Saturday, September 30, 2017

Opportunity Weekend - September 30th

A corner shop with pastel colored trim has purple and green chairs out front, including a holiday wreath, in Salado, Texas
Yes, yes, I know I'm late. I was supposed to do Opportunity Weekend yesterday but I'm here with you in spirit today so that you can still maybe get after it this weekend (well, maybe a little bit.) I've been stuck in bed with the flu you see so I'm a bit slower catching up with everything this weekend. Apologies for this as I hope to be getting back to my regular old self as soon as possible. I feel quite like those folks who never take down their holiday decor or who just go through life a bit more slowly than the rest of us. Man, have I been dragging. But, it's all good, all good. I guess the old bones needed a bit of a rest. So, while I'm getting after getting back into good health, I offer up some opportunities for you to get after it:
 Several all media shows for the painters in the bunch this week. Best of luck with your entries.

Until next time...

PS This image from Salado, Texas taken over the holiday season, Canon 5DS and walkabout lens.

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Mountain of Flash Memory, Oh How It Grows

Interior view of an historic schoolhouse in Stonewall, Texas as part of the Gillespie County Historic School house tour.
So, the mountain of flash memory is starting to pile up. This time around, I was having a bit of a dilemma in calculating just how much flash memory I am going to need. I know it's quite a lot. Heck, *you* know it's quite a lot but how exactly to calculate just how much is a lot, right? I mean, is it bigger than a breadbox or are we talking an entire Volkswagen here? What to do, what to do? I hatched a plan, actually, I've been using this technique for a while and I thought I would share. Please forgive if this is obvious but it might not be to some folks so I thought I would share just in case.

For starters, I calculate how much my camera can fit on a flash memory card. Each camera will be different so, if you are following along in an attempt to do this for yourself, you will need to figure out how many frames your particular camera can fit onto, say, a 32GB card. For me, the specs are as follows: I can get approximately 439 frames on a 32GB card and approximately 870 frames on a 64 GB card (the reason it is not exactly doubled has to do with the space reserved for the index that gets written to the card. You don't need to know that, just dig up the number of frames you particular camera can fit onto a few popular sized cards and you will be all set. It's an approximation anyway, right, as you really can't tell how much you are going to shot until, well, until you actually shoot. If you can't find this information on the Internet, you can always put one card in and see how many images your camera tells you that you have left. Whatever works, right?)

The next estimation is a bit trickier. You have to figure the number of days you will be shooting (in my case, that's 15) and the number of hours you will be shooting per day. Now, I shoot a lot of night work and I prefer to over compensate for flash memory so I generally estimate I will be shooting 12 hours a day, this time for 15 days of shooting in total. Once you have this number, this is the really tricky calculation. You have to guess how many frames an hour you would be shooting. Usually, I go with 100 because that's kind of a brisk pace, although your results may vary. Generally speaking though, you can guesstimate how many frames an hour you shoot more easily than you can how many frames a day so I like to break it down this way. For my particular shooting, I have come up with the following estimates: 15 days of shooting (this is 1 higher than actual shooting, by the way) 12 hours a day, 100 frames an hour.

Next comes the fun part. Multiple theses numbers together to come up with your total frame count. In my case, it would be 15x12x100 which works out to be 18,000. So, based on my back of napkin calculations, I'll be shooting roughly 18,000 frames and I should plan for that. Often, quite often in fact, I estimate this number on the high side and on the low side. So, let's say I might estimate 15 days of shooting, 18 hours a day, 100 frames an hour. That works out to be about 27,000. Likewise, I estimate a low estimate and, for this time, I've come up with about 10,000 frames. Then, I round off profusely. For this time, I've estimated my total frames to be between 10,000 and 30,000. (Yes, I know that's a lot of shooting. We'll see if I actually shoot that much but I have to plan on the high side, always on the high side, so I don't run out of flash memory.)

Given that I can fit 439 frames on a 32 GB card and 870 frames on a 64GB card, that leaves me needing roughly 18,000 frames at 439 images per 32 GB card or 18,000/439 which works out to be about 41 memory cards. My estimates work out to anywhere between 22 and 68 and so I'll probably aim for that nice 41 card middle ground, maybe a little bit over that for my target.

