Camera bags and tripods

Over the last year or two, I bought two  camera bags and two tripods, but I never wrote any review kind of post.

Bags

I used a Tamrac toploader bag for a long time. Since I only had my camera and one lens to carry, I didn’t need a bigger one. But at some point I bought a flash, and a 50mm prime lens and I had to carry these as well.

So I started my search for a new camera bag. I had a few criteria:

  • It should store most of my gear, at least one or two extra lenses, a flash and the gorillapod.
  • It shouldn’t look like a camera bag.
  • It should have easy access to the camera.

The Domkey courier bag was the bag that fitted these criteria. It can hold all my camera gear, including battery chargers (both camera and normal batteries). It doesn’t look like a camera bag at all and the brand is not really known by non photographers (as far as I know). You can use a it as a normal bag as well by removing all the padding. Since it is a shoulder bag, you can access the camera within seconds.

I really like this bag, but when wearing it for a long time with lots of gear, you will feel your shoulder. It is definitely not useful for long walks where you don’t need to have your camera ready in an instant. In cities and in the zoo this bag is fantastic, you can reach for your camera within seconds and don’t have to hold it all the time. This bag doesn’t only store your camera, but, when not taking all the gear you have, you can also store a water bottle and a city guide.

For the longer walks and for carrying my tripod, I recently bought a LowePro backpack. Although it is on the small side it is very useful for day trips. Most of the time you won’t need three lenses, a flash and two tripods, so this won’t be an issue. You don’t have fast access to the camera, because you can only enter the bag on the “flip side”. You have to take the bag of before you can open it to get the camera out. Since this is a backpack I don’t think this is problematic, because it gives you an opportunity to watch the environment with your own eyes instead of through the lens before you take any pictures…

Tripods

I already mentioned the Gorillapod. This is a flexible tripod which you can place on almost every surface, including lampposts and trees. You really need to have some courage to place it in a tree or on the railing of a bridge and don’t hold it all the time, mine did never fall off anything. The gorillapod is light and extremely sturdy and you can get very low to ground if you want, but it can be difficult to compose a shot in that way. I have two problems with the ballhead that came with the gorillapod.  The ballhead can not turn around for pannorama photos without loosening the ball itself and with my 18-200 mm lens the camera moves down, it won’t stay in the correct position. Other than that, I think it is an useful addition to your camera bag.

My newest addition is a tripod from Manfrotto. There are so many different kind of tripods, that it is very hard to choose the right one. Here are the criteria I had:

  • It should be lightweight, when it is too heavy I won’t carry it around and I won’t use it, so keep the weight under 2 kilogram.
  • It should be comfortably height enough. Since I am over 2 meters, and I don’t want to bend all the time, it should be a reasonable height (without the centre column, or the half the centre column at the most).
  • It shouldn’t be too expensive. You can get tripods from 1000 euro’s or more but those are much too expensive, 400 euro would be my maximum.

The Manfrotto fits all of these criteria. Without the ball head, it weights 1.6 kg, and with ball head it is just over 2.2 kg.Without extending the centre column, the viewfinder is at a height of 1.60 meters.
The tripod itself is within the budget, but with the ball head it was slightly over budget, but all in all it is a good investment.

Although this tripod is light, it is very sturdy and it won’t be blown away as easily as cheap tripods. The carbon fibre makes sure the vibrations are reduced, and the ability to keep the centre column down makes it even more stable. Even though I only used it once, I think I will be very happy using it during my holidays.

Changes to the blog

When you start something new, you start very enthusiastic. When the enthusiasm fades away, it will be more difficult to keep going. To keep going you need to find inspiration, otherwise you will completely stop doing it.

This blog suffered from that problem. I created this blog because I wanted to share my experiences in the search for a good post processing software and I wrote several posts about that topic. After that it was difficult to find new topics and I kept talking about things I was working on, but after a while I stopped writing. I didn’t know what to write about and I didn’t want to think a lot about it.

A similar problem I have with my photography. I love making photographs and I made a lot of photographs last year. What I don’t like because it takes to much of my time is post processing. Most of my photo’s are imported into bible, so I can do something with them, but I never did anything with them, some of the photo’s I didn’t even look at. So it is hard to see what level I have in my photography, which makes it hard to improve my photography.

