your best & worst photography purchases of 2014

Looking back every year, I’m sure you too are happy with some of your purchases you made in photography, whether gear or software or website related. Purchases that you love and made a difference to you as a photographer. But similarly there are also those purchases you regret. What was I thinking? I should’ve done my homework?

In the past I’ve bought some spur-of-the-moment bad decisions. It is especially easy to get swept away at photography trade shows. But I’ve gotten better at it, especially unnecessary software purchases. So I am actually happy with most of my purchases this year. Here’s my list of best & worst purchases, with even a few “meh” purchases listed.

Better yet, add yours to the list of Best / Worst Photo related purchases, by posting in the comments section. To make it interesting, there was this book to be won as a prize. Entries closed on Sunday 21st Dec.  [edited to add: Roy Barnes with entry #34 wins the book prize. The entry was chosen via a random number generator.]

How to Photograph Weddings

Behind the scenes with 25 leading pros to learn lighting posing and more. Names such as Jerry Ghionis, Jim Garner, Dave & Quin Cheung, Brett Florens, Huy Nguyen, Ken Sklute, and myself included.

Inspired by Fashion. Stories, not Pictures. Connection is the Key. Two grooms. Big Groups. A Sense of Humor.

These are some of the themes which are explored in the 58 chapter entries, covering a diverse range of topics which go beyond the technical, to also cover style and approach.

Learn more inside…


non-photography goodies in my camera bag / roller case

Work as a wedding photographer isn’t just about taking photographs of key moments, or about the photo gear. Often enough it is up to you as the wedding photographer to help guide the day’s time-line and flow, and also just to help.  For me, wedding photography isn’t just a passively observed event where I take photographs. And if you shoot with a photo-journalistic style in mind, it doesn’t mean you have to remain uninvolved.  I’m there to record the day’s events, but also to help, if necessary, making it a spectacular day.

In the photo above, I took over from the maid of honor when her fingers weren’t strong enough for that final button and clasp at the back of the bride’s dress. My fingers were stronger, so I finished the last button. So as a photographer I’m often called on to do more than just take photographs.

With that in mind, here’s a look into my camera bag, and the non-photography related goodies I keep handy:

Learn more inside…


using tele-converters: extra lens compression for tighter portraits

One of the techniques to have your subject really stand out from the background, is to use the longest focal length on your 70-200mm telephoto zoom. One of the first things I do, is to zoom to maximum focal length, and then step backwards to find the composition … and then only zoom wider if necessary.  Doing it this way, forces you to use the longest focal length. This compression focuses attention on your subject by creating separation from the background.

To extend the range of my 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, I always keep a 1.4x teleconverter in my bag. This extra 1.4x boost in focal length gives me reach, or as in this case, that extra compression to help with my photograph’s composition:

Learn more inside…


screen protectors for your camera’s LCD

I try not to bang my equipment around, but there’s also a limit to how ultra-careful you can be with your gear. A number of years ago – actually, decades – I knew a keen photographer who had top-end everything. He had swapped out his mint Nikon F4 for a mint Canon EOS-1n. He kept his cameras and lenses mint by not using them much, and keeping them wrapped in chamois. But that’s the sad part to this story – he rarely used his gear.

Especially now with digital photography where your camera is essentially a computer with a lens – it really depreciates fast. You have to get your cameras out and use them. Get your money’s worth in awesome photos. But, I do like my equipment to work problem-free, and cosmetically not look like they’ve been through a war-zone. Well, that’s aside from my speedlights. My speedlights work hard.

To stop my camera LCDs  from scratching from normal use, or rubbing against my clothes when I hang the camera strap over my shoulder, I use Expert Shield screen protectors. And that’s what I’m showing in the photo above … although, you can’t really see it. But that’s the point – they fit so well.

The Expert Shield screen protectors (B&H) fits snugly on the LCD without needing to be cut or trimmed, because you can order them for your specific camera. Sweet! No struggle. They are also fairly easy to put into place without those annoying bubbles appearing underneath.

You can order these screen protectors from expert shield screen protectors from Amazon;
or directly from the manufacturer as well. Their site has a lot more info on them.
Expert Shield (USA)  /  Expert Shield (UK)


dual or triple speedlight / flashgun mounting bracket

I use a multiple flash mounting bar during workshops where I need to have a diverse number of setups running simultaneously, but something more compact is also useful. In that article, I listed other flash mounting devices that allow multiple speedlights to be hooked up on one light-stand. Since then, I’ve discovered this triple flash mounting connector – Triple Flash/Umbrella Mount (vendor) –  and it is superior to  others that I’ve tried.

What sets the Triple Flash/Umbrella Mount (vendor) from other similar devices, is that the flash cold shoe can be rotated. This doesn’t seem like much, but when you try and add wireless flash transmitters like the PocketWizard TT5, then the bulk of those wireless transmitters get in the way. By rotating the flash trigger by 90 degrees, you can more easily accommodate two or three wireless triggers and the speedlights. You then simply rotate the flash heads to have the flashes point in the correct direction – into your umbrella.

