Posted in Photo Gear, Photography Contests, tagged canada, ontario, photo contest, photography, photography contests, photography students, sigma lenses, sigma scholarship contest on January 31, 2013 |
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Wetland on Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada
Sigma Canada has launched the Sigma Scholarship Contest which is offering full-time photography students using Sigma lenses, a chance to win a grand prize of $3,000 towards their tuition in an accredited Canadian university or college. There will be three regional grand prizes awarded and three second prizes of $1000 photo gear packages from Gentec International. Contest submissions will be accepted until April 30, 2013. To view the complete contest details and to fill out an online application form click here or click on the ‘Sigma Scholarship Contest’ logo that I have placed in the sidebar of this blog for your convenience. Do pass the info along to anyone you may know who is enrolled in a full-time photography course who shoots with Sigma lenses.
Sigma has been producing high quality lenses for many years. One of my personal favorite lenses is the Sigma 8-16mm F4.5-5.6 DC HSM lens
I love the extreme wide angle views that can be created with this lens and the quality of the images produced with this lens are superb. Each of the photos in this post were created using the Sigma 8-16mm lens on a Nikon D800 set to the DX crop mode, as this lens is designed for use on cameras with APS-C size sensors.
Lower Rosseau Falls on the Rosseau River, Ontario, Canada
Wetland at dusk on Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada
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Posted in Photo Gear, Reviews, tagged camera bags, expedition 8x photo laptop backpack, gear reviews, gentec international, landscape photography, nature photography, photography, tamrac on December 17, 2012 |
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Tamrac Expedition 8x Photo / Laptop Backpack
I tend to shy away from using backpacks to carry my photo gear into the field due to problems with my lower back. With my persistent back trouble I often prefer to go with a lighter type of carrying system such as the Tamrac Pro Digital Zoom 10 and the Modular Accessory System (M.A.S.). However, there are times when carrying a backpack into the field just makes more sense. On longer forays into the wilderness I like to have a good selection of gear with me so that I am prepared for pretty much anything I may find along the way. There is nothing worse than encountering that once in a lifetime opportunity and not having the gear at hand to get the job done.
For several years my standard photo backpack was a Lowepro Photo Trekker. This pack served me well until one day while photographing at the Torrance Barrens near Gravenhurst, Ontario when I lifted the pack and the zippered failed sending all my gear crashing onto the granite bedrock at this location. I contacted Lowepro about the failure of the zipper and they immediately replaced my Photo Trekker with a more durable Pro Trekker AW II. This is a great pack with lots of storage capabilities, but I disliked carrying it on long hikes as it seemed heavy and I found my shoulders bothered me by the end of the day.
Since becoming sponsored by Tamrac Canada and Gentec International, the distributor of Tamrac products in Canada, I have had the opportunity to use the Tamrac Expedition 8x Photo / Laptop Backpack. I can honestly say that I love the pack. It is very comfortable to wear on extended hikes and offers a great deal of storage capabilities for camera gear and other miscellaneous items that you may wish to carry into the field. One of the reasons I find this pack so comfortable is right from the get go this pack is much lighter than my Lowepro Pro Trekker AW II. I did not realize this until I picked up the old Lowepro pack the other day and thought that it seemed very heavy, even though the pack was empty. I decided to weigh the bags when they were empty and could not believe that the Tamrac Expedition 8x Photo / Laptop Backpack only weighed a touch over 7lbs. while the Lowepro Pro Trekker was weighing in at a hefty 11.5 pounds. Wow, a 5lb. plus difference when empty. That alone is a huge relief while heading down the trail with your assortment of camera gear.
Aside from carrying the pack on longer hikes where I want to have my full compliment of camera gear and accessories at the ready, I also prefer to use backpacks during winter excursions and situations where I may be working from the car. I can easily lay the pack in the back of my Subaru and have easy access to all my gear as I need to. And during winter excursions I simply find it easier to work from backpacks as I can lay them on the snow and access my gear while using the main flap to shield my gear when changing lenses or attaching filters, especially if it may be snowing at the time.
What exactly does the Tamrac Expedition 8x feature:
- two winged accessory pockets featuring Tamrac’s patented Memory and Battery Management System.
- the inside of the front flap contains three, zippered, Windowpane Mesh pockets for various accessories.
- adjustable foam padded dividers to custom fit all of your photo gear.
- LockDown Rain Flap on the main zippered to help protect your gear during inclement weather.
