Category Archives: Photography

Baby Cam

This past winter, the geek in me set up a couple ip cameras around the house so that when Laura and I were out, we could check in on what Gus was up to. I added another one so I could see the baby’s crib while in Hong Kong, and added a third in the living room for security.

They are neat, cheap little ip cameras from Foscam and when set up, I can view and hear live video on my computer or iPhone from anywhere in the world, in real time. They even come with motion sensors to take pictures of a burglar.
Continue reading Baby Cam

New fun photo gear

Over the weekend, I was excited to receive a few fun photo goodies from Adorama. I like to carry a Nikon 17-35 f/2.8, a 50 f/1.4, and an 80-200 f/2.8 and my Nikon D700. If you are a regular reader, you’ll remember my post about getting a Lowepro Slingshot to carry all that and more. The Slingshot is great because it can carry a lot and not hurt your shoulder. A shoulder/messenger bag can start to hurt a shoulder and neck if it gets filled too much and weighs a lot and carried a long way.

I needed something where I could carry just the bare essentials but also not look like I was carrying a lot money on my side. I wanted quick access to my camera but wanted something stylish too. It couldn’t be too big, but shouldn’t if I was going to carry it for a while. I finally found a Domke F-5CX shoulder bag. It doesn’t scream “I’m holding expensive camera equipment,” fits on my shoulder nicely, holds what I need, but isn’t so big that it can weigh enough to hurt my shoulders. It easily holds my holy trinity of lenses, my camera, plus lots of little things like memory cards. It was in Europe that I realized (while Laura was carrying all my stuff) that I needed a light bag to hold the essentials and I think I’ve found it.

The other really fun thing I bought (with left over birthday money I had) was a Blackrapid camera strap. It’s pretty unique and I’m surprised others haven’t thought of the idea first, but it’s a slick way of carrying a camera. Most people you see with a camera on a strap put it over their neck, which screams: Geeky tourist. Slightly more savvy individuals put the camera and strap over one shoulder so at least the camera is out of the way and not bouncing on your chest. The Blackrapid is a strap that holds the camera over one shoulder and lets it rest on the hip. It carries the camera via a connection in the tripod socket and allows the camera to swing up to the eye and then back down again in a quick motion.

I want to keep the camera safe, comfy, and out of the way, but I also want to keep it ready at a moments notice. Does this fancy thing make me less geeky than the guy or gal that carries their camera on a cheap strap on their neck in front of them? Probably not!

Get all your goodies at — you won’t pay taxes, shipping, or as high a price as a regular retail store!

Lowepro Slingshot 200

One of my passions is photography and I’ve collected a sizable amount of 35mm and digital photo gear from Nikon over the years. I also have a decent Olympus 35mm system from my dad, that includes the OM-2 and OM-4 with several lenses, and an old Canon AE-1 and lenses from my grandpa. I used to do Mamiya medium format, but have since sold that off. I’d like to re-ignite the medium format flame, but that is for another post, and lots of money later.

The trick, when you have more than a point and shoot, or digital SLR with one or two lenses, always becomes: How do you carry it all? The simple answer is: You DON’T. Like Ken Rockwell advises here, if you carry everything, you’ll end up using none of it and just get frustrated with a sore shoulder. I have to echo Ken’s comments. The more we take, the less focused we become. The hardest lens to use, in my opinion, is a superzoom that does everything, from wide to telephoto. These lenses, like the 18-200 or the 18-135 or the 28-300, let you zoom all over the place, but don’t do any one thing extremely well. They also don’t allow the photographer to focus on one perspective or one focal length, so all the photos tend to be random and lack much thought. It’s much easier, especially for the beginner, to use just one lens with one focal length, like a 50mm or 28mm. After those are mastered, then move on to the superzooms.

The camera bag is the same way — carry it all, and it is too cumbersome and you end up shooting nothing, or take too little, and you miss a lot of opportunities. Small bags, like the Lowepro 140, is a small bag for our D40 and one we use for vacation shots, but doesn’t allow me to carry the lenses that I want to carry. My goal was to find a bag that could hold three, maybe four lenses, and my camera, the Nikon D700. I own too much to carry it all and decided I’d pick four lenses to carry all the time: 17-35mm, 50mm, 80-200mm, and a small fisheye for fun.

Backpacks are stupid because they have to be set down on the ground to get into them, and are targets for thieves. I don’t want to be on vacation with a huge bag on my back that screams, “Nerd.” I also didn’t want a shoulder bag because they can cause too much discomfort after carrying it a while, and can slip off when I bend over or twist. Small bags won’t hold enough. Fanny packs, like the ThinkTank system are great for pros, but again, scream nerd if you are just walking around on vacation or on a photo shoot. I was in a quandary as to what to do.

