Education: Gear for Your Brain

1 Sep 2014 10:49 pm
[syndicated profile] strobist_feed
Your brain is gear. Keep it in tune by providing it regular doses of education. A well-written and info-packed photo technique book is a screaming bargain in the long run. You're essentially renting someone's brain.

I have dedicated an entire bookshelf page to my very favorite lighting (and other photo) books for your consideration. All are well-considered and are, I believe, the very best examples in their genre.

But beyond that I would suggest you consider the occasional workshop. Nothing beats a hands-on, small class with a solid pro who knows things you would like to know. It is a super growth experience, and something you really owe yourself if you are passionate about learning to be a better photographer.

At this point severe time constraints limit my ability to teach. But in the past I have taught many workshops and worked with many organizations. Having worked as an instructor for Gulf Photo Plus (held late winter in Dubai) and Santa Fe Workshops (held year-round in New Mexico and elsewhere). I can strongly vouch for both of these organizations. I have seen first-hand how students grow in leaps and bounds in the span of a week, all while making great new friends and having the experience of a lifetime.

If you have ever toyed with the idea, you should definitely ask around, do your research and then take the plunge.

That's it, For Now

That's my two cents worth on gear. You may have other choices or priorities, but that is the best I can offer you with 25+ years' experience behind it.

If you want to chime in on your own, feel free to do so on Twitter via the hashtag #StrobistGear. If is it important that I see it, include an @Strobist in there somewhere and I will.

Choosing Cases and Carts

1 Sep 2014 10:44 pm
[syndicated profile] strobist_feed
You can't exactly put this stuff in your pocket. And what you get to carry it around will be largely driven by, well, what you care carrying around.

Most of you will end up using two small lights with stands and mods and a modest bag of camera gear. Not that there's anything wrong with that. You can do a ton of cool stuff with two speedlights. I have gone far past that level of gear in the past, and often to my regret.

If that's you, grab the shoulder-slung camera bag of your choice. Then augment it with this:

The LumoPro Padded Lighting Case is cheap ($30), lightweight, protective and perfect for a two-speedlight lighting kit. It'll carry two compact stands, speedlights, mods and various doo-dads perfectly.

If you need to go beyond that, I'd take a serious look at ThinkTank bags for your fragile gear and whatever size sling bag you need for the stands/long mods.

ThinkTanks are fantastic: well-built and well-designed (and frequently updated by the thinking photographers who design them.) I absolutely love mine and I recommend them without reservation.

For a camera/laptop backpack (not a roller) I'd say go with the Airport Essentials case. It holds a good amount of stuff, very securely. It's also the perfect size to curl up with on a plane in coach. Just put it on your lap, wrap your arms around it and rest your head atop it on that Toys-R-Us pillow they give you. That's the best way I know to sleep on a plane.

If you need more capacity (or wheels) step up to any of ThinkTank's bigger rollers without hesitation. They are all solid choices. Capacity-wise, they go pretty much from "mirrorless cameras" to "I need to move a body."

I hesitate to even bring this up. But one day you may find yourself looking at a pile of bags and light stand slings and rollers and you may start thinking, "I need a cart to do all of this in one trip."

Let me first say that I do not envy you. And second, also say that I have been there myself. Not full-blown McNally-ladened, but too much to carry in one trip. By a long shot.

When that day comes, you'll start thinking about a folding cart. And rather than endure all of the mistakes (and wasted money) that I did, I am going to suggest you go straight to a Rock-n-Roller MultiCart.

Why? Solid build, folding, expand to a big size if needed, can be a dolly, can hold a board to double as a digital tech's desk on set—you name it. They rock. And roll.

They make several sizes, but I recommend either the R-8 (smaller) or the R-12 (bigger).

Designed for the music industry, they have been adopted by backache-plagued photographers everywhere. Either of these will likely be the last cart you ever buy.

As a bonus, you will likely (and hopefully) use them more around the house than you even do for work. At least I hope so. Because it kinda sucks to travel with that much gear in tow every day.

But if you are gonna, this is the cart.

NEXT: Books and More

[syndicated profile] strobist_feed
We tend to start out using soft light at a 45-degree angle because it is an easy fix, and it's hard to go seriously wrong doing that.