- BioCurve Dual Pivoting waist belt for greater comfort.
- Dual-Foam Comfort Pads for your back with Air Flow Channels to help keep your back cool and dry.
- Quick Clip Tripod attachment system, although I never carry my tripod on the pack I will often use the tripod foot pocket to carry additional items.
- a foam padded front pocket to carry 17 inch laptops – I will often use this pocket to carry my home-made reflectors and diffusers.
- fully compatible with Tamrac’s Modular Accessory System (M.A.S.) and the Strap Accessory System ( S.A.S.) allowing you to further customize the pack to your individual needs.
- easily carries two or three camera bodies and a complete assortment of lenses.
In the two additional images of the Tamrac Expedition 8x Photo / Laptop Backpack below you will see the thick padding that rests against your back while carrying the pack and the air-flow channels. You will also note the weather resistant zippers that protect items stored in the laptop pocket as well as items stashed in the two zippered wing pockets.
Tamrac Expedition 8x – the rearview (check out all the padding)
Tamrac Expedition 8x – weather resistant zippers
I can honestly say that the Tamrac Expedition 8x Photo / Laptop Backpack is a joy to carry in the field, even with my persistent back problems, and it offers me all the storage possibilities that I need when I am about to hit the trail for an extended day of photographing our natural world. It is absolutely the most comfortable, well thought-out and designed backpack camera bag I have ever used to carry my assortment of photography gear. If by chance you are sitting on the fence about whether to purchase a backpack camera bag or are looking for a replacement bag I would seriously consider the Tamrac Expedition 8x Photo / Laptop Backpack. It is a lightweight pack made of extremely durable fabrics, designed to protect your camera gear from the elements. If you are worried that the Expedition 8x may be too much pack for you, please view the complete assortment of Expedition series of backpacks available here.
Please remember to click on each of the photos to view a larger sharper version.
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Posted in Landscapes, Photo Gear, Wildlife, tagged gentec international, landscape, m.a.s. system, photography, tamrac, tamrac pro digital zoom 10, wildlife on August 15, 2012 |
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Tamrac Pro Digital Zoom 10
During the last few months I have been using Tamrac’s M.A.S. System (Modular Accessory System) and the Pro Digital Zoom 10 to carry my equipment during photo excursions. The folks that have been following my blog for a while may recall last September I wrote about a mishap I encountered with one of my old Lowepro Street and Field lens cases. For those of you who have recently began to follow my blog here is the short version – while jumping down from a log beside a beaver pond, the velcro fastening system on the Lowepro lens case failed and the case went for a swim in the pond with my Nikon 12-24mm lens inside. I quickly went for a swim in the pond to rescue the lens before it suffered any damage resulting from the dunking.
Fast-forward to this year when the opportunity to become sponsored by Tamrac was presented to me by Gentec International, the supplier to Tamrac products in Canada, I was very eager to try out their M.A.S. System, which stands for Modular Accessory System and their Pro Digital Zoom 10 pack. When the packs arrived I was immediately impressed with the high quality fabric used in their construction. This fabric is called ‘ballistic nylon,’ which is a thick, tough, synthetic nylon material that is very durable. All the zippers have large pull tabs that make opening the packs and lens cases a breeze. I have also noted as I canoe throughout wetlands, when I inadvertently splash water over the packs that the water actually beads on the fabric.
What I love most about modular systems, aside from being able to customize them to your individual needs, is the ability to simply meander about in the field, knowing that everything I need is with me when photographic opportunities are presented. There is no searching for the pack you left laying on the ground while you wandered about or worse, hoping you have time to run back and grab that one piece of gear you need to photograph that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you have been dreaming of. This type of carrying system is also very friendly towards by frequent back problems.
Here is what I love about the Pro Digital Zoom 10 Pack:
- large flap on top of the pack provides excellent protection from the elements, although not being used to such an extra large flap did take some getting used too but the extra protection this provides my gear in the field is paramount.
- inside the large flap is a zippered pocket that I often carry my most frequently used filter – a polarizing filter.
- easily holds my Nikon D800 with the Nikon 80-400mm VR lens attached.
- I can carry the pack as a shoulder bag or use the built in belt loop to attach the pack to the M.A.S belt.
