Monday, 1 February 2021

Camera bags

I love camera bags. 

I am what you may call, a bit of a camera bag junkie!

I have six camera bags and an aluminium wheeled case.

In no particular order of preference, they are  .  .  .

Billingham 550

The oldest. 
I purchased it in 1988. It's a massive Billingham 550 and cost me £108 which, at the time was a LOT of money but I was prepared to pay this because lots of other photographers were using them as they are hard wearing.  The latest price on their website is now £500! You can read about it here. You can also read my review of it on that page.

Billingham 550
The Billingham 550. 
Can accommodate one toddler or lots of camera gear

Billingham 550

As I mentioned at the beginning, this bag is massive and oozes quality. With hand stitching, brass fittings and waterproof materials used in its construction, it's also quite heavy even when empty! It can comfortably seat an eighteen month old toddler and an SLR! I normally put loads of stuff in it or use it as an airline cabin bag.

Weighing in at 2.6 Kilograms empty, it's the bag that I put in my car and just take stuff out of it as I need it. At the moment it holds an EOS 6d, an EOS 7d plus grip, a 16 - 35 zoom, a 24 - 105 zoom, two Canon Speedlite 420 EX's plus cleaning cloths, batteries, memory cards and miscellaneous other items. The total weight of all these items together with the bag is 11 kilograms. Wash it occasionally with warm soapy water and treat it afterwards with a weatherproofing spray and it'll last for decades.

Billingham System 3

A smaller Billingham bag is also in my collection and I tend to use it for my GoPro Fusion or my Drone stuff. It's also an "oldie" and I paid about £20 for it second hand back in the late nineties (probably around 1994). I searched online for it to find out the model number but eventually resorted to contacting Billingham directly where the helpful Mel told me this: 

Billingham System 3Billingham System 3Open Billingham System 3

"The model of bag was a System. There were 3 versions of it System 2, System 3 or System 4. It definitely isn't a System 2, speaking to some of the longer working members of staff we think its a System 3 which was a predecessor to the 335".

Billingham System 3 and contentsBillingham System 3 label

I use it now for my GoPro Fusion 360 degree camera and an action camera together with all their accessories.

Hama Katoomba 190 RL

A more recent addition to my collection. The Hama Katoomba190RL. I bought it in 2012 to reduce the stress on my back and shoulders from years of using a normal camera bag. Old habits however die hard and I still find myself picking up and using one of my other "over the shoulder" bags. I wrote about it here and here

Hama Katoomba 190 RLHama Katoomba 190 RL  in action

Hama Katoomba 190 RL

Hama Katoomba 190 RL on location
On my way to a photoshoot with the 
Katoomba and lighting stands

Hama Katoomba 190 RL  contents
Really well designed and packs a lot in 
It also has a built in rainproof cover.

Found in a charity shop. In my youth I always wanted a Tamrac but they were out of my price range. I use mine for my Fujifilm cameras. Mine holds a flash, an X-H1 with grip, an X-E2s, an 18-55 zoom, a 10-18 zoom, a 55 - 200 zoom, a 23mm and a 35mm plus batteries and memorycards This one has storage for rolls of film (which shows its age) and cost me twenty Swiss francs ($20 or £17).
Tamrac 5606 System 6

Tamrac 5606 System 6 on location
My Tamrac provides lots of space and is great quality

Jessops noname 

Bought in London in the eighties. This bag has been a constant companion and has travelled the World with me. The colour has faded considerably but it is still lightweight and very comfortable to sling over my shoulder.
Jessops camera bag
No name Jessop's own brand bag
Jessops camera bag and cat
Luckily the cat left before my job.

Mekko Report Series Professional Photo Bag

Mekko Report Series Professional Photo Bag

An impulse buy from an auction site. Not yet used and still in the cardboard box in which it arrived. Made in Taiwan from 100% natural cotton canvas with waterproof coating and lots of compartments and stainless steel hardware (zips, buckles etc.). It is a clone/copy of a similar Domke model but a lot less expensive. More details here. There is a great in-depth review of it on this site.

No Name former Makeup case

The last and most recent item in my collection is another charity shop find. 

It is a three section aluminium wheeled case. I paid the princely sum of twenty Swiss francs ($20 or £17) for it. There is no  maker's name visible and it has lots of bumps and scratches which bear testament to its ruggedness. A set of keys were included in the price. There is also a collapsible handle which makes it easy to handle and steer when wheeling it around.

