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Archive for the ‘Gear’ Category

A Tripod in the Desert!

May 4

In Gear, In The Field, Jobs at 4:41am


I’m a perennial idea recycler. I’ve had picture notions rattling around in my head for years that have never met the click of a shutter. They’re the things in the attic of my head that go bump in the night, the meandering pinballs I try not to lose in the drain and keep frantically flipping up into the bumpers (otherwise known as clients) that might occasionally ring a bell, or sound a siren, and thus get done. Read the rest of this entry »

Old School Meets New School

Feb 18

In Field Test, Fun, Gear at 7:33am


Photographers. We always like new stuff, right? The newest, the fastest, the sharpest! You know the drill. I’m right there with the madding horde as well. We walk around the photo shows, hoping to resist, trying to be Odysseus tied to the mast, and thus prevented from making the mad, desperate leap to the rocky, deadly expensive shores known as “new gear.” But, sometimes, we just can’t, or don’t, resist. My garage is filled with things I had to have, things that would make my life easier, things that were just bound to work so much better and on such a scale that well, expectations were high, to say the least. I’ve done it so many times, that my sense of disappointment as I trundle yet another piece of savior technology out to the trash bin of my feverish hopes is actually somewhat dulled.

Sometimes, of course, the new stuff works. Hot off the presses gear, especially now, with the pace of innovation in these digital times, can be a blessing. And, it is advisable to keep up, at least on some hopefully measured, selective level.

But, there is reassurance in working with the old, and the used. The been-there-done-that gear that you keep hanging around the shop, waiting for an excuse to trot it out for the rare excursion. For me, being a lifetime Nikon shooter, there is huge reassurance in the resonant click of a lens with an F mount bayoneting onto the camera. Been hearing the same definitive click since 1973. Hearing the same click, ’cause it’s the same mount. All my old glass works, even my 500mm f8 mirror lens, a catadioptric beast I’ve always referred to as fat boy. It’s a chunky piece of glass.


It’s also sharp as a tack, though historically a bitch to follow focus with. Real narrow DOF, but the resplendent thing about the lens is what happens when the field of view falls out of DOF. The background goes into these wonderfully repetitive little donuts. Especially fun to play with city lights with this lens, say of the type you find in Vegas.


Here’s the cool thing. You put this ancient piece of revered glass onto a D810, and the aperture priority works. You are fixed at f8, and the shutter speed slides around accordingly. The focus confirm works, as well, which is wonderful news for my eyes, straining through this baby at night, no less. And TTL works like a charm. Which is something I get a kick out of, as the lens is easily 25 years old and the camera less than a year. These were shot with an SB910 fitted with an Ezybox Hotshoe soft box as the up front light, and a hand held second Speedlight, red gelled for background. You can tell it’s gelled red as it’s the light flaring my lens:-))) The soft box is perched atop a paint pole fitted with a Kacey Pole Adapter.

Moved fast and had fun out there. Our wonderfully feathered subject, dancer Charlotte O’Dowd, was a trouper, out there in the Vegas night in January. Shot a few with updated glass as well. The below I knocked out with a 200-400mm f4, which is my go to long glass. Sharp, hand holdable on most occasions, except here, at night, I went with the tripod. Also caught some flare on this, from a headlight this time (I swear!) and it turned out to be a favorite of the night.

_JM43871 copy 2


So, old school—  500mm f8 (fixed) Nikkor Catadioptric telephoto. (Go see Efraim at Adorama. [email protected]) He sold me mine, used of course, for something like $300-400 bucks.

New school—  Nikon D810, 200-400mm f4, SB910, Ezybox HotShoe Soft Box.

Nothing like the click of an F mount.

More tk….


Old School Meets New School, Part II

Jun 23

In Gear, In The Field at 1:51pm

On vacation, I will often take an exotic lens with me. Read the rest of this entry »

New Lastolite Shapers

Apr 7

In Gear, Lighting at 8:05am

The folks at Lastolite are pretty cool, especially their chief designer, Gary Astill. Cool, in the sense they are receptive to ideas, which is a somewhat tough quality to find in a manufacturer in the photo industry. Listen to a photographer??!! Whaddaya crazy? They’re all a buncha wackjobs!

Point taken. We do dream up some hairbrained schemes now and then, passionate, reckless creatures that we are. But, when you work in the field for a long time, experience all sorts of adversity, attempt to use malfunctioning gizmos that were supposed to work and make life easier, and try reading bad manuals for DOA technology that does not live up to billing, well, you acquire a certain wry, rudimentary sense of what’s a good idea and what’s not. We conduct our lives with Murphy lurking in the camera bag, just ready to leap out, like a wrestler launched from the ring ropes, an airborne freight train of disappointment, body slamming our photographic ambitions for the day into the canvas of despair. This ever present possibility, out their on location with us at all times, makes us seek simple things that work.

Like a white interior for a soft box. The EzyBox Hot shoe soft box with a white interior has been out for quite some time now, and proved to be popular. So we transferred that notion to the already popular Lastolite Speed Lite box. It now comes as a Joe McNally version :-), called the Ezybox Speedlite Plus, with a white interior and three drop in diffusers, so you can control light temperature and level of diffusion. Incremental changes, but significant in terms of the quality of light. Hit this link to take a look.

You can also punch in [email protected], he’s got a handle on them. And, quick update, Adorama just updated their webpages to include the new products…’s the direct link.

I used it recently in Cuba, the only light shaper I took with me, and made a quick demo snap with it of a lovely dancer.

I left it in Cuba, with wonderful shooter, Arien Chang.  It will be perfect for his style of street shooting. It’s versatile, fits in your camera bag, and gives you a punchy, but soft light in a tiny package that weighs nothing. Below is another version with the gentleman in the set back into the leaves.

It’s a good, soft light, that, unfilled, has some drama, but can also be filled a bit with a bounce surface, like a tri-grip, and softened.  It can be hand held, or put on a stand. There’s a video at this link as well.


More tk…..




In The Spirit of the Season…..

Nov 27

In Gear, News at 8:58am

Today’s post is about….shopping.

Just think about the latter part of this week, when lots and lots of folks, freshly fueled by the consumption a large, flightless bird, stuffed with a nearly lethal mix of bread, spices, sausage, amphetamines, and Ripped Muscle X Factor, head for the malls. Their congenial, green, family car has been retrofitted to be menacing enough to suit that well know warrior of the wasteland, the Lord Humungus. I’m thinking some sort of scythe-like snowplow blade, enough armor to put a Humvee to shame, and a port in the back to drop buckets of nails on the tarmac, should someone in a competitor vehicle be angling for that object of desire, a prime parking spot at the mall. The car rumbles to life in the garage, and instead of the sprightly cry of, “Let’s go shopping, kids!” the mom, sitting in the navigational seat, with traffic pattern screens glowing in front of her, kitted out for all the world like she’s going to roller derby practice, says simply, ala Joan Allen in Death Race, “Release the dreadnaught!”

And all that happens before you even get into the stores.

Read the rest of this entry »