Posts Tagged ‘Gear’
There’s something so refreshing and recharging for me about the outdoors and even more so the exertion and work of hauling a pack along a trail. It’s been years since I strapped on a daypack for any serious day-hiking milage. So when I was able to find a couple days to fit in a trip a few weekends ago, I packed the truck, loaded up the dog, and drove the 2.5 hours east to into Pennsylvania and the Allegheny National Forest to hike the 7-mile Minister Creek loop trail, it felt really good.
I hadn’t done this hike in 5 or so years so much of its beauty was fresh for me, Minister Creek threads its way through the lush fern wrapped banks of the valley floor. The massive, glacier-deposited boulders sheathed in moss scattered throughout the valley slopes that dwarfed us like Goliath. The rhododendron sheltered ridges with vistas of the valley spread out below them.
I purposely arrived a day early to get a night of camping in too. Minster Creek and its campground are a popular destination and weekends throughout summer and fall are busy with hikers, campers, and hunters (I was once went there for some wilderness solitude only to find a group of 70 boyscouts suiting up to hike). By Sunday afternoon though the crowds had thinned and by dusk Monty and I had the campground to ourselves and proceeded to do, well, very little. We did a short hike and explored the campground. I popped open some beers, lit the fire, made some pesto pasta, read some on the career of Bill Albert, played solitaire, and then we crawled into the back of the truck for bed. It was perfect and at times a little boring (I don’t think I know how to relax anymore and to be alone, an unpleasant discovery), but still refreshing.
The next morning Monty and I hit the trail at 8am. We saw no one else for the whole hike. Monty usually forged ahead and broke trail if not the spiderwebs that criss-crossed the path and then my face. The trail begins in the valley floor and it was a shaded and brisk hike until we ascended the valley slopes into the sun. Upon hitting an area of full sun we took a break to soak in the heat. Near the trail’s end is a beautiful rock outcrop with a view eastward over the valley and it’s beech-maple landscape. I underestimated my hiking speed and was off the trail by shortly after 10am. It was too nice and early on a free day to rush back home, so I spent some more time truck-side reading, eating lunch, and relaxing in more sun. Monty chose the shade below the truck for a post-hike nap.
It was only one night. A short trip, but worth more far more than its length indicates.
I brought along my Canon S95 (even with newer models released by technology’s juggernaut progress is still a fantastic pocket camera) and took photographs. Incidentally, if you don’t have a Pedco Ultrapod you should look into one. It’s a great little tripod for a camera the size of the S95. It works not only as a stable tabletop tripod, but can also be strapped to things such as posts, sticks, and hiking poles which made the self-portraits below possible.
Yesterday I received a pc cable and hotshoe adapter that allows me to use my Nikon SB-600 flash with my Fuji X-pro and it’s sync port. I cajoled my youngest into modeling for me in front of the brolly box (ie. a fancy reflective umbrella) while I tested the setup out.
The picture above was a fluke. I wanted to get a picture of the chocolate milk mustache she had on her lip, but she wasn’t having it, so instead, I ended up with a picture of her covering her mouth in defiance. Actually, fine and cute. And then I lost my model’s interest and, thus, my model.
I love when inspiration strikes. Hours later while running it occurred to me that with 3 kids I just the right number for a “See no Evil, Hear no Evil, Speak no Evil” mini-project. Not only that, serendipity worked in my favor. If I flipped the picture of my youngest she’d be facing camera left (necessary for my concept and the order of the No Evil idiom)….if I had my oldest face camera right…..and then my middle child face dead-on camera! What nice flow.
Long story short, hours later after working with more mature models with (slightly) longer attention spans I had my 3 photos. And damn, I like them. I don’t know how original this is, nor do I care a lot. Occasionally I get hung-up on retaking or redoing concepts that have been done, but that is a losing battle. I do know that this concept has never been done with my kids and that’s enough for me to appreciate the photos. I’ve pretty much decided to canvas with these and just need to figure out if it will be either as individual canvases or as one long canvas containing all 3 photos.
Also, look at the last image below. The Fuji 35mm is stunningly sharp in my opinion. Look in her pupil and you can see me holding the camera.
I thought it was time to quiet the crickets and turn the lights back on here. Life has a way of sucking you into a vacuum and, unfortunately, this site was a casualty. As a general rule bloggers are told not to blog if they have nothing to say. Well, I’ve been mute.
