camera strap should it suit your fancy.

The bag can be worn on your back or chest, however on the bike with the bag on your front, your knees hit it on every pedal stroke. That said for something more upright like hiking or backpacking there is no such issue.

On the inside of the bag, Miggo has also included a pretty clever tether system to prevent accidental drops. Given the way the bag is worn, it’s not likely you’d be using your camera strap around your neck and between fumbling with zippers trying to get your gear out quick to capture some action, I can foresee myself as a bit of a butter fingers, dropping my camera without it. I’ve been using Peak Design straps for some time now and have their anchors on all of my gear, and with the Miggo tether attached to the Anchor link, the setup is long enough that I can raise the camera to my eye with it still attached. It can also be unclipped should you need to pull the camera further away.

Also included with the bag is a “utility pouch.” The 6.5 x 4.5in zippered pouch has internal pockets for spare batteries, cards and cords. This is something I foresee being extremely useful as I can’t tell you how many times I’ve torn camera bags apart looking for a cable or spare battery.

I should also mention that this bag in particular is a special edition camo version, and as many of you know, I LOVE camo.

The Splat

For anyone that has ever been out on a shoot with me they know I LOVE gorilla pods. They allow you to get a Speedlight up into a precarious position that wouldn’t otherwise be possible with a light stand. Better, they’re lightweight and compact so they don’t offset the balance of your pack too much. The trouble is they loose some of their rigidity over time, and with the centre of gravity on a Speedlight being so far away from the mount, gorilla pods sometimes struggle to hold them sturdy.

Miggo’s Splat on the other hand, is a simple gorilla pod, that’s made from stainless steel coated in silicon rubber. The genius behind this is the stainless steel is surprisingly rigid and the silicon is sticky so it can be ‘stuck’ on just about any surface. There is also a hole in one of the feet so that it can be hung from a nail or similar.

It’s officially rated to hold 3lbs / 1500g and only weights 5oz / 138g, and can comfortably support a Canon 5D Mkiii with a short zoom lens attached.

It takes a fair bit of force to bend the legs which measure 16cm from the mounting bolt, and they don’t really want to twist. I’m interested to see how it will fare out in the field

Where to buy

 

 

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First Look: Mindshift rotation180 Horizon 34L

Colin
March 8, 2017

Camera backpacks can be a pain, there are no ifs, ands or buts about it. They’re bulky, they don’t always fit very well, hence why photo megastar Chris Burkhard avoided using them (skip to 1:40 for the explanation) until Mountain Smith designed him one. Most of all, if your gear is in your bag, getting to it quickly is a problem. Bag brands are continually trying to find new ways for photographers to carry, and more importantly, access their gear, and there have been some innovations beyond the simple camera strap, like the Peak Design Capture Pro. But, for the most part quickly getting to your gear ain’t easy.

For quite some time, in my opinion, rear access packs have been the best option for my style of photography. Usually, they are big, sturdy and the packs themselves are designed around being outdoors and carrying lots of gear comfortably with load lifters, internal frames, hip straps, daisy chains and the like. The trouble is, you still have to take the bag off and set it down to access your camera. Worse, this means putting your bag down in potentially wet and/or muddy locations.

Mindshift is the outdoor division of camera bag brand Think Tank Photo, and they have created and interesting solution with their rotation180 range of bags. As the name suggests, the rotation180 series sees the camera insert attached to the hip belt which rotates around your waist, making your camera gear accessible quickly and without having to take your pack off.

Highlights

Mindshift-rotation180

Spin to win

Mindshift-rotation180

The rotation feature is completely unique to Mindshift’s bags and accessing your gear is as simple as unclipping a magnetic latch, pulling on the hip strap, opening the camera insert and shooting – it takes all of 15-seconds to do. The insert itself isn’t big, it only really fits a Canon 5DMKiii or similar with a lens attached and a spare short zoom lens or prime.

There is also a padded pocket for a small tablet as well as a velcro mesh pocket in the lid, perfect for spare batteries and cards.

