Sunday, November 6, 2011
Considering my extremely low budget, I went with versatile products that didn't break the bank. Hence, Impact. I got an 8 foot air-cushioned Impact light stand and a 60" convertible umbrella (which Zack Arias, an advocate of working on the cheap, adores). A Photek umbrella adaptor (the Manfrotto one got nixed thanks to a top-rated customer review and the $10 premium), a Lumiquest SB-III, 4 Eneloops and charger, and a used Tiffin 62mm UV filter for my ancient Nikon 70-210 f/4 Series E lens rounded out the order. Besides the SB-III, which I thought was a bit overpriced for something essentially made of the stuff that covers binders, everything was an excellent value, and everything was at about 50% the Victoria price.
A quick rundown:
Impact stand: Fantastic.
Photek umbrella adaptor: Mixed feelings. I dislike the fact that it doesn't have a hole for the Nikon locking pin. The knob that tightens it loosens far too quickly. I had my SB-600 drop out of it. Luckily, it was only about 2 feet off the ground at the time, and it fell onto carpet. It wouldn't have taken much more than that. It's also metal, which needs to be covered in gaff tape. Excellent construction, and the tilt mechanism's great, but it ain't perfect.
Lumiquest SB-III: tried making my own out of Coroplast and failed miserably. Got the real thing, and it works way better. Still overpriced, but it can be so damn useful for field work. It fits perfectly in the pocket of a Domke F-3x, as though it was designed just for it.
Impact umbrella: versatile and cheap. A little big for 8 foot ceilings, but if you partially collapse it and it becomes much more manageable. I could definitely see a multi-flash bracket coming in handy, as one speedlight doesn't really do a 60" umbrella justice, though it certainly works. I opted for this over the 43" Westcott double fold as it was sturdier, bigger, and the same price. I didn't really need the portability. The solid shaft (instead of the hollow one in the Westcott) will contribute to its life expectancy. Probably better for full length portraits, multi-person portraits. I might get a 43" soft silver one, and a 30" convertible Impact one in the future. They're so dang cheap! I want them all!
Eneloops: haven't actually used them yet. The charger, however, has breathed new life into what I thought were dead Ni-MH batteries. Well worth it just for that. I'm sure the Eneloops are all they're cracked up to be, given the fact that they're the number one recommended Ni-MH battery brand out there.
UV filter: I was about to buy it new, but B&H automatically showed me a used copy. I paid half the cost of new, and it does its simple job as it should. It's very thick though, so I wouldn't recommend it for use with wideangle lenses. For $7, it can't be beat. Though used, it also arrived completely free of fingerprints and dust in its Ziploc bag. Very impressive.
Shipping was fast and cheap since they recently introduced the Purolator option for Canadian shoppers. It's cheaper than any Canadian retailer, and arrived in a week. You'll be happy you ordered there.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
I was hunting for a bag that was low-profile-ish and large enough to grow into. I also wanted to spend less than $70. That is tough criterion, especially when a nice Think Tank bag can run upwards of $170. I was looking at various Tamrac, Lowepro, Tenba, and other offerings. I was enamored with none of them, and all gave off the "high-tech" smell. By chance, I was wandering around the used section of B and H when I found it: a lightly used Domke F-3x with a divider missing for $69.99. Coming from the world of padded, waterproof, high-tech bags to an unpadded canvas satchel was difficult, so I asked for some advice from an employee. My answer was swift, direct and typically New York: "Get the Domke, that other bag is shit." Point well taken.
I've now used this bag for 5 months. At the time, I thought it was ridiculously large. I mean, it is billed as a "Super Compact" bag, after all. This was not idea of super compact. I had only one body, one zoom and one prime. I was starting to think I made a mistake. Over time, however, I was slowly converted to the cult of Domke.
It collapses to a small size when it's not stuffed, and magically enlarges when you do need to stuff it to the gills. Now, when stuffed to the gills, I have a D90 with grip, 18-105 lens attached, 50mm f/1.8 AF-D, 70-210 Series E f/4 telephoto (manual focus, baby!), SB-600 in its case, homemade flash softbox and various other small objects. And the guy at B and H pointed out that I could get a seamstress to modify it as my needs changed. Good point. I like hax as much as the next nerd.
It hugs my body (well, my ass) when it's on my shoulder, and while it isn't totally low-profile, it doesn't automatically tag you as the guy with the camera. I could have my camera in a lunch box, but I think a line needs to be drawn between low-profile and functionality. At least it's not a Billingham.
The lack of padding isn't really that big of a deal. I mean, I used to baby my stuff but now I throw it around like a real pro. 30,000 actuations does that to a person. The gear has not been damage for lack of padding. I naturally end up a bit more careful when you're aware of the vulnerability of the gear. I find myself putting a hand around the bag to cradle it from harm, and I find the motion quite natural. More room for stuff and lighter bag. I can deal with that.
