Archive for the ‘Guest Article’ Category

Tamrac Evolution 8 Backpack Review

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

This is Part II of the review for the Tamrac Evolution 8 Backpack,  Part I is the back story of how this review came about. My assistant and fellow contributing writer/reviewer for this article is Roxann Hickey.  We both want to make it clear that we are not employees of Tamrac, did not receive any money nor are we spokespeople for any camera bag manufacturer. This review contains  our honest opinions and judgments.

This was Roxann’s 1st camera bag, if you don’t count the one that she got when she bought her camera. This is my 101st camera bag, I also got a “free” bag with my first camera (Nikon FE) it was a navy blue canvas Nikon sack. It was a piece of junk!  I got rid of that one quickly. Does anyone still use or even have their 1st bag?

In my experience there is no one right or perfect camera bag, that’s why I have had 101 of them. I’ve had many different brands, different designs and every different type of bag imaginable, including photo vests. I still use some of these bags, but most of them are long gone, either given away or ended up at the curbside. The reason why I have and also use so many bags is because of the different types of travel or shoot that I am doing.

Just when you think you have the perfect bag, you go ahead and buy that new lens, another camera body or flash and all of a sudden everything doesn’t fit in the bag anymore. Sound familiar?

So what do you look for when buying a bag, hopefully something that will carry your gear safely and comfortably.  That sounds simple enough, but walk into any camera store and see the wall of bags and you know it’s not that simple.

How did Roxann and I both end up getting exactly the same bag with so many to choose from?  Roxann spent days, weeks maybe even months researching all the different bags on the Internet. For her this is what was important:

  1. Backpack style
  2. Separate compartments and plenty of pockets/storage
  3. Space for 13″ net book
  4. Tripod holder for carrying tripod
  5. Easy access to equipment
  6. Rugged construction… quote her “I’m tough on stuff”
  7. Colour option – didn’t want black. Wanted something that would be different and stand out from all those black backpacks.

After doing all of that on-line research she had it narrowed down to a few possibilities. When she arrived at the camera store, the wall bags didn’t look that daunting, it took her less than 10 minutes to select the Tamrac Evolution 8.

Why did I choose this bag? I didn’t spend nearly as much time researching it as Roxann did, but like her, I also looked on-line to compare the different bags that are available.  When I saw the line of Tamrac bags I was surprised, for some reason I don’t recall seeing or hearing very much about Tamrac bags in recent years from Canadian retailers. Back in the 80’s and 90’s I used a huge Tamrac bag for my Pentax 6×7 camera system. I do remember buying that bag. I had paid a fortune for the equipment so I wanted a bag that would protect it, the Tamrac (I don’t remember the model, but I am sure it was long discontinued anyway) was perfect. It was well made, rugged and everything fit. It was a huge shoulder bag and  unbelievably heavy with all the equipment.  Even though I was much younger then,  my shoulder, neck and back were killing me at the end of the day.   Over the years, I have seriously tried to cut down on what I carry and also to carry it more sensibly.

While I still occasionally use shoulder bags for certain assignments or  locations, I now prefer to use a backpack for most of my photography. It’s funny, because up until recently I hated backpacks.  They seemed great for carrying equipment around, but as soon as you wanted to get something out of them, it became difficult. Today there are a couple of manufacturers that make backpack bags that allow you to access the contents of the backpack without having to put it down on the ground. You slip it off one shoulder, slide the bag to your side and you can get to your camera via a side zippered flap. The Tamrac is the only one (that I know of) which has a side flap on both the right and left sides.

In selecting a new backpack, my two main criteria were – will it fit on a plane as a carry-on and can I fit everything that I have into it?

The dimensions of the Evolution 8 are: 12.5 in W x  8.8 in D x 19.0 in H.  This is well within most airlines’ carry-on allowance size. There is a slightly larger bag, the Evolution 9 but it’s depth dimension is two inches too large. You might get away with it using it as a carry-on, but I wouldn’t want to risk it, especially since airlines are really clamping down on luggage restrictions.

The layout of this backpack really works, it enables me to carry alot of my gear very comfortably. I can easily fit one or two cameras, 3 -4  lenses as well as a set of extension tubes and various  accessories (cable release, spare batteries, filters) as well as my 15″ laptop.

