Photo Backup Strategy While Travelling

Hi there pho­tog­ra­phy lovers!

It’s been a while since my last post and pod­cast and  I hope to make up for it– shortly.
I’m lucky enough to be trav­el­ling on a pho­tog­ra­phy hol­i­day right now (I’m in Prague, CZ) and because this is a photo hol­i­day, the pho­tographs I am tak­ing are pre­cious and irre­place­able. I’d like to think that most seri­ous pho­tog­ra­phers feel the same way and so I thought I’d share my photo backup strat­egy while trav­el­ling. 

Bubbles, Kids and the Tyn Church - Prague CZ

Bub­bles, Kids and the Tyn Church — Prague CZ

Let me say up front that I am not upload­ing my RAW files to ‘the cloud’ — because upload­ing huge files (30 megs per file in my case) only works well when you have a super fast con­nec­tion and a fast com­puter. Even then, it can take a looooong time to upload 50–100 files. So far I have been to Lon­don, Paris, Ams­ter­dam and Prague. The wifi con­nec­tions, on aver­age, have been spotty every­where I have been. (I’ve been using qual­ity airbnb’s but so far my wifi has never ever been flaw­less). There­fore, upload­ing is out of the ques­tion and I’m basi­cally going old school.

Here’s my sim­ple method; The mem­ory cards that hold the files (I brought 4 cards of 32 GB each) NEVER leave my sight. They are with me 100% of the time and eas­ily fit into my pocket at all times when not inside my cam­era at my side. When my cam­era is not by my side, the cards are removed and go in my pocket.

In addi­tion, I backup those files to a small portable West­ern Dig­i­tal 2GB drive that I pur­chased for 79 dol­lars before I left. It’s around the size of a pack of 25 cig­a­rettes. Then I usu­ally hide that drive some­where in the room I’m stay­ing. This method is quite fast and effi­cient and it makes me feel safe. There would have to be 2 cat­a­stro­phes for me to lose my data.

One last thing to note — You need a decent lap­top com­puter to do this kind of thing. Tablets and Ipads are pure JUNK for photo editing.

If any­one has addi­tional sug­ges­tions to share — I’d love to hear them. Thanks and many more pics to fol­low when I return.

Wounded The Legacy of War — Q&A with Bryan Adams

I saw some new pho­tog­ra­phy work by Bryan Adams a short time ago ago where he pho­tographed wounded sol­diers. The images of wounded sol­diers were stark and I wanted to ask Bryan a few ques­tions about the new work. What fol­lows is a quick Q&A about Bryan’s new work called Wounded: The Legacy of War.

Wounded - Karl Hinett © Bryan Adams

Wounded — Karl Hinett © Bryan Adams


Wounded: The Legacy of War — Q&A with Bryan Adams - I’ve been fol­low­ing your pho­tog­ra­phy for a while and this lat­est work is the ‘rawest’ work of yours I’ve seen thus far. Can I ask what drew you to this sub­ject matter?

ba: I felt com­pelled to do some­thing for these guys as I was never happy that we went to war in the Mid­dle East. I was for­tu­nate to have meet a jour­nal­ist called Car­o­line Frog­gatt who wanted to do some­thing and she was acquainted with some of the sol­diers already, so the project started from that. - Why pho­to­graph wounded soldiers?

ba: I want to cre­ate pho­tos of the time and doc­u­ment as many peo­ple as I could that had incurred these severe war injuries in order to raise aware­ness to their plight and also show peo­ple a side of the hor­ror of war that is often con­cealed from every­day media. The long term idea was that per­haps it could maybe be an exhi­bi­tion or maybe even a book down the road. All of that hap­pened thank­fully in part to my pub­lisher Steidl who saw the beauty in the pho­tos and agreed to make the “Wounded — The Legacy of War” book with me. It’s now its tour­ing the world as an exhibition.

Wounded Mark Ormrod © Bryan Adams

Wounded Mark Orm­rod © Bryan Adams –How long did you pho­to­graph each veteran?

ba: For an hour at the most, then we would sit and have a chat and film that, I’ve not even looked at the inter­view footage, it’s just archived. Some­times these guys would stay over at my house as they had come great dis­tances from the North of Eng­land and even Scot­land to be involved and it was too much to travel there and back in a day. - How long did this project take from start to fin­ish and where were the pho­tographs taken?

ba: sched­ules were always being sorted out, I sup­pose the whole thing took nearly 5 years, it was very on and off. Ini­tially it wasn’t easy to find sub­jects that would agree to being pho­tographed, but once a few sub­jects had agreed and par­tic­i­pated, rec­om­mend­ing their friends became nor­mal and the word got out. - All of the pho­tographs that I’ve seen from this series high­light the vet­er­ans’ wounds, ver­sus play­ing them down through pos­ing tech­niques as other pho­tog­ra­phers have often done. Was the pos­ing of the sub­jects a col­lab­o­ra­tive process or solely under your direction?

ba: it was all ulti­mately under my direc­tion, how­ever they were wel­come to show as much as they liked and I always hoped they would show as much as possible.

I would show them what I had done with other sol­diers, and usu­ally once they saw what was going on, the shirts would come off and the wounds became very apparent.

