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.

My Theory to Selecting the Best Tripod for Your Needs

First, and most importantly, know what genres of photography you enjoy the most and if that genre requires a tripod. Then, buy the largest, highest quality tripod you're willing to carry that fits in your budget. Specifically in that order; do not put budget ahead of any other aspect of the tripod. If you go too cheap, you may very well end up with a tripod that meets none of your needs when you're forced to replace it due to instability or fragility. The adage, "buy cheap, buy twice (or more)" applies here.

Sometimes You Just Have to Go a Different Direction

As much as I like Gitzo as a brand and the quality of their products, some of their stuff just isn't as good as others. Take for example their leveling base; Gitzo features a large lever for tightening a head to the base and a handle borrowed directly from their sister Manfrotto's lineup. Instead, I got the series 3 leveling base from Really Right Stuff. It's lighter, has a simpler attachment system with no silly lever and a much sleeker locking handle with, get this, a gear hook! That hook alone is almost priceless, allowing me to attach weight for stability when I'm not leveling the head, ending any need to swap back to the flat top base. Back into the box that can go.

I finally have my dream 3 tripod setup

I finally have my dream 3 tripod setup. Gitzo Systematic GT3543LS+GH3382QD, Mountaineer GT1542+GH1382QD, and Traveler GT1555T+GH1382TQD. Next up is the Gitzo GM2542 Monopod and Mini Traveler Tripod. I plan to give all of them a thorough shakedown in Long Beach, WA in a couple of weeks and then in the North Cascades the week after. That is all.

2 Out Of 3, For Now

BMW doesn't make a perfect car. While certain aspects may exceed those of other makers, those others oftentimes exceed that of BMW. Despite that, the Bavarian badge commands respect and with it comes an unmistakable allure for most when they see it. It's a symbol of quality but not necessarily the best and certainly not with all products that display the marque. The Bavarian roundel holds cachet for many and that's something very hard to quantify, an intangible factor that appeals to one's emotion rather than objectivity.

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.

What’s So Great About Gitzo, Anyways? (Part 2)

So, I tore down my Gitzo Mountaineer GT1542 to see what's so special about it. Actually, I do this with every tripod I buy to discover its weaknesses and proper disassembly for maintenance, cleaning, and lubrication. During the process I just happen to take a close look at each part to see how well it's been made, purely out of curiosity. In this case, I was truly interested to see if Manfrotto/Gitzo does anything differently during the manufacturing process that justifies the higher retail price or legendary status.

Wine Country Camera Filters: Screw-On versus 100mm

Very simply: Does Wine Country Camera actually use the same glass and coatings between their filters? I wanted my filters to produce the same results between my filter sets to reduce post-processing time. Recently, I replaced my B+W and Haida ND filters with WCC because the results between the two would cause difficulties in post as I'd work to match the output if I used both during the same shoot.

I’ve Learned the Secret to Using ND Filters: Consistency.

Since finding joy in landscape photography, I made the decision to try and do as much "in camera" as possible in an attempt to teach myself the art of photography, rather than exploit the science of photography, to create a photograph. As such, I slowly learned exactly what that meant and have been on the quest to acquire the best tools for me to do so, starting with a solid tripod and high quality circular polarizers. From there, I continued. I bought a set of B+W ND filters in 3-, 6-, and 10-stops. Then, I bought a Formatt-Hitech (F-H) 100mm Firecrest filter holder kit so I could use graduated ND filters, solid ND filters, and a circular polarizer all at once.

Gear Review: SunwayFoto T1A20D Mini Tripod

After the trip to Forks, I realized I needed a mini tripod for those times when I forget my full or travel sized tripod. One that's small enough to carry all of the time and when height isn't all that important compared to just getting the shot. This is one of those things I'll be throwing into the bag whenever I may encounter low light, ensuring I can use whatever shutter speed I need to get proper exposure without fear of instability.

New ND Filters: Switching from B+W to Wine Country Camera

Despite owning, and being quite satisfied with, my Formatt-Hitech Firecrest 100mm filter holder kit, I also like to keep a 77mm ND filter set for lightweight carry. The B+W set I previously used worked fine but had a noticeable magenta color cast that was especially evident in the 10-stop ND filter. I recently decided to give Wine Country Camera's filters a try based on endless reviews touting their well controlled color cast. Should these work out well, I'll probably switch my 100mm ND filters out for WCC.

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.

The Second Day at Second Beach

Day 2 at Second Beach. Unfortunately, this time we hit high tide and quickly discovered the beach was a lot less interesting when the tide is in. We managed to make do, despite shooting over 200 shots, again, trying to chase waves that weren't hitting the shore as intensely as they had the day before. At least having my tripod allowed me to get some long exposures as the clouds were moving on shore fast and thick.

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