But there are all kinds of light mods, and often choices other than default soft ¾ light can be more interesting. My favorites are snoots, grids and ring adapters.

Snoots are like little tunnels you attach to your flash to block part of the light beam. Snoots are not rocket science -- we are just blocking some light. And cardboard works just fine to create tight zones of light that you can use to create something like the photo above.

For grid spots, which work like snoots but have a much more beautiful fall-off to the edge of the light, you can DIY them out of straws but it is a pain in the ass and not really worth the effort for many. My advice? Get a Honl eighth-inch grid and be done with it. They are indestructible, and they fit all speedlights.

I'd nix the velcro mounting system, however. Mod it with elastic for quick changes and you'll be good to go.

A less expensive (but flash-specific) alternative are the DIY-ish grids from SaxonPC. (Seen above, more info on those here.)

Also in the specialty mod category are speedlight ring flash adapters. They turn your small flash into a donut of light that can give you a beautiful, shadowless look for key or fill. My two favorites here are the Orbis. and the RoundFlash. Both have a very good quality of light. Both have advantages and disadvantages.

For the record, I have owned five different commercial ring flashes (and adapters): Profoto, ABR800, Ray Flash, RoundFlash and Orbis. I use the Orbis more than all of the others combined.

Whatever you do, avoid the Chinese knockoffs of the Ray Flash. They are light-sucking pieces of junk, and are rarely anywhere near color correct. But they are cheap!

If you are that broke, you'll be better off home-brewing a cardboard DIY ring flash adapter.

NEXT: Cases and Carts

Choosing Soft Modifiers

1 Sep 2014 10:36 pm
[syndicated profile] strobist_feed
Editor's note: In 2011 I wrote a full post on my four favorite soft modifiers. No changes since then. These are still my go-to's, for reasons explained below. So I am reprinting this in the gear selection module. -DH

With the gazillion or so soft light mods out there, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the choices available. And while I have probably shot with more of them that I would care to admit, there are four soft mods that I go back to again and again.

As it happens, these four are reasonably priced, too. (Which may well be what attracted me to them in the first place, of course.)

Soft is Relative

So, which of the light sources above is the softest? The one in the back, right?

Not necessarily. The 60" source in back is not as soft at 10 feet away from your subject as the 8x9" source is at 10 inches away. A good rule of thumb to remember is that a light source is soft when it looks large to your subject. This nets out the two variables of size and distance.

Example: Even a bare speedlight looks soft to a subject only a couple inches away.

Long story short, if you want soft light you will have to consider the working distance at which you'll be using it. The further back your light source, the larger your light mod will have to be.

So front to back, here is the straight dope on the four mods pictured above.

1. The LumiQuest Soft Box III

At 8x9", the LumiQuest SB-III can be very soft -- as long as you are working the light literally right up next to the subject. Case in point, this headshot of Ben I did for an ad for the SB-III when it first came out.

With a flat front edge, the light is easy to feather. This means you can work in the edges of the beam for more interesting (i.e. uneven) illumination.

Pros: The SB-III is small, and folds flat. This means it travels great, hiding in the back flap of my Domke F3 or just about anywhere else. It is also pretty reasonable, at under $50. (Especially considering the SB-III has a lifetime guarantee, unique on this list.)

Cons: It's small size means it is literally soft in only in the knife-fight range. Back it up more than a couple of feet and it starts to get hard. Actually, I tend to use this to my advantage, making the light more versatile just by varying the distance. That is one of the reasons I use it so much.

And speaking of that, most of the time I use an SB-III, I will do so in combination with a fill light. (Example here.) This gives a combination of both shape and detail.

2. Beauty Dish

The next step up, size-wise, gets us to a beauty dish. A broad, shallow reflector, it throws a modestly soft light at portrait distances. There is nothing particularly "beautiful" about it. The dish just has good PR, I guess.

A light this size won't wrap as much as a giant octa or umbrella when used at the same distance, which can be a good thing. So while some people may think of it as a beauty dish, I tend to think of it as a character dish.

Again, I almost always use it with fill. The shot above (more here) is a good example.