Mindshift-rotation180

Mindshift-rotation180

The insert itself is burly with hard sides and you can remove it from the bag for use without the pack.

To prevent the insert from sliding out of the pack, there is a flap and the patented magnetic clasp affectionately called the Fidlock. The flap has a hard plastic rib which once unclasped opens on its own, and as a fail-safe, the insert also tethered to bag with a length of webbing.

Lugging the load

Mindshift-rotation180

While a lot of bags have interchangeable camera inserts, most take up the majority of the bag, however, with the Mindshift rotation180 Horizon you still have plenty of room for extra layers, water, food and other essentials. At the top of the pack, there is quite a large space to keep gear, as well as a laptop sleeve.

As I mentioned before the camera insert isn’t huge, and if you plan to take more than a body with a lens and a spare short lens, or need to bring a telephoto like the Canon 70-200 2.8 or Canon 100-400 MKii,  Mindshift’s Panorama insert is designed to fit perfectly in the top compartment. Unfortunately, I don’t have one of these but the insert from a Thule Perspektiv Daypack is roughly the same size and illustrates the point. 

Mindshift-rotation180

Mindshift-rotation180

On the front of the bag there is a decent sized pocket great for rain layers or other items you may not want to intermingle with the rest of your gear, as well as a top zippered pocket that is ideal for snacks, and smaller items.

The bag also sees a dedicated hydration bladder pocket on the side, which Mindshift says is designed around 3L reservoirs and is complete with a port for tubing. If you prefer to use water bottles over bladders there is also a bottle sleeve that comfortable fits a Nalgene.

If you plan to tote a tripod with you on your adventure, the bag features a clever suspension system that sees the tripod mounted on the back of the bag.

The pack also sees an internal frame, load lifters on the shoulder straps and sturdy webbing all around.

I’m looking forward to putting this bag through its paces over the next couple of months, be sure to check back for a full review once I’ve had the chance to get a bit of mud on it.

Where to buy

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How I Got the Shot: Crash Bang Boom Lightning Strom

Colin
January 23, 2017

Lightning is a frustrating beast, mostly because capturing a decent photo almost complete luck. Not only do you need to have the shutter open at the right time, but also have the camera pointed in the right direction. On top of that, if your including any foreground features you have to hope that the lighting will work with your composition.

Further, quite often when there is lightning it’s raining and a wet camera is no good to anyone. Also, getting struck by lighting would be a pretty terrible way to end a shoot.

How I got the shot

20161203-6p6a2735-untitled-edit

In the past couple of weeks, we’ve had some pretty fantastic storms here on the Gold Coast. For this shot, I was actually able to set up a camp chair on my balcony and sit with my camera completely protected from the storm, and it was pouring let me tell you.

There were actually two storms and as it always seems to go, when I would set up facing one, the other would offer a wild electrical display, and when I would move it would swap.

So, the planets and stars aligned and I managed to catch the perfect bolt. Here’s the details

Gear:

You may be wondering why I’m using wireless flash triggers for a shot that clearly does not use any off camera lights, nor artificial lights for that matter. A while back I worked out how to hack my Phottix Odin Triggers to serve as a shutter release. It’s proved to be super reliable and a great way to eliminate camera shake on long exposures, without having to actually purchase a shutter release.

Exposure:

20161203-6p6a2735-untitled-edit-3

Post Processing:

20161203-6p6a2735-markupt

I’m not one to over engineer or manipulate photos, and the overall edit for this was pretty simple. As with every image, the first think I did was a few basic contrast corrections.

There is a bit of junk at the bottom of the frame, that I had planned to remove. I wanted the lower cloud shelf to create a ‘floor’ for the image, so rather than taking the time to remove all of that I just darkened the whole bottom of the frame with the graduated filter. Not only does it draw your eye up, it gets rid of all the distractions and cleans up the image.

After that, I used the radial filter to darken the corners a bit to emphasize the brightness and contrast of the lightning bolts.

