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.

How to: Power your GFX 50S or 50R with AC, DC or a Power Bank, aka External Battery Pack

As you may know, Fujifilm offers an AC adapter for the GFX series and it's priced at a whopping $97. However, there's another option for AC wall charging as long as you know the power specs. A more versatile option is a power bank with pass through charging. You can power the GFX with the battery pack in the field while simultaneously charging the installed battery. When you’re near an outlet, you can also connect the power bank to AC power and continuously power the camera without depleting the power bank itself. By functioning as an AC wall adapter you won't need to buy a wall adapter specifically for the GFX while having all the benefits of a portable battery pack.

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.

Some Deer, Residents of Long Beach

Just a few photos of the local deer on our last morning in Long Beach. They came by for breakfast, the doe bringing her two fawns, approaching our balcony as if she’d remembered that I was out feeding them apples the night before. They sat patiently below our balcony as we dropped bananas and apples for them, posing for photos before moving on to the next set of condos. These deer definitely have us trained well.

Photos From Long Beach, WA, 2019

Known for shit weather, the Washington coastline can be a bit of a toss up when it comes to photos, but even when the weather isn't particularly good for beach going, it can still be great for photos. During the summer, weekly events draw in thousands from around the state, so there are opportunities for all types of photographers; from landscapists, astrophotographers, street photography and even instagrammers, it's all there.

Amazon Strikes Again…

So, just like what happened with the deal on the Gitzo Mountaineer GT1542 + GH1382QD kit, I got a price alert on a Gitzo Traveler GT1555 + GH1382TQD kit for 45% off the advertised price of $989. So I bought it, because I have no self control.

New Toy: Arca-Swiss P0 Ball Head

Some first impressions after picking up an Arca-Swiss P0 Ball Head recently.

Why? It's interesting. It's an inverted design so that the panoramic base is above the ball, ensuring a level platform for panoramic photography. Basically it eliminates the need for a leveling base. Combined with the 9oz weight, it'll reduce as much as 1.5lbs from my systematic tripod setup.

I quickly discovered the reason for the weight savings: the base of the ball head is made of polycarbonate, most likely Delrin. The rest is made from either magnesium or aluminum, depending on the part. Regarding the design, it also has no protruding parts beyond the pano lock lever. The ball lock is performed by a rotating collar around the middle of the body, resulting in a sleek design. The ball is also aspherical, a feature used across Arca-Swiss' whole line, that increases friction to prevent your camera from loosely flopping over when the ball lock is loosened. A very elegant solution to a universal issue with all ball heads.

That monochrome feeling.

High contrast scenes tend to work well when processed in monochrome format. I'm especially lucky since Fujifilm's film simulations are such great emulations of their popular film stocks. Their Acros simulation is especially good with high contrast, moody scenes and I've been processing more and more of my landscape shots with it.

A few of the high contrast shots I took while in Forks took especially well with the Acros film simulation.

Early Tulips at Roozengaarde

After a day's break from the trip to Forks, Craig and I took advantage of a break in the rain to hit Roozengaarde in Skagit to photograph the tulips before the festival began. About half of the tulips were in bloom and the daffodils were still out, though they looked ready to wilt. Fortunately the weather and time of day seemed to keep most people away. This also gave me a chance to use my Leofoto tripod on different terrain. Again, things just happened to work out for us as the rain held off and the clouds helped give the photos a dramatic, almost ominous look that contrasts with the burst of colors below. Too bad the stiff breeze prevented any chance of getting a longer exposure, but that's fine. For tulips, it's all about the colors.

A Sudden Burst of Activity

Funny how things tend to happen in spurts. I spent the past week in Forks and Mount Vernon to get some camera work in. Craig and I went to Second Beach on the Quilayute reservation to photograph the seastacks just off shore. After a day of recovery, we went to Roozengaarde to get some early shots of the tulips before the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. Despite the weather forecast predicting rain for the week, we were fortunate to get some breaks in the rain that were long enough to get all of the shots we had planned for, and then some.

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.

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