Our separate comments appear as  R for Roxann and G for Garry.  All photos show Roxann’s bag and gear.



Manfrotto 190X Pro B Tripod with 496RC2 Head

R:  One of the first things I noticed about the bag was the high quality of manufacturing and materials. It is very sturdy and well padded to protect camera equipment. What amazed me is that the bag stands up, it doesn’t flop over even with the tripod attached it. One of the features that this bag has, is that it can be used as a “sling type” bag, however neither Garry nor I have ever used it that way.

G: The overall construction of the bag is excellent, the attention to detail is something that caught my eye. Great idea to have 3-way to access photo equipment in the bottom compartment – through the front flap or through the left or right flaps/doors. To get inside the bag, you don’t have to put the bag down on the ground. When you want to put it down, the bottom has 2 rubber feet so the material doesn’t scuff or fray. There is a waterproof rain cover which completely fits over the bag, which is stored in it’s own pocket when not in use.

Manfrotto 190X Pro B Tripod with 496RC2 Head

R: It is a very comfortable backpack,  and has good padding along the back as well as straps which are extremely comfortable. The straps are also rubberized (non-slip). This provides alot of adjust-ability and secure fit. All of the harness straps can be tucked away if you want to carry it by the rubberized top handle. One thing I did notice , when you carry the bag on your back, the ends of the straps dangle in mid air after they have been adjusted to a proper length. There is no way to secure them or tuck them away.  All bags seem to have this problem.

R: One of the most important features I was looking for was the ability to attach and carry my tripod on the bag. It took a little adjusting to get it right, but it works. Another option which I haven’t tried yet, is using the optional set of straps (S-113) that can be attached to the bottom of the bag to carry the tripod.

R: Place for tripod feet should be a little larger

R: I use the top strap to hold the tripod leg, which it isn't obviously designed for

R: The tripod foot pocket is too small to properly fit 2 legs of my Manfrotto 190. It would fit better if they could make it just a little larger, but my guess is that the holder is not designed to carry such a large tripod. With the tripod attached it is impractical to have anything stored in the front flap pockets, as it might get crushed.

G: Years ago I did try using several other bags with straps to carry a tripod and was never happy with the setup. It made the bag really heavy and it always felt lopsided. Since then I never considered using any other bag as a tripod carrier.  What I use now is a Kinesis Tripod Carrying Strap.

R: - Easily fits a 13" note book/laptop

R: I use the top compartment mainly for non-photographic gear such as purse, snacks, jacket, or even instruction manuals. There is lots of room here for everything!!

G: I use the top compartment for an extra camera body, flash, lens or sometimes a camera with a wide angle zoom attached. As Roxann said, there is lots of storage here. There is also a mesh pocket that runs along the back where I store extra batteries and memory cards. My old 15″ laptop just fits in, however, it is  a really tight fit. It’s not the width that’s a problem, it’s the thickness. From what I understand this bag is a brand new design, so it is made for the newer thinner laptops. If you do have an older laptop, this is something you will want to check before buying. The large zippered pocket on the inside of the front flap is where I store my split neutral density filters.

Front flap opened on bottom compartment

R: The bottom compartment can be customized with the movable padded Velcro separators. I only have one lens and I always keep it attached to the camera. The zippers are good quality and most importantly they are really easy to find because of their large fabric and rubber tab pull. There is plenty of room for additional equipment….my birthday is coming up!

 G: For me this is the perfect bag to carry my equipment around. I don’t want a bag that is too large and bulky, or that is too small for my gear.  Tamrac has thought about everyone – there are two other sizes; a smaller and a larger version, but for me this size is perfect.

Left and right side access allows you to get to your gear without having to fully take off the backpack

R & G: The left and right hand side access to the bag is one of this backpack’s great features. You don’t have to take the bag off  to get to your equipment, all you do is slip it off either shoulder. This makes it easier, faster, safer and much cleaner as it isn’t necessary to put the bag down on the ground.


R: Overall I am very happy with this bag, it checked all the boxes for features I was looking for and so far it seems to be standing up well to the daily use.

G: While there is no one perfect camera bag, this one comes pretty close.




