Off to the Caymans

A Bag Change…

I decided to use a different bag than the one I had selected below.  This one was another one I picked up for like $30.00 US from either B&H or Adorama on one of their many e-mail blasts I get from them during the year.  This one as you can see from the images is a bit longer, same width, but it has some nice features such as top ingress and egress — in other words I don’t have to open the flap to get camera or lenses out.  That’s a very nice feature in crowded areas.  It also has a very, very deep pocket on the flap – shown with the orange zipper, where I can put my passports, travel documents, phone, etc.  I love that feature!  Inside I placed one of my three inserts;  even though I do have larger and deeper inserts, the one I decided on here is, thinner so as not to make the bag sit as wide, and semi-flexible so I can bend it at will without damage.  This bag still fits under the airplane seat which was my goal for this trip, together with keeping it light and simple.  Since I’ve also decided to pack my 35 1.4 you can see everything fits much better.  Up against my body the bag holds my 10.5″ iPad, and three Mavic Pro batteries. I also have a pocket inside the flap, one under the flap, one in the back.  The pockets and flaps are everywhere!  The only downside of this bag is I do not like the cammo look inside.  That is the only reason I don’t use this particular bag.  Once I arrive, the bag will shed the drone batteries, and pick up my filter pouch which is going in my checked bag.  I doubt I will leave the hotel with all four lenses each day – it really will depend on what I intend on shooting so the bag will be smaller and lighter than it is now – even though I think it’s just perfect as it is.

Oh… See the black roller suitcase? That my friends is my winter project as I’m converting it into a foam lined, sealed, camera, lens and drone carryon, or check in bag!  I’m so excited about that project that I’ll attack when I have some time.  Right now as the title says I’m off to the Caymans.  I am still reviewing and will be editing over 1800 images from my time in Iceland back in April; and I have another 400 or so images of miscellaneous shoots and small day-trips to review.  I also have over 2,000 images I need to title and keyword for stock use.  So this winter will be very busy for me.  But, I digress…Here are the bag images.  Let me know what you think.

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Collection of Bags
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Interior of the Manfrotto
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Manfrotto bag
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Top zipper so don’t have to use the flap, and the deep side pocket

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After returning from Coastal Maine last week I am now planning, packing and preparing for a trip the the Cayman Islands.  For this trip I’ve decided to lighten the load; both in-transit, and while on the ground. Instead of taking my super reliable, 10+ year old, $40.00 backpack which has been everywhere with me I’m taking a small Lowepro Streamline 250 that I picked up on sale at Adorama for US $20 via one of their emailed fire-sales.  This is the sole bag that will go on the plane with me under the seat. Together with my camera and lenses I’m also packing my three drone batteries in this bag as the Lithium batteries are not allowed in check-in luggage. The bag came with one divider, but I’ve added some dividers from other bags in order to pack my lenses securely.

LowePro Streamline 250

I own several camera bodies – well, I did. I fried my Fuji XT-2 in saltwater while in Myrtle Beach South Carolina a couple of weeks ago so now I’m down to my XT-1 and my XH-1.  I’m only taking my XH-1 plus three or four lenses.  I may or may not pack the 35mm F1.4 which is an amazing lens, and weighs just mere ounces.  I haven’t yet decided.

Caymans Gear X-H1 body, no grip, 12mm Zeiss 2.8, Fuji 16mm 1.4, Fuji 18-55, 35mm 1.4 (possible)

This is the gear that’s in my Lowepro bag.  The XH1 without the grip; The Zeiss 12mm 2.8 for those expansive vista’s I’m hoping to see and capture.  The 16mm 1.4 which is the only water resistant lens I’m packing, my 18-55 which is my “don’t leave home without it lens”, and maybe, possibly I’ll throw the 35 1.4 in there since it weighs mere ounces.  Also in the bag as I mentioned before will be my three drone batteries, plus my 10.5″ iPad (not shown in any images).