To stay inspired and to improve my photography I’ll will change this blog and post more photo’s on it. I will post some reviews of some gear and software I have, but I will focus on posting photo’s.

Secondly I will go out and make more photographs, post process them faster and post them on this blog.

Recovering from a bad backup strategy part 2

After a lot of time and after a few tries, I finally recovered all my photographs from the bad backup strategy I had. (You can read about that here)

What I end up doing was copying all photo’s one by one to a correct folder (year/month) and sort them, when a specific photo was already in the correct folder, I just deleted it and moved on to the next photo. It only took a few hours to do it this way, and I am pretty sure I have all the photo’s I wanted to keep.

The next step now is of course setting up a good backup strategy and keep that going without getting duplicate photo’s or loosing photo’s. I still need to think about that, but for now I will once in a while copy my bible library to an external harddrive.

We want to ride our bicycle

This photo was taken in November 2010 as part of a photo challenge on PhotographyBB. The challenge was to take a photograph that had something to do with Transportation. When I saw the assignment I immediately thought about bicycles at the train station. Although I didn’t had a clear vision of what I wanted exactly as photo, I did go to the train station just to take photos of bikes. This photo was actually published in the PhotographyBB magazine number 36.

Although I only participated once in a photographic challenge or assignment I think that there are a few things that could help you with getting better results:

  • Make sure you know what you want to shoot, without a  vision it will probably take a long time before you find a suitable subject to shoot.
  • Stay focused while you are shooting for the assignment. Don’t go shooting something else instead before you have some shots that could be promising. Doing so will make the changes that you will come back with a good photo for the assignment smaller.
  • Take the time. Don’t make it a five minute job to go and shoot for the assignment, take your time. When you are in a hurry it is more likely that you make errors that can ruin the shot.

Managing photographs

With a digital camera it is easy to make lots of photographs. Putting the photos on a computer and the ability to find the pictures can by quite challenging. In this blog post I will try to explain what I do for organising my photos and what other options there are.

In the last years I have used multiple ways of organising my photos and I discarded most of the ways, but I think I found a useful one now, but I had not the time to convert the old systems to this new one.

File names

The names the camera gives the photograph is very limiting. Most of the time it contains a few letters, an underscore and a number that keeps incrementing with every photo that is taken. The problem with this method is that after 9999 pictures, the camera starts again with 0000. This means that we can get files with the same name.

When I get my photos from my camera, I rename those images to a format containing the date, time and a counter. So instead of DSC_0293.NEF I get 20010211_185216_001.nef as my file name. As you can see it will be more difficult to get the same file name twice. If you have less images and more time, you can also give all the images a name with an explanation, but I didn’t find that useful in my workflow. For renaming I use (at the moment) gthumb, an application for linux to show and organise images, but other programs can do that as well.

Directory structure

Putting all the images in one folder is not very useful, but putting the photographs in separate folders can make it easier to find your photos again. There are a lot of ways to organise photos in folders. A lot of people and applications tend to organise photos using the date of the photograph, for example 20112\11 for photos that are taken on that day, but most of the time it is not clear what happened on that day and what the pictures are about unless you look at those pictures in more detail.

This is the way I try to organise my photos at the moment:

  • Birthdays
    • David 2010
    • David 2011
  • Holidays
    • Salzburg 2010
    • England 2010
    • France 2011
  • Nature
  • <name of friends>
    • Flying kite
    • Thanksgiving 2010
  • Weddings

So basically I have some top level categories, each containing sub categories, all with are descriptive enough for me to find the series of photos where I am looking for.

Catalogues

Another options is to use software to put the photos in a catalogue. The big advantage of this is that you have more options for searching for specific photos. In the a catalogue not only the location of the file is saved, but also all the data that the camera stores in de file (exif data) and all other information you give to the photos, such as geographical information, tags and ratings.

The downside of most cataloguing  software is that it is not always clear what kind of directory structure the software uses, so you always have to run the software to find your photos.

Although I can see the advantages of using cataloguing software, at the moment I don’t use it. It’s not that I don’t want to, but more that I didn’t find a good cataloguing program. There are some Open Source projects that give you the ability to create catalogues, but they are not very useful since they can’t make simple edits on raw photos. Bibble has cataloguing capabilities, but I am not sure whether I want to use Bibble.

So for the moment I keep managing my photographs based on a simple directory structure  and try to get all the photos organized.