My Monday…

So, it's barely Monday. It's a new moon. Comet Neowise is further down on the horizon. Jay and I are gonna camp at Stampede Pass, hoping to align the galactic core with Mt. Rainier and the west fork valley of the White River. Our last trip found ourselves literally behind the 8-ball, without a view of the summit, and under skies polluted with moonlight. Add to it the beginning of the work week, we're hoping we get the area to ourselves. Since we haven't scouted the location prior to today, we have no idea if Comet Neowise will be visible from our location and if there's anything interesting between us and it. I'll be bringing a 1200mm long setup just in case we do. Back to gear... I got my 2 person tent and Shimoda Explore 40 back from Craig, a large version 2 camera unit from Shimoda and a 3 filter kit from PolarPro that integrates an ND and polarizer into a single body, allowing the combo to be used on wider angle lenses than previously. While that's the general benefit, the main goal was a set that fit my 23mm ƒ/4 lens and it's 82mm filter thread. The hope is the infrared response follows the same curve set by my Wine Country Cameras filter kit so I don't need to recreate presets for post processing. 10 days have elapsed and I've still yet to get any shots with these new filters. Initial impressions of these filters are on pause as I wait for an opportunity to really utilize them but even now I have a huge cartful of thoughts on them. The packaging alone spurred a thousand words but I wait so I can hopefully produce a measured reaction.

First Use: Shimoda Designs Action X70 Backpack (Video)

Today will be my first opportunity for an overnighter in the mountains near Mt. Rainier. During the extended offseason, I used the opportunity to upgrade most of my camping gear to reduce mass and improve efficiency. Much of this was forced as compensation for adding the larger, heavier Fujifilm GFX medium format camera system. The result of throwing money at the problem is an overnight kit that fits completely within my Action X70 backpack while still having 15-20 liters of space left over and weighing in below 20kg. To demonstrate both the efficiency of my chosen gear and my packing skills, I made a short video of my unloading all of the camping gear from my backpack's expandable 35 liter cargo compartment.

Review: WANDRD PRVKE 31L Backpack

I'll make this quick: this is the best middleweight backpack I've found for photography so far. It's not the fastest or most rugged, but it's the most versatile and comfortable. Let me explain.

Gear Reviews On Youtube: “Sponsorships,” Brand Awareness and How Not All Payments Are in Cash and They All Lie to You About It

You're familiar with how they all begin: "this video is sponsored by Squarespace." Ok, well, after that, they then feed you the next line, almost all of it verbatim, "I am not sponsored by (insert brand here). They have not paid me to do this review or told me what to say about it. This review is entirely my own and they don't know I'm making this video. I was/was not provided a sample for the purposes of this review. I am not biased in any way so you can trust what I'm about to say about this product." What they don't mention, obviously, is if they had to return that "review unit." But if you pay close attention, you may catch them using the product in later videos, especially if they were especially laudatory in their review. At least they weren't paid, right? Wrong. Payment is simply one form of compensation. That "review unit" usually comes along with an email that says, "you don't need to send this back to us." Simply put, the item itself is payment. Just because you didn't get to choose the item, the form of compensation or were given a special title associating you with their brand doesn't mean you weren't paid. They paid you with product and exclaiming otherwise is a flat out lie by Youtubers who persistently try to claim otherwise. Rarely are these items cameras and lenses; they're usually "soft goods" or accessories, like bags, lens filter kits, etc. that would likely get damaged during a thorough review period or whose cost of manufacture and/or retail price is so low that the cost of return, reconditioning and resale would consume all or more of the potential profit.

Quick Take: Shimoda Designs Action X70 Camera Backpack

Usually, Kickstarter is a collection of scams and bad ideas for internet virgins to be separated from their money. Sometimes, if you know what you're doing, it's a source for good deals. In this case, Shimoda Designs has established itself as a reliable maker of durable, action oriented camera backpacks. Shimoda decided to use Kickstarter as a "group buy" for their new line of Action X backpacks and mine managed to arrive just after Xmas.

This always happens to me: Shimoda Design Action X70

So, 2 full months after I bought my Shimoda Design Explore 40 backpack, they opened a Kickstarter for a new line of packs. Called the Action X series, they're basically a collection of improvements, many of which were universally requested by owners, including myself.