According to a sticker which was attached to the case when I bought it, the former owner was a make up artist so I thoroughly cleaned it when I got it back home because I didn't want any left over residue (powders etc) getting inside my gear.

Aluminium 3 tiered camera gear case
The case opened up.

As mentioned, it is in three separate compartments. I use the top compartment to hold lighting gear. There are three Speedlites, a Phottix Odin flash trigger set and various Lambency Universal light diffusors and filters.

The middle part holds two DSLR's and four lenses together with a small Tupperware container with spare batteries and memory cards in it and a bag with cleaning cloths.

The bottom section has all manner of accessories including screwdrivers, hotshoe spirit levels (invaluable), filters and batteries etc

This case is slowly getting more and more use from me especially on a big shoot.

So that's it. I have a collection of bags which have served and continue to serve me well.

Sometimes however, I just can be bothered to schlep a bag around with me and if I know that I won't be needing lots of equipment, I'll but take the bare minimum, like this when I recently did an interior shoot near Zürich!

EOS 6d, tripod and 16-35 zoom lens

Thanks for reading. Do you also have more than one camera bag? Let me know in the comments.


Friday, 8 January 2021

Sometimes the best camera . . .

There's a saying that "the best camera is the one that you have with you". This simply means that to capture an image, you don't necessarily have to use your state of the art DSLR, compact or bridge camera. Whatever you have to hand at that moment will suffice.

This was brought home to me recently when I decided on a whim, to take a few pictures at the nearby Teufelsschlucht (Devil's Gorge).

My aim was to capture a few shots of the waterfall using various shutter speeds to use as source material for some of my photography classes.

I parked nearby and, because of the slippery track down to the gorge, I decided to travel with the bare minimum of gear. Namely my new Fujifilm X-H1, a Fujinon 10-24 wide-angle lens and my trusty Benbo tripod.

Setting off down the track, I was pleased not to be carrying a selection of lenses and bodies with me but when I got to the waterfall I discovered a problem. The waterfall had all but dried up! Hmmm.

I tried a few experimental shots of the trickle of water running down the rock face but it was hardly inspiring. I decided to go back to the car and as I,turned around to make my way out of the gorge, something in my peripheral vision alerted me to the fact that something seemed "out of place". It was a frog. Clinging to the moss which covered the rock face. He (or she?) was poised motionless. Probably waiting for me to leave.

I decided to make the best of an otherwise lost chance. I wanted to take some closeups of the reptile but only had my superwide zoom lens with me: the Fujinon 10-24 f4. This is roughly the equivalent of my Canon 16-35 lens which I use for interiors. I would have preferred to have a macro lens but that was in the car and I really didn't want to trek all the way back to fetch one.

The wonderful Fujinon 10-24 f4 zoom

I re-positioned my Benbo tripod as slowly and as carefully as I could because I didn't want to frighten him off. Using the lens at the 10mm focal length meant that I would have had to get uncomfortably close which I wasn't keen on doing in case it frightened the frog. It would also have made more of the background seem in focus (one of the traits of a wide angle lens) and my aim was to try and isolate the frog and the background as much as I could. 

I chose instead to  shoot at the 24mm end (roughly equivalent to a 38mm lens on full format) and choose a wide aperture to try and render the background as unsharp as possible while still being recognisable as a gorge.

Here is the camera in position. You can see the last remnants of the waterfall in the background.

The Benbo is an extremely versatile tripod and able to get into the most awkward positions.

I am still relatively new to the Fuji system and it took a little bit of messing around to get the exact settings I wanted, but one thing for which I was grateful was the tilting screen. Normally, with the Canon, I'd have to contort myself into being able to see through the viewfinder. With the X-H1 I simply tilted the screen!

Tilting monitor

After a bit of positioning and repositioning, I selected aperture priority mode using f4. With 200 ISO this gave me a shutter speed of 1/4 sec. Such a slow speed wasn't a problem because the frog was obligingly still!

Several pics in both vertical and horizontal mode and this pic (above) was my favourite.

So. As I wrote at the beginning, the best camera for capturing something is the one that you have with you at the time. If I had only had my mobile phone with me, I would have used that. A super wide zoom is not the ideal lens for close-up nature photographs but it was all that I had with me.