It’s a simple tweak to this kind of device, but it makes all the difference when using multiple speedlights with wireless triggers, on a single umbrella.

Learn more inside…


promotion: Dream Strap

November 11, 2013

Dream Strap – comfy sheep-skin lined camera straps

Dream Straps are sheepskin-lined camera straps that are super-comfy. Just as importantly, is that they are strong, finely crafted, easy to attach and adjustable from 34-58 inches. All the good stuff we expect from camera straps.

Sheepskin fibers provide breathable, luxurious comfort that synthetic materials just can’t match. Weight on your shoulders or neck are eliminated because the weight is more evenly distributed due to the dense for and the width of the strap.

Learn more inside…


how to mount multiple flashes / speedlites

Quite often, a single speedlight just isn’t enough. You need more! You might need a smaller aperture than the single speedlight would provide (even at full power), or you might be battling very bright ambient light. High-Speed Flash Sync doesn’t help you in that case. Then you need to add another speedlight.

The mount / bracket that I settled on is the  RPS Light Bar with Four Accessory Shoes RS-3102 (vendor). It is a bit unwieldy, especially when you have 4 speedlights mounted. But when you need it, you need it. It is this bracket that I use when I’m shooting family groups with speedlights, as described in this article: wedding photography: positioning your flash for the formals.

I’ve used this setup for some of the photography workshops that I’ve presented, where I need to simultaneously have Canon and Nikon speedlights. I have also at times mounted both PocketWizard and RadioPopper triggers. This bracket allows me the flexibility to choose my setup, and to do multiple setups with different systems.

Now, the reason why I settled on this device, is that none of the other devices that I’ve seen, have enough space for either the PocketWizard TT5 units, or the Radio Poppers.

While these are all ingenious solutions to the problem, they just don’t have enough space around for the base of the radio trigger, whether the RadioPopper or PocketWizard. Others that I’ve seen that do allow for this, just don’t seem as sturdily built.

The  RPS Light Bar with Four Accessory Shoes RS-3102 (vendor) is quite sturdy, as you might see in this detail image of the hot-shoe mount:

Learn more inside…


Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L fisheye zoom lens

I got my hands on the brand-new Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L fish-eye zoom (Amazon) today, and I just had to try it out. And what better place than Times Square in Manhattan. Enough tall buildings and billboards to fill the frame of a lens that gives a 180 degree view! Now, before I continue, I have to admit that even though I have a fish-eye lens in my bag, (the Nikon 16mm f2.8), I only occasionally use it. I feel that a fish-eye lens can be over-used very quickly when it draws too much attention to the distorted view that the lens gives, rather than the photograph’s content. That said, I haven’t had this much fun with a new lens in a long, long time!

[ updated: review of the Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L fisheye zoom ]

Learn more inside…


photo session with the Fuji X100 – camera review

First of all, for those who haven’t heard of the Fuji X100 (vendor) yet, it is a beautiful retro-looking rangefinder-mimicking 12 megapixel digital point & shoot camera (with a fixed 35mm equivalent f2.0 lens), that gives remarkable image quality. That about sums it up.

For all those reasons, quite a buzz developed around this camera. Quite unlike anything since … oh, the Leica X1. Or the Olympus Pen EP-2. Or the Sony NEX-5. There was greater excitement building up around the Fuji X100 though than other cameras, specifically for its looks initially. And then when news hit about the incredible image quality, the excitement and interest became more substantial. It’s a hot item right now, and for good reason.

Learn more inside…


review: Frio coldshoe adapter for speedlights

[ edited to add: This review was for the original Frio, but it has now been improved with an updated version. ]

The Frio is such an elegantly simple device – ready-made for those times you need to attach a speedlight to a light-stand or umbrella bracket. What makes it so neat is that you don’t have to tighten a twisty knob to attach the flash. And neither do you have to un-tighten that same over-tightened knurly knob when you want to release the speedlight again.

Where the Frio really shines is with the modern speedlights that have a pin & lock system. This make them nearly impossible to seat securely in some coldshoes. With the Frio’s way of clipping the speedlight into position, that’s not a problem any more.

The Frio has a unique way of keeping the speedlight secure – it just slips in, and then the clip at the end holds it in position. To release the speedlight, just push down on the end of the clip, and the speedlight is easily shuffled out. Simplicity itself, with no risk that the speedlight can accidentally wiggle loose over time.

Since the Frio is made of a hard plastic, it can shatter if knocked too hard. I’ve lost one of them that way. But I see this as an advantage in that the Frio gives way; not my speedlight’s hotshoe. I can more easily replace the Frio.

The Frio can take anything that has a male hotshoe connector, such as a microphone or an LED video light. So that gives it a certain flexibility in use, and an easy choice to just have 2 or three in your camera bag anyway. It’ll find a use, somehwere, someday.


buy the Frio

The Frio is available as a single Frio, or a 3-pack, or a 5-pack.