I Want to Be An Advocate, Not An Influencer

While I often strayed away from repeatable testing to include a healthy amount of subjectivity, I'm now embracing my biases and forgoing all pretense of being "unbiased," and here's why: I have my skin, aka wallet, in the game. Unlike others who are receiving review units, renting, being gifted items to review or receiving some form of compensation, I'm reviewing stuff that I've actually bought. These are things I've intensely researched, bought, used, and intend to keep. Sometimes I buy purely out of objective needs, like my ND filters. Other times, I'm driven by subjective factors, like my choice to use Fujifilm bodies and lenses. Either way, my purchases are made based on a conclusion I've formed from equal parts objectivity and bias. I am biased. My reviews are biased. I'm not justifying my purchases to anyone but I simply cannot claim to be unbiased when reviewing my own gear. The goal of my reviews are to identify potential pitfalls to avoid the expense of experimentation. It's not my goal to tell you what to buy; my desire is to expose aspects of an item only an owner would notice. There can be things that you're blind to upon purchase, features and issues that can make or break it for you, and this jeopardy goes up exponentially as the price increases, especially if bought used. This is my choice to be an advocate and to avoid being an "influencer."

The Pandemic Has Kept Me Quiet

While others have found the pandemic to be an opportunity to do more personal projects, and document them, I've found it has affected me a bit differently. My girlfriend is a neurotic RN, so I've had to respond a little differently and haven't had the free time to work on things like my journal or this blog. Now that things are starting to return to normal, I'm slowly starting to integrate all of the things I was doing before. Yet, just as I begin to get back to work, our streets have erupted in rightful protest. Others can and have done a better job in covering the protests, so I'll leave that subject alone until I have a fully formed commentary on the matter. If there's one thing I prefer to do, it's to stop, listen and form a thoughtful opinion and avoid emotional "hot-takes," especially silly on a subject as important as racism in America.

Hey 3 Legged Thing! Why Can’t You Do This?

As soon as I realized how the upright on the Ellie interfered with my battery door, I was able to devise a cheap solution for manufacture: a small bracket that would accept the rails and to attach the upright with truncated rails, aka screws, forward of the current position. I proposed the question to @3leggedthing's Twitter account, only to get, "we can't design a specific bracket for every camera and configuration I'm afraid."

DSLRs Won’t Die. Deal With It

Enough hyperbole. Mirrorless will not make DSLR cameras extinct the same way film remains extant despite digital. The market for DSLRs will contract significantly, likely surrendering the entry-level, systems camera market to mirrorless, but enthusiast and high-end DSLRs will continue on because you will always have its supporters who will vote with their wallets.

In Retrospect: Don’t Let Some Know-it-all Sway You From Upgrading

It's been 3 years since I've gotten back into photography and I wanted to reflect on what I've learned in that time. This is just the first of a few items I'll be touching upon. I wish I'd bought the right camera the first time. I want to address the abundance of Youtubers who often, and loudly, try to talk their viewers out of upgrading their equipment. The line often goes, "instead of upgrading your gear, thinking it will make your photos better, invest that money into education," and then they rattle off the names of affiliated Youtubers who sell online education courses on photography. Realize that this recent trend is wholly self-serving and not in your interest. There are of course those who are so affected by marketing that they believe a new camera will improve their photography but either can't see, or won't admit, that their results are from a personal, and not a technological, deficiency. However, those types are far fewer than these Youtubers would have you believe. More importantly, if you value education, I implore you to seek out a reputable photographer that teaches photographic techniques rather than some nobody whose only reputation is a trail of instagram posts. Just because they charge for their videos doesn't mean they're credible; in fact, your local camera store or public library are 2 places where free, or low cost, but highly valuable sources of education is offered on photography.

Adapting GFX: The Introduction of 35mm “Full Frame” Lenses on the GFX

As I have alluded to in a burst of recent posts, I am planning to generate a small database of lenses for use on the Fujifilm GFX series. Here's my chance for an introduction to give my rationale and to lay the foundation of this endeavor. I'd like to break this down into three "Y's." Let's begin with a personal "why": I'm choosing to use Sigma lenses to obtain focal lengths and apertures not currently offered in the GF lens lineup. Fujifilm's lineup is sparse at best, and apertures wider than ƒ/2 aren't represented. It's not that I'm a bokeh whore; it's that I need more light gathering for astrophotography and Fujifilm's widest lens, a 23mm, has a maximum aperture of ƒ/4 and that's just not going to work without a star tracker due to the sensor's 51MP resolution. I'm hoping to print a few of these so what counts for "sharp" on the web doesn't work at 20" print sizes. Other benefits: 35mm lenses are much cheaper, especially used prices, and these lenses mostly have direct focusing units unlike the "fly by wire" systems used on Fujifilm lenses. The GFX system just isn't mature enough to have grown both a complete lens lineup or a diverse used lens market.