A couple of other points:
  • I know, I just know some Dobie Do Right is going to come along and take this apart by saying, "you know you can reuse flash memory, right?" Yes, Dobie, I do know that. The problem is, when you are traveling, you often don't have time to upload. If I'm shooting literally morning, noon, and night, when might I actually have time to upload anything I'm shooting? I have to plan to not be able to reuse these cards since I can't plan on having time to upload. I'm not going to risk running out. I have to shoot, shoot, shoot and upload later.
  • Part two of the Dobie Do Right conversation is now going to be, "You know you can buy larger cards right? So you don't have to take as many and it'll hold more?" Yes, Dobie, I know cards come in varying sizes. The problem is, if you have a card go bad, you risk losing all of the images on it. I don't want to risk losing that many images if I can help it so I like to break down my shooting across multiple cards. This also helps in the rare occasion that I get a break from shooting and might be able to upload something. I don't want to spend 400 hours uploading one card. Smaller/multiple cards is a better solution. It also allows me to leave cards back at hotel room for example, and just take the days shooting in case say my bag falls into a waterfall. Lots of reasons to not just stuff everything onto one giant card, but they all fall into your basic "one egg/one basket" philosophy here.
  • For those who think this is way too much flash memory, it probably is. I'm not sure I can keep up this kind of shooting pace but, like I said, I want to have more, way more, and be able to have leftover cards vs running out of cards and having to scramble to get more. I can use the flash memory when I get home but it's hard to come by on the road so I opt to travel with more and bring home any unused. Works out better this way. 
  • For those who think this is expensive, you don't want to spend a lot of money on a trip and be afraid to shoot for fear of running out of memory cards. I like to shoot. This is what I do, and shoot I will. Flash memory is still cheap in a lot of ways. It's a lot lighter than film and less fragile not to mention the development process is a lot easier. I love the fact that I can shoot more and not have to worry about running out. It's only memory cards after all, shoot away!
  • For those who ask, "don't you delete images you don't like to make room for more/new ones?" No, I never delete from my cards. Often, I don't post process images but I always opt to leave images on the cards, upload them, and evaluate them on my computer before tossing them. It's my workflow, just how I work. Sometimes, I can't make up my mind about an image until after a long time has passed. I like to go back and revisit images from time to time as well. The image you see here was actually shot last summer and only processed now. That's how I work. Had I deleted this, why, I would not have it now. I make a rule to almost never delete on card, to just keep shooting, and see what the camera gives me.
  • For those who ask why I would want to do this, well it's beats staying at home, doesn't it? Once again, this what I do, this is who I am. I shoot a lot, I love to shoot, I'm a photographer. Did you expect me to knit a blanket instead? If I did that, would you expect me to only buy one ball of yarn? Nope. Not going to happen. Mountain of flash memory for me it is.
Apologies if I am being snarky or if any of my math is wrong. I'm a bit under the weather today and not had much to eat so I might be a bit off on some things. Must double check all of this tomorrow. For right now anyway, the memory cards have started to show up. I've ordered a bunch. I think I'm up to the 19 card mark with more on the way. Forty one cards is not a heck of a lot when it comes down to it. Forty one cards, a raincoat, a giant passport stamp and a tasty dumpling. And you think I'm crazy for not wanting to pass that up? Man, I wish I could be out the door tomorrow.

Until next time...

PS This one from the historic Gillespie County Schoolhouse tour. Canon 5DS and the walkabout lens on a hot summer day.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Opportunity Weekend - September 22nd

A cowboy gazes into the distance in front of a window frame and some string lights at the L Jorraine Ghost Town outside of Austin, Texas.
If I could tattoo some opportunity on your arms I would, but, unfortunately it doesn't work that way. Here are some opportunities for you this week:
 I wish you the best of luck getting after it this weekend.

Until next time...

PS This one taken with the Canon 5DS and the walkabout lens. Love that golden light.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Kicking the Door Down

Two girls dressed in western clothing kick down a saloon style door at the Austin, Texas Ghost Town, JLorraine in Manor
This past week, there was a brouhaha over an announcement from Nikon. The announcement itself seemed harmless enough-Nikon announced a new D850 DSLR camera, which is, well frankly, what one might expect Nikon to announce. The problem with the announcement stems from the fact that Nikon picked 32 photographers from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East to promote this wonderful new camera. Nikon picked 32 photographers to share their stores and talk about their wonderful new product, which was all well and good, except for the fact that not one single photographer selected was a woman. Since the announcement, the Internet has sort of blown up about this, with the New York Times technology section doing an article about the lack of women in the promotion. Nikon itself tried to issue some kind of apology like statement but this didn't really fly as it wasn't quite an apology or at least not the kind of apology the Internet was looking for at the time and this really just further confused the issue. I believe things have settled down a bit although the question still lingers over the notion that 32 photographers could be selected and not one female represented in the bunch. I'm mean, technically speaking this is possible although statistically unlikely, right?