Back to the cloud floor, there is some fantastic texture in the clouds, so with the adjustment brush, I painted in a bit of Dehaze to bring out some of the detail.

Update:

Another fantastic lighting storm came through, and I snagged another banger. This time is was mostly heat lightning, with only a few bolts striking the ground.

Heat lightning definitely makes the process easier because the clouds are always alight. Check out the result!

20161221-6P6A3554-untitled-Edit

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Peak Design CapturePro Review

Colin
December 5, 2016

Your camera is no good to you if it’s buried deep in your backpack. Photography is all about capturing a fleeting moment, whether it be a skier just as he/she grabs their ski or the look of focus in a climbers eyes as they survey a problem.

For the most part, pro DLSR’s are heavy and a little awkward to carry around, especially if you’re walking, climbing, or scrambling over obstacles and up steep inclines using your feet and hands. A camera around your neck or slung over your shoulder will move and swing around possibly smacking into something and cause some expensive damage.

Peak Design have come up with a clever solution to camera carry, the Capture. Basically, the Capture is a tripod plate that connects to the ‘clip’ which can be attached to pretty much and backpack strap, belt or any other strap or piece of webbing.

The simple dual bolt design allows for your camera to be accessible at all times but mounted sturdily keeping your hands free.

Mounting

Peak-Design-Capture-Pro

There’re a few models of the Capture, rated for different weights and designed to carry different camera systems. I tested the Capture Pro with my Canon 5d Mkiii with various lens combos. Rated for up to 200lbs the Capture Pro should handle any camera and lens set up you’re carrying, and 3/8th-inch tripod bolt will probably rip off out of the bottom of your camera body before it disconnects from the clip.

Attaching the clip itself is pretty simple too, undo the bolts, put the clip around your backpack strap or belt, and tighten the bolts. The bolt heads are textured around the edges large enough for you to get a good grip, the trouble is they’re not particularly long.

Peak-Design-Capture-Pro

My main photo backpack is the F-Stop Tilopia BC, a 40-litre pack designed to carry heavy loads. With this comes thick shoulder straps, which proved to be too fat for the bolts included with the Capture Pro. Initially, I ended up mounting the clip on the load adjuster webbing, and to my pleasant surprise provided a sturdy mounting point.

Peak Design does make a long bolt kit, which as you’d imagine are two long bolts. The standard bolts measure 15mm and the long ones 23mm which did allow the Capture to engulf the strap on my bag Tilopa BC.

Utilizing the tripod bolt on your camera, or lens shoe the Capture Pro plate comes with a small alley key ensuring the plate is securely fastened to your camera.

Open Carry

Peak-Design-Capture-Pro

I was hesitant at first to hang thousands of dollars worth of gear from something that costs less than US$100, but as time went on the Capture Pro proved its strength. The interface between the camera and the Capture Pro is unflappable. In fact, it takes some practice to smoothly clip and unclip the camera, in the first couple of weeks in use, I actually had to take my pack off to pull my camera out.

Once you’ve got the hang of it the camera to clip connection is strong, the trouble is what every the clip is attached to may not be. The inherent problem with this mounting system is whatever you’re attaching it to be it a backpack strap, belt or webbing is designed to conform around you in some way, and this flexibility with the right combination of forces pulls the clip out of whack.

If you hang the camera from the tripod shoe on a lens because of the way the weight of the camera is distributed it pulls the top of the clip out. With the same lens as you walk it will sway and bend because the Capture is pulling on the strap.

Peak-Design-Capture-Pro

When your using the Capture Pro it’s also important to think about the weight distribution of your pack. For example my Canon 5DMKiii with a Canon 24-104 f/4 lens attached weights 1.74kg. If I’ve have the Capture pro mounted on my left backpack strap, to somewhat balance the pack I’m going to want my tripod mounted on the left side of my pack, otherwise your shoulders and neck will be super sore.

The Capture Pro’s mounting plate also interfaces with a fair few tripods as well, and even though it’s not actually designed to interface with the Pro Master Ball head on my tripod it still works and creates a sturdy enough hold for long exposures.

