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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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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

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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:

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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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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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Behind the Shoot: Oceanway Ride

Colin
November 7, 2016

It’s been a hectic couple of months for me, and I feel like I haven’t stopped moving. If you’ve been following me on social media (shameless plug please follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter) you’ll have seen I shot the Oceanway Ride, a new charity ride here on the Gold Coast to raise money for the local surf lifesaving clubs. Starting for Surfers Paradise it followed the Darren Smith Memorial Route, a 55km out and back ride mostly along the coast.

Also making an appearance was the one and only Phil Ligget, the voice of cycling who MC’d and mingled with the riders through out the day. As a cycling fan, I was a bit star-struck, to say the least

The Promo

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Even though it was only a quick shoot I’m stoked on the images I got for the promo shoot. I had plans to organize a dawn shoot at a great spot here on the Gold Coast, but that went out the window when the events organizer called me in a panic saying she needed images in two days time to meet a deadline.

Not having organized riders I frantically began searching for someone to help me out, and luckily Peter Spencer of GC Bike Fit stepped up to the plate! The morning of the shoot it looked like it was going to be a gray miserable day, but the clouds broke and it was bluebird!

The shoot went off without a hitch and I was able to deliver the images by five o’clock that afternoon. That’s gotta be a record for planning, executing and delivering in three days.

The Ride

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As it always seems to work with cycling events they start well before dawn, and the Oceanway ride was no exception.

The plan was to chase the riders down the coast stopping at a few key locations to capture the riders as they passed by. Usually, that would mean the organizers have a photo-moto and driver to shuttle you up and down the course, however, that was not the case.

Lucky for me a friend was happy to drive me up and down the coast in exchange for a case of beer and man I’m glad I had him. If I would have had to stop and park the car every time I wanted to take a photo it would have been a more stressful morning than it already was.

If was fast and furious run and gun shooting, and when I say run and gun I was leaning out of the windows of the car literally running full sprint to the spots I wanted to shoot from as to not miss riders go past.

The Gear

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My gear for the day was my trusty Canon 5DMkiii, Canon 24-104 f/4L, Canon 100-400 f/5.6-6.5L, Canon 8-15 Fisheye f/4L and a new addition to my bag the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART. I was amazed how much I used the 35mm, on the day and it has proved to be an extremely useful addition to my bag!

Also, a godsend on the day were my Hoya Circular Polarizers. The ability to cut out any glare on the water as well as from the road surface made a huge difference for quite a few of my images.

Check out a few of my favorite images from the day, or click here to see my full gallery from the day!

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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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How I got the shot: Milky Way at Chair 26

Colin
February 15, 2016

This post is part of a regular How I got the shot series, for this and more subscribe to my monthly newsletter

For those who follow me on social media, you’ll know I have just returned from a quick trip home to Colorado. It had been quite a while since I had seen my family and it was important to make the trip back.

Of course, this also meant spending some time in one of the beautiful places in the world with my camera. Having quite a bit of local knowledge (I did spend the majority of my life there after all), it was a great opportunity to show off the best Colorado has to offer.

While I took plenty of landscape and skiing photos, one image, in particular, garnered quite a bit of attention, a shot of the Milky Way above Chair 26 at the top of Vail Mountain.

    20160129-7523-CLevitch

The Milky Way shining bright over Chair 26

Of all the photos from my trip this was my favorite, and quite a few people have asked about my camera settings and post processing.  Read on to find out exactly how I produced this image.

The Location

For astrophotography the location and assessing the light pollution is arguably more important that your camera or lens choice. If there is too much light pollution from your surroundings, i.e. you’re still in town, you won’t be able to see the stars or the Milky Way.

I actually didn’t have high hopes for this initial set up. Floodlights from the Gondola building were lighting up the area and there was a bit of glow from the town below on the horizon. I decided to take the shot anyway and I’m glad I did.