- it is compatible with the M.A.S. system allowing me the convenience of changing the accessory packs around to suit the photographic needs day. In the above photo I have fitted the Pro Digital Zoom 10 with the Lens Case Pro 200 and the Lens Case Pro 50. In the Pro 200 case I have housed two small lenses, a 12-24mm and a 18-70mm lens (separated by a piece of foam padding) and in the Pro 50 case I have housed my 105mm micro lens.
- a large front pocket to house additional items such as cable release, double bubble level, spare battery, and compact flash cards. Note the batteries and flash cards can be stored in Tamrac’s ‘Battery Management System‘ that is also found inside the large front pocket, however, I do prefer to carry my compact flash cards in water tight protective cases.
My personal M.A.S. set-up
In the above photograph (click on the photo to see a larger version that also shows the weeds and clover growing in my lawn ) is my personal set-up of M.A.S. packs attached to the accessory belt. On longer hikes I will often remove the lens cases from the Pro Digital Zoom 10 and fasten them to this belt. The image above shows the two medium sized Backpack Side Pockets, the Lens Case Pro 100, and the Filter Belt Pack. Here is what goes in these packs:
- the first Backpack Side Pocket houses my Wimberely Macro Bracket-single arm set-up and my Nikon SB400 Speedlight that I frequently use for my frog photography.
- the Lens Case Pro 100 will often house an additional lens or other small accessories that I may carry into the field. This all depends on the needs of the day.
- the second Backpack Side Pocket contains my Better Beamer Flash Extender and my SB600 Speedlight or alternately I will use this pack for my graduated neutral density filters.
- the Filter Belt Pack is used for various filters such as my 3 & 10 stop Neutral Density filters, Canon 500D close-up filter, and my Singh Ray Warming Polarizing Filter
One small detail of the M.A.S. system that has impressed me most of all is the method by which they are attached to the accessory belt or the Pro Digital Zoom 10 pack – velcro and snaps. Velcro is often the main choice of camera bag manufactures to fasten such accessory items to the main packs, however, Tamrac have taken the time to add durable metal snaps (see the image below) for added security to ensure the accessories do not fall off. I most often find that velcro tends to lose its effectiveness over time but with these metal snaps I feel very confident that the next time I jump over a log alongside a beaver pond I will not be going for an unanticipated swim to retrieve any lens cases from the pond.
Velcro and metal snap buttons found on M.A.S. system accessories
If you are in need of a new modular carrying system for your photographic forays check out the various accessories that are available for the Tamrac M.A.S. system to see if there is a selection of packs and cases available to suit your individual photographic needs.
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Posted in Frogs and Toads, Photo Gear, tagged canon 500d close-up lens, frogs, green frogs, nature photography, ontario, photography, stock photography, tiny marsh, wetlands on June 28, 2012 |
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On a recent early morning trip to Ontario’s Tiny Marsh Provincial Wildlife Area for some sunrise photography (more on that shortly), I also made my way over to the boardwalk trail for some frog photography. I was hoping for lots of Leopard Frogs but none were to be found, however, there were many Green Frogs. The wetland surrounding the boardwalk at Tiny Marsh has lots of duckweed growing in the water now and this makes for some lovely images of frogs, as they poke their heads above the water’s surface.
The Green Frog in this post was located rather close to the edge of the boardwalk and very cooperative too. The problem here was that the light was too dark to handhold my Nikon 105mm Micro lens, at the desired aperture of f-16, for a decent image and using my trusty Nikon SB400 Speedlight was ruining this scene as it was creating numerous unpleasant highlights throughout the duckweed. The solution to photographing this frog was to use my tripod mounted Nikon 80-400mm VR lens, but the minimum focusing distance of this lens is roughly 7 feet and this frog was only about 2 inches in length – how would I do that? Well this is where I have to breakdown and admit that I was forced to make a switch to Canon A Canon 500D Close-up lens to be exact. This close-up lens, with 77mm threads, is essentially a double element filter that simply screws onto the front of the lens as any filter would normally do, but it reduces the focusing distance of the lens drastically, allowing the 80-400mm VR lens to be used as a macro lens whenever I need it to, at a fraction of the weight and price of carrying an additional lens into the field. A polarizing filter was also attached to the front of the Canon close-up filter to reduce much of the undesirable glare from the duckweed.