Thanks for reading. Have you taken pics with gear that isn't normally used or recommended for a particular subject? Leave a comment and tell me about it. 


Sunday, 29 November 2020

The Four Seasons

This is not a blog post about Vivaldi's seminal work

Some years ago when living in my previous apartment, I photographed the same view from my kitchen window during the four seasons, Spring, Summer, Autumn and winter.

At the end of the year, I combined them into one image using my image editing programme. It was purely a personal project and the people I showed seemed to like it.

My 1st attempt. View from the kitchen window

After a two year break from thinking about it, I decided to do another. This time with an historical angle.

I am lucky to be living in a beautiful area that has several castles, forests and ruins all within a short distance from my apartment. This was important because I couldn't guarantee that the weather would be the same as I wanted when arriving there. 

My partner and I visited several places over a period of weeks before deciding on a view halfway between my place and the town of Balsthal. There is a parking spot which affords a spectacular view of the ruins of Castle Neu Falkenstein.

My rules for the four seasons project are pretty much the same as for when I am documenting progress on building sites. I wrote about it here.

We picked a good vantage point and my partner , Sue, took pictures of where I was standing and which fence post I would be standing beside as an "aide de memoire" for later.


My location. Google Streetview image


 My viewpoint. Picture by Sue.


The exact fence post!😀

I took the first picture this year (2020) in February. We had a light sprinking of snow and I didn't know if there would be another* 


February 2020

After choosing a viewpoint, it is also of course important to use the same camera and lens setup for every picture. I settled on my Fujifilm XE-2s coupled with the 18-55 zoom, always set at 55mm. The focus point chosen was always the middle one and I had the "level indicator" always visible in the viewfinder in order to keep the camera level. Doing all this helps the final editing to go a lot smoother.

Guidelines showing the center of the image

The following images were taken using the methods and equipment desribed above in April, July and October.

April. Spring

 July. Summer

October. Autumn

After the final picture was taken, it was a simple job to create a new document in Affinity Photo with a layer for each season. I then divided the image into four and erased any bits that didn't belong. This is the final result.

I am rather pleased with the end result and am currnetly looking for my next location(s).

This is a simple and very pleasurable photo project that gets you out of the house and exploring new (or familiar) places. It is interesting to view the changes over the course of a year. Of course, your final image doesn't have to be in the style that I did. You could display them separately or have all four in a frame.

Whatever you do, have fun and be safe.



 *There hasn't been yet.(November 2020)

Sunday, 20 May 2018

New tech. New ideas and building site progress photography

I currently have an ongoing project.

Since April 2017, I have traveled every two weeks to a building site, ten minutes from where I live, to document the progress of the construction. 

Using the architects own plans, I was able to see the best vantage points to show the progress in the best way. I was delighted when a couple who live in an apartment overlooking the site offered to let me use their balcony whenever I am there. 

On my very first visit, I took many general photos. Back home, I produced JPG's and superimposed my Canon 5d MKII's focusing points over the image. I transferred these images to my Samsung tablet so that when I am onsite, I can see exactly where my camera should be pointing.

My reason for taking as many images as possible on my first visit is because I have learned from past experience that eventually, there will be objects such as walls etc which will block your view or even pop up where you originally were standing!

My other "constant" is the lens and body combination. I use a 5d MKII fitted with an EF 16-35mm zoom. All the images I make are taken at the wide end. With this method, I can ensure uniformity in my results.

"So where are the new ideas mentioned in the headline"? I hear you ask. Last year I won a Samsung Gear 360 camera in an online competition. This is a golf ball sized device that has a lens on the front and on the back.

The two lenses' f.o.v* overlap with each other and some clever software stitches them together. This results in 360 degree images or videos that you can view and move around in, on your PC or smartphone.

The Samsung gear 360 camera

And here are some of the resulting images.

You can see more of my 360 images on the wonderful Kuula website.

The Samsung gear 360 is compatible with the Galaxy S7 edge, Galaxy S7, Galaxy Note5, Galaxy S6 edge+ and Galaxy S6 smart devices. You can however use it without a smartphone.

Every six months, I put together a series of still images to make a "stop motion" type movie using the free and very capable Microsoft Movie Maker programme. Here is the latest version.

That's the beauty of photography. There's always something new and exciting to discover. Whether it's a new camera or lens or even just a reworking of an old technique. Our hobby / Passion is always well fed.

Thanks for reading.

*f.o.v field of view