When used when a giant, on-axis fill light, as in this Martin Prihoda cover shoot, the beauty dish really starts to live up to its name. The shadows from a dish are distinct, and controlling their depth with another light source gives you a wide range of possibllity.

Pros: A dish gives you soft(ish) light that can stand up to a breeze. Soft boxes and (especially) umbrellas can turn into a sail in even a light wind. The beauty dish will hold up in a moderate wind -- especially when sandbagged. Also, the fact that the dish is circular gives a signature shape on the face as compared to a rectangular soft box. Some people prefer this, but I find it kinda arbitrary.

Cons: Does not fold in any way, so travels like crap. Expect to have to buy a protective case for it. Which only adds to the next downside. Of the four sources listed here, the beauty dish is the most expensive.

I have a few dishes, including one that I got for free from Profoto in a promotion that would have cost me north of $300. I did not know which I wanted (silver or white) so I chose silver for more efficiency. In hindsight I should have chosen white, which I now use far more often.

But I was not gonna pony up for another full-price Profoto dish. So I ended up with the white FTX 22" Beauty Dish ($105.00 - $130.00) shown above.

Being an aftermarket universal fit dish (one dish, many mounts) it can be a little quirky in some ways. But overall I have been happy with it. They also do a grid for the dish ($85.00). So if you are into controlling the beam of the light, the price difference (OEM vs aftermarket) may be even bigger.

3. Westcott Double-Fold 43" Shoot-Through Umbrella

Usually recommended as the first soft light mod for a space-conscious photographer, the double-fold umbrella practically disappears in your bag. It collapses down to 15". (Best of all, they are just silly cheap.)

I started out using it in typical fashion, 45 degrees up and over, as do most photographers. These days I am much more likely to fly it over the top of a subject, as in the falconer shot seen above (more here) or literally on the floor, as in this portrait.

Pros: Hello … dirt cheap. Also, travels extremely well. If you are into guerilla lighting, this is your mod. Also can be very powerful, used right up next to your subject. This is something you cannot do with a reflected umbrella because the shaft can get in the way.

Cons: They are pretty fragile. Between the double folding arms and the telescoping hollow shaft, expect them not to last too long. (A little breeze can get them, too.) Also, the light is hard to control -- an umbrella spews out light like a frat boy puking at 2:30am after a party. Very little directional control. Raw light can spill past the edge, too.

But for under $20, who can complain? I usually grab a couple to be safe.

4. Photek 60" Softlighter II

Combining the best features of a shoot-through umbrella and a large soft box, I like to think of the large Softlighter II as a poor man's octa.

It is a convertible shoot-through umbrella that can double as a reflective one due to the removable black backing. And it comes with a very efficient diffuser screen, turning the umbrella into a wonderfully even light source. As a bonus, the umbrella shaft is segmented, so you can remove half of it after you open it. This makes it possible to use it in very close. It is large-octa light quality, for about $100.

Actually, I have a 47" octa, and it gets very little use compared to the Softlighter. Friends usually ask to borrow the octa, which is fine with me -- I'd rather have the Softlighter on hand. (If you are an Annie Leibovitz fan, she frequently uses them as her key light, as seen in this video.)

I own and use both the Softlighter II and the new Paul Buff 64" PLM (with diffuser). The PLM is more efficient than the Softlighter because of its parabolic design, but that is lessened if you do not use the Paul Buff or Elinchrom mount. (They take advantage of perfect positioning.) For speedlights, I prefer the Softlighter, as it does not require a bare-bulb-type light source to be located at the focal point of the parabola. Just slap an umbrella swivel and a speedlight in there and you are good to go. If you primarily shoot WL or Elinchrom, I would suggest the PLM.

Or if you use big and small lights, maybe get both at under $100 ea. That is what I did, and frequently use both together (PLM as a key and the less efficient Softlighter as a fill.)

Pros: Way cheap, compared to the octa it largely replaces. Versatile as an umbrella, as described above. Gorgeous light with the diffuser. Very lightweight -- easy to boom without expensive gear. Takes a speedlight well. (That's how we lit the photo above, as detailed here.)

Cons: They are not as heavy-duty as an octa -- but to be honest I have yet to kill one. Also, the front is not a clean light source like an octa. You can see the strobe unit. So if you are shooting reflective objects (glass, etc.) this may not be for you.

