Essays / s /

Hacking Rugged Cases

Rugged cases like Pelicans are great at protecting your gear. They're waterproof, climate proof, indestructible and makes a great apple box when you need to sit or stand on something. After having more camera equipments than I am willing to carry on my shoulders, I bought a Pelican 1560 with padded dividers to carry it all.  The way the cases are structured, it is very difficult to put inside anything large, like reflectors or umbrellas into the case, and it is also very space consuming / uneconomical to put things like clamps and power cables and grip equipment inside the case, and almost always stupid to put water bottles inside the watertight case.

I recalled back when I assisted, the photographers used to stuff reflectors and cables inside the outside front pocket of the soft camera rolling cases.  Wouldn't it be great if the Pelican case had something like that on the outside?

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Experience of extended warranty with Best Buy

As you know from my latest post, I broke my D810.

More than two years ago, I spent the extra money to buy Geek Squad Protection with the camera from Best Buy. At the time it was expensive, the camera along with the protection and tax was north of 3800 USD. You might ask, "Why Best Buy?" It was because of their Geek Squad Protection. I was told by my peers that they received full value camera replacements for their camera repairs.  I didn't know how it was going to work out, how effective or what not, but it was time for me to find out. 

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Camera Down

This happened a little while ago:

I had a weekend long job in SF where I was traveling throughout the city and as well as along Highway 1 to capture photos. During the first night, I dropped my camera (d810), prism first, onto carpeted ground. It actually fell out of my bag.

It shot fine, but what I didn't know was that it killed something internally that I was unable to trigger anything flash related on the camera. That includes PC sync, hot shoe and built in flash. My extended trip plan was quickly cut short when I was called to fly back to LA for another shoot the next right after the end of the weekend job. Between flying red eye, prep, and shoot the next morning, I didn't figure out nor realize the fault with the camera body.

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Carry Science

"Always carry a camera with you." That's not just a mantra one to live by, it's something that I actively try to do everywhere I go. As the years pile on being a photographer, the desire to carry anything and everything I need (carry stupid) slowly turns into carrying just exactly what I need (carry smart) without overloading my kneecaps. I once carried 30 pounds of gear all over Tokyo, I didn't feel tired but my knees weren't exactly happy at the end of the day. I have a habit of over preparing, carrying 2 of everything just on the off chance that something happens to the first. That leads to too many accessories spread over too many pouches weighing just too much. This time, I won't get into this time on how carrying less helps more with creativity, this article from a while back talks about just that.

What seems like a never ending journey of reconfiguring my on-the-go kit has finally saw a new ray of light in the Mod Tablet Mini.

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A formula from 1971

In 1971, Nikon made a resign of their 105mm manual lens. That same lens formula has been used for the next few decades to create several more lenses with progressively better coating and ergonomics. I recently bought the 105mm 2.5 AIS off of Craigslist on a whim. I've always heard about how amazingly sharp this lens is along with how much historical value it holds though I've never tried one myself. Being a skeptic, I tested the lens in the studio.  To my amazement, it exceeded every expectation I had.

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Use Rosewood to Improve grip

Read this for how I set up my beloved X100T.

I've found a great grip for the X100T. As an alternative to leather half cases and other grips, it retains a small profile. It is unobtrusive, grippy and best of all it is made from a natural material.

For a long time I've used the Gariz Leather case to improve grip, though I've always had some issues with the leather case making the camera too thick.  Enter the Rosewood grip.

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Tokyo Blues featured in Inspired Eye Issue 27

I was fortunate enough to be featured and be on the cover of Inspired Eye magazine last month. Inspired Eye magazine is a monthly online publication featuring street photographers from all over the world, sharing their projects and their stories in a well curated platform. As the name suggests, Inspired Eye is there to inspire us. It interviews those who are featured to help us better understand their stories and get more into their personas in order to understand them more.

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musing - Coolpix A, a love and hate

There seems to be a specific category of point and shoots somewhere along the spectrum of cameras that are considered painfully classic. They all have one or more redeeming qualities that make them a joy to use, yet still the nature of the camera and or it's film habits makes them very impractical to shoot casually today. In that category, there is special pedestal for cameras such as the Fuji Natura Classica, Nikon Ti35 and Ti28, Contax T3, Ricoh GR1v, and even ones with worse image quality like the Lomo LC-A. Each one of these cameras has enough character to them that using them is still really worth the trouble (depending on who you ask).

Nikon Coolpix A is such a camera.

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Lighting with a Tube

Flash is harsh, direct, raw, and is something I will use only when I want these qualities. For soft, emotive, moody lighting I would often go with available light. Even so, often the available lights cannot really create the kind of look one would want without any modifications. In my kit I carry 3 LED lights with me, 2 of them being small panels and one being a tube.