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.

A Free Education is Worth Exactly What You Paid For It

There's a certain couple on Youtube that talks a lot about photography and tends to harp on the value of education also pushes their "free" photography education courses online. You may even begin to believe some of their rhetoric or have heard some of their misinformation floating around. Mind you, much of the technical information they love to claim they're proficient in and knowledgeable about is shit. They'll contradict themselves within the span of 5 minutes. One example is their belief that "professional" lenses on a smaller sensor, like APS-C, will perform worse in sharpness because said lens isn't tuned for the sensor size, yet will then claim that some lenses on 35mm are so sharp, you get the ability to crop the image in closer than other lenses. Realize that these two things are a contradiction and a sharper lens will never give a sensor of fixed resolution higher resolution, perceived or otherwise. How do I know this? Simple physics and geometry. Let me explain:

Nobody Makes the Perfect Bag, Part 2 (Shimoda Designs + Peak Design)

As I've made clear in a previous post, nobody makes the perfect bag. It's a fools errand because "perfect" is subjective and what works for one is completely inadequate for another. However, the more modular a bag is, the better chance for it to become all things to all people by allowing all people to adorn it with all things to meet their needs. Looking further into this idea, especially since Peak Design's recent release of a fully redesigned bag lineup dubbed "v2," I've realized Peak Design is great at making accessories that meet the needs of most people but wrap it all up in bags that don't. Take their 45L Travel Backpack... it converts into a duffel with a forward facing, wide-mouth, zip opening. It's really not great for anything but a duffel bag that turns into a half-assed backpack for longer distance carry, especially for outdoors. However, for camera carry within, they've created camera cubes with efficient padding, mindful access port placement, an abundance of attachment points and durable exterior skin sufficient enough to be used on its own. A quick check of the external dimensions gave me an idea as the camera cube is nearly spot on with the dimensions of Shimoda Designs' large Integrated Camera Unit (ICU) for Explore and Action X backpacks.

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.

Sorry I haven’t been posting regularly

I've been really busy lately, traveling up and down western Washington State, hiking and photographing both beaten and unbeaten paths. It began by trying to take advantage of a streak of good weather and morphed into chasing the autumn colors as the weather got colder. Hikes include: Alpine Lake Wilderness, Denny Creek, Mount Fremont Lookout, Annette Lake, Lake Twentytwo and Artist Point. All of these on consecutive weekends, and even some weekdays, over the past 3 weeks. And in that time I think I've posted just once. Maybe twice. So, here are 3 photos from the past week.

My first real, composite photograph

Today, despite watching others do this for years, I've finally started using it for its intended purpose: modifying photographs to create images that don't exist in real life. I guess you can infer by my tone that I'm not a huge fan of photo manipulation, and you'd be correct. There's a fine line between photography and art and I feel wholesale manipulation of the image to create something that cannot be captured in whole, within the camera, as dishonest. However, I draw that line at profitability. If you're profiting from a reputation as a photographer while creating digital art and misrepresenting it as a photograph, I take issue with that. If you're creating art for the sake of it and representing it as such, for profit or not, I have no problem. The gray area is of course the line between reality and art. What I did, while photorealistic, is what I would classify as art because you couldn't recreate my result in a single photograph.

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.

The Fujifilm X-H1 Needs a Real Reason to Exist

Like it or not, the Fujifilm X-H1 has no real reason to exist. If the X-H2 is to happen, it needs one to justify its status as the "flagship" of the X-series range Fujifilm claims it to be. When it first came out, it was $2000 for basically just a $1500 X-T2 with a bigger grip and IBIS. Sorry, but that's not gonna cut it if they plan to release an X-H2 with X-T3 guts at the end of that product's lifecycle, especially if they plan to price it above $1500 again. It needs a real reason to exist and I have an idea.

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