Archive for the ‘Equipment’ Category

NIK – Black Friday/Cyber Monday

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011
NIK Black Friday Sale

Use Coupon code GBLACK for NIK Black Friday Sale

 I just received an email from NIK Software letting me know about the Black Friday Sale that starts tomorrow and runs through Monday.

Use Coupon Code GBLACK at checkout for savings.

  • 20% off individual Nik Software products
  • $100 off Complete Collection for Lightroom and Aperture
  • $200 of Complete Collection Ultimate Edition

Dates and time:      11/23/11 at 9am PST to 11/28/11 12 am PST

Winter Workshop Schedule

Monday, November 21st, 2011
Winter Workshops

Winter Workshops


The schedule for the winter workshops has now been posted. Hope you can join us! 

I have been using several Sigma lenses for just over a month now, in my next blog post I”ll give you my initial impressions of them.

SIGMA Pro Photographer

Friday, October 14th, 2011

I am really happy to announce that I have been selected as a Sigma Pro Photographer. This gives me access to their lenses (which I am really looking forward to using) and in return, I will give them some of the images that I create using those lenses. I may also be conducting several seminars and presentations for them as well.

In future posts I will be commenting and also reviewing each of the lenses that I will be using and giving you my honest opinion about them. BTW – This is something that I didn’t have to ask Sigma for, they made it quite clear that’s what they wanted as well. I was impressed by that!  Now, I am not a pixel peeping photographer (not that there is anything wrong about being a photo gear geek), so my reviews won’t be technical analysis  about the lens’ sweet spot or centre to edge sharpness, or what focal lengths are sharper. While I do like some things in life that are soft and fuzzy, camera lenses aren’t one of them. After 30 years as a professional photographer and photography instructor I can quickly judge the optical quality of a lens without having to do side by side comparative tests.

Over the years I have used both Nikon lenses/cameras and more recently (the past 7 years – when I switched to shooting digital) to Canon lenses/cameras. Based on my experiences with that equipment I am interested to see how the Sigma lenses stack up and will compare in optics, construction, handling and price.


Earlier this week I had a photo shoot using a Sigma 70-200 F2.8 EX lens and let me tell you I am loving what is doing to the backgrounds with amazing bokeh. I don’t know the technical reason why, but it is better than what my Canon 70-200 F2.8 produces. It might have something to do with the shape and number of lens diaphragm  blades and also it has a closer minimum focusing distance.

These are a few of the images from that shoot. I have already posted them on my Facebook page and several people commented about the backgrounds.

SIGMA APO 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG

SIGMA APO 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG


SIGMA APO 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG

SIGMA APO 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG



SIGMA APO 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG

SIGMA APO 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG

Camera Bags

Thursday, October 13th, 2011
Doorway - Mykonos, Greece

Doorway - Mykonos, Greece


In my blog post the other day, I mentioned that tripods and camera bags were the two photo accessories that I have purchased most often over the years. I don’t even want to think about the number of camera bags that I have bought, there have been a lot of them. I even have a Rolling CompuTrekker Plus AW that I paid over $300. for a couple of years ago and I haven’t used it once (if you are interested in it, I’ll give you a really GOOD deal).

A couple of weeks ago I was contacted to see if I was interested in testing out a couple of bags from Tamrac. Well what an opporunity for a camera bag aficionado, how could I say no. I was given my choice of bags, I picked two different styles, a backpack and a shoulder bag. Currently I am using both of these bags and will write a review for each one of them in a future post.

Tripods and Camera Bags

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011
tripod Gatineau Park

Photo of my tripod, taken by workshop participant Janice Borland Benoit. I wasn't really trying to block her view!

Tripods and camera bags are probably the two photo accessories (necessities) that I have purchased most often over the years. On my most recent Fall Workshop, a couple of the participant’s were asking what would be a good tripod and head to buy and also that doesn’t cost a fortune.