Final thoughts

Peak-Design-Capture-Pro

The Capture Pro is an awesome camera carry option for being outdoors. It holds your camera study leaving your hands free but doesn’t allow for the swing like a standard camera strap. It has its limitations as for longer lenses it challenges the integrity of the mounting surface, but the plate holds strong

This is something I genuinely use almost every time I leave the house and is well worth the money.

Since I am a fan of this product I’ve set up a deal for my readers, use my coupon code ‘clevphoto’ and take 10% off any Peak Design Product.

Click here to buy from Peak Design

Click here to buy from Amazon

 

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Super skunked by the super moon

Colin
November 16, 2016

The Supermoon has been all over the news this week and it seems everyone on earth was excited for it, except Neil Degras Tyson.

As a photographer, the opportunity to capture something that may not happen again for another decade is what I live for, and so I went the whole nine yards. I came prepared and spent almost an entire day scouting  to find the perfect location.

The Moon

The moon is a tough one to shoot because this time of year (in Australia) it doesn’t actually cross the entire sky, it rises in the northeast and sets in the northwest. The other difficulty with shooting the moon is you need to capture it near the horizon to create a sense of scale, rather than just a blurry spotlight in the sky.

So my plan was to find a spot where it looked like the moon was going to graze the top of Mt Warning. In trying to find this perfect location I drove almost a full lap around the mountain to find a spot where everything lined up perfectly and I could make the image I had in my head.
20161114-6p6a2305-CLevitch.jpg
After I’d done all of the scouting in passing I’d joke, “I bet it will be cloudy” – I would end up eating those words. The entire day the sky was clear on the Gold Coast, but about an hour before the moon rise clouds rolled over the horizon, and of course they blocked the moon.

Having spent so much time scouting for the first location, I didn’t put together a contingency plan to capture the moon set, facing the other direction. I drove around for a bit trying to find a somewhere to come back to in the morning, but location scouting in the dark usually doesn’t work so well. Lesson learned, don’t forget about plan B!

There is a bright side, I did get a nice sunset!

20161114-6p6a2310-untitled

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The best camera is the one you’ve got with you, sort of – taking a step back

Colin
August 17, 2016

There is an old adage, the best camera is the one that’s with you. And it’s true, the most powerful photos are of that fleeting moment which will come and go before you can get your DSLR out of your backpack or swap lenses.

But, there’s something to be said for having the right tool for the right job, and in this case, that’s a pro level DSLR.

Some of you may recall that I recently drowned a camera body, specifically my Canon 5DMKiii. I went out to a local cyclocross race to play around with some lighting techniques and it started raining cats and dogs. I was prepared with rain covers for all of my gear, but unfortunately, the rain proved too much for the Vortex Media Storm Jacket I was using.

It’s wasn’t a complete write-off as a night in a sealed box filled with kitty litter did bring the camera back to life, but there was some apparent corrosion as the battery was draining at a rate of 10-percent an hour even when the camera was switched off.

So, I sent it away to get repaired, but as it always seems with this sort of thing the part needed to fix my camera was back-ordered and a job quoted to take eight days took over a month.

60D or 5Dmkiii can you tell which body I used for this image? The answer may suprise you

60D or 5Dmkiii can you tell which body I used for this image? The answer may surprise you

So while my 5DMKiii was away I decided to make a challenge for myself, instead of using one my backup bodies, I decided I would use a 60D I had lying around for every project until my 5D was fixed.

Don’t get me wrong the 60D is an absolute workhorse of a body, and features an 18.3mp APS-C CMOS sensor, ISO 100-6400 (expandable to 12,800), 5.3 fps continuous shooting, and 9 cross-type AF points. With that said, the 5D is also in a completely different league to the 60D which is what made this so interesting and the 60D doesn’t have near the same dynamic range, ISO performance, or processing power among other things.