The single clip used to hold the flap down takes some getting used to, and some breaking in the soften. Wrap the ring the clip attaches to with gaff tape. It really helps to protect the metal and also to minimize noise from the metal parts jangling while running.
The shoulder strap is wide and imbued with rubber thread to keep it from slipping, which is a godsend. I bought the optional Postal Pad with it as well as an insurance policy if the lack-of-padded-strap was a dealbreaker. I leave the pad at home now. It just ruins the streamlined feel of the plain bag. I find it also doesn't add much to the comfort side. Mind you, my bag is still comparatively light. Those will FF bodies and f/2.8 zooms might disagree with me. It's only $13, and you can always sell it for food if you don't need it.
A new Domke F-3x in Canada would cost $190. I would have put the missing divider aside anyway. I think I got a pretty good deal.
Light, low profile, retro, "expandable", comfortable, machine washable.
Needs swivels on the shoulder strap, needs better handle (it's a skinny bit of cotton strap that's flat and unsuited for carrying with one hand. As a short shoulder strap, it sort of works.).
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Friday, July 8, 2011
Thursday, July 7, 2011
High school photography class led me to purchase a 1978 Nikon Nikkormat FT2 for $40. High school friendships led me to receive an old pre-AI 50mm f/2 lens. This was the beginning of my film adventure.
I will readily admit that posing people is not something I'm used to doing. Sports shooters have it easy in this regard. It's just a Nikon D3s on each shoulder on a harness thing, 300mm on one, 70-200mm on the other, maybe a third body around the neck with a 24-70mm. Easy (sports shooters will kill me for this). People skills aren't really necessary. For portraits, however, you have to verbalize and build rapport with models. That is something I have some improvement to do.
Neil van Neikerk and Joe McNally seem to have a very easy attitude with their models. Their experience in wedding and general portraiture, respectively, allows them to know what they want quickly, and the ability to verbalize (or in Neil's case, act out) the pose. I think I need some inspiration. Neil suggested clothing catalogues and practicing the poses yourself in a mirror. I just might do that.
I've seen videos of Annie Leibovitz posing people, and she does not look as comfortable. It's strange, considering her end result. Perhaps it is because of her reputation that she does not need to relax her subject; they are already relaxed. I remember her saying that she still does not feel particularly comfortable building a rapport with her subject. It doesn't show in the pictures.
I guess I have more work to do. Hopefully you won't find me striking poses anytime soon. I can guarantee it won't be pretty.
Monday, July 4, 2011
As a starving teenager with extremely limited resources, sometimes one must get creative and re-purpose wholly inappropriate materials to serve your needs. In a blog post many months ago, Joe McNally discussed the method he used to sort gels for his flashes. The king of TTL small flash, Joe needed a better way to sort the myriad of colors he had, from a quarter-cut CTO to 2-stop ND filter. He was using leather business card wallets to hold them, but he felt he could do better. A local shooter found a solution in the Think Tank Pixel Pocket Rocket memory card storage system. Designed for pro shooters with 10 Compact Flash cards at a time (unlike me, with only a single SD card and a spare inside a compact camera), this storage system was re-purposed by Will Foster simply by cutting the seams out of the middle of the memory card wallet (eliminating the compartments) and using that to organize gels. Very clever. Still, each Pixel Pocket Rocket is something like $20, which I was loathe to spend. Besides, it's sort of overkill since you don't really need padding around sheets of plastic. Until I did this, I was carrying my gels in my actual wallet, each one nestled beside a debit or library card. That was not working out. I wanted to stick little Velcro (sorry, hook-and-loop-fastener) bits on the sides of my gels so I could use my speed strap to attach them instead of gaffer's taping them to the flash, which was quite a fiddly and time-consuming operation. Alas, the fasteners were too thick for my wallet.
Sunday, July 3, 2011
Michael's, the mecca of compulsive scrapbookers everywhere, has been seducing me lately with extremely well-priced picture frames. While many of their products are surprisingly good for the price, avoid the value-pack frames like the plague. Even though they're ridiculously cheap and even of an acceptable quality, they seem to cheapen the picture inside of it. I have this 3-pack of 11x14 frames I got for something like $20 after several coupons. While they are thankfully not shiny, even after I put a mat in it, it still doesn't look quite as good as the other frames I bought in singles (made of real faux-wood rather than plastic). It just seems to lack visual "weight". It became painfully obvious this morning as I was framing one of my better "big city" shots (i.e., one of my only "big city" shots, since I live among feral deer and rabbits in suburbia).