Camera Bags Are More Than Fashion: Shimoda Designs Explore 40

A week before the Fremont hike, I grabbed a Shimoda Designs Explore 40 kit from Glazer's Camera. After transferring my gear from the LowePro to the Shimoda, I weighed it and it came out to only 24 lbs. Once I fully loaded the pack with extra clothes, food, water and the extra photography gear needed, it topped 42 lbs. Despite the extra weight, and with a pair of hiking poles, I made it up and down the mountain with my back in far better condition than the previous 2 weekends.

Shit for sale… soon.

I'd prefer local buyers so I don't have to ship any of it. More importantly, I offer more than a few options for payment, be it Square, Square Cash, PayPal, Circle Pay, Zelle, or Chase Quick Pay. I'm able to accommodate all of these options because I'm legit. For gear, I have a couple of camera bags, 2 or 3 Benro tripods, a Slik tripod, Benro monopods, a few ball heads in various sizes, some tripod bags, a Formatt-Hitech Firecrest 100mm Filter Holder System with extra polarizer, adapters and original packaging, a Formatt-Hitech Standard 100mm Filter Holder, and random 100mm ND filters. There's probably even more in my storage closet I've forgotten about. If you're interested, leave a comment or email me directly.

New Tripod, Revisited. Leofoto LN-324C.

As promised in my previous blog post, I'm revisiting my thoughts on the Leofoto LN-324C Systematic Carbon Fiber tripod I picked up before going to Forks, WA. The trip gave me my first chance to use the tripod in a real world setting for photos I cared about. After putting the Leofoto LN-324C and LH-40 ball head through the roughest conditions I ever plan to use it in, it has stood up admirably. There are no conditions to this conclusion. It is an excellent tripod, full stop. The value oriented pricing only makes this combo that much more appealing.

Nobody Makes the Perfect Bag, so Roll Your Own

If you read my review, you'll know I really like my Lowepro Freeline 350 BP backpack. Despite all of it's improvements over the Peak Design backpack, there's one outstanding regression in the design and that's the shelving and dividers. Peak Design's origami inspired shelving system is possibly the best solution I've seen for carving up bag space to organize and protect your camera gear. Lowepro's solution is adequate but inferior. So I decided to combine the best of each into a FrankenBag.

Gear Review: Finally, It Took LowePro to Show Peak Design How It’s Done

About a month ago, LowePro began to ship their newly design Freeline 350 Backpack. The one thing about the Peak Design pack was the fully configurable interior using a unique shelf design instead of a series of hook and loop pads. LowePro borrowed this interior design, improving it by making the whole system removable, not only to give the backpack more versatility but to make configuring it far easier. This was the first thing I noticed.

#SeattlePlayedOut: Skagit Valley Tulip Festival Edition

Hitched a ride with Craig and Brianna to Mount Vernon to find a tulip farm on Monday evening before the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival of 2018 came to a close. We figured Monday would be the best day of the week to avoid large crowds, while going as late as possible would afford us the widest range of natural light and hopefully include golden hour. Our needs were met by Roozengaarde Tulip Farm: They were open until 7pm and ejected patrons at sunset, far later than the oft shared Tulip Town, which closes at 5pm. As a welcome surprise, the weather was exceptionally nice as high temps crept to nearly 70 degrees Fahrenheit and mostly clear skies...

About My Reviews…

When I review a product, I want to make it plain that I do not receive products to review nor am I paid to do these reviews. When I review a product, it's something I've bought with my own money after days or weeks of research to ensure it will meet my needs. Because of that, my reviews will usually end positively, and that's the only reason why. I don't review things I have never owned, been gifted or am paid to write about. I don't seek out manufacturers or sellers and attempt to persuade them into gifting me a product in exchange for a review and "exposure." I am not a "mommyblogger" or an unemployed housewife with a camera. I will never shake down a product manufacturer nor refer to myself as a "social influencer." I review products because I like doing it, I enjoy trying new products and prefer to use brands that are less popular. It's these choices that I hope give my reviews a little more value due to scarcity. These are my opinions and my opinions only...

Review: ONA’s The Prince Street Messenger Bag

My review of the ONA "The Prince Street" camera messenger bag. ONA offers sizes ranging from single camera models up to accommodating 15” laptops. Their standard material offering uses waxed cotton canvas with leather trim for effective waterproofing and durability. Nylon is offered for less while leather is offered for more...

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