Crop = reach

Being used to shooting on a full frame platform it took a bit of adjusting to not chop off too much with the 60D's 1.6x crop factor

Being used to shooting on a full frame platform it took a bit of adjusting to not chop off too much with the 60D’s 1.6x crop factor

Other than obvious cosmetic and weight difference between these two bodies is the APS-C crops sensor, which gives you a crop factor of 1.6x. This means that a 24mm lens is actually a focal length of 38mm (24 x 1.6 = 38). It doesn’t seem like much of a difference, but it’s surprising how easy it is to miss part of the action or chop something out when you’re used to shooting on a full frame sensor.

At the same time, on the other end of things, the 1.6x crop factor give your telephoto lens quite a bit of extra reach. The whale migration has been coming through the Gold Coast the past few weeks, and with the 60D body on my 400mm lens, the crop factor gives me an effective focal length of 640mm (400 x 1.6 = 640). Whales don’t really like to pose for the camera so I’m yet to get anything good, but extra length has given me a much better view of the action.

AF system

The 60D doesn't have great AF tracking, but there's a way around that

The 60D doesn’t have great AF tracking, but there’s a way around that

It’s safe to say the 60D’s AF system is a bit dated. The nine crosspoint system have thankfully been superseded by the current 61-point system which features on all the current pro-level Canon DSLRs.

To be honest this was probably my biggest gripe about using the 60D and it was only because the new AF system has me a bit spoiled. The 60D’s tracking is not nearly as good, and the placement of the points can make certain compositions tricky.

How do you get around this you ask? One-shot AF lock! It so easy so simple and requires you to rely more on your sense of timing that the spray-and-pray technique.

Using the back AF button and One Shot AF mode you pick the spot you want in focus compose the shot and rather than taking 10 photos, hold the button down for two or three as the subject passes through the frame.

With AF tracking being so good on the 5D and similar bodies I’ve become a bit too complacent and having to rely on an older slower AF system has been a fantastic skill building exercise.

ISO vs Sensor size

Because of it's smaller sensor the 60D's pixels are tightly packed, which is why it doesn't perform as well in low light conditions

Because of it’s smaller sensor the 60D’s pixels are tightly packed, which is why it doesn’t perform as well in low light conditions

The other thing the 5D series of bodies does sooooooo well is dealing with noise at high ISOs.

Generally speaking the more room a sensor has on it between pixels will process less noise than a sensor with pixels tightly packed together. So and images shot at 1600ISO a camera that shoots at 22mp on a full frame sensor will have less noise than 22mp images shot at 1600ISO on an APS-C sensor.

The measurement for the space between pixels is called pixel pitch and it’s measured in microns – the larger the pixel pitch the less noise generated at high ISO. The 5DMKiii shoots at 22.3mp on a full frame 35mm sensor and has a pixel pitch of 6.25 microns, and the 60D shoots at 18mp on a 22.30mm x 14.90mm APS-C sensor with a pixel pitch of 4.30microns.

It’s right there in the numbers but in practice, there is a noticeable difference as well, especially in shooting at high shutter speeds. On the 5DMKiii to get that extra bit of shutter speed it’s no issue to bump the ISO and know the image is still going to be usable. Heck, I’ve shot images at max ISO (12,800) on my 5DMKiii and had no trouble getting them back to an acceptable level of noise.

With the 60D there is considerably more noise to deal with starting around 800ISO, and getting worse as you go up. The 5D can do double that before you start to see much noise that needs to be corrected out depending on the image of course.

Final Thoughts

It has really been interesting to take a step back and shoot with a camera body that’s less capable than what I’m used to. Not even addressing the slower frames per second and reduced buffer, these three factors are what I noticed most in my particular requirements for a camera body.

The 60D is an absolute workhorse of a camera body, that can produce fantastic images. However, when a client is paying for images of a certain, though you can definitely deliver with a body like the 60D, I think I’ll stick to the more capable bodies.

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Camera Hacks: Phottix Odin Wireless Shutter Release

Colin
June 15, 2016

A shutter release is something every photographer should have in their gear bag. Especially for long exposures, it is vital to eliminate camera shake because you don’t have to touch the camera at all.

