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.

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.

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.

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.

Keekwulee Falls, Alpine Lakes Wilderness

My friend Craig and I have been planning to hit Keekwulee and Snowshoe Falls on the way to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in Mt. Baker/Snoqualmie National Forest for 2 years now and it's never come to pass. However, I recently was able to hit Keekwulee Falls with my girlfriend last weekend. It would've been better with more water, say after the spring thaw or between autumn rains, but that would also make it far more difficult to reach as you have to ford the very stream the waterfall is upstream of. Despite the unimpressive flow, the granite formations were spectacular. There were also enough pikas running around and whistling to fill a Disney movie.

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