Wounded Rory Mackenzie © Bryan Adams

Wounded Rory Macken­zie © Bryan Adams - Did some vet­er­ans have trou­ble expos­ing their wounds so boldly?

ba: Only one as I can remem­ber who didn’t want to take off his pros­thetic limb. I never asked why. - Was it an emotional/cathartic process for some veterans?

ba: I think they were curi­ous that some­one like me was doing some­thing like this, but I’ve had a lot of pos­i­tive con­ver­sa­tions with them since and the reac­tions have been incred­i­ble. Too many to men­tion here.

Mostly to do with see­ing them­selves as a vehi­cle to help other peo­ple, the unselfish­ness was hum­bling, let me tell you.

Wounded Rick Clement © Bryan Adams

Wounded Rick Clement © Bryan Adams - Our read­ers will want to know - Can you describe the cam­era gear and the light­ing gear you used to cre­ate these photographs?

ba: It’s all shot in my day­light stu­dio using nat­ural light which I would drape off to cre­ate the amount of light for each guy. Occa­sion­ally if the stu­dio got too dark in the late after­noon, I would bounce a light into the wall to give me a stop or two and mix it with the day­light. There was never a direct source of light it was always dif­fused. I used a Mamiya RZ cam­era with a Phase One back. - Given that the legacy of war will con­tinue, and there will be no short­age of future wounded vet­er­ans, will you be adding to this body of work, or is this a closed project?

ba: it’s closed for now, espe­cially now that the book is done. - What addi­tional pho­tog­ra­phy projects are on the horizon?

ba: another book of sub­jects I’ve worked with is being planned, but it may be another year before it’s ready.


I’d like to thank Bryan Adams for tak­ing the time to answer this Q&A.
30 images of Bryan’s new work are on exhibit at Som­er­set House from 12th Novem­ber 2014 – 25th Jan­u­ary 2015. The pho­tog­ra­phy book Wounded: The Legacy of War, Pho­tog­ra­phy by Bryan Adams, Edited by Car­o­line Frog­gatt is avail­able here.

Fuji X-T1 — A Fine Camera for Almost Everything

Thanks to our part­ner­ship with The Cam­era Store (The largest cam­era store in Cal­gary Alberta Canada), I recently tested The Fuji X-T1 w/the Fuji XF 18-135mm f/3.5–5.6 lens. The Fuji X-T1 is a solid, retro-looking mir­ror­less cam­era that I’ve been want­ing to test for a few months as it has been get­ting seri­ously good reviews and some pros have even touted it as a DSLR killer. Although I love my DSLR (Nikon D800E replaced by the D810), it’s heavy and a pain to carry around for hours and hours at a time. I’m always inter­ested to test smaller cam­eras that can give my DSLR a good fight for its money in the hopes that one day I can just bury the DSLR beast.

Fuji X-T1

Fuji X-T1


For those that want the con­clu­sion at the begin­ning, I really liked the Fuji– XT1 and I’ll talk about why in a few para­graphs, but let’s get that DSLR killer thing out of the way.

Straight off the bat this is one of the best mir­ror­less or point and shoot dig­i­tal cam­eras I have tested. It goes head to head to with my DSLR on many lev­els. That said, it can­not kill my DSLR or even lower priced DSLRs built in the past cou­ple of years because it can’t track and cap­ture mov­ing sub­jects with the same ease. I’m NOT a sports pho­tog­ra­pher but I reg­u­larly want to shoot a bird, squir­rel, fast mov­ing dog, or run­ning baby. For me, a DSLR killer must be able to track and cap­ture a mov­ing sub­ject with the same ease and effi­cacy (and ratio of keep­ers) as a DSLR. The X-T1 can­not eas­ily do this and admits to being unable to do this on page 68 of the man­ual. It’s the one big thing that’s miss­ing for me in this (and every other mir­ror­less or point and shoot on the mar­ket today) cam­era. It does a bet­ter job at this task than all the other mir­ror­less or point and shoot cam­eras I’ve tried, but DSLRs cost­ing the same or less money as this cam­era will get you sharper results with greater ease. If you accept this lim­i­ta­tion and you have the bud­get for it ($2100. for the cam­era and lens) it’s the best non-DSLR cam­era that I’ve tried.

Here’s a check­list of the main things I really liked about the Fuji X-T1

1 — Solid feel and size — The Fuji  X-T1 is a solid feel­ing metal cam­era and I like that. I’m sick of pla­s­ticky feel­ing devices. This cam­era is VERY rem­i­nis­cent of my old Nikon FM2 film cam­era in terms of shape, size and weight. One of the main advan­tages of this cam­era is that it is much smaller and weighs less than most DSLRs. The FUJI X-T1 weighs 440 grams with the cam­era and card. My D800E with bat­tery and card weighs more than dou­ble (994 grams)!

Comparison between the new Fuji XT-1 and the 30ish year old Nikon F3. Hat tip and © Wendy Kennedy for this image.

Size com­par­i­son between the new Fuji XT-1 and a 30ish year old Nikon F3. Hat tip and © Wendy Kennedy for this image.


2 — Over­all sharp­ness — Aside from sharp­ness on fast mov­ing sub­jects, you will love the sharp­ness of this camera!

The XT-1 gives you lovely natural colours. Images are sharp straight out of the camera.

The XT-1 gives you lovely nat­ural colours. Images are sharp straight out of the cam­era. Exif — ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/100. Note:  I did NOT try to get the birds sharp in this image, I was fram­ing the peo­ple on the bench and the mov­ing birds were a happy coincidence.


