Sunday, March 28, 2010

What's in Your Camera Bag?

Cat's on the bag

Not what's ON your camera bag, as in the photo above. Photographers often put more thought into acquiring a camera bag than they do buying a new appliance. Camera bags can be very utilitarian, such as the Domke F2 bag, or very specialized, such as some of the photo backpacks or camera sling-packs that are now popular. I prefer the Tamrac bags because I like the simple design and flexibility of adjusting the inner dividers. With digital, there are more small bags that are perfect for a P&S camera and a battery and a few memory cards, but can't carry much else. I like to have bags that will accept a variety of cameras:
Traveling Light There is a Holga, a Nikon Coolpix 995 and a Nikon N80 in this bag. Film - both 35mm and 120, memory cards, extra batteries, filters, etc. That was for a long weekend when I was traveling with a group and I could take only 1 camera bag.

Of course, for an extendend trip, I don't travel as light:

I think I have about a dozen bags with different cameras and camera systems ready to go. The Tamrac backpack has the Pentax 6x7 system. That camera and lenses are heavy enough that after a number of years, I realized that it was too damn heavy to sling over a shoulder (my bad one, especially). The backpack is perfect for it. The Domke F2 bag is perfect for the "blad and a few lenses, backs, etc.

I have a small Tamrac bag that looks more like a purse -- but it holds a Minolta light meter, gaffer's tape, filters, tools, and so on. Sort of like a photo toolbox. It goes in the car when I am on a longish trip, too. Back in 2003, Adrienne, Jorie, and I went on a long trip to NM. I forget exactly how many camera bags we had, but there were a few. This photo of just the Nikon gear I took, probably required several bags...
A load of gear for a trip

Looking back on that trip, I took way too much. I think it takes those kinds of experiences to make one a better photographer. I don't regret taking all that stuff, since most of it got used. But in the end, some of the most memorable photos were taken by a Holga and an Argus C-3. If I were doing that trip again, I would greatly simplify the gear and reduce the number of bags. Today, I would probably have three bags: One with a 35mm SLR (or DSLR) with a 28-105 lens, 50mm, and 80-200 (or thereabouts). A lensbaby, and maybe even one more wide-angle lens or a dedicated macro lens. One small bag with a rangefinder camera (Minolta 7s) and some film. Another bag would possibly have a TLR and a toy camera or two. Or something like that. I forgot about the 'blad...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Some thoughts on the Canon EOS (film) SLRs

I've been a pretty dedicated Nikon user for the past 10 years, ever since I got serious about photography. Canon, pffft.... Well, I am sure Canon users said the same about Nikon. However, when it comes down to images, you can't tell what camera was used to take the photo. So, really, aside from the idiosyncrasies of any particular camera system, it comes down to personal preferences, and whether or not a system provides the flexibility one needs. In favor of Nikon, the lens mount has changed little in 50 years, as has been reiterated many times. Canon, on the other hand, departed from the breech-lock FD-mount and went to a new AF lens mount that basically made anyone buy all new lenses, or search for an adapter. The good news, is that the Canon EF-mount has a lot of adapters available for other systems. Not so for Nikon. Nikon lenses don't seem to have the two-tier system that Canon has. Canon's cheap lenses do feel cheap. Their L-series lenses are pro-level and command a higher price, as well. So, the two stalwarts of the SLR wars each offer something for somebody. I won't discuss the DSLRs as I have not used one of Canon's models.

Canon EOS Elan II
However, lately, I have added a couple of Canon EOS film cameras to my "collection." I previously blogged about my inexpensive Canon Rebel-G. Well, a little while ago I bought a Canon EOS Elan II body on ebay for $10.52 + shipping. That camera has turned out to be a real gem, as I like its ergonomics, control layout, and the viewfinder is nice and bright. Obviously the mid-level camera in the EOS film lineup, and a significant upgrade from the Rebel series. It also works with a Nikon adapter, so I will try out some Nikkor lenses on it.

A little note on the the Rebel-G. I bought a 50mm 1.8 lens for it, and the combo must be one of the most lightweight SLRs out there. I did some shots with it last weekend, and it was a lot of fun to use.

Red Cedar River

and with the 24-50mm Sigma lens:

In the end, the Canon Rebel SLRs are perfectly capable of providing excellent results. You really can't go wrong with Nikon or Canon, and the digital deluge is causing excellent film cameras to be sold at a fraction of their original cost. Black and white film has never been better, and these cameras are certainly a lot lighter and a breeze to shoot with.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

In Pursuit of Ice


I drove out to Dexter-Huron Metropark this morning to see if I could get some photos similar to some very serendipitous images I got about a year ago. We had some pretty cold weather in early March after a bit spring thawing had gone on. The resulting ice was filled with bubbles that created some amazing abstract images. Like any natural phenomenon, it's never the same, and as the saying goes, lightning rarely strikes twice. However, anyone engaged in a long-term photographic project will tell you that preparation and persistence always pay off. For one, the conditions were not the same as last year, but I did enjoy the cool morning -- the snow, no longer acting like snow, but more like shaved ice that you would use in a snowcone. I was able to walk on top of the slowly shrinking layer of snow and make my way down to the river. The tracks of geese from the previous day were frozen on the surface of the snow at the water's edge. Once by the river, I kept looking for an area of ice that had formed overnight and had some frozen bubbles trapped in it. There were not many spots, but I found the one shown at the top. That singular area was no more than a foot wide. I found a few more in some flooded low areas that had frozen, and those provided the additional "drama" of leaves below the ice. While I was setting up my gear, I heard the unmistakable sound of Sandhill cranes somewhere nearby. A delightful moment, for sure.
I was shooting with my recently-acquired Canon A-1 and various lenses, as well as the G11. The A-1 performed well, and I'll develop the Tri-X tonight to see how I fared.
It's easy to just stay in bed on a Saturday morning, and I know I have gotten somewhat lazy the past couple of years, not jumping up at dawn to take advantage of the light, like a nature photographer should. But it's easier to do with a project in mind, and like most people, I work best when I am inspired.
Be inspired. Be prepared. Be successful.

Icy surface

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Thrifty Shooting

I picked up this Canon Rebel G SLR with a nice Lowepro camera bag, remote shutter release, manual, strap, and 35-80mm lens for $38.01 on ebay. Sure, it's a low-end Canon film SLR, but it's lightweight, has a huge array of lenses, and it is like-new condition. In fact, I actually picked this up because of the camera bag, and the rest was really a bonus. I know I'll get some crap about this from a few Nikon-toting friends, but imagine being able to buy a modern film SLR for less than the price of a battery for your digital camera.

The point I want to make here is, electronic film SLRs have many, if not most of the features of their digital descendants. If you find yourself wanting to play with film, and have never done so, a 35mm film SLR that is similar to the DSLR that you have been using makes sense. You won't have to learn a new layout or different controls, and unlike using a classic all-metal SLR (which are my favorites), the newer cameras are lightweight, compact, and don't add much weight to your bag. So, if you are wanting to try out a lightweight 35mm SLR -- consider a Nikon N80, or a Canon Rebel (not the digital kind). Pop on a 50mm 1.8 lens - new ones for either system are less than $100, bring along a few rolls of film (Ilford's XP-2 for C-41 b&w, Kodak's Ektar 100 or Fuji Superia 400 for color) and you are ready to go. So, watch ebay, Craig's list, or whatever. People are selling off their plastic-bodied SLRs for a fraction of the original price. Be patient or just lucky, and you may get an even better bargain than I did.
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