If you look at other statistics, they don't quite mirror what Nikon has done but they come relatively close. For the 2017 Canon Explorers of Light, there were 8 women and 32 men. The Nikon Ambassadors fared a bit better with 7 women and 17 men. The idea that female photographers are underrepresented is certainly there and, it would appear, there is some data to back this up, at least upon initial glance. What the statistics don't tell us, however, is how many women applied for these programs. Most of these type of programs are application based, in fact, if you follow this site you might have seen me post a call for entries back in June as part of my ongoing series "Opportunity Weekend" where I shared the news that Hasselblad was looking for applicants for their Master's Program. I think a better statistic might be how many women applied for this program and were accepted/rejected vs how many men did the same, but this is one of those things we may never get the chance to figure out as the application processes for these type of things are usually shrouded in secrecy or in the very least not made public.

Part of me really wants to call out Nikon for being unfair, but then I think about the application process and it really is difficult to tell just how many women applied or approached Nikon to be included in such an announcement. I feel strongly that women should be represented in the arts and in the photographic community in particular but then again I've seen what can happen with women who don't represent themselves. I know many women, far too many women, who don't send their work out enough, who don't have the drive, who don't have the stamina (I'm not talking physical stamina here either) to keep going, keep sending work out, keep pushing themselves to advance their careers. Perhaps, I am feeling the pangs of guilt over this for myself. I mean, do I really send my own work out enough? If you don't send your own work out, you can't rightfully expect the universe to just sort of randomly "discover" you, especially not in a field as competitive as photography-one in which there are many participants struggling and pushing themselves every chance they get. No, if you are even the least bit lazy or hesitant, quite frankly, you don't deserve success in this field, regardless of gender.

Part of me also likes to think along the lines of what I like to call "living well is the best revenge." By that, I mean if you can do the work, get the shows, get on the gallery walls, get into the magazines, you can prove any of the stereotypes wrong just by doing it. It's all too easy to make excuses, right? But spending the time and actually doing it, actually getting it done, proves that women can do it too. I've always been this way in the technology field. I've never stopped, not applied, not pushed, not done something because, well, somebody told me, "you're a girl." Why should my photography be any different? Yeah, I get it. I'm female. So what? Girls can take photos too. In many ways, the best way to rub somebody's nose in their prejudice is to just do the job and leave them scratching their head. I like to think I live my life that way, Nikon announcement or not. More akin to Nike than to Nikon perhaps but the "just do it!" is strong with me.

I also recognize that the art world is full of under representation in many ways. A lot of times women are out there making kick ass art and it gets written off as mere "doily art" while men are seen as "artistic visionaries." Things can be unfair like this, unfortunately, it's just a factor of who we are as people and the price of doing business. It takes time for society to change, to catch up with the accomplishments of women and so it follows that it might take some time for women to move out of the "doily art" and into the overpriced auction houses. Things are changing in a lot of ways. I mean, look at somebody like Cindy Sherman, she's kicking it at auction and is frequently one of the highest bid artists going, photographer or not. Photography itself is often under represented in the art world. Let's face it, photographers are treated like hobos running after the caboose of fine art in the gallery world. For a long time too, color photography was not accepted as "fine art" and nowadays it's often "digital art" that gets the snub from the high falutin noses in the gallery. Bottom line? If they want to snub you, if they really want to snub you, why it's all too easy to find something they don't like about you and milk it for a "I'm sooo sorry but you're just not good enough" raspberry. Yes, sometimes the best answer to that is to break down the door and work all that much harder to get past the inevitable snubs. It's just what we have to do because we are female, photographers, working in digital or for some other reason they see fit to banish us from the table of all things acceptable. Anybody can claim to be under represented if they try hard enough, frankly, I'd rather be known as somebody who worked hard and kicked that door clear off its ugly hinges (but maybe that's just me?)

So, was Nikon right in selecting an all male round-up of starts for their D850? Probably not. Will anything come of it? Probably not. I mean, they might have to suffer a few barbs from the Internet pirates but, let's face it, the bottom line for them is selling cameras and they are probably doing to do just a lot of that with their new D850. On the whole, I'd have to say the needle really didn't move all that much although they did get people talking a bit. The announcement got me thinking anyway. We certainly live in interesting times. (Wasn't that some kind of ancient Chinese curse? Oh the horror of it all.)

Until next time...