Michael Orton

Monday, July 25th, 2011
Michael Orton Technique

Compound camera motion while changing focus


Michael Orton has to be one of the most creative individuals that I know. Now while, everyone knows him as the creator of the “Orton Effect”, his creativity goes far beyond that! Last year he sent me a couple CD’s of music….his music, all of which he had composed and performed using a multi-track recording. He used a synthesizer (drums, strings, piano, horns, etc ) along with him playing an acoustic and electric guiter. On several of the tracks he also sang. I was pretty impressed.
In recent conversations with Michael he has been telling me about his “new” passion of working with camera motion (which he had used many times over the years), but not like this. He was now using compound movements, at times changing focus and focal length during the exposure as well. The blending of light and colours that was resulting is quite simply amazing. They are more visually exciting that any Orton imagery from years gone by.
Last week I received an email from Michael Orton, letting me know he had launched his redesigned web site. Be sure to watch the Slideshow presentations in which he combines his musical and photographic talent. The presentation “Earth Symphony” features the “Orton Effect” as it evolved and his latest work, “Freedom”.  They are just incredible!!!!!
Michael Orton Techique

Compound motion while changing focal length

Guest Article – Rick Carroll

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Ottawa street photographer Rick Carroll is this week’s guest blogger. I have known Rick for many years and I am constantly looking forward to seeing the new work that he produces. I think he’s out on the streets of Ottawa shooting every day, so I don’t have to wait long to see that new work!  His sense of visual design is incredible and he really understands light.


I always hesitate quite a bit when it comes to writing anything on photography. Then again I hesitate about writing most things because I have this awful tendency of being brutally honest. Oddly enough, that is not always a popular way to go.

About twenty years ago I had the pleasure of assisting Anthony Scullion, a commercial photographer located here in Ottawa.

Working for Anthony was without question, working. With his headband on we’d often put together some elaborate shoots for clients such as the N.R.C. as well as other government departments. Also included in Anthony’s bag of magic was catalogue work with the odd portrait thrown in for good measure.

Anthony was always patient and fair but he was also a good listener. In hindsight I realize just how rare a good boss actually is. Needless to say my time with him was an enjoyable experience. Hard work but worth it.

The reason I brought Anthony up has to do with something that we disagreed on years ago. At that time, I was quite convinced that the most important required element in creating a photograph was it’s composition. Anthony on the other hand believed that light with all of it’s properties was what mattered most. Anthony was right.

The photograph of Queen Street was exhibited a few months back and the curator of the exhibit pulled me aside one day and told me a little story about a photographer from Argentina.

It seems that the photographer was looking at the print and he couldn’t figure out how I did it. Thinking to myself I thought “How I did it?”, “Well it was easy”, “I saw something and photographed it”. I guess I can be pretty cocky. Looking at the print the Argentinian photographer thought that there must have been some sort of manipulation done to it. The fact is there wasn’t. The only thing critical in getting this shot was getting the right exposure.

I’m out on the streets quite a bit and I do still sometimes forget to really look at the quality of light, where it is placed and it’s colours. Often even in the brightest whites, one can see the blueish colourcast of daylight. When I first stepped on to Queen Street that morning the light struck me instantly much like a slap in the face. It’s qualities were obvious and from there I simply added the subjects. Within a couple of minutes I knew that “I got it”. I love when that happens.

What remains key in images that are successful is the quality of light that is captured and how it impacts the elements within the composition. It’s easy to forget though. We get distracted by events and the things all around us. That’s why I enjoy life through a lens. With a camera to my face my view gets restricted much like putting blinders on a horse. Paradoxically I often see more when in reality I see less.

This article is really just a reminder. Remember light, go to it, get to know it and try to find compositions in areas where the light is excellent.

Light is key. Happy shooting.

Thanks for reading,

Rick Carroll

To see more of Rick’s work please visit his website and blog.

Guest Article – Michael Orton

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Sharing one of his photos and a story this week is Michael Orton. Michael is the photographer who back in the 80’s invented the technique of sandwiching 2 pieces of overexposed slide film together to create an impressionistic, soft dreamy image. These artistic images are called Orton Imagery or Dreamscapes. This technique can also be created using layers in Photoshop. Michael is an incredibly talented and creative photographer and I’m very happy that for his photo/story he has chosen a visually stunning composition which isn’t an “Orton”. He and his wife Mary live on Vancouver Island, they enjoying travelling and photography but they especially enjoy visits from their children and grandchildren.  I highly recommend his book  Photographing Creative Landscapes it is number one on my list of “must have” books.

