Camera Bag Options

Carol Kozak left a comment this week asking, “Can you recommend a “safe/secure” camera bag for an slr?  [I’m] looking for a main bag for all my gear + a “day” bag.” With all the those post-christmas, mid-credit-crunch sales going on now is the time to be shopping for such things so below are a few suggestions for portable camera storage. Keep in mind that no bag is a completely safe/secure way of storing a camera and Photodoto recommends you treat your camera with the love and respect it so clearly deserves! That said here are a few bags that will do their best to keep your camera safe & dry in 2009:

The Green Option.
Get the new year off to an environmentally friendly start with the Primus AW or the Primus Minimus AW from Lowe Alpine. Both are rugged, abrasion resistant, water resistant, and made from recycled materials.  The Primus is designed to hold a DSLR with an attached lens (up to 70-200mm), 1-2 extra lenses, accessories, & some outdoor gear (e.g. a light jacket). The Primus Minimus takes a DSLR with a medium zoom lens attached, plus 1-2 extra lenses, and accessories (charger, extra memory cards, flash, etc). Or if you want to throw your laptop in too try the CompuPrimus AW ($189.95 from Amazon) which holds a DSLR with lens (up to 70-200mm), 3-5 extra lenses, accessories, & a 15.4″ notebook. All the Primus bags have a loop system on the front to hold a tripod. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of all three bags goes to Polar Bears International (PBI).

The BIG Option.
If you need to take everything but the kitchen sink check out the K5 from Naneu Pro. An 85 litre hybrid photo bag/hiking bag this looks like an ideal bag for outdoor photographers, adventurers, or travelers. It’s definitely on my wish list!  Basically it’s a top notch hiking backpack with a removable camera “pod” (meaning you could easily take out the camera section of the bag & carry just that, for example as hand luggage for a flight, and then stick it back into the main bag for a hike) which fits a pro DSLR with a lens up to 70-200mm attached & 3-4 additional lenses. There’s a tripod “carrying system” on the front of the pack  and the whole thing is water resistant & comes with a rain cover. Costs $369.99 direct from Naneu Pro.

The Waterproof Option. If you want to convert your regular DSLR into an underwater camera you might like this case from Aquapac which will transform your ordinary camera into a waterproof (to 15 feet), dustproof, sandproof camera! Although I’ve never used one of these for it’s waterproof features I did use one to protect my camera against sand when I was working in Namibia, it was simple to use & worked very well. That was almost 6 years ago so there have been a few improvements since then too. Including, this year, PVC-free material.

The Flying Option. If, like my mother, you spend several days before a flight worrying about whether your bag will pass the airline’s hand luggage size regulations then the Airport Antidote V 2.0 from Think Tank Photo is worth a look. Carry-on size, even for smaller planes, it holds a pro DSLR with up to 400mm lens, extra lenses & accessories, & a 15″ laptop. The laptop case is removable, there’s a top pocket for the little extras you need in-flight, & the bag comes with a security cable and lock and a rain cover.

The Lightweight Option. If you’re just looking to hold your SLR & an extra lens then a beltpack or a shoulder bag are good choices. The Speed Freak from Think Tank Photo holds an SLR & a 70 or 80 -200mm lens, and includes side mesh pockets, a small front pocket, and a reporter’s pad pocket. Costs $160 from Amazon.com. The Lima from Naneu Pro holds a DSLR with up to 5″ lens attached plus two smaller lenses & a flash. Naneu claims it will “withstand almost anything you put it through” & with eight pockets it’ll please organised photographers too.

The Hardcase Option. For waterproof-ness & the ability to take a hard knock Lowe Pro’s Omni Sport Extreme ticks all the boxes. It consists of a convertable beltpack/shoulderbag that slips into a waterproof hardcasing. The whole thing can be taken as airline carry-on & holds an SLR, 2-3 lenses & accessories. Costs $99.95 from Amazon.

The Cheap Option. Spending money hurts me so while I drool over some of the above-mention bags on the companies’ websites in the real world I’ve taken a bit more of a do-it-yourself approach. I use my regular all-purpose backpack (similar to this one) & pack it with a fleece or other bit of spare clothing on the bottom & simply throw my camera in on top. My DSLR astounds me with it’s ruggedness & although it’s taken a few knocks and bumps inside the bag it’s never seemed to mind. I usually have the front pocket stuffed full of junk like tissues, a book, keys, etc. which add a little extra padding between the camera and the outside world. My extra lenses lived in North Face base camp travel canisters which I lined with some bits of foam padding from the box one of the lenses was delivered in. This keeps them waterproof & padded and I just throw whichever ones I think I’ll need into the backpack with the camera. Although I wouldn’t recommend it I have flown this whole set up on a short-haul flight in the hold (checked-in) luggage with the camera packed in the middle surrounded by clothes & it all survived without a scratch.

Note that the lens sizes quoted above are all referring to an f2.8 lens. Don’t forget to shop around for the best deal, as well as online retailers many high street shops have sales on at the moment so there are some bargains to be had! And, of course, if you’ve got a great camera case to recommend or a terrible one to warn us against let us know in the comments.

