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.

Comparison: RRS L-Bracket vs 3 Legged Thing Ellie for Fujifilm GFX 50S

A quick comparison between two products designed mostly to perform the same function. In case you're not familiar with an L-bracket, it's function is purely to allow rotation of your camera by 90 degrees while keeping it balanced on the X axis of your tripod. This is especially important for panoramas so the camera yaws directly over the center point rather than circumnavigating it, which alters the perspective enough to make stitching the result more difficult or even impossible.

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.

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.

The Upcoming iPad Pro Magic Keyboard. A Lifestyle Choice…?

Coming soon from Apple is the recently announced Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro. Like before, it's a combined protective case and keyboard, but this one will have 2 dampened hinges and a secondary USB-C port for passthrough charging. The headline feature though is the inclusion of a trackpad and accompanying, underlying changes to iPadOS and the UI to accommodate the use of a pointing device for navigation. Basically, the iPad is becoming more laptop-like since the diversion from a unified iOS code base to separate iPadOS and iPhoneOS. Now the hardware will begin to reflect that change.

Adapting GFX: Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art

Where the Sigma 85/1.4 is a home run, the 35/1.4 is a bit of a mixed bag. For most people, it should be fine. For some, like me, it's borderline acceptable. For those few, it will be unacceptable. In 35mm crop mode, it works just fine, but for any other mode, it will require a bit of cropping and correction. At wide open, there is a bit more smearing in the extreme corners that sharpen up by ƒ/4 to 5.6.

Adapting GFX: Sigma 85mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art

The Sigma 85mm seems to cover all of the imaging sensor with no hard vignetting. Fitment of a Wine Country Cameras 100mm filter holder does cause some very light vignetting at the extremes but is easily correctable. Image quality at the extreme corners and edges is a bit compromised at wide open but shapes up when stopped down to ƒ/4.

Fujifilm X-T4: A Confused Camera

When the X-H1 was introduced, it was described as a sibling lineup; specifically an approximately 60/40, video-weighted hybrid that also shot great stills. It had a larger body and grip, not just to facilitate the IBIS system, but to give it better balance with larger cinema lenses for owners seeking a capable video camera. The X-T series was defined to be exactly the opposite ratio; a stills-centric camera that also shot great video. However, like the odd inclusion of a factory adjustable leaf spring shutter switch on the X-H1, a feature that's more coveted by stills shooters, the X-T4 has also incorporated a couple of weirdly out of place features that betrays Fujifilm's original description of the X-T series being stills-focused.

Depression and Boredom

I suffer from PTSD related depression that often fears its head during points of boredom. As such, I try to keep myself as busy as possible. It doesn't have to be physical activity, but anything that keeps my mind busy. That means winter can be when I'm at my darkest due to the weather, as my mobility is shunted due to physical disability and limited opportunity to do the things I love most. It's rained just about every weekend since December, and the 1 or 2 dry weekends were tarnished with a week's worth of rain or snow. Unless there's a specific need, I'd prefer to not camp in the rain or snow. After seeing Jay's macro product shots, I decided to do some floral macros, since I have an arrangement of gerber daisies that's survived since Valentine's Day. I didn't break out any lighting, shooting at ISO 4000-6400 and 1/100s shutter speed with a Sigma 50mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art on the GFX 50S. Figured I'd try and adapt my muscle memory for a focusing ring that rotates opposite of all other brands. Anyways, I really need to get outdoors. Hopefully the weather this weekend works out.

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