Gear going in the check-in baggage

This is what’s going in the check-in.  Mostly miscellaneous cables, adapters, battery chargers, Drone and controller, camera lens filters.  I’m only packing two spare memory cards plus the two I have in the camera out of fourteen or more that I own.  Each set of cards can handle 1599 jpeg fine+raw images.  If I’m pressed for space I can always switch to raw only.  The reason I shoot jpeg fine in addition to the compressed raw is so that I can review the full size jpeg on the back of the camera if I need to, though I rarely chimp; if I only shoot in raw, I’ll only be able to see a small basic jpeg which doesn’t give you a true an clear final representation of the image. I have the XH1 setup so the cards are set to “backup” in camera;  Once the cards are removed from the camera they will be separated so that none of them are in the same place at the same time.  Since I’m not taking the XH1 battery grip to save space and weight I’m taking only two spare NP126S camera batteries in addition to the one in-camera.  I’m packing a charger in the above mesh bag – it’s not shown here as I was actually charging batteries – but it’ll be in there. In the checked in bag will also be my camera and lens cleaning kit. The square, black pouch on the right contains the power brick and cables for the drone that allow me to charge three batteries at once.  That accessory I must say is one of the best things I bought for the drone! Each battery charges in sequence, and the LCD display shows what the actual voltage to each battery is so you know if the batteries are failing or not.  It also came with a car charger that I can plug into my cigarette lighter – since I won’t be renting a vehicle I won’t be packing.

This trip is a short, 5-day travel & stock photography trip with some down time thrown in.  No pressure, no stress, just shoot, relax, eat, drink and repeat.

More when I return.

Back from Coastal Maine

I’ve returned from Maine after a long three day weekend.  I was able to shoot some nice coastal images – visited various wharfs and docks to photograph them.  One of my favorite subjects are old, retired and very colorful lobster floats plus the assorted lobster trade gear.  I was able to only fly my drone on Friday since Saturday and Sunday there was a major air show near my home just a couple of miles from the Owls Head Lighthouse, and airport.  So DJI software wouldn’t even allow me to crank up the drone engines.  I even drove as far north (just a few miles) up the road to Camden (tourist trap central) and the airspace was still restricted.

I came home with a few images –  both drone, and some other some of which I’ve added below.

Owls Head Lighthouse, DJI Mavic Pro
Lobster Float detail, Fuji XH1 & 16-55 2.8
Wharf Workshop, Fuji XH1 & 16-55 2.8
Lobster Trap and Rope, Fuji XH1 & 16-55 2.8
Old Lobster Floats, Fuji XH1 & 16-55 2.8
Lobsterman shacks, Fuji XH1 & 16-55 2.8
Owls Head Lighthouse at sunset, DJI Mavic Pro

I Accidentally Trashed My Fuji X-T2

My X-T2 is now a very expensive paper weight.  Honest.  That’s what I’m using it for now.  a paper weight.  I was hit by a wave while shooting the coast in South Carolina.  This isn’t the first time I’ve been hit by salt water, but unfortunately, I had the rear display panel extended so sand and salt water made it’s way into the motherboard.  Since I also have the X-H1 and the X-T1, I’m not too worried, but I really did use the X-T2!

Now what?  Well I’m not sure.  I was planning on selling some bodies and lenses and getting the Fuji GFX-R medium format and the 32-64mm lens.  I just can’t pull the trigger on spending almost 6,000.00.  I think I’ll wait until Fuji has one of their epic sales before I spend that kind of money.

So, for now I’m working with the X-H1 and my lenses;  I really don’t use the X-T1 any more so no backup for me.

That’s it for now…

Back from Iceland!

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One of the Waterfalls… Fuji X-H1, 16-55 F2.8,  If you look close enough in the darker areas you can see the hail beating down.  The X-H1 and the 16-55 were unstoppable.

I’ve returned from that magical place that is Iceland. I will say the landscape is so varied and rugged you can go from ocean to glacier, to volcano in a matter of minutes. I flew into Keflavík and skipped the big city. We had decided ahead of time we wouldn’t be staying in Reklavik. By not spending time there we were able to get plenty of mileage on the ring road. 

Let me get right to the point: I have but one regret and that was I feel I took too much gear in the backpack that I took as carry-on.  Whether it was on my back while hiking, or just being carried to the car it was just too much. Since we never spent more than one night in any one hotel I couldn’t leave gear behind and just take what I needed for the particular hike, walk or whatever.