Most popular posts of 2008

Firework Display - Hogmanay Street Party, Dornoch, Scotland

Photo by: foxypar4 (cc-by)

Happy new year! I hope you had a great holiday and got to spend some quality time, as I did, with the people you love. I thought a quick look back at some of the most popular posts of 2008 would be a great way to start Photodoto.com’s third year.

As you can see, our posts run the gamut from quick tips, core photography instruction, and reviews…to software, image editing, and fun projects. And we’ll have a lot more in 2009. So thanks for reading, tell your friends, and stick around—it’s going to be a great year!

Quick Fix for Cluttered Backgrounds
Despite all that has been written about keeping the background of your photos simple, that goal is not always achievable. Sometimes your subject is in a place with a busy background everywhere. Or perhaps the subject is doing something that you don’t want to interrupt by walking around the person or requesting that she or he move to a different location.

The importance of focus and quick tips on how to get it right
Focus in photography is about a lot more than simply sharpness or being able to see what you are looking at. Focus can enhance a subject by making it stand out from or blend into its surroundings, focus can draw you in, and the right focus can create an emotional connection with the viewer. No matter what style of photography you enjoy, focus can work for you or against you.

Black and White with a Splash of Colour
One of the techniques people most often ask me to teach them is making a photograph like the one on the right that is black and white with one other colour. There are a few ways to achieve this effect but here is the one I find easiest for Photoshop users.

Review: Nikon Coolpix S550
Before you even take it out of the box the Nikon Coolpix S550 looks cool (mine looks especially cool being “cool blue” coloured). But while looking good is nice the important thing is how it performs.

Big and Tasty Food Photography Tips Roundup
I’ve got a nice roundup here of food photography sources with a ton of great tips, tutorials, and videos for making food look tasty on camera. How seriously you take this probably depends to some extent on whether you’ve ever heard the term “food stylist.”

Basic Travel Photography
I’ve just returned from a little jaunt to Portugal and I have to say there is little else that gets me as eager to get my camera out as wandering around a city I’ve never seen before. And of course, in the age of the compact digital camera pretty much everyone takes a camera with them when they travel these days. But how do you come back with photographs your friends and family won’t have to feign interest in?

Take better flash photos in one easy step
Many people shy away from flash photography because it makes people look bad. Photographs taken with a flash can leave harsh shadows that highlight every wrinkle, turn skin blue, shine a flood light at thinning hair, create hot spots on the forehead, nose and cheeks, and generally make subjects look unattractive. But when there isn’t enough light, sometimes your only choice is to use a flash or not take photos at all.

Review: The Flip Mino HD  Video Camera
I really like the Flip video cameras. I reviewed the original Flip Mino back in June and recommended it for anyone who wanted to shoot more than a couple of minutes of video at a time or who wanted to reserve the space on their camera’s memory card just for pictures. The Flip Mino is a handy, compact, easy to use video recorder. And the Flip Mino HD is virtually identical in every way except one.

Free noise reduction plugin for the GIMP
But one thing my stock GIMP install didn’t have was a decent noise removal filter. That is, until I downloaded and installed the GREYCstoration plugin. Installing it is as simple as downloading and dropping the plugin into the GIMP plugins directory. Restart GIMP and you’ll find a new menu under Filters | Enhance | GREYCstoration.

Screencast: Curves color enhancement tutorial
This 2.5 minute screencast shows a simple and fast technique using multiple layers to enhance the colors in a photograph.

Buying a digital camera for your kids
My kids are naturally curious about photography having a shutterbug for a dad. I started them out tentatively with some disposable film models but those were unsatisfying. Too slow. No LCD screens. Kids aren’t known for their patience. Digital was made for them.

Learning Composition: The Rule of Thirds
Whether you’re feeling artistic or not, good composition is important for making images that resonate with viewers. Everything else being equal, poor composition can create an itch in a viewer—a subconscious and annoying one that can’t be scratched.

Tethered shooting on Ubuntu Linux using gPhoto2
My D70, like most digital cameras, has a USB port that allows me to connect it to my computer and download photos. Many cameras also allow you to control them using your computer when they are connected. This is called tethered shooting.

Introducing Your Little One to Photography
One of my day jobs involves working with special needs children and children in hospital. I do a lot of work with children on the autistic spectrum and children with learning difficulties, as well as with at-risk youth and kids with chronic illnesses. One of my absolute favourite things to do is introduce these children to photography. Not only do I enjoy sharing my passion but for a lot of the children I work with it is a unique way for them to express some creativity.

Basic Travel Photography

I’ve just returned from a little jaunt to Portugal and I have to say there is little else that gets me as eager to get my camera out as wandering around a city I’ve never seen before. And of course, in the age of the compact digital camera pretty much everyone takes a camera with them when they travel these days. But how do you come back with photographs your friends and family won’t have to feign interest in? Here’s a few basic tips:

1) Be selective. It’s tempting when you’re surrounded by new things, impressive architecture, beautiful landscapes, and photogenic locals to go nuts and photograph everything ten times over. Especially when you’re using a digital camera and can tell yourself you’ll delete half of the photos later. While there’s nothing wrong with taking lots of photos make sure you scale it down a bit (i.e. do the deleting part) before you showcase your holiday snaps. Even Great Aunt Maude is going to struggle to feign interest in 200 photos of a church, however architecturally brilliant it is.