PS This one taken with the Canon 5DS and the walkabout lens. In the ghost town outside of Austin. Kicking doors down indeed, ladies.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Opportunity Weekend - September 15th

Close up shot of a stem and leaf taken in Austin's Zilker Botanical Garden, Austin, Texas
Opportunity, like weeds, grows in one's garden. You just have to know how to cultivate it. And, of course, you have to get after it. So, without further ado, here are some opportunities for you this weekend:
If you find these opportunities helpful, please feel free to drop me a line and let me know. I've been doing the opportunity weekend posts for a while now and have not heard much feedback although my Internet sources tell me the posts are popular. (It helps if I hear from you.)

I hope you make the most of your opportunities this weekend and you have many opportunities growing in your garden this week.

Until next time...

PS This one taken with the Canon 5DS and the walkabout lens. Zilker Botanical Garden in the heat of the summertime.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Wild About Bags

An abstract natural image, featuring lots of blues and greens from the trees and sky
So, I have much news to report in the bags department. I was going to check in the other day to tell you all about my new camera bag, the ThinkTank Retrospective 30 but then something has come over me and I decided to opt instead for the Domke J-CHRON-RB. I actually purchased the ThinkTank bag first and I may keep it, just add the Domke to the mix. I know, it sounds crazy but I've been a bit nuts about bags. You see, I really didn't like the F-1X and I always seem to be short on bags so I might just sell that one at like a swap meet and wind up keeping the other two.

The think that really did it for me about the Domke is not only how well they are made (those things are built like a tank!) but also how many new features the newer "Next Generation" bags have. The good folks at Domke really have thought about everything. They added a zipper in the top so you can reach in and grab the camera bag. They added pockets that expand but can also snap closed and sit right next to the bag when you are not using them (making the bag both smaller and expandable.) They offer up both a grab strap and a shoulder strap plus the newer bags now have a luggage trolley strap, which is a big plus for me. They just have so many pockets and offer up so much, not to mention they look great and are rugged as all get up. So, ThinkTank, you almost got me but I'm sticking with my trusted Domke brand.

I really am very impressed with what they are doing with bags these days. There is a lot of new stuff to select from and a lot of new features. They are making bags more for women, messenger bags are all the rage, bags for the new mirrorless gear, bags that look more like business cases rather than dorky camera bags. Man, I have to admit, these days it would appear the sky is the limit in terms of bags. Phew! It can make shopping for a new one a bit daunting but it's also kind of fun and interesting to see what kinds of new features they incorporate.

I know it might sound silly but bags are a big part of what we do. You basically have to wear a bag all day long and it very much dictates what kind of kit you can carry. Bags do a lot for us, even if we sometimes neglect them or just go with what we have. It's really great to see new features and the like, as it can go a long way towards making our lives a bit easier. I wish you the best of luck should you be hunting for a new one. It's a challenge, I know, but can also be fun to step up to the chase.

Until next time...

PS This one taken with the Canon 5DS and the walkabout lens. In the park, with the zoom, making trees look a bit like waterfalls.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Opportunity Weekend - September 8th

A white peacock against an entirely blue painted room. South Austin odd in Saint Cecilia.
Don't be a wallflower! Get to sending some work out there already.

Now, I know the hurricane and the craziness of everything that has been going on might have you down but, what better way to return to a sense of normalcy than to send some work along for review, right? For those who are able to get out there and get it out there, here are some opportunities for you:
Hopefully, there's something you might like in the bunch. As a reminder, you can search this site using the labels at the bottom. Selecting "Opportunity Weekend" will show you all of the recent opportunity weekend posts.

Best of luck with your work and stay safe in all of the storms and craziness out there!

Until next time...

PS This one taken with the Canon 5DS and the walkabout lens. Saint Cecilia, what can I say?

Bag Drama Continues

Street scene showing commedy and tragedy face masks in a shop window, Georgetown, Texas, on the town square.
It's a tragedy! It's a comedy! It's a drama! My "let's find a new camera bag" saga continued today as I saw fit to pop on over to my local camera bag emporium (aka "the place that legally empties my wallet on a regular basis. You know, the local one.") Yes, snowflakes, queen flake herself went bag shopping today! Now, this seems a bit strange even from the onset. I mean, shopping for a bag? So, I'm going to head on over to the store to buy a bag which the nice folks will then put in another bag which I will then take home and unwrap only to put more crap in it. Yes, that's indeed how it works so here goes.

I had taken a list with me. The list had some of the more common brands, along with the size and specs of the bags I am currently using. I poked around in the bag aisle (they have an entire aisle of this stuff. Believe me, it's an obsession of sorts. Well, I say that but there's not really a support group. Not yet anyway.) So on my list were the following: Kelly Moore Bags, Domke Ledger bag, Lowepro, Tamrac Stratus 21, Peak Design, ONA, Billingham, Jill-E, Think Tank Photo, and Sirui. The good camera store didn't have all of the bags on my hot list but they had some and I was able to rule out some of them right away.