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Quick tip: traveling and charging camera batteries

Often I take 2-3 different types of cameras with me on jobs and trips. You can imagine how bulky the chargers adds up to when I shoot with 3 cameras during a wedding.  So I've discovered these small Micro USB powered chargers for various camera batteries.  If you use the generic 3rd party chargers then you're already familiar with these.  Basically these are the generic chargers without the AC-DC circuitry.  So what it allows is space saving of 50% over the generic chargers and much more over the OEM chargers.  I have two of these for every camera battery type that I own.  They're great for back ups to your bigger charger and as well as being the main charger too.

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Ricoh GR II - Unabashingly direct

Click here for an update of what's currently in my bag.

If the Fujifilm X100T was the argyle wearing soft spoken scholar, then the Ricoh GR would be his young mingling party going brother. And rightfully so. With the focusing of the Fujifilm X100T not being built for run and gun and the size of it being too big for the pocket, it is the go to camera for when I want excellent image quality without any of the bulk of a big camera.

I use the Ricoh GR II the exact same way as I use the GR I, the upgrades to the GR II doesn't make the GR I obsolete at all.

The first words comes to mind when I describe the Ricoh GR II to anyone is that the camera is "in-your-face". I often turn on the on camera flash and photograph my subjects from a few feet away. The small size and the ordinary look of the camera also helps to disarm my subjects as I approach them and shoot them at a close distance.

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Fuji X100T - Reconnecting the past

Click here for an update of what's in my bag.

I've used the X100 series of fixed lens 35mm cameras from the original version. With it I've taken some of my most memorable photos. I always find the camera to be an interesting medium itself, as in different cameras allows me to approach different subjects differently. The DSLR forces me to be vanilla and professional, the Ricoh GR allows me to open up and be wild, while the Fuji X100T series of cameras requires me to really slow down.

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Changing the approach - what's in my bag

Click here for the two detailed articles regarding Ricoh GR II and Fuji X100T.

I want to briefly talk about what and how I configure my go to gear in the next few articles. A year ago when I was in Tokyo, I carried my DSLR along with bunch of prime lenses for the completetionist in me. Though I ended up finishing a series done with only a point and shoot (!). At least 20 pounds of gear on me and I didn't even use a few pounds of it. At the end of the day, my knees hurt from walking everywhere.  So in response to that I've decided to change and separate what I use for big jobs versus what I use as I wander about the world.

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Test with Xaolin

I had a test with Xaolin and MUA Shu Zhang during high noon in Topanga canyon. We used all available light and took in the ambiance of nature around us.  Wardrobe provided by SYM.

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I Moo'd last week. My goal was simple, to change and simplify my current business cards, make them more attractive, and change some vital information (this was the real reason). I had a choice, to print my cards again and change the original text, or to make new cards.

I was introduced to Moo years ago, when it was just beginning to pull photos from your Flickr stream, and the cards were half the size of normal business cards (that option still exists). To my delight, Moo now prints business cards are 3:2 aspect ratio, perfect for those of us who shoots 35mm and do not like cropping (more on that later).

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Thoughts on the Nikon 85mm 1.8G

I love using prime lenses. When given the choice, I will always choose carrying a bag of prime lenses than 1 or 2 super zooms. In an article for from a while ago, I wrote about the kit I take with me usually with few prime lenses. My equipment have shifted around a bit, but I still focus on owning less and having them do more.
For portraits and general head shots, I find using the 85mm to be very pleasurable. It gives me no distortion and offers me a good working distance from the subject, not too close and not too far away. The natural thought for us working photographers is to get the fastest version (most expensive) of the lens. For the 85mm, the price and the weight difference was significant. I can buy 3 1.8G for the price of 1 1.4G, and it is much heavier than the 1.8G counterpart.

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Tilda Swinton for Only Lovers Left Alive

Photographing Tilda Swinton was one of the most exhilarating portrait sessions I’ve had. You may know her from movies such as Grand Budapest Hotel, The Chronicles of Narnia or, Burn After Reading, or have seen her recently as the face of Chanel photographed by Karl Lagerfeld himself. I was quite nervous, so much so that I couldn’t speak loudly enough to give her instructions. From first to last shot, the shoot lasted 180 seconds, during which all kinds of communication were zipping around amongst the many people in the room.

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In This Milky Velvet Sky

I spent a night last week on Mt. Pinos last week, in the middle of California 2 hours north of LA. Mt. Pinos is a well known spot for amateur astronomers due to the relatively little light pollution, open space, and as well as high altitude. During cloudless new moons, you'll often find dozens of telescopes aimed at various planets across the skies.

The night I was out there however, nobody else was there due to the fact that there was cloud in the sky and the moon was somewhere hiding around the horizon. Having the freedom of isolation, I was truly able to enjoy being under the blanket of stars.

15 Seconds at f/ 2.8, ISO6400

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