The Gear

Canon EOS 5D Mark III 22.3 MP Full Frame CMOS with 1080p Full-HD Video Mode Digital SLR Camera (Body)


Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM Ultra-Wide Zoom Lens for Canon EOS SLR Cameras

ProMaster XC525 Blue Tripod With Head

Petzl – REACTIK+ Headlamp 300 Lumens, Bluetooth Enabled

 

 

The Setup

Even with the lights from the gondola building, the Milky Way was still bright. There was bit of light pollution from the valley below, but with a bit of shuffling around and careful positioning I was able to block out the city glow with the lift station.

The floodlights on the side of the building actually helped the image quite a lot by providing enough ambient light to illuminate the lift terminal and the snow around me.

When shooting the Milky Way it’s also important to keep something in the foreground to give an idea as to where you are and what your surroundings look like. We’ve all seen (and probably taken) photos of just the stars in the sky and they’re prettying boring. Using your surrounds helps to tell the story.

redlight

Notice the red light at the bottom of the image.
This is the read/access light just below the LCD screen

*Pro tip: if you’re shooting at night with the camera low to the ground, use a piece of tape to cover the little red read/access light on the back of the camera. You’ll more than likely be able to see it lighting up the ground around your camera and it can be a real pain to edit out.

The Exposure

For any sort of astrophotography it’s not as simple as just putting your camera on a tripod and taking a long exposure.

First and foremost you need to find the Milky Way in the sky. There’s plenty of smartphone apps out there that show you where the are constellations in the sky, but personally I like Star Chart from Escapist Games. As you move your phone across the sky, the app uses your GPS location and ‘accurate 3D universe’, to show the current location of every star and planet visible from earth in real time.

Next, you’re going to need a sturdy tripod. For shots like this one you’ll be looking at exposures up to 30 seconds, and nobody can hold a camera completely still for that long. On that same note, remove your camera strap. The shutter is going to be open for a long time and your camera will pick up on vibrations from the strap flowing in the wind. Also a remote shutter release is not required but it will make your life easier.

While the camera settings differ from situation to situation, the first step to decided whether you’re after star trails or sharp dot points. As the earth is spinning at about 1000mph the stars, even though we can’t perceive it, are moving across the sky, and with longer exposures this can cause star trails.

For this image I wanted sharp dot point stars so I determined my shutter speed using the 500 rule — 500 Divided By the Focal Length of Your Lens = The Longest Exposure (in Seconds) Before Stars Start to “Trail”

screenshot

Using the 500 rule to determine the shutter speed
allowed me to capture the stars as points rather than trails. Screen grab at 800-percent zoom

My focal length was 15mm, so, 500 / 15 = 33.333-seconds. I find it’s better to round down rather than up so I opted for a 30-second exposure.

Next you’re going to be shooting wide open and they say you need a lens that’s max aperture is 2.8 to get a good bright Milky Way. I shot this with an f/4 lens and bumped the ISO up a touch.

As for the ISO I usually start at 6400 and play around until I get the image I am looking for.

My final exposure was 30.0-seconds at f/4.0, and ISO 8000.

Post Processing

milkyway

A few selective adjustments make all the
difference is guiding your eye across the image

I don’t like to do drastic edits in Photoshop and Lightroom especially when I am working with a single exposure. In most cases an image like this would have been multiple exposures, at least one for the night sky and one for the foreground; lucky for me the floodlights on the Eagles Nest Gondola building lit up the lift station perfectly when I exposed for the sky.

There are a few tonal corrections, with contrast being set with the ‘white’ and ‘black’ sliders in Lightroom as well as a touch of clarity and vibrance to make the foreground and the colors pop. I’ve also added some brightness to the the midtones as well as some additional selective saturation and luminance added to the purple and blue channels to really make the Milky Way pop. And as you would imagine at 8000ISO there is a fair bit of noise to deal with, and Lightroom’s noise reduction does a fantastic job.

The last thing I do is a bit of selective darkening to accentuate the brightness of the Milky Way and help draw your eye where I want to it go.

Simple right! Happy Shooting!

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