Sunday, June 27, 2010

Shooting Fireworks

July 4 is just around the corner. And what comes with this historic event and a favorite American holiday are fireworks displays. The Princeton Township even has its own fireworks display on the 1st of July this year.

So, what if you want to record this historic event? What if you want to make photographs of the beautiful fireworks? Before everything, you must have the right equipment for the process.

First, you need a sturdy tripod and ballhead. I recently reviewed the Benro A158-EX together with the Benro BH-1-M ballhead here. Another piece of equipment that you will need is a remote control release. I have a Canon Remote switch RS-80N3 which I was lucky to receive on my birthday. These equipment will make sure that you have shake-free images that is necessary to take fireworks pictures.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Benro Tripod and Ballhead

I love birthdays! You get to meet friends and family, you get to enjoy doing nothing, the food is great, and, of course, the gifts. I would be lying if I say I didn't enjoy the gifts. That's what birthdays and holidays are for, right?

Anyway, several of my wishes came true this birthday. That is, gadget wishes. Since my friends know I am into photography, my gifts are all photography-related.

What I am going to discuss here is a one-two-punch for gifts. The wife gave me a Benro A158EX aluminum tripod. I wrote about it in a previous blog post when I saw it in Adorama in New York and maybe the wife saw the twinkle in my eyes when I held that particular tripod. Then, two of our Thai friends looked at my Amazon wishlist and saw that I was hankering also for a ballhead. So, very generously, they bought a Benro BH-1-M ballhead. My tripod kit is now complete!

Coming back from New York, there was a box waiting for me in front of the house. It was a very welcome site - a Benro tripod box. As far as I can tell, the box appeared longer than what I remember the tripod to be. I panicked a little thinking that Amazon might have sent the order wrong. I opened the box and saw that the tripod is encased in a tripod bag - the bag was a welcome sight, but still, the bag itself is longer than the tripod itself. I hastily opened the bag and, to my delight, the length of the tripod is what I actually remembered and that there is some 5-inch inside the bag for the tripod. I'll state later why the folded length is important for me.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


More than 24 hours later, I am enjoying my new iPod Touch more and more. Nope, I didn't get a new one - I upgraded its OS to iOS4 and my iPod feels brand spanking new!

I upgraded the OS yesterday before my trip to New York so I wasn't able to enjoy the new OS much yesterday. But during my hour-long train ride to the Big Apple, I was able to put my apps inside folders and changed my wallpapers - yes, there is an "s" there, one for the lock screen and one for the desktop. Now, playing with my iPod, it seems as if my iPod is faster than before it had the new OS. Mail is now much better with the new, unified mailbox; I was also able to add another Microsoft Exchange email.

I now have only two pages of Apps - one is the default apps that I access most of the time, the others are located inside folders which are, in turn, on the second page. I am a happy camper... :) By the way, you can only put a maximum of 12 apps inside each folder. Also, only 9 of the 12 are shown, as you can see below.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Benro A-158EX

When the wife and I went to New York, we of course passed by the Adorama Store on 42 West 18th Street. This is one store that I try to go to, after the Apple Store, every time I go to the Big Apple.

Anyway, while going around the store, I chanced upon the Benro A-158EX aluminum tripod. It has some heft and it folds down nicely to a manageable length fit for traveling. And since the wife and I have a summer trip looming around the corner, it'd be nice to add this to my collection. But, the main difference between this and the other tripod I am using is that, with the Benro, you would have to bring your own head, whether it's a ballhead or a pan-and-tilt head. Also, there is a carbon fiber tripod available but the price is way higher than the aluminum one. At this point, I would have to settle for the aluminum one.

It would be nice to have this for an extended period so I'll be able to put it through its paces more thoroughly. Well, it's every gadget maven's dream to have companies sending them gadgets for review. For my upcoming birthday, I wish that I'll be able to reach that level - to earn companies' trust that I will be able to write a review of their products for them.

On the iPhone4

A week has passed since the iPhone4 announcement. During that time, I was busy editing pictures of my client so I wasn't able to write anything about the gadget. But during my bouts with Photoshop, I still couldn't get the iPhone4 off my mind.

(As of now, as I write this, based on the Tweets that I have received, the websites of Apple and AT&T are being slammed with pre-orders for the iPhone4.)