While wired versions can be had quite cheap, purpose built wireless shutter releases are pretty pricey but they’re not the only option. For those who are using PocketWizards, they can be set up to fire the camera with the addition of shutter release cable (which varies depending on what brand you shoot with). With the PW on your camera set to receive and the one in your hand set to transmit, press the test button and the shutter will go.

With the Phottix Odin triggers it’s not quite as simple, and as far as I can tell may not have actually been designed to be used as a shutter release like the PW’s – luckily there’s a simple hack to make them do just that.

What you’ll need

20160615-IMG_8227-CLevitch

The tools for a remote camera

Obviously you’ll need a Phottix transmitter, and a receiver (note: these are the original Phottix Odin triggers, not the Odin II‘s, I haven’t gotten my hands on those yet). As your transmitting to your camera, put the receiver in the hot shoe of your camera, and keep the transmitter in your hand – this is where it gets tricky.

You’d think it would be as easy as buying the right cable and chucking the triggers onto your camera, not so much. It turns out that Phottix doesn’t actually sell the cable you need. The closest you can get is the C8 cable which has the Canon shutter release plug on one end and a 2.5mm stereo plug on the other.

On the Odin receivers themselves there’s only two plugs, a mini-USB port and a 3.5mm jack. So to connect the receiver to your camera you’ll need a camera brand specific shutter release plug and a 3.5mm stereo plug, which are actually pretty difficult to find. I couldn’t even find one on FlashZebra.com!

*Note: These cables may exist on FlashZebra, but for anyone who’s never used this site it’s near impossible to navigate. Even when you know exactly what you’re after it’s hard to find it.

However, 2.5mm stereo to 3.5mm stereo adaptors are readily available and cheap at that. So once you’ve got your adaptor and your cables plugged up you’re ready to go.

#selfie

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Selfie game is strong

Once you’ve got everything plugged up make sure your transmitter and receiver are on the same channel and press the test button on the transmitter. There will be about a three-second delay, and then the shutter will go.

It’s worth noting that you’ll lose autofocus control, once the circuit is completely between the receiver and the camera body the, and lens will focus on whatever the AF points are on. I found the best practice was to compose the shot, and manually focus using live view before plugging the cable into the camera.

You also lose the ability to add wireless off camera  flash. This is because it physically takes longer for a camera to release the shutter then it does to fire a flash. If you rig everything up with wireless triggers it will appear that everything fires at the same time, but when you look at the image there won’t be any visible flash.

There’s only a microscopic time difference between flash and shutter sync, but it’s more than long enough. You can get around this by using a really long flash sync cable, or a second transmitter in the hot shoe of the camera.

But why?

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You really need to think about your composition before you leave your tripod

Part of the reason why this is something you may want to do is if you’re trying to get the most out of the gear you already own. Some wireless triggers cost over $100, whereas this method cost $25 not including the Odin triggers which I already own.

Beyond taking long exposure landscape photos, the ability to take and star in the photo is actually a fun creative challenge. It forces you to think critically about the image you’re about to take before you ever push the shutter button. Messing around with this new technique I’ve realized how many last second instinctual changes I make in composition. Not actually being behind the camera you’ve got to think ahead and make these changes before you walk away from the tripod.

Check out a few photos from my experiment with remote cameras

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Fstoppers Flash Disc review

Colin
May 6, 2016

It seems everytime I leave the house my camera bag is heavier and I am always grabbing extra lights, triggers, and batteries. But, when it comes to flash modifiers it can be a tough decision.

Everybody loves softboxes but they’re difficult to transport, especially if you’re shooting somewhere hours away from the car. Umbrella’s are easier to pack but still need to be lashed to the outside of your bag, and don’t play well with gorillapods. For me, the ultimate modifier is something that can be stuffed down the side my camera bag, is lightweight, and doesn’t require much faffing around.