3 — Auto­matic elec­tronic viewfinder  - You can frame your scene by look­ing at the back of the LCD screen or through the viewfinder. The cam­era ‘knows’ when you bring the viewfinder to your eye and all inte­rior con­trols become instantly vis­i­ble — It’s very cool.

4 — Hori­zon line — This appears auto­mat­i­cally in order to let you know if your cam­era is par­al­lel to the sub­ject for dis­tor­tion free images. I really like this but you can shut it off if you don’t.

5 — Shoots in RAW for­mat, Jpeg and RAW/Jpeg

6 — Although I already ragged on the aut­o­fo­cus being infe­rior for mov­ing sub­jects when com­pared to a DSLR, it does a bet­ter job than all other non-DSLR cam­era that I’ve tried. In addi­tion it has focus points that you can move around your screen fairly eas­ily to allow the aut­o­fo­cus to focus where you want. I use these focus points all the time when I’m fram­ing a scene.

In order to assure sharp eyes (or sharp anything) I am always moving the auto-focusing square to exactly where I want the most sharpness to be. In this case, I moved it right over my boy Baci's eye. The Fuji XT-1 does a decent job at this! (Not as good as most DSRs mind you, but MUCH better than most mirrorless/point and shoot cameras I've tried). As an aside, this was a relatively low light shot with EXIF data at ISO 6400, f/4.7 at 1/80.

In order to assure sharp eyes (or sharp any­thing) I am always mov­ing the auto-focusing square to exactly where I want the most sharp­ness to be. In this case, I moved it right over my boy Baci’s eye. The Fuji X-T1 does a decent job at this! (Not as fluid as most DSRs mind you, but MUCH bet­ter than most mirrorless/point and shoot cam­eras I’ve tried).
As an aside, this was a rel­a­tively low light shot with EXIF data at ISO 6400, f/4.7 at 1/80.


7  - Low light shoot­ing. This cam­era does a killer-good job in low light!  It’s a low light maven! This image below was shot/pushed at ISO 12800. I never shoot at this ISO because nor­mally you get tons of noise (pixelization/grain) at this speed. But look how accept­able this image is! I have even included a 100% crop of a por­tion of the image with shadow detail as noise is most vis­i­ble in the shad­ows. Yes there is noise in those shad­ows but it’s accept­able noise, it’s not a hail­storm. Most mirrorless/point and shoot cam­eras (and most DSLRs) on the mar­ket today are infe­rior to the Fuji X-T1 with regard to their low-light and low-noise performance.

This image was shot at f/3.5 at 1/110 at ISO 12800! Look how acceptable the noise level is.

This image was shot at f/3.5 at 1/110 at ISO 12800! Look how accept­able the noise level is.

Here’s a 100% crop from the same image.

Noise is its nastiest in the shadows but look at how well the noise is handled at ISO 12800 - Very, very impressive!

Noise is its nas­ti­est in the shad­ows but look at how well the noise is han­dled at ISO 12800 — Very, very impressive!

X-T1 Gripes

As hinted at pre­vi­ously, my main gripe with the X-T1 (and every other point and shoot/mirrorless cam­era that I’ve tried) is that it can­not aut­o­fo­cus fast enough to cap­ture fast mov­ing objects as sharp as I like them. Here is a shot of a squir­rel. I admit it’s very good for cam­eras in its class but my DSLR and most oth­ers I’ve tried does better.

This is a 100% crop detail of a squirrel. I focused on the eye for about 15 images and the eye is good but it is not tack sharp. My DSLR has a much better ratio of keepers for difficult shots like these. EXIF data was ISO 800 f/5.6 1/850

A 100% crop detail of a squir­rel. I focused on the eye for about 15 images and the eye in this image is good but it is not tack sharp. My DSLR has a much bet­ter ratio of keep­ers for dif­fi­cult shots like these. EXIF data was ISO 800, f/5.6 @ 1/850


The main other gripe would be the price as $2100. for a mir­ror­less cam­era and lens is quite a chunk of change when DSLRs with lenses can be had for many hun­dreds of dol­lars less. That said, we should be used to pay­ing more for devices that are phys­i­cally smaller; it’s the trend across so many con­sumer prod­ucts. To tem­per the price blow a bit, this cam­era is very ver­sa­tile and can accom­mo­date many dif­fer­ent lenses of vary­ing focal lengths. It’s solidly built and it seems like it will last.

In con­clu­sion, if you have the bud­get for this cam­era you will love its size, shape, feel and its weight. The qual­ity and sharp­ness of the files are superb and as long as you don’t expect tack sharp eyes from mov­ing sub­jects, you will love this cam­era. To date, it’s the best non DSLR cam­era I’ve tried.

Photography forum image of the month — July 2014

Hi Photo lovers!

Every month on our pho­tog­ra­phy forum mem­bers nom­i­nate images that they like. Then at the end of the month I choose an excel­lent image and talk about why it rocks. The photo I choose is not nec­es­sar­ily the best one of the month. I’ve come to real­ize it’s not really log­i­cal to pit images from totally dif­fer­ent gen­res against each other. That’s why there are cat­e­gories in photo con­tests. I just choose a photo that has extremely strong ele­ments that we can learn from.