Spring sports have begun for the kids â€“to a somewhat hesitant beginningâ€“ and our days are full and hectic as we cycle from school, to homework, to dinner, to multiple sports, to showers, to bed. I also fell into a period of gear lust (a periodic trap for me) and daydreaming. Months ago I ordered a FujiFilm X-Pro1. From the moment I hit “Pay” on Adorama’s website I began to dream of the images I would make with a new camera that was so light-weight and “revolutionary”. Those daydreams effected my use of my D700 that I actually *did* own, or, I should say, my *disuse* of my D700. Suddenly I found myself not taking photographs as I waited for the X-Pro to arrive.
If gear lust wasn’t enough of a distraction, I also began to plan a road trip out West to see friends in Montana and tie-in a stop at [ART](http://rlketcham.com/?p=1376). My wife and I had spent 2 years living in Montana and I’ve always missed the mountains. This was my chance to relive old times. You know the kind of trip I mean: an epic American road adventure. A Kerouac/Steinbeck saga, just me, my dog, my camera, and my truck loaded with camping gear. A story at every stop, a load of memory cards to fill with images of Americana.
It didn’t take me long (well is a over a month long?) to realize that at current gas prices, in a truck that averages 14 mpg, the trip West would empty our bank account of around $2000 and that wasn’t taking into account the ART costs of the trip. That was a selfishly large amount of money to spend on trip only for myself at the expense of my family and a possible trip with the kids somewhere. As my road-trip dream crumbled I realized that I had found another way to ignore my photography and the pictures I *could* take as I plotted and imagined the pictures I *would* take.
Why do I sabotage myself like this? I really don’t know. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time lately trying to decipher what the role of photography is in my life. The answers and questions from which I’ll save for a future post. My trip West is still happening, but it has shrunk to include simply a trip to ART, on a plane, minus a dog. Still exciting and something I’m looking forward to, but the dregs and vapors of my fantasy are still drifting off leaving a sense of despondency and monotony in life.
I did receive the X-Pro around a month ago. The internet is flooded with reviews on the X-Pro, so I won’t take that route. I will say that I am really enjoying the camera: it’s 35mm lens is amazingly sharp for the price, the form factor is refreshing and exciting for a fella with a D700 and no experience with a rangefinder sized camera, the autofocus has not hindered me as much as I feared from other user reviews.
Here are some images from a hike the other day taken with the X-Pro.
The panorama feature â€“not something that would normally interest meâ€“ is fun and accurate.
I took the kids to the high school for a basketball game tonight. My son and I were on the way back from the bathroom and this picture was suddenly before my eyes and my iPhone was in hand.
It was off the cuff and instinctual, but I like it. It’s fun.
I was cleaning out my iPhone’s photo gallery and came across these images that I had taken and never put to any use. It’s honestly hard to imagine not having an iPhone now that I’ve grown accustomed to it â€“ Apple’s witchery I suppose. For me there is no better notebook and sketchpad I could carry around.
Incidentally, I converted all the images to monochrome using Nik Software’s [Snapseed](http://www.snapseed.com) which has been my iPhone photo app of choice for a while. It took me some time to get accustomed to the app, and it’s not the fastest for editing, but it’s a powerful and versatile photo processor.
Gear reviews are a rarity for me on this blog. Actually, this may be my first, but, when I find a photography product and company that impresses me, I want to promote it.
I received an F-Stop Guru backpack the other day. I havenâ€™t put it through the rigorous testing yet, but Iâ€™ve been wearing it around the house and playing with different configurations and weights in it. I have no affiliation with F-stop and this is the first bag Iâ€™ve owned by them. Dan Carr has some wonderful images of the Guru on his site so Iâ€™ll direct you there for more and better detailed photos of the backpack.
My own initial thoughts on the Guru are that the bag is very well manufactured and thought went into the design. The Guru is a nice versatile size at 1,700 cubic inches and could function as a hiking daypack and as a day-to-day city pack (with one flaw in my opinion which I touch on later)
The ripstop nylon is a nice compromise between weight savings (the empty bag weighs 2.6 lbs) and durability. The pack has a mesh pocket on each side. There is a padded hipbelt with a small stash pocket on the right hip and Molle loops for extra storage accessories on the left hip. The back of the pack is well padded with 2 areas of padding where the pack contacts the body. The top of the pack has an exit portal for a hydration tube and the shoulder straps have hook-and-loop attachments for securing a hydration tube. The bottom of the pack has a small zippered pocket meant to hold the optional rainfly from F-stop or, really, any other rainfly you have. Two “gatekeeper” straps are included with the Guru and can be used on the front of backpack to hold gear on or switched to the side of the backpack for holding gear or compressing the pack.