Alternately, as I sit here writing this blog post I am charging the battery for my newly purchased Nikon D800. If I had this camera in my hands last week when I visited Tiny Marsh, I most likely would have cranked up the ISO and fired away with the handheld 105mm micro lens. Ain’t technology grand
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Posted in Frogs and Toads, Macro Photography, Photo Gear, tagged flash brackets, flash photography, frogs, gray treefrogs, macro flash brackets, nature photography, ontario, photography, wimberley, wimberley macro flash bracket on May 27, 2012 |
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Wimberley Macro Flash Bracket – Single-Arm Set-up
For many years I have relied on a home-made flash bracket for photographing frogs and toads and butterflies. This bracket was constructed from aluminum strapping purchased at a local hardware store. The design was quite simple and the bracket was easily made. In fact, I simply followed John Shaw’s instructions on how to make such a bracket in “The Nature Photographer’s Complete Guide to Professional Field Techniques” that was first published in 1984. This home-made bracket has served me well over the years and certainly allowed me to capture many of my most cherished frog images, however, this bracket also had its share of issues. I often found it awkward to carry in the field as it would not store easily in my gear bag, the weight of the flash would cause the bracket to sway, and I disliked having to hold it during long hikes. Enter the Wimberley Macro Flash Bracket – Single-Arm Set-up, which is by far the best design and the most user friendly macro flash bracket on the market today. A couple of months ago Wimberley was kind enough to supply me with a Macro Flash Bracket – Single-Arm Set-up for my frog and toad photography this season. I have given this flash bracket a thorough workout and can honestly not find a single issue with it or its design. One of the things I like best about this bracket is that it will fold down to a small enough size that I can fit it into my back pocket or a jacket pocket for carrying convenience, I can position the flash in any direction I wish thanks to the multi-jointed design, and once the locking knobs are tightened the bracket is rock solid.
What I like most of all about this flash bracket is the multi-jointed design that literally allows you to position the flash in any position desired to obtain optimal light on the subject. I find it particularly useful for capturing Gray’s Treefrogs chorusing from tree branches over-hanging the breeding pools or hiding under small over-hangs at the pond’s edge.. I can simply position the flash around any branches or up under the over-hang that may be in the way to get the flash where I need it to be for the image, with my home-made bracket and many other commercially available brackets this is not possible, and if your bracket should by chance bump the branch that the frog is sitting on you have just lost your shot. In the above image you will see the Wimberley Macro Flash Bracket – Single-Arm Set-up as I use it with the M-8 Perpendicular Plate attached. The M-8 Perpendicular Plate will allow you to position the flash bracket a little further out and make the bracket more user friendly than it already is and it will allow you to add a second Single-Arm Set-up for a dual macro flash system if you prefer to use two flashes for your macro work. Check out the pdf instructions for the Macro Flash Bracket here. If you are looking for a high quality macro flash bracket that is solid, offers superior functionality, user friendly, and folds easily for storage and carrying in the field I highly recommend that you take a close look at the Wimberley Macro Flash Bracket – Single-Arm Set-up…I think you will be glad that you did.
In the image below you will see how I use the system when it is attached to the camera. I have used an old Nikon D70 for illustration purposes. Do note that I will often change the position of the flash as each situation may require something a little different. The flash that I most often use is the Nikon SB400, although I will sometimes use a much heavier Nikon SB600. Even with the larger heavier flash attached this bracket is rock solid.
My typical set-up for photographing frogs & toads
And the next image is the home-made bracket that I used for a number of years, but will most likely never use again. The Wimberley Macro Flash Bracket – Single-Arm Set-up will now be my go to bracket for all of my macro flash photo needs. It is quite simply the best bracket to use for my macro photography needs.
Home-made Flash Bracket
Below you will see a few recent Gray Treefrog images that I photographed during the Canada’s Victoria Day weekend while I was up in the Parry Sound region of Ontario. The Wimberley Macro Flash Bracket – Single-Arm Set-up made shooting these images very easy, as I was able to position the flash around some small branches to illuminate the frog as it inflated it’s vocal sac while chorusing above the pond, and for the last image I was able to get the flash to light up the area under a small over-hang where this male was calling.