This month’s choice goes to Lizardqing for cap­tur­ing Sun­set on the Blue Ridge Parkway

I chose this image for sev­eral reasons:

1. Composition/Framing — This sun­set image has many strong com­po­si­tional ele­ments going for it. The lay­ing of the fore­ground trees, midground hills and back­ground clouds/sky and sun works really well for me. My eye really enjoys the lines and curves in the moun­tains and hills. There are also no major dis­trac­tions on the edges in this scene for me. My eye goes straight to the sun, then straight below it to the midground sun patch, and then it explores the rest of the pho­to­graph with delight.

2 . Exposure/lighting — The light is just plain lovely here due to the par­tial cloud cover. That said, shoot­ing into the sun is often chal­leng­ing and often yields under­ex­po­sure. Cor­rect­ing it often leaves lots of shadow noise but this image looks clean and the tones in the fore­ground and midground have lovely shadow detail.

3.  Colour and post pro­cess­ing — The colours are warm and bright in the sky but not too over­done. Sharp­ness works well for me and looks very natural.

For all these rea­sons, this is my choice for image of the month. Since we all have opin­ions, some mem­bers may dis­agree with my choice. That’s cool but THIS thread is not the place for debate over my pick, NOR is it the place to fur­ther cri­tique the image. The pur­pose here is to sug­gest strong ele­ments in the photo that we may learn from.

Con­grats again to Lizardqing for cap­tur­ing this fab­u­lous moment!

Photographing Strangers — Teaser (podcast to follow)

Many pho­tog­ra­phers love to pho­to­graph peo­ple in the street but they are shy to put their cam­eras in front of people’s faces to take a portrait.

For our next pod­cast I set up a pho­tog­ra­phy exper­i­ment with com­plete strangers and I’ll share it (and other tips for pho­tograph­ing com­plete strangers) with you within a week. I give tips for cases when the sub­ject is aware of you, and tips for when sub­jects are unaware that they are being photographed.

For now, if you are feel­ing brave try break­ing your com­fort level; approach com­plete strangers and pho­to­graph them. Tips and the actual pod­cast to fol­low next week.

Stranger meditating in Parc La Fontaine in Montreal, QC.

Stranger med­i­tat­ing in Parc La Fontaine in Mon­treal, QC.

A Good Day by Michael Orton

Today was one of those days.  After 35 years of car­ry­ing a cam­era I con­sider myself for­tu­nate indeed to have expe­ri­enced some of these days, when every­thing seems to align, the weather, the light, the sea­son, the loca­tion, and let’s not for­get, the pho­tog­ra­pher. After all, with­out the act of mak­ing the deci­sion to set out, noth­ing will be cre­ated. While work­ing in the stock photo busi­ness my work­flow was quite dif­fer­ent from today . My goal was to cre­ate mar­ketable con­cept images and I would research loca­tions to shoot spe­cific images. I would have to place myself in the right loca­tion, at the right time with the best light which was not always easy. Remark­ably I did have some of ” those days ” back then, but not like the ones that have occurred since I became immersed in ICM (Inten­tional Cam­era Move­ment) these last years. I have an inti­mate knowl­edge of the land­scape within a close dis­tance from home and can almost visu­al­ize before set­ting out the like­li­hood of there being the type of sub­ject mat­ter that will feed my imag­i­na­tion. And of course the more I explore the more data I have to draw from. With ICM the required “raw mate­r­ial”, unlike mak­ing a con­ven­tional pho­to­graph, is not a spe­cific object or rec­og­niz­able scene, but rather the start­ing point, like a piece of clay , shape­less until forged and formed into shape. This is the essence of work­ing in this fash­ion. It has lit­tle to do with the actual tech­nique of mov­ing the cam­era and every­thing to do with how you can imag­ine and explore that which is the start­ing point, the raw material.

Today is a late fall day. Leaves had been falling for weeks, morn­ing mists were begin­ning to appear, skies were a patchy blue. If I’m lucky this time of year lasts a few weeks. I love work­ing when there are spaces in the trees and the branches con­trast with the inter­spersed leaves. I set out to walk the edge of a river not far away. There are a vari­ety of trees, bushes and growth, with logs, large and small stones lin­ing the shore­line. (And the salmon are run­ning ) I made many more than the four images shown, but these I selected because they were made stand­ing in almost the same spot.


"A Good Day" - Image 1 by Michael Orton

A Good Day” — Image 1 by Michael Orton


Image one is the light reflected off of the leaves of a small bush , which I ren­dered into hun­dreds of shards of light with a fast cam­era move­ment and short shut­ter speed. When viewed at full size this image has remark­able com­plex­ity and blend­ing . The bush was a short dis­tance to my left.


"A Good Day" - Image 2 by Michael Orton

A Good Day” — Image 2 by Michael Orton


Image two is sim­ply fallen leaves on a spread of medium sized round stones with the sand washed from between them. They are in the shade , and the blue comes from the reflected blue of the sky. The sky had some clouds which occa­sion­ally gave me over­cast light. - 1/2 sec­ond with what I refer to as medium cam­era move­ment speed , using a some­what oblique line and chang­ing focal length dur­ing expo­sure. When I move my cam­era most often I do not swivel from a fixed point but move it in a sim­i­lar fash­ion to a movie cam­era on a track. These stones and leaves where just to my right.


"A Good Day" - Image 3 by Michael Orton

A Good Day” — Image 3 by Michael Orton


Image three is look­ing across the river . You can see the sandy embank­ment ren­dered as a soft­ened wash while the trees and their reflec­tion remain some­what rec­og­niz­able. I used an extended oval motion at 2 sec­onds to retain the ver­ti­cal lines.