Canola and Single Cloud

Like most photographers, I have a list of those places that were a unique experience, filed away in my head. It only takes a short while looking at past images to bring back vivid memories and visions, and often prompt me to want to revisit an area. This image is from my top 20 list of places every landscape photographer should see at least once. Why, well it is simply unlike any other place. The time I enjoy here is the spring, and then the fall as a second time. In late spring the rolling fields  appear as huge rolling waves of vibrant varying hues of green. As far as the eye can see they undulate to the horizons. And if you are lucky enough to be there for the Canola bloom (I think that is what it is called) in June, the blend of blue skies, white clouds, vibrant yellows and greens doesn’t get any better. I use a warming polarizer under full sun skies, with a medium wide angle for large vistas and a telephoto for selecting abstracts, like the one shown here. Small roads intersect the landscape so it is easy to find a quiet moment standing amidst this truly inspiring landscape. For those that haven’t guessed, this is the Palouse region of Eastern Washington State. When will Mary and I be revisiting? This spring, and this time we will take our bikes and do some rides through the backroads. Go see this place!

by Michael Orton

Guest Article – Richard Smith

Saturday, January 9th, 2010

For something a little different, I’ve asked a friend of mine to write the first article of the new year for my blog. This is the first time that I’ve asked anyone to write a guest posting, and hopefully I’ll be able to persuade some of my other friends to share some of their stories for future posts. The reason that Richard was the first person that I asked, is because, probably more than anyone else Richard is responsible for me starting to think outside of the box. About 40 years ago, he was my grade 11 English teacher and wow did he ever have a different way of teaching! It opened my eyes and mind to a new world. Funny, I can’t remember any of the novels that we studied in his classes – But I do remember he taught us to question just about everything and not to take anything at face value. As destiny would have it, it would be another 25 years before I would see Richard again. This time I was the teacher, by “chance” (Richard always motioned quotation marks with his raised hands and extended fingers) he had signed up for one of my workshops. In the years since then, he has taken a few of my workshops, shared ideas and thoughts about photography and life.


PICTURE THIS by Richard Smith

Sunrise. Prince Edward Island. I`m on a country road and the light is great. I`m composing away when this farmer comes out of the house ,crosses the road and fetches the newspaper out of his mail box. As he heads back to the house he turns and says that the scenery is far more beautiful from his back yard. Would I care to see for myself?

Well , yes I would. Camera bag in one hand and tripod and camera in the other I follow him into his backyard. Of course there are several fences to climb over but I managed to get over them despite the fact that he said with a grin that I should mind the bull.

With my back to the last fence we climbed over I start to scout the scenery. He said he`d leave me to it and went back to the house. I was so involved in setting up that I was not aware of my immediate surroundings. When I did look up over the tripod I was suddenly aware that I was surrounded by twelve young calves who were very curious about me and what I was doing. While some seemed skittish one was licking the sleeve of my jacket and another was licking the leg of my tripod. It was such a wonderful scene. City slicker photographer surrounded by young calves. But no one was there to take the picture. I felt a certain sadness at the loss of such an image. Thank goodness for a visual memory.

Now, I was not as impressed with the scenery as was this farmer. I made my way over the fences and decided that I must thank him. As I made my way to his back porch I saw the scene you now see that accompanies this story. It stopped me in my tracks. I made several images and kept shutting down the f stops to get more depth of field. I made other compositions of the area but none stand out like this one. Even landscape photographers can have decisive moments. I prefer to call them epiphanies. Those great Ah Hah moments when everything falls into place.

I pack up once more and then knocked on the back door. He invited me in and we sat at the kitchen table. He asked me where I was from. Ottawa, I said. Where abouts? Off Richmond Road near Churchill. He smiled. We lived in Westboro near Churchill he said but after the war we decided to take up farming so we moved here in 1946. And so we traded stories for a little while.

I left his farm house somewhat amazed and bewildered. What were the possibilities that this meeting could ever take place? And what were the chances that I would ever be able to make an image like this one?

I regret one thing. I misplaced his address and as such I`ve never been able to send him a copy of this image. I have friends in PEI who search out the area to determine where he lives and I feel we are getting closer to being able to track him down.