So those are my Four Horsemen of soft light. You could choose four completely different different mods, but those are the ones I keep going back to. I highly recommend each, for the reasons above.

The main thing is to look at your working distance and see which light source will create the light you want at that distance. Fortunately, as you can see above, you don't have to spend a ton of money to get versatile, soft light.

NEXT: Hard and Specialty Modifiers

Choosing Light Stands

1 Sep 2014 10:29 pm
[syndicated profile] strobist_feed
Light stands are designed to oppose gravity. Pretty simple. And the designs are, for the most part, pretty similar. I think of light stands as being in three categories: normal stands, compact stands (seen just above) and specialty stands such as C-stands.

For light stands I like LumoPro for many of the same reasons I like the LumoPro LP180 speedlight. Their stands are well-built, reasonably priced and guaranteed out the wazoo. LumoPro has good service, too, should you need to replace a broken knob or bolt or whatever.

Honestly, it makes me wonder why other manufacturers don't warranty their grip gear like this. Seems like a no-brainer, if you are making good stuff.

For normal, full-sized stands, I like the 10-foot LumoPro LP608. It is air-cushioned, has a five-year warranty and costs $45. It is a solid value choice and you can certainly spend more but get less.

Most stands are pretty interchangeable. That's not to say that there aren't some cool designs to be had. For a "splurge" light stand I'd consider Manfrotto stackers. They have a unique design that allows them to snap flat together for easy transport and space-saving storage. They are more expensive ($84 for 8-foot version and $115 for the 12-foot) so you'll have to make that call. But they are a great upgrade if you frequently lug around a flock of light stands.

If you don't need all of that functionality, skip the stackers. In fact, many speedlight folks who don't need a lot of stand height prefer to use "compact" 5-section stands. They rise to about 7 feet and collapse to about 21".

For that, my recommendation is easy and clear-cut: get the LumoPro LP605, seen above. It is the best-built of the five-section stands, includes ground spikes for more stability in wind and has LumoPro's outsized warranty.

For $40, it is hard to go wrong here. There are more expensive versions of this, but they are not as well-built, have no ground spikes and you won't get a five-year warranty either. Done deal.

As far as C-stands go (more on what they are, here) they are pretty much all built like tanks. Which is part of their weighty charm. LumoPro C-stands ($100 for the riser and another $35 for the arm—make sure to get both pieces) are a good value choice as they back up the build quality with their five-year warranty.

If you want to get fancy, Kupo C-stands offer a quick-release mechanism for faster setup. But both are all but indestructable.

While we are on the subject of stands, please do this: Take $20 and buy some sand bags. Get the bags from Amazon ($13 for 2, shipped). Get a few to start.

And don't fill them with sand but rather "pea gravel," from your local home improvement store. It's super cheap ($3.50 worth will fill three sets of sandbags) and way less messy than sand.

You won't need these cheap insurance policies until a stand comes down in the wind, breaking your flash or your mod or your subject's noggin. Then you will have needed the sand bags retroactively.

Start with three or four. You'll probably end up getting more as you go. Cheapest insurance (and piece of mind) policy you'll ever buy.

NEXT: Soft Modifiers

Choosing Triggers

1 Sep 2014 10:19 pm
[syndicated profile] strobist_feed
This is pretty simple and straightforward advice. First, start with a wire. Yep, a simple sync cable.

It is cheap and reliable, and a great backup to have for when your wireless triggers decide to go all hinky on you. Which they sometimes will. Because, radio.

If you chose your flash wisely, you'll not be locked into expensive, proprietary PC-based cords. I live in a one-eighth-inch sync ecosystem and could not be happier with it. As such, my current favorite universal camera-to-flash cord is this little 16-foot baby from I wish everything in my life was this simple.

Next, promise me this: that you will never again buy a flash without a good built-in slave. Every flash I have recommended to you has one. Don't be without it. That makes triggering multiple units much easier, whether you have wires or radios or whatever. Just makes too much sense. Friends don't let friends buy flashes without built-in slaves.