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Tamrac Adventure 7
Recently I became sponsored by Tamrac Canada and am pleased to be associated with their high quality, durable camera carrying systems. Long before I became sponsored by Tamrac I purchased one of their Adventure 7 backpacks, mostly for use on family vacations to the Caribbean where I would want to take more than just my photography gear as carry-on baggage. The Adventure 7 was a perfect fit for this need as it is uniquely design with two compartments; an upper section and a lower section. The lower section is for camera gear and will allow for two or three lenses and a camera body, while the upper section can be used for storing various items that you may wish to carry with you in the field and the upper section also has a small mesh pocket inside. I have found the upper section most useful for storing lunches / snacks, light weight jackets, hats, sunscreen and even diapers, when my daughter was of a much younger age. You will also find a large front pocket on the pack and two side mesh pockets. The harness system for carrying this backpack is comfortable, making the pack a joy to take on long excursions into the field where traveling lightly can often be a priority.
What really attracted me to this pack in the first place was the rugged materials used in its construction ( my pack in the above photo is several years old and is still in great shape) and that it does not really resemble a traditional camera bag, which is a good thing when traveling to some foreign countries where crime can be of concern for photo enthusiasts. The Adventure 7 is a very well made pack with several nice features. The zippers have large pull tabs making them easy to open. A large weather flap provides additional protection around the zipper for the lower camera compartment and the large front pocket on the lower section will allow you to carry some filters, a cable release and Tamrac’s patented Memory and Battery Management System can also be found within this pocket.
Since I do enjoy hiking as lightly as possible, I now use this pack for much more than a family vacation to the sunny south. Often I will pack my Adventure 7 with my 18-70mm lens, 80-400mm lens and Nikon D200 for a long hike near my home. A polarizing filter, a couple of graduated neutral density filters and cable release go into the front pocket. A bottle of water goes into one of the side mesh pockets and in the upper compartment I store the lens hood for my 80-400mm lens and any other items that may be required depending on the type of excursion I have planned. My asthma inhaler is kept readily accessible in the small mesh pocket found inside this upper compartment as well. Being able to hike in comfort will improve your photo excursions immensely, I have found in the past that becoming bogged down with gear that is less than user friendly produces very poor results.
The Tamrac Adventure Series Backpacks currently come in four sizes to suit your individual needs. The two largest packs the Adventure 9 & 10 will also allow you to carry a laptop into the field and additional lenses. Having used the Adventure 7 pack for a number of years I can honestly recommend it as a versatile pack that is superbly designed to meet the needs of most photographers.
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Wimberley P-5 Universal Camera Body Plate
Most serious nature photographers know the benefits of having a quick release system for attaching their cameras and lenses to their tripods swiftly, to react to the fleeting moments that may occur. The Arca-Swiss style of plates and clamps is often the system chosen. If you are not using the Arca-Swiss style, I highly recommend you consider making the switch. In my e-book ‘A Photographer’s Guide to the Ontario Landscape’, the first-ever comprehensive guide to photographing Ontario, I briefly discuss the Arca-Swiss style quick release system as being standard gear for most serious nature photographers. Aside from being a guide to the Ontario landscape the e-book is full of tips to help you capture the best possible landscape images, wherever you live. For many years, I have faithfully used an ‘L’ bracket on my camera. ‘L’ brackets allow photographers to fasten their camera bodies onto their tripod heads in both vertical and horizontal orientations to minimize the need to recompose when photographing a scene in either of the two orientations. They are quite useful and beneficial, however, that also comes with a price. They are more expensive and much heavier than a camera body plate.
For the last two months or so I have been using a Wimberley P-5 Universal Camera Body Plate on my camera instead of the ‘L’ bracket and I can honestly say that I love it. It is light weight, at only 40.8 grams, while my ‘L’ bracket is a heavy weight at 139 grams. The P-5 plate is also one third the cost of what I paid for my ‘L’ bracket. The Wimberley P-5 plate comes with dual safety stops and is designed in such a way that it will prevent the camera body and plate from twisting. In the above photo you will see that there is thin layer of dense rubber to grip the base of the camera body, and the plate itself has been machined so that frictional force is applied on the outer portions of the plate when the plate is fastened to the camera body. This simple design prevents any twisting. Custom pates from other manufacturers do not use the textured rubber, but rather a beveled edge that prevents any twisting, however, this beveled edge is machined to fit each specific model of camera for which you have purchased the plate for. What will you do with these custom plates when you upgrade your camera bodies. With the Wimberley P-5, you simply remove it from your old camera body and fasten it to your new camera body and you are ready to go at no further expense. Click here and then on the video link for more information about safety stops and to find out more about the Wimberley P-5 Universal Camera Body Plate and click here for Wimberley’s PDF product instructions on the P-5 Universal Camera Body Plate.
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