The Tamrac Stratus looks like a nice bag but it lacks one of the features my current Domke bag has, namely, when you open the bag it tips over (Domke's never do that.) Now, it did have a ton of pockets and there was some innovation here but I just really did not like the look of it, not to mention the tip over bit, so this one is out. Likewise, the Peak Design is out for me. Everybody talks about how good this bag is but I just don't see it. The adjustable car seat belt like strap only works really if you are right handed, that is, if you wear the bag over your right shoulder. Since that's my bad arm, I'm not going with it. Again, some good innovation here but this bag just doesn't look like it will hold what I need, plus the left-handed thing so it's out. Onward!

They didn't have any Kelly Moore bags to speak of, but the online reviews all scream wonders about these not to mention they just look all that fabulous. So these are still on the list. Likewise, as a faithful Domke user, the Domke bag is still on the list. I could always opt for a J-1 or get one of the newer ones, if I can find one. They are pretty much out of stock or back ordered a lot of places, so hard to find. Not sure I want to battle Internet gremlins but I'll see what it comes down to should I opt for the Domke. One thing about the Domke though is, since I already have three of them, I can re-use some of the inserts and the like. This is a big plus as it saves money and cuts down on some waste. I really like the little grab handle the Domkes have. Turns out not a lot of other bags have these. With my bad back and shoulder, it makes it easier to be able to wear the bag as either a shoulder bag (on a short strap) or a cross body type of bag. I almost require this type of versatility nowadays so I hope I can find it in a replacement bag. Domke is still on the list for all this and more.

Lowepro bags just do not excite me. My camera store did not have many and most of what they did have was a backpack style, which I do not want. Too clumsy to work out of so I'll take a pass on those. Likewise, they did not have any Billingham bags. Now, I know these are nice bags but they are expensive and I'm not sure I'm willing to make such a commitment to a bag at this point so I may have to take a pass on these as well. The ONA bags look interesting, like they might have something in a couple of years but nothing was quite right for what I need right now, so these are probably out. They had a couple of other bags from companies I had not heard of, most of them were cheap and I didn't really like them.

The bags that really wowed me this time were all from Think Tank Photo. These bags were really impressive, even more so than their website would seem to indicate. They just had a lot of features, looked really nice, seemed sturdy, and seemed like they would hold up well, not to mention they were the right size and have tons of pockets. I was really surprised. I mean, I guess I should not be, since I had heard Think Tank was doing good things but I was really quite shocked.

At this point, I'd have to say I'm probably down to a selection between the Kelly Moore, another trusted Domke, or one of the Think Tank models. Haven't quite made up my mind just yet but I've narrowed down the field a bit. I'm zeroing in on a solution that'll work for me anyway.

I plan to keep you posted when (if?) I make a final decision. At this point, I believe I'm pretty much decided I want something new, just not sure what and am weighing the features.

Some of the things I'm looking for in a bag are:
  • Prefer outside pockets as I can stash my flash memory mountain there. A water bottle holder of sorts would be nice too.
  • Must have a grab handle that I can use as a high shoulder bag. Bad arm dictates this.
  • Would be nice if it had a pocket on the back (or front, or side, or?) so that I can slip it over the handle of carry on luggage. I believe they call this a "trolley strap" of sorts. This would allow me to roll it around atop my carry on luggage. Current Domke F-2 bag has a grab strab that almost does this but it's longer and can make carry on luggage tip over. Not optimal but works ok if nothing else is available.
  • Prefer some kind of outside pocket that's flat-ish so I can stash my tickets, boarding pass, and the like. 
  • Should be able to hold two DSLR camera bodies plus ~3 lenses. I don't use gripped bodies but I am full frame so they are kind of large. Would like lots of pockets for stuff like batteries, tripod kick plates (oh, curse them. Curse them, yes, but carry them too) business cards, and all that kind of crap.You know, like a pen and one of those air blower do-dahs nobody likes to admit they carry around with them in their bags and yet stuff them in there we do.
  • I work with a 13 inch MacBook Air. Some of the bags have room for a laptop or tablet. It might be a nice feature to be able to stuff my Airbook in there but I don't want a bag that droops down to my knees. 
  • Need bag to be lightweight. Currently shooters bag is 3.2 lbs. I don't want a 5+ lb beast for everyday usage. Now, if I just get a bag for the plane, extra weight might be ok.
  • Would be nice if it didn't look like crap warmed over. 
  • Must fit under airport seat. No wheels, I need a bag I can carry and pass off as my "one personal item."
  • Should be able to get in and out (easy access) to cameras and stuff inside. Not too many latches, locks, straps, etc. (My Domke F1-X has this problem. The straps are a bit funky and you really have to close it in order to pick it up. Man, I hate that.) This is why I do not want a backpack either-too hard to have to take it off, put it back on again, etc. I don't want a tango, I want a shooter's bag.
  • Would love a bag that can stand up on it's own or at least not have to lie down flat when I put it down say at a restaurant. (Don't want anybody stepping on it.) I tend to work sometimes with bag on the ground so this is important. This is why I generally do not favor the messenger style bags, although they are all the rage right now it would appear. 
I know I ask a lot of a camera bag but that's my current list. I might have to get all left brained and make a spreadsheet with my options so I can checkoff each of the features to figure out which bag is best for me. Oh the humanity!