For wireless triggers, you can date or you can marry. If you just want to date, there is a new flavor-of-the-week appearing near constantly. They'll be cheap, but they'll likely not be long-term compatible with other triggers of the same brand.

I tend to look at remotes as a long-term investment that I can safely add to over time as needed. Seriously, I have been using the same brand of triggers since the early 1990s. And by choosing wisely then, all of my triggers can work well together even though they were purchased over a span of 20 years.

For those reasons I use PocketWizard. And because I am a manual shooter and am not chained to TTL, I can go with the simplest (but still rock-solid) PocketWizard triggers. So I recommend without reservation the ~$100 PocketWizard PlusX transceivers.

Why: They are super reliable, simple to operate, run on AAs (huge thing if you have ever been left scrounging for batts in the wild) have ten channels, are auto-sensing receiver/transmitters, have a hard-shell-enclosed antenna, and have wonderful range. (More detail, here.)

PocketWizard make a wide variety of increasingly complex and capable triggers. But if my son or daughter were starting out as a young pro photographer, the PlusX is what I'd buy them. I have owned nearly every model of PW trigger, and these are by far my favorite. For 90% of PW shooters, these will be the best choice.

NEXT: Light Stands

Choosing Lights

1 Sep 2014 10:09 pm
[syndicated profile] strobist_feed
Because big lights and small lights each bring a different set of considerations to the party, I am splitting my recommendations into speedlights and "studio lights." (Although I hate that term.)

For speedlights, you have to decide if you wanna drive stick or automatic—AKA manual or TTL. I live in manual mode, which means I sacrifice some convenience for reliability and repeatability. It also means I can pay about a third as much for each of my flashes.

If you live by TTL, you will die by TTL. Or, at least your wallet will die a small, unnecessary death every time you need to purchase a flash.

For manual speedlights, I wholeheartedly recommend the LumoPro LP180, about which I go into far more detail here. It's built like a tank, syncs four different ways, has a fluid and intuitive user interface, a built-in light-stand socket, a built-in gel holder and has a two-year manufacturer's warranty. No other speedlight comes close to claiming all of those useful features.

That it costs about a third as much as you would pay for an OEM branded flagship TTL flash is icing on the cake. If you can commit to shooting manually, this is your flash.

If you need TTL (and remember, this is the gear acquisition equivalent of joining the TTL mafia) I would consider eschewing the OEM flagship TTL flashes. They can run north of $500USD, which is just nuts.

The Phottix Mitros comes in Nikon and Canon variants and sells for about $300USD—with twice the warranty length. It does pretty much all the fancy stuff most of the OEM flashes do including the optical TTL triggering of other TTL units, be they other Mitros units or OEM units.

I will say that for the lesser price you will give up some ease of user interface. But this may well be that I was used to the OEM flash user interface and that of the Mitros is pretty radically different.

Finally, for some people the flagship OEM flashes will be just fine. For instance, if your name is Bill Gates they are a perfect choice for you.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are a ton of flashes constantly hitting the market from the far east, from a variety of pop-up brands. Some of the brands are recognizable because they bought the rights to use familiar but now bankrupt brands that were formerly trustworthy. They have spotty track records for quality. Factory warranties are short to nonexistent.

Many who read this will be tempted to go that route because of prices that are almost too good to be true. If that's you, by all means knock yourself out. Some people need to be stung in the wallet to remember a lesson or bit of advice. I know I did when I was young. Good luck with that!

As far as big lights go, there is a completely different set of variables to consider. Big lights are system-oriented, and you would do well to choose wisely in what will likely be a long-term relationship.

I spent a lot of time and money auditioning big lights over the past 25 years. I am really happy where I am now, and would have loved to make this good of a choice from the get-go. I wrote about researching and choosing big lights a couple years ago and at the time settled on a Profoto/Paul Buff hybrid choice.

I loved Profoto's light mods and quality of light, but they were very expensive. And the battery options insanely so. So instead of battery versions of my Profotos, I went with Profoto plug-ins and a full Paul Buff Einstein setup for portable, battery-powered big lights. Sounds crazy, but for the price of just two AcuteB battery generators you can outfit yourself like an Einstein King.