In order to try and be ready for anything I packed  both my Fuji XH1 and the XT2 body. No grips. I packed seven batteries, which honestly if I had taken three it would have been plenty. Of the eleven lenses I own that I took some heavy hitters. The 16-55 2.8, the 50-140 2.8, my 16mm 1.4 for Astral and northern lights and my Zeiss Touit 12mm 2.8. The 16-55 was glues to the XH1 with the exception of the first day when atop a volcano crater, I used the Zeiss 12mm to gather in the fantastic image of the gaping hole and the gorgeous lake at the bottom. Other than that one time the Zeiss never left the bag afterwards. The 16mm 1.4 lens never came out of the bag. There was zero opportunity for northern lights or any astral work as between the rain, clouds and wind it just wasn’t possible. Speaking of rain. It rained. A lot. It hailed. A lot. We hiked 7.8 miles to a particular waterfall and it hailed for four straight hours.   Add to that the wind and those hail pellets felt like bee stings on any exposed part of the face or hands. This is where the Fuji heavy weights were literally worth their weight in gold. As I mentioned above the 16-55 was on the H1 and the 50-140 on the XT2. Both camera and lenses were out of the camera backpack the entire time being pelted by rain and sleet and driving wind. Neither camera failed or even hiccuped due to the weather. Of course there was no way I was changing lenses in those elements, so having both bodies really helped! My original thought knowing we were going to do a lot of walking – not hiking – as my wife and I are 62 and 60 and are definitely not hikers, I was going to pack my lighter 18-55 of which I own two copies of and my 55-200. However having checked the weather reports before leaving and seeing all the rain that was forecasted I opted for the weather sealed lenses instead. In addition to the camera bodies and lenses in my backpack coupled with SD cards, camera batteries, And various filters I also had my Mavic Pro drone with three extra batteries. Again, a waste as I was unable to fly due to the rain and winds. I believe I flew it twice over an eight day period and came back with maybe 20 images or so. Again, just not worth it. 

Both my wife and I decided next time we travel we will not only check our main bag in as usual but each of us will take a smaller hard case carryon.  A hard case carryon with an approved TSS lock same as our large checkin bag in case they force me to check it in at the gate. I’m going to buy a generic hard shell case and I’m going to modify it with hand cut foam inserts.  I don’t ever want to haul around airports my Amazon backpack again. 

One thing to watch for in Iceland is the dynamic range when shooting any kind of waterscape or landscape. While it was raining of course there were darker clouds but when it was just overcast the lighting was just super brute white skies. I personally found it difficult to retain the correct landscape exposure and manage not to blow out the sky. As always I exposed for the highlights whenever I could but in all honesty it made for some ugly images – at least until they are processed. At times I wish I owned a graduated ND filter for just this purpose. I carried with me enough SD cards to fire off 8993 images. I “only” came home with 6491. Lots of very good stock images. As far as portfolio worthy images there could be maybe a few. Definitely five that I can recall, or as one of my best friends used to say “a hangie”. 

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Kerrid Crater from the top at the rim. Amazing colors.  Great views of the surrounding area.  Fuji X-H1, and the Zeiss Touit 12mm F2.8

Both the wife and I talked about it and our favorite stop was Diamond Beach. We arrived there early in the morning, the lighting was overcast but not too overpowering and she with her iPhone and me with both my bodies spent several hours shooting and admiring the beauty here. This is where at least two of the “hangies were taken.

Overall we travelled and covered plenty of ground. From the airport to Pingvellir National Park, then the ring road all the way to Höfn. I wish I had dedicated more time to true photography but this was more of a family style vacation where I happened to bring my cameras along. 

Will we return?  Though Iceland was amazingly gorgeous and the landscape so varied and spectacular I’d have to say no. There are just way too many other wonderful places to explore in this great big world. 

Other than the weight and what i packed as far as camera gear I have no regrets with my Fuji’s. Both bodies and the two lenses that were pretty much glued on the bodies performed excellently in all types of weather especially the rain and wind. Everything worked as it should and I had no hiccups at all. 

On another note I did not carry a laptop, not even my lightweight MacBook Air as I knew we wouldn’t have a home base where I could leave the laptop while out exploring. And even though Iceland is very safe I’m from the Northeast US and we just don’t leave stuff in cars. 