"A Good Day" - Image 4 by Michael Orton

A Good Day” — Image 4 by Michael Orton


Image four is, yes wait for it, a pho­to­graph, and was taken stand­ing in exactly the same spot as # 3 . Some­times you just take what you are given and make the best of it. I took the polar­izer and ND fil­ter off, kneeled down and scooped this image from the sur­face of the river.The intri­cate, jagged lines of the reflected trees and a hint blue from the sky were to good to pass up. Hand­held at 1/125.

So yes it was a good day. One that I wish every pho­tog­ra­pher could expe­ri­ence, because when you do, it will fuel your pas­sion . This is what keeps us looking.

The video ” A Walk In The Palm Grove ” on our web­site is another good exam­ple of what can be cre­ated at one location.

There is no sub­sti­tute for see­ing… Michael

The pre­ced­ing arti­cle is copy­righted and writ­ten by Cana­dian fine art land­scape pho­tog­ra­pher Michael Orton. You can see more of his work at

The Nikon 105 with Defocus Control is Dreamy

The Nikon 105 f2.0 DC lens is one of the most inter­est­ing lenses that I’ve ever tried. I just tested one from The Cam­era Store. This lens is super-solidly con­structed, mostly of metal, and feels great both in your hand and on the cam­era. It has a built in lens hood which I found con­ve­nient but the high­light of this lens is the defo­cus con­trol which brings its cool­ness fac­tor to eleven.  What’s cool about this DC (Defo­cus Con­trol) lens, is that you can defo­cus the fore­ground or the back­ground to accen­tu­ate the bokeh (zone of blurriness/creaminess/dreaminess) in the fore­ground or the back­ground. It takes a lit­tle bit of play and the results are sub­tle, but if you are into this type of sub­tlety and you are pre­pared to pay more than a grand, you won’t be dis­ap­pointed. This lens is in a class all by itself.

Nikon AF DC105mm f/2.0 D Lens

Nikon AF DC 105mm f/2.0 D Lens


Let me say imme­di­ately that this spe­cialty lens is not for every­one. It is made in my esti­ma­tion for por­trait, land­scape or fine art pho­tog­ra­phers that love to play with selec­tive focus and who want to be in supreme con­trol of their bokeh. If this last sen­tence was con­fus­ing then you are prob­a­bly not ready for this lens. But if you already love bokeh and want to play in the bokeh-olympics, this might be the finest tool available.

But Doesn’t Nikon Have Another 105mm Lens That Also Does Macro?

Yes they do and that lens is another fab­u­lous por­trait lens that does true macro. The Nikon AF-S 105 mm F2.8 Micro is a lens that I’ve owned for a num­ber of years and it’s about 300. cheaper than the DC lens. It’s razor sharp, has Vibra­tion Reduc­tion (VR) and does true 1:1 Macro. If you like to do por­traits as well as Macro work, get this lens instead.

But if you don’t do that much Macro and want a fab­u­lously unique tool that is great for por­traits and bokeh-play, the DC may be the bet­ter choice for an expe­ri­enced pho­tog­ra­pher. The DC lens is also an f/2 lens. The f/2 is brighter in the viewfinder and always deliv­ers more bokeh than f/2.8 all things being equal.

In terms of head to head sharp­ness and aut­o­fo­cus speed, I found the aut­o­fo­cus a bit faster on the Micro (Macro — Nikon calls their Macro lenses Micro just to be spe­cial) lens and I found the sharp­ness to be a hint sharper. The 105 DC lens is also razor sharp (but has no VR) and has very fast  aut­o­fo­cus, but head to head with the 105 Micro, it loses by the small­est of mar­gins to my eye. Please be aware that I only tested this lens on 2 shoots in cold­ish Mon­treal weather which unfor­tu­nately lim­ited my play.

How does it work?

The instruc­tion leaflet that comes with the lens is near use­less. You’ll want to play with this sucker for a while. But basi­cally, to get good bokeh effects you need a large aper­ture so you’ll choose an aper­ture like f/2.0, f/2.8, f/4, or f/5.6. Once you set that aper­ture, you’ll focus on your sub­ject. Then you’ll decide if you want to defo­cus what’s in front of the sub­ject, what’s behind the sub­ject, or not defo­cus at all. The defo­cus­ing sim­ply soft­ens the back­ground or fore­ground more than it would be with other lenses. The effect is sub­tle and not every­one will even notice it espe­cially novice pho­tog­ra­phers. Per­son­ally though, I love this lens and I made a mis­take when I pur­chased the f/2.8 Macro lens. I don’t do that much macro and would have got­ten more use and joy from the bokeh play offered by this lens.

From L to R - Zero defocus, defocused foreground, defocused background - Click to enlarge

From L to R — Zero defo­cus, defo­cused fore­ground, defo­cused back­ground — Click to enlarge


The images above were shot against a giant Christ­mas tree. The mid­dle image makes the fore­ground lights around the neck have an inter­est­ing glow due to the defo­cused fore­ground, but the eyes lost sharp­ness. In gen­eral I found that defo­cus­ing the fore­ground looked weird most of the time. To my eye the nor­mal set­ting and the defo­cused back­ground set­tings are the best look­ing in this set and in gen­eral. The non defo­cused images looked superb actu­ally. But a lens like this is usu­ally bought for the abil­ity to defo­cus it.