So for the last couple of years I have had two full systems in my gear closet: Profoto plug-ins and Einstein 640s with portable battery packs. (But they also plug in.) And even though the Profotos are far more expensive, rugged and "professional" (whatever) I found myself again and agin choosing the Einsteins to use.

That's because inexpensive or not, they are simply amazing flashes. And they come with a 2-year warranty (sensing a trend here?) and legendary factory service. Further, Paul Buff has finally taken some time to develop the modifier system that a good flash deserves. The reflectors and accessories are well-designed—and wonderfully inexpensive.

The caveat here is, this is pretty much a US-based choice/suggestion. One of the main reasons Paul Buff lights are so inexpensive is that he only sells direct, and mostly in the US. There are a couple of dealers outside the US but that starts to erode the value proposition pretty quickly.

So, to beginners looking for a great light at an amazing price in the US, I would suggest you strongly consider Einsteins. Not the similarly shaped and even cheaper AlienBees, however. They look similar, but are not in the same league as the Einsteins. Save your money and go Einstein. It is not that much more.

If you are outside of the US, I am sorry that this choice will be either not available or not nearly as good a value to you. So I would suggest that you look at other reputable flash brands (Bowens, Elinchrom, Hensel, Profoto, etc.) and choose the brand that works best for your needs and your wallet. This advice also holds for people for whom the Einsteins aren't a good fit.

Again, I would suggest avoiding the temptation of the super-cheap mystery brands from the far east. Personal experience. But if you need some personal experience of your own to dissuade you in the future, by all means go right ahead.

Next: Triggers

Choosing Lenses

1 Sep 2014 10:03 pm
[syndicated profile] strobist_feed

If you date your cameras, you marry your lenses. That's because, unlike digital cameras, a well-chosen lens can serve you for a very long time.

I still have one lens that I bought thirty two years ago. And I bought it used. I doubt that will be the case with any of my digital cameras, ever.

In the past, I was a lens speed freak and was willing to spend great sums of money to have very fast glass. I now realize that lust was misplaced. If I had it to do over again (and I do, and have) I would lean more on reasonably fast primes and here's why.

Moderately fast primes are (much) lighter, (much) cheaper and often just as sharp (or sharper) than their speedy siblings. For Nikon shooters, the Nikon 28, 50 and 85 f/1.8 trio of lenses are great examples of this. They weigh next to nothing in my bag and offer great performance. Also, I have moved away from primarily using fast zooms. Rather than a fast 24-70/2.8, I'd now opt for a trio of fast-ish primes and a decent, slower zoom to back them up.

This way, you get a stop (plus) faster at each focal length, backups throughout the 24-70mm range and you lose the most daunting aspect of the speed zoom: an expensive single point of failure.

In general, remember this when it comes to ultra-fast DSLR lenses: you pay through the nose for them when you buy them. And then you pay again, in weight, every time you lug them around. Remember that cameras have amazing high-ISO performance these days. And they are just going to get better as we go.

As for my Fuji lenses, it is pretty hard to go wrong with their primes (although I'm not a huge fan of the 60mm macro…) But the others are small, gorgeous and fast. I love the built-in 23mm (35 equiv.) of the X100s. It's sharp wide open and it has beautiful flare when you point it right into the sun as seen above. It's my most-used lens. Which is a good thing, given that it's welded to x100s.

Along with that, the 35/1.4 (50mm equiv., seen at top on left) and 14/2.8 (21mm equiv., on right) are my go-to lenses on the interchangeable lens Fuji bodies. If I am shooting tight headshots, maybe the 56/1.2 in the middle.

As a backup, I like the 18-55 kit zoom (not shown). Which, although not a speed lens at f/2.8->f/4, is great optically and has stabilization.

Good performance from a kit lens (the zoom that often comes packaged with a camera) is not a given, as many of them are crap. If you are using a kit zoom as your main lens, know that it will be be sharpest near the middle of the aperture scale—let's say around f/8. In fact, most lenses are great at f/8.

If you like to hang out close to wide open, grab a (used, if necessary) prime at your most-used focal length. You'll be a happy camper—and have a backup if needed.

What to buy? And when? That should be driven by what/how you shoot.