There is a total of 3 main pockets on the body of the Guru:
- the primary compartment is the largest. This is the place were the F-stop â€œInternal Camera Unitâ€ (ICUs) and any larger gear will go. Access to the main compartment can be gained by the top zipper or by a zipper on the back panel. The back-panel zip will be the access to any camera gear in an ICU. There is also a flap pocket in the main compartment that can be used as either a hydration pouch holder or a 15″ computer/Tablet pocket with some misgiving )
- a middle compartment that is designed as a storage area for various items such as keys, pens, cards, etc. Though a magazine or smaller book would also fit in this pocket.
- the last compartment functions as a vertical-zip stash pocket and is on the front of the pack (or visible side of the backpack when worn). This compartment is the smallest but still large enough for a thin coat or other thin clothing.
Every photographer knows that the perfect camera bag doesnâ€™t exist. There are too many variables and different shooting situations for that to be possible. I was seeking a daypack for hiking and was hoping to find one that could double as an everyday pack too. The Guru comes very close to satisfying this. Many camera backpacks are pigeonholed into that â€œcameraâ€ category with permanent padding and unremovable photography accessories. A major selling point for me on F-stop bags is that when not using an ICU or hauling camera gear, F-stop bags are just empty backpacks that can hold any type of gear. This pack also fit nicely into my current gear collection .
I want to love this backpack so much, but Iâ€™m not sold on it and might well still send it back. I am 6 ft tall and F-stop claims the normal Guru size will fit a person between 5â€™6â€œ – 6â€™3â€. But, overall, the pack just feels vertically short on torso when Iâ€™m wearing it. I have done a lot of backpacking and have gotten used to a hip belt that can help take the load of the shoulders and put it on my hips. While I donâ€™t expect quite as much from a daypack as I would from a multi-night, backcountry pack, the position of the hipbelt on the Guru just doesnâ€™t cut it for me. The hipbelt is about 6 inches too high above my hips and helps little with any load at that point; in fact it simply becomes annoying. If I compensate for the beltâ€™s position by loosening the shoulder straps and getting the belt on my hips, the pack drops too low and feels as if it is pulling backward off my back and the shoulder straps become too tight around the top of my shoulders. The Guruâ€™s shoulder straps are not adjustable for height and the pack only comes in a short and normal size (when I spoke with customer service I was encouraged to try the next larger backpack, the Loka, but this wouldnâ€™t solve my fit problem since the Loka also has a torso length of 18.5″ just like the Guru). As this is a fit and comfort issue it is also a possible deal breaker for me. Torso sizes differ between people so a “one-size-fits-all” approach is hard. A nice feature would be to have 6 inches of shoulder strap adjustability added to the backpack as some backcountry packs have. The fit discomfort is disappointing because other than it and the (somewhat minor) computer pocket opinion, I really like this pack and can see its potential.
I am giving the pack another week or two  to see how it feels after a bit more time and fidgeting.Â I may or may not keep the Guru, but the quality and design are there and I’d recommend that others try F-stop products for themselves. I will be watching F-stop’s product line closely as they continue to release new bag models.
- I really wish that the hydration/computer pocket had even minimal padding and a bit more height. Iâ€™m not all that comfortable carrying my 15″ MBP in this pocket as the top 1/4 of the computer are taller than the pocket and the computerâ€™s corners jut against the sides of the pack asking to be jarred or banged on something. The lack of sufficient computer protection is my one misgiving with using this as an everyday pack. Itâ€™s possible that a computer sleeve could help this, but itâ€™s a feature that I can foresee being corrected in a future model and Iâ€™ll have that buyer remorse and irritation that comes with purchasing something a few months too early.Â â†©
- A medium ICU that I already own as a storage unit for extra gear fits the bag, though I also ordered a small shallow ICU for lighter shooting days. I also own a ThinkTank lens modular lens holder that attaches to the Guruâ€™s Molle hipbelt attachment.Â â†©
- F-stop offers a 45-day Satisfaction Warranty, which, as a buyer, is a good F-stop’s sign of pride and confidence in their products.Â â†©