Each night at whatever hotel we were at to wind down after a long day I would whip out the iPad and using the Apple SD adapter I would pick a few images to email out and then swap the SD cards on the cameras for the next days shooting. 

If you have any questions about visiting Iceland drop me a line. 

Crotch-Melting Amazing

This is what I have to say about the Fuji X-H1.  I bought it.  Yes.  After I said I wouldn’t, when it first came out I broke down and did it! Actually I had purchased the X-T3 and was using it for two weeks. Then I heard the X-H1 was on sale, including the Fuji battery grip, and THREE batteries, all for US1299.00.   I packed up the X-T3, returned it and ordered the X-H1.

You can read all the reviews of the X-H1 online. All I can say is WOW.  The leaf shutter is super quiet, and the shutter is just oh so quiet and soft. I’ve never felt anything like it.  Ever.  One of my favorite features – actually two, on the X-T3 are on the X-H1 – that is the super nice horizontal level that also covers up and down adjustment, AND the Bluetooth!  I love the blue tooth. Now, as long as I have my phone, I can geo-tag my images as I shoot.

The body, which I initially considered too large, is just PERFECT.  I’ve gotten used to it but honestly it’s not as large as I thought it would be.  I’m not sure, and this is subjective, but I swear my images seem sharper and clearer; and the noise is MUCH better than the X-T3 that’s for sure.

The IBIS or In Body Image Stabilization is unbelievable.  I am getting about 2 – 2.5 stops better; not the five the marketing folks suggest.  Now, I can actually use my primes, and my 16-55 2.8 at lower shutter speeds and lower light.

Overall, I am so thrilled with this camera it has become my primary.  My X-T2 is now my backup body, and the X-T1 is not used.

I’ll be in DC next week, then Iceland in three weeks so I’ll report more then. But, I was in Ontario Canada during the (very) cold spell a few weeks ago as you can see by these images.  I had the X-H1 and the 50-140 F2.8.  From the waterfalls was this super fine mist rising from the bottom, this mist actually fell on us like a frozen sleet/drizzle.  I shot in this for several hours with no ill effect on the camera, or the lens.

 

 

Hitting the Road…Again

Well I’m headed out once again.  Since late April, I’ve been on the road more than at home.  And, it’s no different Thanksgiving weekend. I’m headed to Charleston, South Carolina to shoot and have some fun while I’m there.  For this trip I’m only packing my Fuji X-T2. For lenses I’m taking the Fuji 16-55 2.8 for the classic landscapes, the 50-140 2.8, my fabulous 18-55 2.8-4.0 to use when walking around town, and at the last minute I threw in the Zeiss 12mm 2.8/Touit.  I was actually taking some photos of the Zeiss in order to put it on eBay but decided last minute to take it with me one last time — I just wanted to give it one more shot (pun intended) before I list it for sale.  I’m leaving behind all the primes including my prized 16mm 1.4, plus my other 1.4 primes.  I’m also packing my Mavic Pro Platinum for some aerials, some spare drone and seven camera batteries plus some filters.  All of this fits in my Amazon Basic camera backpack which I have to say that for a whopping 39.95US has been used now over five years, and it’s still amazing!  Out of my twelve camera bags, it’s the bag that always hits the road with me.  The bag has a ton of room, plus a laptop pocket that holds  my 15″ MacBook – but on this trip only my 11″ MacBook Air is traveling with me in order to keep it light(er).

In addition to the Amazon backpack I’m also packing a small, lightweight Lowepro which holds my camera body with grip (if I choose to carry it)  and lens, plus an extra lens and my batteries.  It literally weighs ounces and I can fold it up and stick it in the outside pocket of my backpack or store it in my luggage.

So, I’ll be off now… Take care.  Have a fantastic Thanksgiving holiday for those of you that celebrate it.