Here's my thinking on lens progression, driven by how I shoot. Most of the time I am going to go out with a single, prime lens. I like the size, the weight, the speed and sharpness. Actually, I also like the discipline of having a single focal length. It helps me to see better.

With a new system I'd build out my wide/normal/short-tele primes, then get a decent wide- to short-tele zoom as a backup or for times when I would want one-lens variability. Only then do I start going for more exotic lengths if needed.

The reason is simple: most of my work will be done with the bread-and-butter focal lengths of moderate wide to short tele. So I want good quality, speed and backup in those lengths before I start to get crazy with a superwide or whatever.

You can easily try out a lens for no risk. Buy a good example used, from someone with a good return policy. If the lens is a dog, return it immediately. If it is good enough to where you want to keep it and play, you can always resell the used lens for about what you paid for it within a year or two.

So, very little risk. (In fact, if I was going to need to rent a lens for more than a week I'd do it this way. Your rental would be practically free.

And obviously, if you love a lens and decide to marry it and keep it forever that's best possible case.

NEXT: Lights

Choosing a Camera

1 Sep 2014 09:48 pm
[syndicated profile] strobist_feed

There is no perfect camera. So get that idea out of your head right now. Far better to think of any camera as a set of compromises. Size, speed, image quality, low-light performance, price, etc., can all be features—and they can all be liabilities.

You want image quality? Get an 11x14" film camera. Great for detail and tonal range. But sucks for action sequences / portability / low light performance.

Every camera is a compromise in at least one area. So to start, list your most important features on a sheet of paper and let that guide your choosing strategy.

• If you want best-possible image quality, you might sell your car/house/plasma and buy a digital medium format camera.

• If you need super long glass and/or FPS speed (sports, nature, etc.) maybe grab a fast Nikon (or Canon) and a super-telephoto lens.

• If you shoot people, speed and high ISO performance might not matter as much as gorgeous color.

• I you travel a lot you might put a premium on your cameras being small and lightweight, with good low-light performance.

• If you are following a toddler around the living room, continuous AF performance may trump price.

So think about what is important to you (and your budget, of course) and begin your search for cameras using that as a compass point.

If you are old like me, you might be tempted to only consider cameras built around the dated form factor of film cameras to be the only cameras worth serious consideration. That's an age bias. Have it if you like, but be aware of it. To a twenty-year-old that doesn't matter any more.

Speaking of age, if I were just dipping my toe into the water I'd strongly consider a late-model used digital camera and a used lens or two. If I was not happy, it would be a cheap marriage to unwind. Within a year I could probably sell the lot on eBay for a couple hundred less than I paid, max.

And if I was happy it would be a great platform to build on. Once committed, my next body might something current and the original body goes to a second/backup. Either way, I would not expect to be using the camera after five or six years.

Point is, you don't have to jump in the deep end. Buy one body and a lens or two. Maybe buy used from a shutterbug friend, knowing the camera implicitly comes with ad hoc tutoring. (And a good outlet to borrow/lend lenses, bodies, etc.)

I spent over 30 years with Nikon film and digital SLRs as my primary cameras. But the further I got away from shooting for newspapers (which at the time had included lots of sports photography) the more my priorities shifted. Here is what is important to me now: small, lightweight, good image quality, great in low-light and quiet/unobtrusive. That led me to move to mirrorless (Fuji) a couple years back.

Pictured at top are the cameras that currently get more use than anything else I have (save maybe my iPhone): a Fuji X-E2 and a Fuji X100s.

Whatever camera style/brand you are considering, you can use the 'net to easily scope out how other photographers are using it and what kind of image quality it has.

For instance, try this: click on the night photo just above, which will take you to its Flickr page (in a new window). Scroll down beneath the photo's page where it says "Fujifilm x100s" (or just click here) and you go to a page that will show you lots of different photos shot with exactly that model of camera.

And here's the thing: clicking on that link from just about any camera icon on a Flickr photo page will quickly show you that you can make amazing photos with just about any current camera. So don't sweat it or pixel peep too much.

Instead, focus on how you will be using the camera and what features are truly most important. Then let that drive your choices. And understand that the camera you use today probably won't be the camera you are using in five years.