Until next time...
(The Bag Lady)

PS This one taken with camera firmly out of bag. Canon 5DS on the square in Georgetown. Walkabout lens. Domke F-2 shooters bag somewhere very nearby. 

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

What's in the...Heck what IS the Bag?

Color infrared version of a tree against a bold sky.
So the time has come for me to do some shopping. By shopping, of course, I mean to check out some new camera and photo gear. I've been looking at getting a new camera bag and, boy, am I confused. For starters, they have a whole bunch of new camera bags. When I say, "new" here I mean they have, quite literally, redesigned the camera bag as we know it. These days a lot of folks are shooting mirrorless and lot of people want a stylish camera bag. This combination has forced a dramatic shift in all things camera bag. It's mind blowing! Camera bags don't even look like what they used to look like the last time I went in to buy one. I hardly recognize them, let alone know where to begin to purchase one. Seriously, I used to just check out the latest offering from the good folks at Domke and then maybe check out one or two additional bags just to make sure I wasn't missing anything good. Usually, I wasn't missing anything at all. Now, oh my now there is an entire plethora of camera bags that are just blowing my mind.

For starters, there have always been the very fine bags from Billingham Bags. These folks are from England and make a darn good camera bag if I might say so myself. The bags have always been expensive but it's the type of bag you would pass onto your children and possibly even your children's children. Since I don't have children and these bags were always a bit pricey I've typically passed but now I am thinking about it. It's another option anyway, so poking around at these.

There are now too an entire line of what I would have to call "woman's camera bags." What I mean by this are stylish bags clearly designed with the female photographer in mind. I think this movement started with the bags from Jill-E. I had almost purchased an entire Jill-E system back in the day (when these bags first came out) but I opted not to simply because the bag was a bit too heavy. I've got a bad back and want the absolute lightest bag you can carry. Because of this, often genuine leather bags are out for me. Although I think they look oh so stylish, it's hard on your shoulder carrying that weight around all day.

The advent of the tablet is impacting camera bags as well. Since a lot of folks have tablets and small laptops now, the messenger style bags appear to be all the rage. Another option for the female shooter appears to be a bag by the relatively new Kelly Moore Bags. Though a bit of a newcomer to the field, these bags are really nice looking and seem to provide everything a woman could want in a bag. Some of the bags even have things like credit card slots and the like so that the bag essentially doubles as a purse. (As an aside, one of the things I've always *hated* about being a photographer, come to think of it, it might be the *only* thing I've always hated about being a photographer is that I can almost never carry a purse. Carrying a camera necessitates I carry a camera bag and I refuse to carry two bags so this leaves me essentially purse-less. I've learned to deal with it but it can be heartbreaking walking through the mall watching friends check out the latest in purses. Something I will never get to do, alas, but there you have it. Yes, I know, cry me a river. Onward!)

To get myself out of the ladies department, I checked out what the good folks over at Tamrac have in terms of offerings. I have a Tamrac messenger bag that I use to hold my laptop sometimes. It's great. I'd have to say it was a great purchase. Just the right size and nice looking, plus plenty of padding but it's more a messenger style bag so not the best for all day walking about with camera gear. (Now, if I had to carry my laptop about, why, this type of bag would be all over it.) The good folks at Tamrac make something called the "Stratus 21." While this sounds a bit like some kind of demented Oldsmobile model from the early 1970's, it actually looks like a decent bag. It holds a lot of stuff and it's kind of the size and shape of what I might be looking for in a bag. Chalk this up to a possibility and let's move onto the next one, shall we?