Left image had no defocus. Middle Image had background defocused to f/4 but aperture was f/2.0. The image at right was shot with the 105 Macro lens at f/2.8 its widest aperture - Click to enlarge.

Left image had no defo­cus. Mid­dle Image had back­ground defo­cused to f/4 but aper­ture was f/2.0. The image at right was shot with the 105 Macro lens at f/2.8 its widest aper­ture — Click to enlarge.


The rea­son to get the Nikon 105mm DC lens is for the (De)focus play that it offers and nor­mally you’ll set the defo­cus to the same aper­ture you are shoot­ing on. But you don’t have to fol­low that rule and when you break it, it throws the back­ground or fore­ground into an even softer or dreamier state. In the set of images above, the left image shows beau­ti­ful f/2.0 bokeh with a very sharp head­stone and no defo­cus was used. The mid­dle image was shot at f/2.0 but the rear defo­cus was set to f/4 which thinned out the zone of sharp­ness in the fore­ground in this case and soft­ened the back­ground to an even dreamier state com­pared to the pre­vi­ous shot. For com­par­i­son pur­poses the shot at right was shot with the 105 Macro lens that has no defo­cus con­trol. It still shows excel­lent sharp­ness in the head­stone and lovely bokeh in the back­ground, but it is lim­ited to f/2.8 with­out defo­cus con­trol, and so it can’t be as dreamy as the DC 105mm.



Mount Royal Ceme­tery in Mon­treal. Rear Defo­cus used on the Nikon 105mm DC — Click to enlarge


In sum­mary, if you are just start­ing out in pho­tog­ra­phy and you want an awe­some fast por­trait lens that also offers macro, the 105mm f/2.8 with VR is prob­a­bly a bet­ter choice for you and it’s 300 dol­lars cheaper.  If you just love bokeh and exper­i­men­ta­tion and are a more expe­ri­enced pho­tog­ra­pher that rarely uses Macro, you might well want to try the Nikon 105mm f2.0 DC lens.  It’s a one of a kind lens that will retain and go up in value in the future due to its unique­ness. I plan on adding it to my arse­nal in the very near future.

Two Photo Accessories Reviewed

Hi photo lovers!

I’ve tried a cou­ple of photo acces­sories recently that I’d like to share with you because they make my life easier.

1 — The S&F deluxe tech­ni­cal belt by Lowe­pro.

Lowepro S&F deluxe technical belt

Lowe­pro S&F deluxe tech­ni­cal belt

My wife picked this up for me recently as a gift and I’m lov­ing it. As men­tioned in pre­vi­ous posts and pod­casts, I’m a big fan of lens pouches and I use them almost exclu­sively (ver­sus car­ry­ing a cam­era bag) on most per­sonal photo shoots. Usu­ally I have 3 lenses on me and 2 of them are car­ried in lens pouches. Until a few weeks ago I sim­ply clipped the pouches onto an actual belt that goes through my jeans. It works well enough but get­ting into the jean pock­ets is dif­fi­cult and my wife felt I looked all dishev­elled espe­cially if I needed to wear a jacket. She was right.

I have to say, the tech­ni­cal belt is WAY bet­ter than clip­ping the pouches to a reg­u­lar pants belt. It is so much more com­fort­able and you can see the solid back sup­port if offers, it’s a pure joy to wear. Espe­cially when going from shoot­ing to the car, the whole belt comes off in a flash with the pouches firmly secured onto them. If you do need to get into your pants pock­ets you just slide the belt around. In addi­tion, it looks and feels great when you have to wear a jacket. It might well be my favourite acces­sory of 2013. It can be pur­chased imme­di­ately at B&H in the USA or at the The Cam­era Store within about 1 week.

2 - Pho­toRe­pub­lik Twin Speedlite Holder — This acces­sory was loaned to me for review by our spon­sor The Cam­era Store and I find it to be an extremely well built acces­sory. Some of the com­mon gripes peo­ple have with flash hold­ing acces­sories are their over­all ‘dink­i­ness’  and that the actual point of con­tact between the flash and the hold­ing shoe is flimsy (read risky) and dif­fi­cult to con­trol. Good new or used flashes are at least 100–600 dol­lars, why would you want to attach it to a bracket with a flimsy flash shoe holder that looks like it costs less than a nickel. One care­less bump into the light stand can snag the bot­tom part of the flash right off.

This twin flash holder is crazy solid in all respects and oper­ates smoothly. The point of attach­ment to the flash as well as the whole unit (except the knobs which are still very solid) is made of steel and oper­ates very smoothly to attach to your flash. It feels safe and that will make you feel more secure about the setup. There’s place for an umbrella holder and it tilts from front to back for eas­ier angling of light. It’s a per­fect attach­ment for shoot­ing with an umbrella when when you need more punch than one flash can offer.

PhotoRepublik Twin Speedlite Holder

Pho­toRe­pub­lik Twin Speedlite Holder — Comes with a  threaded mount­ing screw (shown in between the 2 flash hold­ing units)



I Waited 30 Minutes in Line to See Chihuly — 6 Days Left

Dale Chi­huly is an Amer­i­can glass blow­ing artist/genius/innovator. I went to see his show at The Mon­treal Museum of Fine Arts last week and waited 30 min­utes in line because his pop­u­lar show is com­ing to an end and I’ve been busy for the last few months. The show ends offi­cially on Octo­ber 27th.