NEXT: Lenses

PSA: Twitter

31 Aug 2014 08:57 am
miss_s_b: (Britishness: Tea)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
Before anybody else asks: I haven't blocked you on twitter. I haven't blocked anybody that wasn't already blocked on twitter. I have deactivated my account. It is only temporary, don't worry. It's just that my whelm kind of went over for various reasons yesterday and I needed to shut down properly.

I've had a decent night's sleep now and I'm going to the gym and both of those things usually help my brain to sort itself out.


On feeling safe

30 Aug 2014 06:19 am
miss_s_b: Kate Beckett aiming a gun (Feminist Heroes: Kate Beckett)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
I have been thinking about this on and off all week, and sleeplessness is making me blog about it now. Sorry it's not the cheeriest subject for a Saturday morning...

One of the consequences of my past is that I never feel 100% safe and secure. Even in a blissful post-coital embrace with a lover, even if I trust that person with my life, there is a part of me fretting about my safety. And not only do I never feel truly safe, but I have different things that increase my meagre sense of safety to most people. So where most people feel safer at night if they have locked the doors, I feel less safe if my escape route is impeded. I understand that locking the doores at night keeps burglars out, but I don't like it. I HAVE to know where the keys are, and I don't like having interior doors shut at all, at any time.

I feel safer sleeping on the side of the bed nearest the door. If I go to a new place I have to plan how I would get out, and am anxious and jittery until I have. I need to know where the train station is and that I can get to it at all times, wherever I am; and I always need to have a travel pass, or enough money to buy a ticket to get away if I need to.

When you've had a relationship where the person you love IS the danger, even if it is only one of many relationships, it really screws with your head. And there's always a part of you wondering if it WAS your fault, and if you could make THIS lover treat you the same way.

Intellectually, of course, I know it wasn't my fault. He was just a violent person. I also know that were anybody to try to treat me that way now
1, I am physically strong enough (and have done enough self defence classes) to make sure it wouldn't be me came off worst
2, it would only happen once, then I would end the relationship.
... but that's still not enough for the creeping sense of "what if" to go away. It worms around in my heart, and makes me doubt myself and other people. In this context, allowing myself to love ANYBODY at all is counterintuitive.

I am lucky enough to have more than one person to love. There are people I would trust with not only my own life, but my daughter's. They have proved to me on countless occasions that I could feel safe with them, if only my treacherous heart would allow me to do so. They understand, and they are patient and kind, and do what they can to help when I don't feel safe at all. Allowing myself to love them is my small act of rebellion against the forcible indoctrination that if you open your heart to someone it only leads to physical and emotional pain. I WILL NOT allow myself to believe that is true in all cases, and so I prove to myself it's not by loving people as hard as I can.

This can be a bit intense if you're on the recieving end of it. All I can say is that I am grateful, hugely grateful, for the people willing to be subjected to my love.

You know who you are. Thank you.
miss_s_b: (Mood: Grateful)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
So I had a really not-good day at work today. Things bothered me that shouldn't have, and other things didn't go my way for odd reasons, and the phoning gods were agin me (RIDICULOUS amounts of wrong numbers today, like seriously ridiculous). And then I got on the bus home, and there was a girl talking to someone on her phone, trying to estimate how long before she got home. I asked where she was going, and told her how long it would take; and then we got chatting.

She was smart and switched on. She was interested in politics, and she had opinions. She was passionate about what she believed in and she wanted to enthuse other young people... she really cheered me up, frankly, after all the cynicism and world-weary no-point-doing-anything stuff I hear on a regular basis.

So thank you, girl on the bus, for giving this jaded old political hack some hope on a bleak evening. I really value that, and will continue to do so, even if we never meet again.

Thank you.
[syndicated profile] kayotickitchen_feed

Posted by Kay

Roast Chicken, Saffron, Lime & ChiliI know it’s getting old, me saying I have found yet another ultimate roast chicken recipe, but really… I did. Even though nothing beats my Peruvian Roasted Chicken, this beauty combines all that is good in this world, and then it kicks it up a notch… or two. We’re talking roasted chicken stuffed with lime, rosemary and chili pepper, placed on top of even more lime, chili and some halved...
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[personal profile] miss_s_b

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