Well I have gone down that road, trying to buy what I thought (at the time) was a good tripod and also trying to save some money. All I ended up doing was spending a lot of money on different tripods/heads that I wasn’t really happy with. And then finally, years after I had first started buying all of these different tripods, I ended up buying the more expensive tripod. The one that I should have bought in the first place. Does that sound familiar to anyone?

Now there are some reasonably affordable tripods out there, so I thought I would ask my Facebook friends if they had any advice. I got 35 responses, here are some of them:

1. Manfrotto 055 or 190 legs with 029 head–I’ve had three 055’s over the last 30 years & they stand up to heavy use/abuse

2. Carbon fiber, great ball head, be prepared to spend $400+

3. Induro makes some great heads and tripods, much less expensive than Manfrotto or Gitzo.

4. I have an Induro AX214 with a Really Right Stuff BH40 Ball Mount with their large quick release plate. Cameras have L Brackets and lens have standard brackets. Stable and not too heavy. The RRS mounts are not cheap and are precision. Could not justify the added cost for carbon when I bought the base may think different now.

5. I use a Induro series 2 carbon fiber tripod on workshops. Just as strong as Gitzo but half the cost. I’ll leave the head for the participants to decide. Other workshop participants seem to love the Induro. It fits in my medium dufflebag which is a big plus.

6. I recommend the Manfrotto 190XPROB.  It’s fairly light, and can take a beating.  Plus it’s not too expensive so it may be a financially more appealing option to workshop attendees.  I jerry-rigged a removeable strap using two carabiners  and a canvas belt I bought from Value village.   I have a matching Manfrotto Pan-Tilt Head 804RC2 and Ball Head 486RCS.  The ball head is light weight but is not as accurate to adjust as the pan-tilt.

7. I’ve been using a Feisol Traveler and ballhead for a few years now.  It’s very reasonably priced.  Good build quality.  The tripod is sturdy.  The ballhead handles a reasonably amount of weight.  They make heavier duty legs and heads as well.

8. Love Gitzo carbon fiber and Arca Swiss ball heads. Not cheap but they will last a lifetime. Much lighter to lug around. Bogen makes decent tripods as well. Lots of new ball heads on the market since I bought mine. Check out

9. For tripod head I like my Slik AF-2100 Pistol Grip Head. Only $99  which is pretty cheap. My first one lasted at least 10 years (still works). I prefer it over my much more expensive arca ball head.

10. A very good value for money tripod can be found in the Vangaurd Alta Pro. They are well made and offer more functionality than some of their equivalent yet pricier counter parts – – their pistol grip head is also one of the best I have seen. Another Tripod I have been really impressed with is the Velbon Sherpa.

11.  Gitzo GT1830 – it’s a bit long, but I needed the height. Shorter legs are available but, for me, it’s lighter than my Aluminum Manfrotto 190 was, and gets me an extra foot without the centre column extended.  I am using an Acratech ballhead, which isn’t cheap, but I found my inexpensive manfrotto ballhead gave when I had heavier glass attached.  If your students can afford big glass then they should also heavily consider the investment in supporting it properly.

12. Yes, you have to pay to get something worth it, my current setup wasn’t my first and it cost more in the long run.


Any other suggestions??????

Pocket Wizard Plus II

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011
Ottawa Model Photo Shoot

Ottawa Model Photo Shoot Workshop


In my previous post I was talking about photographers and their obsession with equipment and I said – “ Ignore all of the talk about equipment and just get out and take pictures”. Well the truth is that we do need equipment, whether it’s an iPhone or the newest Nikon or Canon DSLR. So, in order to give equal “air-time”  my next couple of posts will be about equipment.

It’s been a couple months since I started using Pocket Wizard Plus II’s Radio Slaves in the studio (Dynalite Flashes) and on location (Lumedyne Flashes) and even with my Canon 580 EXII flash in manual mode. I am thrilled with them!!! The only downside is the cost, at $200 per unit and you need at least two of these, it’s not cheap. But if you want serious no fail gear, then Pocket wizards are for you. These things really work! I have yet had a pocket wizard fail on me.  What I really like about them, is when shooting on location I can set my lights near the subject and get shoot from far away. I also like that they use  AA size batteries (I’m a huge fan of AA batteries – you can get them anywhere in the world).