2) Try a little originality. If you’re photographing an iconic site see if you can come up with a more original way to photograph it. A different angle, in different light, or different weather. Whatever you can think of to make it look less like you just photographed a postcard. Adding people to the shot, whether tourists or locals, can also make it more interesting. That way the iconic feature is the background to something less commonly photographed.

3) Wander away from the major tourist attractions. Two of my favourite shots from Portugal are these:

both of which were taken in “off the tourist map” areas of Porto. Not only will you get more interesting photographs but you’ll get to see more of the real culture of the area too.

4) Plan before you leave. If you want photography to be a central part of your travels think about the equipment you’re taking before you leave. For the Portugal trip photography wasn’t my main aim but I knew I would want to come back with a few good shots so I opted for my digital SLR over my compact camera. But since we would be moving around a lot and the airline I was flying with had tight luggage restrictions I chose to leave the tripod and extra lenses at home. Think about your destination and the type of photos you might want to get. For example if you’re heading to Paris and thinking you’d like to get lots of night shots of the city then don’t abandon the tripod. But if you’re backpacking and mostly going to be taking shots during the day you’ll probably want to save yourself the extra weight.

5) Get some aerial shots. If you’re flying to you destination this is your chance to do some aerial photography. It can be tricky to get good shots from a commercial airplane but it is certainly possible. It’s easiest if you have a seat forward of the wing so that vapours from the aircraft’s engines don’t appear in your shot. Wipe the window off first to get rid of all the grimy fingerprints, and put the camera near the centre of the window to avoid the effect of the curved perspex. On longer flights the flight crew will often make announcements when something of interest is visible from the plane but it’s worth keeping an eye out yourself too. Take off and landing are great chances for photography but be aware that some airlines may ask you to turn off your digital camera during these times. These were both taken on commercial flights:
mountains and light The Wide Open Blue

6) Don’t be afraid to photograph local people or fellow tourists. But if you can ask permission first. If you ask politely you’ll find that most people will say yes. It’s worth learning to ask this question in the local language but often holding up your camera and smiling will get your intention across just as easily. If someone does say no respect their answer and don’t photograph them. In some places, especially poorer communities, you may be asked to give money in exchange for taking a photograph. And people will often ask you to send them a copy of the photograph. If you agree to do this, make sure you actually do! Don’t automatically try to exclude other travellers from your photographs, often the interaction between tourists and locals can make a great shot.

7) Photograph your travel companions! As much as your family and friends back home will enjoy your photographs of the local landscape, culture, and wildlife they will probably be most interested in photos of you and your travel companions enjoying your trip. This is especially true if you’re traveling with children and showing the resulting photos to the grandparents or other extended family. To get some nice photos to show off put as much effort into the family shots as you put into the rest of your photographs. If you’re taking a posed photograph look for the best background, arrange the people into a good pose, and consider using a relatively low DOF so the subjects stand out from their background. Remember though that you are on holiday and your kids probably won’t appreciate too much of this kind of activity! Get unposed shots of your travel companions as well, think about the composition for these too but they may need to be a little more hurried so you don’t miss he moment.

8) Don’t forget insurance. Before you set off make sure your travel insurance will cover your camera equipment should it get lost, damaged, or stolen. Many travel insurance policies only cover single items worth up to £100 or £200 so if you’re traveling with your digital SLR and extra lenses you may need a separate policy for them to be covered. If you’re a UK resident E & L offer specific photographic equipment insurance that’s cheap and provides good worldwide cover.

If you have any tips of your own, let us know in the comments section.

Travel Photographer of the Year Competition

If, like me, you love travel as much as you love photography then click on over to the Travel Photographer of the Year competition. The UK based competition has some changes this year, including the option to enter your images online which makes it much easier for international entrants to join in. The entry fees aren’t cheap (£15 per portfolio, £10 per single image) but the prizes are pretty fantastic, including trips to India, Cuba, and a High & Wild skydiving over Everest adventure! There’s also a special category for under-17’s which is free to enter and has some nice photography kit (including the Wacom Bamboo pen John reviewed here last week) and a place on a 3-day photography course up for grabs.

If you want to enter you’ll need to get a move, the deadline for entries is 9th September 2008. Even if you’re not interested in joining in (or the entry fees are a bit of a stretch) click here to see some of the amazing images from the last five year’s competition.

World Heritage Tour

I’ve been a fan of the World Heritage Tour for years. It’s an independent non-profit organization documenting the UNESCO World Heritage List in interactive 360-degree panographies. To date they’ve visited 298 sites around the world including Egypt, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, New York, and many more.

World Heritage Tour

To use the site, click the Planisphere link at the top of any page. Then click the yellow circles on the maps to zoom in on a particular area. You’ll end up on a 360 degree interactive panograph (Quicktime required) that lets you see the location as if you were actually there.

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