My wife finally pointed out the Lowepro Slingshot 200. It’s a hybrid bag that can fit all I want into it and more. It’s like a backpack, but can swing around to your chest to get into it (so it doesn’t have to be placed on the ground). It’s like a shoulder bag, but has a much better strap to disperse the weight. It’s also a lot more roomy than a fanny pack. I’ve loaded it up and it feels really great over my shoulder and back, and I don’t look like a nerd (at least according to me!). Here’s a quick product video of it and shows how it can be slung around to your chest to access the bag:

If you are looking for a great bag that will carry a decent amount of equipment, isn’t too big, isn’t a backpack, is easy to get into and out of, and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, check out the Slingshot 200. I got mine from Adorama and got free shipping. I highly recommend Adorama. I ordered the free 7-10 day shipping on Saturday, and it came the following Wednesday via UPS. They don’t charge sales tax and have the best selection of all kinds of gear, as good as anyone in the U.S. I won’t say here how much I’ve spent over the years at Adorama, but it’s many thousands and I’ve never had a bad deal from them yet.

Let me know what kind of camera bag you use. You can also read more about the Slingshot here.

Cord Camera = Terrible

I won’t be shopping at Cord Camera ever again. They are a popular photo store in Ohio who has lost my business. With the emergence of places like Shutterfly, Target, and even Walmart, Cord is slipping farther and farther into irrelevance.

My favorite place is Shutterfly (follow the link above) because you can upload photos to their website, and then anyone you give access to can order prints. Yeah, but shipping costs? Laura ordered two 5×7 prints from Shutterfly with tax and shipping, and it was still cheaper than ONE 5×7 print from Walmart. Shutterfly also offers glossy prints, something that Walmart won’t do with 1-hour service. My second favorite place is Target, simply because they offer glossy prints in 1-hour. Because of their higher price and matte finish, Walmart comes last.

Behind Walmart, though, is Cord, with high prices paired with no increase in quality. But that isn’t even why I now dislike Cord. Laura bought me a camera bag for my birthday back in February. She didn’t realize that the bag wouldn’t hold the camera that I own. We had the receipt, so no biggie, right? Wrong. Where Cord falls flat on their face, is that they have a ridiculous return policy. With a receipt, one only has 14 days to return a product for a refund. After that, with a receipt, one has 30 days to get an in-store credit for an exchange. After 30 days, you own it. Sheer idiocy!

So let me get this straight: If I buy a birthday gift 10 days prior to a birthday party, the recipient has 4 days to return the item for money? Holy cow, that is obtuse.  With our camera bag that we purchased, we were beyond both the 14 day return time and 30 day “exchange our item for any item in the store” time. When I return something, the last thing I really want is more crap from the store, I just want my money back.

I guess my burning anger showed on my face because the clerk was nice enough to extend the 30 day exchange policy for us, so we could walk through the store trying to find $50 dollars worth of crap to take with us. We got three picture frames with the intention of returning them at a different store, heh heh. When we tried that return, we still didn’t get our money back because we bought them with a store credit — only returnable for another store credit. Blast! Now we have a $50 dollar credit we don’t want or need.

However, the final Pièce de résistance is that Cord is an irrelevant retail store. I don’t remember the last time I purchased anything photographic in a retail store. They are high priced with terrible service and even worse return policies. With places like Amazon, Adorama, and BHPhoto, who are extremely reputable internet retailers out of New York, that have a wider selection of items, with free shipping, no sales tax, and hundreds of dollars cheaper, there is no excuse to buy anything photographic from a loser retail shop like Cord. I would think that as excellent online retailers make Cord more irrelevant, that Cord would be working harder to keep their customers with smart policies, but I guess not.

I occasionally make a mistake and buy something there, but I won’t be making that mistake again. With a ridiculous return policy aimed at keeping your money, I hope you’ll save yourself heartache, sales tax, and hundreds of dollars as well, by shopping at these online retailers.

Photo Gear

If you are looking to buy a new camera this holiday season, look no further than Ken Rockwell’s website for advice on choosing the right camera. He is an avid photographer that buys and then reviews just about every camera on the market and does a great job of explaining what is important, and what is marketing fluff.

Wether you are a novice, or a pro looking to buy a $10,000 camera system, Ken’s site is the place to start. If you love photography as much as I do, you’ll really appreciate his site. Click his photo to be taken to his “Recommended Camera’s” section, updated for November 2008. You can see his entire site, at


P.S. This is the camera that I want. Yikes, I better start saving!

Nikon D40

I’m excited about it, and will update this blog post with more about the Nikon D40 as I have time . . .

I also got the flash. The D40 comes with a pop up flash, but the optional flash provide a lot better light, and more options with bounce effects (pointing it up to the ceiling to get a softer light, instead of harsh, in your face, blasts of white light, like the on camera flash provides.)

I also ordered a fun little remote! It is wireless and now, when Laura and I want to make our photo with both of us in the shot, I can press the remote button and bingo! We can get a nice shot of us without me having to set the timer, run back into the shot, and then trip on something, so I have a picture of me looking crazy, like in this picture. There is just something funny about watching a countdown light from ten seconds, knowing you have to hold still, smile but not laugh, and be ready when the light stops blinking and the shutter fires. We took our Christmas card photo about 25 times to get it right. Hopefully, with the remote, when we have found our positions, stopped chuckling, and are ready, I can just squeeze off the remote button, and boom, picture!

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