Now, I know a lot of people are going crazy with the new phone and I would be a hypocrite if I say that I wasn't blown away when iPhone4 was announced - the websites going down are proof enough that a lot of people are pre-ordering the phone. But I still have misgivings about biting the bullet and getting the iPhone4 with a 2 year contract. Primarily there are two reasons:
  1. AT&T
  2. AT&T
I know they may seem the same but let me reiterate that, though they are brought about by the same company, they are two different things.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

About f/stops and Apertures

When I saw the AdoramaTV video regarding the f/stop of a lens an “a-ha!” moment presented itself to me. You see, I have two consumer zoom lenses:
The “a-ha!” moment goes like this: if I compare the lens opening of the two lenses at their widest, then I would get a bigger aperture opening. This can be shown by doing the math:
  • 17mm / 4 = 4.25mm
  • 70mm / 4 = 17.5mm
My heart jumped out of my chest with the realization that I, essentially, have a “faster lens” with the 70-300mm than the 17-85mm for the same f/number.

Alas, my head stepped in and calmed me down and the more rational aspect of me prevailed. So what happened? I came to the conclusion that “all f/stops of the same value are created equal - f/4 is f/4, f/5.6 is f/5.6, etc no matter what the focal length.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

First Client Plus Update on My Tenba Bag and BlackRapid Strap

A while back, I wrote about two great gadgets:
And they couldn't have come at a more perfect time. You see, I was very fortunate to have my first client. The wife's friend finished her Doctorate Degree and she commissioned me to take some pictures of this momentous event in her life. We discussed the contract several days prior and, after we agreed on what was supposed to happen, the deal was set.

Our friend emailed her friends and colleagues to meet with us in several locations inside Princeton University with the corresponding time for each location. Suffice to say that it was a hectic schedule.

The wife acted as my assistant. She brought a light tripod for my speedlite and a reflector. She also distributed my business cards and kept as time keeper for the different groups. The wife did a splendid job as a photographer's assistant!

Our day started from 10:20am and ended at 3:40pm with about an hour break within those times. As I have stated in my previous Tenba blog entry, I have 13 lbs. worth of camera gear inside the bag. But the things was, I didn't even feel the weight the whole time! The messenger bag felt so comfortable that I thought I made the correct decision of using the messenger bag instead of my backpack. The easy access at the top was a very big plus and I was able to access all my gear without having the need to put the bag down on the ground. The Tenba bag is really a great bag!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Tenba Messenger Photo/Laptop Bag

Last week, the wife and I went to the dentist to have our teeth cleaned. But, the highlight of the day came right after we arrived at home - there was a box waiting for me. I bought something from but I didn't expect it to come right away; my purchase arrived the day after I received an email from Amazon saying that what I bought was shipped! So, its arrival was a very good surprise.

My new Tenba bag!

Several weeks back , I wrote that I am on the look out for a camera bag which will accommodate my gear beyond what my Lowepro Nova 170 AW can carry. To summarize my previous blog, I am looking at Lowepro Classified 200AW, the Crumpler 7 Million Dollar Home and the Tenba Messenger Photo/Messenger Large.

I decided, eventually, to get the Tenba Messenger bag and I am very glad I made that decision.

The bag, with my Macbook Pro and the photography gear that I want to always be with me when I do my "walk", weighs about 19 lbs. Without the laptop and it's adapter, the bag weighs in at around 13 lbs. The bag is very roomy and I can fit in my Canon 7D with a 70-300mm lens attached. I am able to put my 17-85mm lens, 50mm lens and my 430EX II speedlite with room to fit in a 100mm macro (hint to the wife) and another speedlite, albeit you will have to place it on a side outside the insert. (again, hint to the wife). The camera compartment is well padded with a generous number of removeable inserts. Moreso, the camera compartment can be removed and you can use the bag as a regular messenger bag.

With my gear packed inside.

The bag can pack a lot of things inside. With my camera gear packed and my 15 inch MacBook Pro also inside, I was still able to put a book and my Kindle in the space between the front of the bag and the insert. There are plenty of pockets but they become essentially useless when the bag's fully packed. There are pockets in the flap but, as before, they don't accept much if the bags packed.

Now, I won't bring my laptop together with my camera gear most of the time but it is nice to have that option. Also, one of the thing that attracted me the most is that there is a zipper on the top portion of the bag so you can get to your camera in no time at all. I am hoping, though, that robbers won't have the same ease with my camera. An observation: the zippered top is also hard to open with the bag loaded.

The gear can be easily accessed from the zippered top!

I walked for about a quarter of a mile with the bag fully loaded and found that, despite the weight, it was a comfortable walk. The strap has a thick padding and the weight of the bag is distributed along the weight of this thick padding.

As a conclusion, I believe that this is a perfect bag for me. In lieu of the laptop, I instead bring a book or two and the kindle so I'll have something to do in my downtime. So, I will just put my book(s) and the Kindle in the slot for the laptop. There is even some room left for an iPad! (Once more, hint to the wife...)

This is the best everyday photo bag for me.

Highly recommended!

-- Text written in my iPod Touch


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