One of the problems I have is that I'm left handed and I've got a very bad back. I currently shoot a Domke F-2 shooters bag with a short strap and a long strap. The short strap lets me wear the camera bag up high, almost in my armpit. Doesn't sound attractive, I know, but it helps with the old back. I sometimes stick my head in the long strap of the camera bag and wear the entire bag cross body style too, but it has to be across my left shoulder, since my right side is the bad side. This configuration pretty much rules out the Peak Design Everyday Messenger bag since it's pretty much setup for right handed shooters (and right handed shooters only.) It also might make the Tamrac bag a bit difficult for me, since it does not have a high strap for me to use (or the short strap depending upon how you call it.)

There is another new company called ONA that makes a sort of waxed canvas bag. Looks interesting but maybe a bit too "male" for me. At least most of the bags seem to have a sort of masculine look about them. Got some nice features though so I have not ruled them out, although they do have the genuine leather bags which have the weight issue, plus their bags are a bit more "messenger" style rather than shoulder bag style.

I always check out Lowepro and they have a bunch of bags that might fit the bill for me. They have something that's almost "purse like" but not quite feminine enough (if that even makes sense) called the ProTactic camera shoulder bag. It's like a little system that you can add onto, although I'm not quite sure I want to invest in a new bag and then have to invest in add on's and the like afterwards. That's a bit of a puzzle but still Lowepro makes a good bag so I will consider it as an option for me.

Finally, there's the worst issue I always seem to have: I just can't make up my mind. This is, perhaps, my biggest issue when buying new camera gear. I just can't decide what to do and I seem to get stuck in a sort of "analysis paralysis" mode. I need an everyday shooting bag. The one I have now seems to work (that would be the Domke F2.) Do I really need another bag? For traveling on the planes and such, I think it might be nice to have a bag that could maybe hold a small laptop or tablet but then I don't want an everyday shooter bag that drags down to my knees. My knees really don't need a camera bag, trust on that one. So do I solve this dilemma with two bags, perhaps? Maybe an airplane/travel bag coupled with an everyday shooter bag?

I've recently purchased a rolling carry on suitable for holding my laptop and maybe a day or two change of clothing. I can usually use this type of bag plus an over the shoulder camera bag for the planes. When I went to Dakota, and on the basically smaller commuter jets, they restrict you to one carry on. In that situation, it sure would be handy to have something like the Kelly Moore bag resembling a doctor's bag. It could hold my laptop and all camera gear and fit under the seat (well, I might have to stuff it under the seat but still, fit it will!) In this case, I could leave the small rolling carry on at home and just bring the shoulder camera (travel) bag plus check my big suitcase.

Alternatively, since I have this nice, new four wheeled rolling ultralight carry on, I could put my laptop in that along with maybe a lens or two plus a bunch of chargers, batteries and the like and just put two or more camera bodies in the shoulder bag. The problem with this configuration is that the shoulder bag can get quite heavy loaded down like this, with the two cameras in it. I had been working like this in the past, using a Domke F-1X bag but I really don't like that bag (I want to sell it actually) since I think it's the only Domke bag that flops over when you open it. (For those who don't know, one of the big features of the Domke F-2 bag is that you can wear it on your shoulder, walk around all day and, when it's time to open it up, just open up a flap. The entire bag will not tip over if you open up the top flap. This is very handy if you do not want to put the bag down on, say, the sidewalk. It really works, not to mention Domke bags are build strong as hell. I usually refer to mine as a "Donkey" because I think it literally has hauled more crap up larger hills than some donkeys I've met.)

I'm currently leaning towards taking a shooters bag/day pack (my Domke F-2) along with a travel bag (for the plane) plus the rolling 4 wheel ultralight bag holding the laptop but, man, this could change at any time now. This entire situation is giving me a headache. I just don't know what to do. I'm so used to all of the pockets on the old Domke F-2 and it really holds stuff nicely but it's just not quite enough to haul everything only the plane plus it doesn't do well under the heavy weight of over packing it with the multiple camera systems. Not to mention it will probably make the smaller ultra light four wheeled rolling carry on tip over, as this bag is not so heave and probably can't hold a heavier loaded down canvas style bag atop it.

Argh! What to do, what to do? I'm open to suggestions if you've got a bag you swear by (alternatively one you swear at as well.) Please drop me a line or, at the very least, buy me a drink the next time you see me, as my head will still be aching from all of this madness.

Until next time...