 

 

Fuji X-T2 Reset

Over the weekend I came to a conclusion.  And that conclusion was that I was unhappy with the images coming out of my X-T2 at higher ISO’s — I talking about 400 and above.  This is something I had been noticing over the past several months, Way too noisy, and the images just didn’t look good, or right to my eyes. I have been fiddling with controls and setting in a lame attempt to fix the issue by making incremental changes and nothing worked.  Finally, on Saturday, I did it.  I went into the menu system and did a complete system reset.  Done.  No more fiddling around, it was almost as it came out of the box!  Another setting I was getting tired of was my auto ISO setting whereas I had the ISO dial set to AUTO, and I used the front command dial to change the ISO on the fly. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what I did to set that function, and I wanted it gone.  So the reset took care of it, and all my other functions I had set up over the last two years.  The results:  BACK to shooting bliss.  It took me quite a while to get some of my settings back and I had to go back to the manual a few times but my man oh man the change in image quality, and camera function is day and night difference!  Love it!  Seriously.  To my eyes the jpeg and the raw files look better – cleaner, less noisy;  I purposely shot at ISO 3200 and higher which I was avoiding, and I was very happy with the level of noise.  Again the difference is day and night after the reset.

So if you are having issues, maybe this is something you may want to consider.

Lack of Posts and Gearing up for another trip

For you guys who come here I have to apologize for the shortage of content.  I’m not a writer by any means plus I’ve been very busy — what’s the old saying:  Busier than a one-armed paper hanger.  I had been away for three weeks from April 30th to mid-May on a solo-trek out to the Sierra Nevada mountains of eastern California.  That was an awesome trip!  I had a bucket lists of places I wanted to hit up and I accomplished that.  Are my images artsy and portfolio worthy?  Definitely some are BUT they are super amazing for stock — which is where the bread and butter is for me.  I started off the trip by flying into Vegas, and then headed out to Death Valley.  From DV I made my way north all the way up to Lake Tahoe — which I have to say was one of the most gorgeous bodies of water I’ve ever seen.  I had no plans to visit Yosemite but I did a one-day, super fast drive-thru there since it was a Saturday and it was mobbed.  I hate crowds.  I hate people in general so that was tough to handle.

My most used lens during the three weeks?  The Fuji 50-140 F2.8.  Yeah, hard to believe.  I had with me all my lenses except the 23 1.4 and the 60mm Macro but the 50-140 was bolted to the X-T2 and sat in the passenger seat pretty much the whole time.

I returned with over 4,000 images;  Something I’m still editing and working through now.    I’m also preparing for another three-weeks on the road where I’ll be traveling to Florida for five-six days, and then I’m headed to Costa Rica for a couple of weeks.  I am going to be photographing a small hotel down there for some ads and I’ll also be shooting some aerials with my drone.  Here is my “Amazon Basic” backpack as I plan on taking it.  The only exception I am going to make right now is I’ll be substituting the 35 1.4 shown here with the 23 1.4 — or I may just leave them both behind…. To be determined. The open flap has a zippered compartment the length and width of the bag which holds another ton of stuff, and the backside has a padded laptop area for up to a 15″ laptop.  On this trip, like the one I just returned from, I will not be packing a laptop.  I’m only using my iPhone for any instagram, and other posts I make.

Here is my build-out for the upcoming photo trip:

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Fuji X-T2 Body.  Not taking the X-T1 as a backup…

Fuji 18-55 (my don’t leave home without it lens)

Fuji 16mm F1.4

Fuji 35 1.4 (though may pull that out for the 23 1.4 or leave BOTH home altogether

Fuji 60mm 2.4 Macro. This is one TACK SHARP little, lightweight performer!

Singh-Ray Polarizer + step up rings to 77mm for all lenses. Leaving all other filters behind.

Four Fuji batteries

Enough memory cards for up to 8600 Raw + Jpeg fine images.

Fuji 55-200 instead of the 50-140 2.8.  I realize I’ll be shooting in the jungle looking for birds, and monkeys and other wildlife but the 55-200 offers a bit more reach even though it is a 4.8 aperture at the long end.  I think slightly higher ISO will offset that and the weight and size savings will make up for any other issues.  Plus, my copy at least of the 55-200 is tack sharp so I won’t be missing out there.

Mavic Pro Platinum drone.

Controller

Extended landing gear

Extra Gold-tip propellers

Extra Battery

Other miscellaneous items.  All this PLUS MORE such as lens cleaning kit, and snacks and sundries fits in this Amazon Basic backpack which is a carry-on size for me.

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