One of my great­est pet peeves on planet earth is wait­ing in line. Give me the best restau­rant in Paris, New York or Mon­treal and if I have to wait more than a few min­utes, I’d rather pick up a falafel or pizza slice and eat it on the go. Don’t get me wrong, I love good food, but my hate for line-waiting wins over nearly 100% of the time. Need­less to say, when I went to the museum last week and saw a line of about forty peo­ple I was not happy.  My wife and I sur­veyed the line. She knows me (and my bad whiny behav­ior) with lines…so she quickly told me that it was ‘my call’ and that we could leave imme­di­ately with­out con­se­quence. As we (mostly me) were mak­ing this deci­sion, the line sud­denly started to move rather quickly and a forty per­son wait turned to a thirty per­son wait. I bitched a bit but we sucked it up and waited in line.

Here’s my review. Words or pic­tures can’t do this show jus­tice and I only stayed at the show 60 min. It’s a 10/10 mas­ter­piece that needs to be expe­ri­enced. Period. So long as you are not colour blind, all I can say is go see it. It’s worth a 30 minute wait. It’s worth a one hour wait which is my max for wait­ing for absolutely any­thing non life-threatening. If you are a patient per­son though, it’s worth wait­ing all day.

Take your cam­era because pho­tog­ra­phy is 100% per­mit­ted and encour­aged. This mod­ern aspect of the exhi­bi­tion also impressed me because plenty of exhi­bi­tions are still in the dark ages with regard to pho­tog­ra­phy. Expect crowds but expect that the wait and bus­tle will be worth it. Expect to see the work of a Master.


David Johndrow — Macro photography

We are happy to fea­ture another inter­view and more pho­tog­ra­phy from Adore Noir Mag­a­zine. Adore Noir is pub­lished online from Van­cou­ver, B.C. Canada and is ded­i­cated to fine art black and white pho­tog­ra­phy. This inter­view fea­tures David Johndrow, an Amer­i­can fine art pho­tog­ra­pher from Austin, Texas.

Mantis by david Johndrow

Man­tis by David Johndrow


AN: Please intro­duce your­self. Where do you live and work?

DJ: My name is David Johndrow and I live and work in Austin, Texas.

AN: How did you get into photography?

DJ: I stud­ied pho­tog­ra­phy while get­ting a film degree at the Uni­ver­sity of Texas. The first time I saw an image of some­thing that I shot appear in the devel­oper tray I was hooked and decided I wanted to do pho­tog­ra­phy full time. I started doing com­mer­cial work after graduating—mostly doing por­trait work. I sup­ple­mented my income by work­ing as a cus­tom printer in photo labs. I’m glad I had that expe­ri­ence because it forced me to put in a lot of hours in the dark­room. As I got bet­ter at mak­ing prints that were stronger, I also got bet­ter at visu­al­iz­ing my own work. I learned a lot from work­ing with other peo­ples pho­tographs, both good and bad.

Orb weaver spider by David Johndrow

Orb weaver spi­der by David Johndrow


AN: Tell us about your pas­sion for macro.

DJ: My use of macro came out of com­bin­ing my obses­sion with gar­den­ing with my inter­est in pho­tog­ra­phy. For a long time I had no inter­est in shoot­ing pho­tos in my gar­den. It was mostly because I didn’t want to do what other pho­tog­ra­phers have done so well before. But as I spent more and more time out­doors, I started to notice the most sub­limely beau­ti­ful things going on a very small scale and they looked amaz­ing in the nat­ural light of their own habi­tat. So, I began exper­i­ment­ing with ways to get up close and still be hand-held. I wanted to be quick and mobile. So I put exten­sion tubes on my reg­u­lar Has­sel­blad lens and dis­cov­ered that although this set-up pre­sented some restric­tions (lim­ited abil­ity to focus, lower light gath­er­ing power), I liked what I saw. In fact, the forced sim­plic­ity of the set-up allowed me to focus more on the image than on the tech­ni­cal aspects of shoot­ing the pic­ture. I used the lens wide open out of neces­sity because the film I use is rel­a­tively slow for the shade light I like. For­tu­nately, it turned out that the shal­low focus worked great at iso­lat­ing the details of the things I was shoot­ing. Sud­denly I would get lost look­ing through the camera—like enter­ing another world. Ordi­nary things took on an aura of grandeur and impor­tance. I decided I would treat the sub­jects in nature as for­mal por­traits and try and make them look iconic and, at the same time, retain their wildness.

AN: What is your inspiration?

DJ: Pho­to­graph­i­cally, my biggest influ­ence is Irv­ing Penn. I love how he can make any­thing look ele­gant , from fash­ion mod­els to tribal peo­ple to found objects. I love his high con­trast print­ing style and how graph­i­cally strong his com­po­si­tions are. I also like Edward Weston and Karl Bloss­feld. Bloss­feld was really good at show­ing the archi­tec­ture of nature. Another influ­ence on my art is the botan­i­cal artist Ernst Haeckel. I have repro­duc­tions of some of his draw­ings up in my dark­room to inspire me. He really shows the beau­ti­fully intri­cate designs of nature at all scales. Some­thing about his art is won­der­fully weird and psy­che­delic. Besides these pho­to­graphic and artis­tic influ­ences, I also need to men­tion my love of Lau­rens Van der Post’s sto­ries of the bush­men of the Kala­hari and how they revered the small things in nature the most.