PS This an infrared shot from the archives.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Katy Lied

Alternative view of a city scene in Firastefani on the island of Santorini, Greece
In case you did not hear the news, this week marks the passing of Walter Becker. Now, for those of you who don't know, Becker was one of the co-founders of the sometimes popular but almost always respected rock group Steely Dan. An interesting thing about Steely Dan, actually Becker and Fagen really, is that they are possibly the closest thing found in the post 60's/Gen X time frame that matches the beat generation. Their lyrics were often obscure, sometimes hard to decipher, but rife with situation and presence. The characters were larger than life, if not a bit tragic. Not tragic in the classical sense of the word, more like people on the edge really. The stories were filled with characters who were losers, social misfits, lovers trapped in oddball relationships, and often dealing with a dark reality. Steely Dan is almost a study in edge cases or people lost in their own obsessions. The over thinkers of the world? Yeah, you can find them trapped in many a Steely Dan song.

Becker and Fagen were not your typical rock stars either. They were sort of the college educated "it wants to be jazz" type of songwriters who would more easily be classified as hipsters today, rather than your typical late 60's rockers like, for example, Keith Richards or Mick Jagger from the Rolling Stones. Becker and Fagen were college educated, a fact they could not escape, and the type who could more easily pass as dorks or geeks, rather than the rebellious rocker types. They were unconventional in the least but in a way this helped solidify their music. In an odd way, being educated, knowing the jazz age, and being one of the original hipster duos gave them an oddball sort of "street cred." They had to be good, right? Anybody else in their shoes would wind up coming off like a dork, but they saw your "dork" and raised you a "hip" on the flop. They were sort of like what you might get if you were to cross somebody like a Bill Gates with, say, a Nat King Cole. A little bit of jazz but still somehow not able to look all that good in a suit jacket no matter how much you tip the tailor.

Now, you might be wondering what all of this, what any of this really has to do with photography. Another interesting thing about Steely Dan is that they spent a lot of time at Bard College and wandering the streets of places like Brooklyn. They highlighted the town I was raised in, Scarsdale, in one of their songs (Hey Nineteen mentions "[moving] down to Scarsdale" along with the popular reference to "Cuervo Gold.") They were, quite literally, from my old stomping grounds. Maybe because of this I have always felt a weird kinship with Becker and Fagen. There's just something about them, I didn't just listen to their music, no, in some ways, I wanted to be like them. They are sort of the off-the-cuff jazz influenced, turtleneck wearing, almost dorky artist types I could picture myself being if, you know, I could turn myself into an artist type. I guess it's safe to say I aspire to be like that somebody. Yes, I know it's kind of sad now that this someday has sort of passed us by with Becker's passing, but the acute influence is still there and stronger than ever. If I could turn myself into the photographic equivalent of Steely Dan, why,  I think it's safe to say I'd do that in a heartbeat.

I know there have been photo projects on Tom Waits. He's deserving of such respect as he too is a type of larger than life character, invoking the surreal and oddball characters that we've grown to love from his songs over the years. He's more of the all night diner type but still the notion that a musician, one single musician, can inspire an entire body of work for a photographer is not really a novel idea. It does make me wonder, however, what a photographic body of Steely Dan work might look like. And that, that sense of wonder, brings me to crafting images in my head. I mean, can you just imagine what Peg might look like as a single frame of film? What about Kid Charlemagne? Or the protagonist from Rikki Don't Loose That Number? My mind boggles over this but, in some ways, I also don't want to touch it for it's so golden I wouldn't know where to begin. It makes me think, heck, why isn't this a movement already and where the heck is Gregory Crewdson or David Lynch? Do I really need to do this all by my lonesome? (Hmmm. I wonder if Kickstarter would fund the likes of this project? At least half of me doesn't even want to ask that question. This one cuts close and runs a bit deep but there it is.)

Oh, and in case it's not clear from my ramblings, it really goes without saying but, rest in peace, Mr. Becker. You, sir, will be missed.

Until next time...

PS In keeping with the oddball juxtaposition of the night, this shot was taken in the town of Firostefani on the island of Santorini where, presumably, there was not much Cuervo Gold to be drunk but maybe somebody named Katy did once lose a number or two. Canon 5DS walkabout lens you fill in the suburban angst.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Opportunity Weekend - September 1st

A woman stands in red dress and lipstick shocked expression outside of a bank in Texas ghost town
I call this image, "Red Lipstick Robs Banks, Doesn't it?" Odd title, but that's what I wanted to go with for a title so there you have it. In other, um, news, it's opportunity weekend and there are some shocking opportunities awaiting you this weekend:
Hopefully you won't find it too shocking should you happen to heed the call.

Until next time...