Obviously struggling with the same issues as me, Patrick Hall and Lee Norris from Fstoppers created the Flash Disc.

What is it?

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Packaged in a little black zippered bag, the flash disc is a compact 12-inch pop up softbox – think those tents you pull out of the bag and throw into the air to set up.

In its compact state, the Fstoppers Flash Disc can easily be stuffed into small gaps in your camera bag, a pocket or even lashed to the outside thanks to a small loop.

It worth noting the Flash Disc deserves due respect, and nearly gave one of my assistants a black eye. If you’re not paying attention it can slip away from you and ‘pop’ you right in the face.

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The back of the Flash Disc sees a grey card and the front is as you would expect white diffusing material. Designed to be universal with speedlights the Flash Disc uses a glorified elastic band to secure the flash head. I’ve yet to find a speedlight that it doesn’t work with but there’s definitely some that fit better than others.

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It seems Canon flashes fit the best, their rounded profile slips into the band nicely. Boxy square flashes however do not, and it’s quite fiddly to get square flashes into the disc. I had a fair bit of trouble wrangling the FlashDisc onto my LumoPro LP180 flashes and an ancient Sunbeam Manual Flash.

With that said, once they’re on your light stand will fly away and take a sandbag with it before the Flash Disc leaves your speedlight.

Okay, but do they work?

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It’s worth noting again this is a 12-inch softbox and not a huge 40-incher, so they’re not going to produce the same light. Because of it’s size the FlashDisc needs to be quite close to the subject, but it does produce nice soft light.

For portraits and products they’re pretty useful as you can place the FlashDisc just out of the frame but still close enough to reap the benefits of a small modifier.

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Photo: Phil Gray

It does take some fiddling around to get the flash discs in the right position when they’re mounted on a static light stand, but if you’ve got an assistant they are awesome. Because they’re small and lightweight it’s no trouble at all to get your assistant to dangle the light with the FlashDisc very close to the subject.

Also due to their feathery nature they pair nicely with Gorillapods, and my favorite thing is to wrap them around a tree branch or pole in a spot you wouldn’t be able to put a standard light stand.

Do you actually use it?

Absolutely! The Flash Disc is extremely versatile and is great for a variety of looks. Check out the gallery below to see how I’ve used the FStoppers FlashDisc. Even when it’s not close enough to for that creamy soft light it still diffuses the flash head nicely for something a bit more dramatic.

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The biggest reason that I like to use the FlashDisc’s is they’re so packable. It’s a rare occasion I’m shooting within 5-miles of where I parked my car, and it’s just not practical for me to pack in (and back out) large soft boxes, they just wouldn’t survive. Weighing just 113g adding the FlashDiscs won’t add much to your already heavy pack

As it is I get funny looks riding single track on my mountain bike with my big camera pack and light stands, can you image what people would do if you had soft boxes strapped to my pack?

Final Thoughts

For such a small modifier, the Fstoppers FlashDisc’s pack some serious punch. Whenever I take speedlights with me I always stuff them in my bag. They’ve definitely got their limitations and and $49.95USD they’re also not cheap, but the FlashDisc’s have become an essential part of my kit.

Do you use the FlashDisc’s? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below or on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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Exploring Dalpura Canyon

Colin
August 27, 2015

It has been some time since I had been rappelling (or climbing for that matter) and I was in need of a refresher course when it came to gear and rigging.

So after a couple of back and forths with my good friend Zacc Larkin, we decided to head up to the Blue Mountains for a day of all things ropes, rigging and rappelling. Zacc is a master climber and fantastic outdoorsman, so I knew I was in for a good day out in the woods.

The plan was to head up to one of Zacc’s go-to climbing spots in the morning for a warm up, and then down to Dalpura Canyon for a bout of canyoning.

But, weather gods can be fickle and down right annoying sometimes. We had hoped for a sunny beautiful day, but instead the weather forecast called for a torrential downpour.