Stinkbug by David Johndrow

Stinkbug by David Johndrow


AN: What do you wish to con­vey to your viewers?

DJ: I hope that when peo­ple look at my pho­tographs, they get a new per­spec­tive on the things that are all around us that we some­times take for granted. We tend to get dis­as­so­ci­ated from nature and for­get what a mir­a­cle it is. I am always amazed at the new things I dis­cover out in my gar­den. Things seem to appear to me as if by magic. I try to cap­ture some of that magic to share with oth­ers. It’s a real chal­lenge to depict some­thing that has been pho­tographed so many times. What I’m learn­ing is that the ways of expe­ri­enc­ing nature are infi­nite. I hope peo­ple who see my pho­tographs come away with a greater appre­ci­a­tion of the beauty of com­mon things.

AN: Can you tell us about your post pro­cess­ing techniques?

DJ: I like to print my images on sil­ver gelatin, platinum/palladium or gumoil. I let the image dic­tate what medium I will use to express it. Although I orig­i­nally cap­ture all of my images on film, I some­times make enlarged inter-negatives, either with my enlarger or dig­i­tally, depend­ing on the image, so that I can make con­tact prints. By using alter­na­tive processes I am able to have a wider range of expres­sion in my print­ing and a greater chance of the “happy acci­dents” that I think make pho­tographs unique. I strive for extreme sim­plic­ity in my images. Pho­tog­ra­phy, by its nature, is a reduc­tion of infor­ma­tion. By remov­ing what is nonessen­tial, images get clearer and more pow­er­ful. This is also the rea­son why I love work­ing in black and white.

AN: Do you have any projects on the go?

DJ: I am now exper­i­ment­ing with sim­ple pho­tograms, bypass­ing the cam­era alto­gether. I’ve got­ten so into it that I’ve amassed a large col­lec­tion of objects that I can print just using sun­light. Of course I still work in my gar­den with my cam­era close by and keep my eyes open for the next mys­tery to present itself.

Toad by David Johndrow

Toad by David Johndrow


This inter­view and accom­pa­ny­ing images was reprinted with per­mis­sion from Adore Noir.
Adore Noir is a sub­scrip­tion based online pho­tog­ra­phy mag­a­zine spe­cial­iz­ing in awe­some fine art black and white photography.

Photography forum image of the month – September 2013

Hi Photo lovers!

Every month on our pho­tog­ra­phy forum mem­bers nom­i­nate images that they like. Then at the end of the month I choose an excel­lent image and talk about why it rocks. The photo I choose is not nec­es­sar­ily the best one of the month. I’ve come to real­ize it’s not really log­i­cal to pit images from totally dif­fer­ent gen­res against each other. That’s why there are cat­e­gories in photo con­tests. I just choose a photo that has extremely strong ele­ments that we can learn from.

This month’s choice goes to Hill­bil­ly­girl for cap­tur­ing this image from Rodeo Action

I chose this image for sev­eral reasons:

1 — Deci­sive moment and ges­tur­ing — This cap­tured moment is extremely well timed and the cap­tured ges­tures are superb. Look at the mus­cu­la­ture and the angle and stretched out leg of the horse in mid–maneu­ver — It’s fab. The con­cen­tra­tion on the rider is also fab.

2 — Sharp­ness — The sharp­ness here is bloody gor­geous and any­one who has tracked mov­ing tar­gets knows it’s not easy. A nice fast shut­ter speed cou­pled with pre­cise focus­ing has frozen an intense moment. Even the kicked-up dirt in the air and on the ground is sharp — love it.

3 — Com­po­si­tion — Com­po­si­tion works really well here with the fence of spec­ta­tors in the back­ground, The Coors barrel/obstacle on the left and the intense ges­tures of the cen­tral main focal points.

4 — Post processing/exposure — I like the fairly real­is­tic pro­cess­ing in this image with good well con­trolled tones in the sky and good clar­ity in the faces of the horse and rider.

For all these rea­sons, this is my choice for image of the month. Since we all have opin­ions, some mem­bers may dis­agree with my choice. That’s cool but THIS thread is not the place for debate over my pick, NOR is it the place to fur­ther cri­tique the image. The pur­pose here is to sug­gest strong ele­ments in the photo that we may learn from.

Con­grats again to Hill­bil­ly­girl for cap­tur­ing this fab­u­lous moment!

Rodeo Action by Hillbillygirl

Rodeo Action by Hill­bil­ly­girl — Click to see larger version

Calgary Canon EXPO 2013

Our spon­sor The Cam­era Store, and Canon are intro­duc­ing the Cal­gary Canon EXPO 2013. If you are in Cal­gary, Alberta the week­end of Sep­tem­ber 27th 2013, you may well want to check out the Expo. Leg­endary celebrity pho­tog­ra­pher Dou­glas Kirk­land will be giv­ing his pre­sen­ta­tion “A Life in Pic­tures” and local pros will offer sem­i­nars and tips on shoot­ing land­scape and wildlife pho­tog­ra­phy. Although this event is not free, it comes with a $50.00 credit toward new Canon gear. For addi­tional infor­ma­tion check out the Cal­gary Canon EXPO 2013.

Marilyn Monroe by Douglas Kirkland - 1961

Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe by Dou­glas Kirkland