For years, I have been using manual exposure for the flashes and the camera settings.  I have never really considered using auto with flashes, guess I am really Old School, but I am starting to rethink that. Now that I have discovered Hypersync! Take a look at this.

We will be using the Pocket Wizard Plus II’s on the next Model Photo Shoot Workshop

Free to a Good Home

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

No, I am not giving away free kittens.

For those of you who are still in the chemical processing and fixing world of photography, or if you want to try your hand at it.  A friend of mine is looking for a new home for his darkroom equipment.  Most of this equipment is probably best suited for 2 1/4 and 4×5 devotees of black and white photography.  At the moment he has a Beseler 4×5 Enlarger with a Zone V1 Cold Light Head, a Zone V1 4×5 Film Washer, a Zone V1 Print Washer and an 8×10 Darkroom Paper Safe.

Included with the above are several text books. He also have an assortment of 2 1/4 and 35mm films which have probably lost some speed over the years but a smart photog would know how to test for that.  There are also some photo chemicals; some in cans and bottles and others in wrap bags. All this to say that this whole lot or part thereof can be had for free. The catch being he/she must come here (Ottawa) to pick it up. Contact for further information.

Cross Border Shopping

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Canadian Flag

Last week, one of the participants who is going on my France workshop in September asked my advice regarding buying a lighter weight tripod, something similar to what she is already using (Manfrotto #055XB Classic).  The obvious choice would be the Manfrotto 055CXPRO4 Carbon Fiber. But where she should buy is another question.

Since she lives in Canada, I thought I would give her the link to Henry’s (which is the largest Canadian photo retailer) web site for the tripod. At Henry’s the tripod costs $629.99  As a comparison I also checked the price at B&H Photo in NY, it is several hundred dollars less, costing only $359.95  for exactly the same tripod. Now while I am a patriotic Canadian and believe in supporting local businesses, this is just crazy! That’s a savings of $270.

Sometimes, well most of the time, having anything shipped from the US to Canada can cost a lot of money. But B&H will ship this tripod for free anywhere in the US, so the solution is to use a company like MyUSAddress and for $5.00 she can have the tripod shipped there.  Since 95% of the Canadian population live just about an hour’s drive North of the US border, I know where I would buy this tripod.

UPDATE: This post received 17 comments on my Facebook page. Everyone, including myself , feels strongly about supporting and buying from Canadian suppliers, and don’t mind spending a little more but once it gets to 30 or 40 percent it gets a bit ridiculous.

One of my friends who works for Henry’s, looked  into the pricing with the Canadian supplier for Manfrotto tripods. Apparently the supplier pays more for that particular tripod than B&H sells it for. An interesting side note is that the day after this article was posted, B&H raised the price of this tripod by nearly $100.00 and Henry’s have lowered the price by $30.00

128GB Compact Flash Card

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

If you take alot of pictures and you don’t want to change the memory cards or if you are going on a long trip, here’s the solution 

a 128GB Card for only $1500. That’s amazing, I think the computer that I was using just over 10 years ago had a 6GB hard drive.

Time Thieves

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Last week I received an email from a person who uses the nickname TimeThief – really! I’m pretty sure everyone has their own time thief of one sort or another. How many times have you said or heard someone say “where has the time gone”, “if I only had a little more time”, “how can I get more hours in my day?” and even “just a second”.  I’m sure you get the idea. Sorry I don’t have the answer to any those questions. But if it’s any consolation, you are not alone in wondering!

Last week, my latest time thief project was selling our RV trailer and pick-up truck and then buying a new car. Wow, does that take up a lot of time! BTW – The car that we bought was the only one that I could find with a name that has anything to do with photography. Any guesses to the make – model name?  The truth is, I didn’t think about the connection with the name and photography until today.

Some people have asked what the interior of our trailer looked like, so I’m included a few photos in this post.