Because water travels in the path of least resistance, the bottom of a slot canyon it not where you want to be if there’s rain falling. It doesn’t take a lot of precipitation to turn those pools of calm clear water into raging torrents carrying trees and boulders through the tight canyon.

When Zacc picked me up in the morning it was raining, not hard but there was rain falling. After a short discussion we decided to drive up to the mountains and play it by ear, the worst case being a rain hike.

As we gained altitude the rain subsided and we even saw a bit of blue sky out to the west. The updated plan was to knock the canyon out first and climb after, which also meant I was taking the accelerated ropes, rigging and rappelling course.

As we descended into the Grose Valley we bushwhacked our way down to the beginning of the canyon.

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As we worked our way down the gorge, it wasn’t long until we found water, and in an effort to delay getting wet as long as possible, we walked along the walls of the gorge looking for a place to abseil down.

There’s a rule of thumb among climbers in the Blue Mountains, and that rule is you can rappel off anything bigger than your thumb. Lucky for me Zacc doesn’t adhere to that rule, otherwise we would have been tying off to some pretty sketchy trees.

Not finding a way to around, we backtracked — it was time to get wet.

Not being totally prepared for the amount of water we were going to encounter, I had worn some heavy duty boots, the kind if they filled with water would weigh 20-pounds. So before we set off Zacc kindly offered me an old pair of his “all terrain off road canyoning shoes.” They’d seen better days but with some roadside repairs, they survived the day.

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The landscapes around us were extremely varied; sometimes we were bushwhacking through thick brush, but around the next corner there would be a forest of gum trees that led into swimming and wading through tight streams and ponds.

It wasn’t long until we reached the entrance to the canyon, which from above, just looked like a hole in the ground. Zacc rigged a rope around a fallen tree, which was already covered in slings, and let me rappel down first. 

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After we landed in a pool of very cold water we headed down the canyon, which was covered in bright green moss and thriving with plant life.

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After about an hour of walking we reached the exit of the canyon. Cold, and drained we stopped to shed our wetsuits, wash out our shoes and take on some food. As we unpacked the dry bag we made a terrible discovery, somewhere along the way we’d nicked the bag, and it had been taking on water the entire time. The hole was close to the bottom, and guess whose clothes were at the bottom of the bag.

Luckily, to dry off we had a big hike out of the canyon. It was a bit of a sufferefest as we gained mass amounts of altitude in a very short period of time, which ended in a short scuffle up the side of a pagoda.

From there it was an easy hike up an old 4×4 track back to up the highway, and eventually to the car.

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Tired and hungry, the torrenting rain that’d been threatening all day started to fall just as we reached the car. We quickly packed up our gear and headed off to grab some well earned greasy food.

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Shot of the Day

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Gear:

This was my first experience with a waterproof housing. Not owning one myself I hired the Aquatech housing from a local camera gear supplier. It worked flawlessly though it was still nerve wracking submerging my camera, and it took two of us to unscrew the lens port from the housing because I’d made it so tight.

It’s also profoundly difficult to change camera settings on the fly, especially not being accustomed to using the housing controls.

For those that have never been in a slot canyon before, they’re dark (very dark), which made things somewhat difficult. Zacc was moving quickly, so I was tip toeing the line of how slow a shutter speed I could use without experiencing and motion blur. The lack of light also required and EXTREMELY high ISO.

This particular shot was captured at f/4, 1/160th, and anISO of 12,800. I had never shot with such a high ISO before and was a little scared to see the results. And just as I feared, when the photo popped up in Lightroom the noise was terrible.

After some basic corrections and noise reduction in Lightroom, I moved the photo into Photoshop. Here I did some more advanced noise reduction via the red, blue and green color channels. The result looked great considering where it started, but it was a little soft. I’ve never been a big fan of Photoshop’s sharpening tool, so instead I opted to use a High Pass Filter.

I duplicated the layer, changed the blending mode to overlay and popped a High Pass Filter over the top set to 4.8px. This brought back enough detail without adding more unwanted noise.

For more photos from the trip check out the gallery below, and make sure to check us out on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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