Photo and Video

Weekend Photography Class - Rocky Mountain School of Photography

Equipment, equipment, more equipment...I have to admit it is a bias that the Gadget Guys have--heck we review equipment.   However, to truly improve your photography you have to improve your skill level.  Practice, reading, and friends can help but a professional instructor can help improve your photography significantly.  The highly respected Rocky Mountain School of Photography (RMSP) was giving a weekend class in Austin (about 500 yards from's home office in fact) so we decided to check them out.   

xRite ColorMunki Photo - Monitor, Printer & Projector Color Profiler

Color MunkiColorMunki Photo is a color profiling tool that offers monitor, printer and projector profiling technology for a reasonable price.  Although the price is reasonable, it uses the same high end spectrophotometer found in the high end profiling devices sold by X-Rite.  A significant advantage over similarly priced competition is the ability to create custom printer profiles.  The ability to create printer profiles is important for digital photographers to allow them to create color accurate prints of their images.  ColorMunki also has color creation and communication tools that allow you to grab colors from virtually anywhere, including your entire image library, preview your color palettes under different light sources and even preview for PrintSafe production under a variety of different printing methods.

Geomet'r GNC-35 - Easy geotagging for the Nikon D300

Geomet'r GNC-35 GPS GeotaggingEver taken a picture and then a few months later wondered where it was taken?  Geotagging -- inclusion of GPS positioning data in an image file's Exif header -- is a useful feature that is available in some modern cameras that helps solve this problem.  Once you've got GPS data in your images, you use an application or a service to map the location of your images.  Their are an increasing number of devices that let you easily add the GPS data to your photo files. 

The Geomet'r GNC-35 is a $145 GPS receiver is one such device, a GPS reciever designed to tap into the built-in GPS support of the Nikon D200, D300, D2Hs, D3xs, D3 and the Fujifilm S5 Pro.  The Geomet'r GPS receiver is a 1 1/2" square device that is approximately 3/4" thick which mounts on the camera hotshoe.  It attaches, and draws power, through the remote 10-pin terminal connectors.  The low-power receiver (with a built-in rechargeable battery for memory and Real Time Clock backup) uses a very small SiRF Star III GPS chipset to capture GPS data from any of 20 parallel satellite tracking channels. 

Manfrotto Modopocket - A pocket tripod

Manfrotto Modopocket Tripod The easiest way to improve the quality of your photos is to put the camera on a tripod--pictures taken ona  tripod are sharper, clearer, and blur-free..  Unfortunately, tripods are bulky and inconvenient.  Manfrotto has come up with an elegant design solution a stand that is only 1.67g and folds up to fit on your camera--the Manfrotto Modopocket. The stand can support up to 17 oz of weight--so it's not really appropriate for an SLR but should work for most pocket cameras.   In addition to letting you stably point your pocket camera in any direction you can also tilt the camera forward or backward with the ModoPocket, giving you a bit of flexibility.  Unlike a regular tripod you can't really adjust the height of your camera--this stand's competition is the table top tripod.  Once attached, the ModoPocket can be left on the camera when not in use, and when needed, shooters can unfold the legs in a matter of seconds and begin taking pictures.  Is it a true substitute for a tripod?  Probably not, but it can help improve your pictures and you are much more likely to have it with you than a tripod.

Legal Rights of Photographers

Is it legal for you to take that photograph?  Is it legal for you to publish the photograph?  Can you be arrested for trespassing? 

Photographers are being hassled more and more about taking photographs by law enforcement, overzealous security guards, concerned parents.  People are being stopped, harassed, and even intimidated into handing over their personal property simply because they were taking photographs of subjects that made other people uncomfortable. Recent examples have included photographing industrial plants, bridges, buildings, trains, and bus stations. For the most part, attempts to restrict photography are based on misguided fears about the supposed dangers that unrestricted photography presents to society.

What are your rights?  How do you stay out of trouble.  There are a number of resources that give you a some information on your legal rights:

Kata 3N1-30--A thoughtfully designed sling style camera bag

Kata 3N-30 Camera BagWhy did I buy the Kata 3N1-30?

I've given up on the quest for the perfect camera bag and now realized that I need several camera bags just like I need several lenses.  For a short day trip a small camera bag suffices.  However, I needed a bag that let me safely carry multiple zoom lenses, a camera body, battery chargers, and a GPS for a 10 day trip to Maine.  The Kata 3N1-30 got great review, looked well built, and was a sling bag style I like.

Does the bag hold the equipment safely?

The bag's dimensions are 12.6" x 7.5" x 17.7"--it conforms to current FAA airline carry-on regulations.   On our full flight it fit easily under the seat.   There are basically two compartments in the bag.  The interior main compartment is 11.6" x 6.3" x 11.8".   The manufacturer claims that the bag will hold  A D/SLR with battery grip & long-range zoom lens attached as well as, 5-6 lenses, flash + personal gear.  Will it?  If the 5-6 lenses are prime lenses--definitely.  It is a bit harder if the lenses are professional zoom lenses.  However, I did manage to get a nice long (400mm f4) zoom and a wide angle in the bag along with a couple of prime lenses.  Of course with a bit of creative packing I also got a GPS and a couple of chargers into the main compartment.  The equipment is protected by padded dividers--Kata calls this its Modi-Vers System.  The system allows you to create compartments that meet your requirements. The divider can be cut with scissors to any desired size. Attach the newly cut divider to another divider or the walls of the bag with a Velcro connector. The top compartment is quite roomy and can hold chargers, memory cards, and even a paper-back book or two for the plane trip.  The two side pockets are easy to access and can be used to hold filters, and an extra set of batteries.  They do bulge into the top compartment and steal space though.  I truly wish Kata had put an easily accessible external pocket big enough for the paperback book, plane tickets, and maps.  I hate opening the top compartment everytime since I'm afraid I'll spill all the other items in that compartment.

A really neat feature is the removable Media Kit.  You can use it to store memory cards or batteries and remove it from the bag (it's attached with Velcro) when you need it. 

The Kata 3N1-30 does include a rain Cover is included to protect against rainy conditions.  The rain cover folds away into an integrated pocket.   Without the rain cover the bag is not 100% sealed against moisture.  There are a number of points where the zippers do not meet and leave a small hole through which rain could enter. 

Is the bag easy to carry?

The bag weighs 3.3 lbs--fully loaded a lot more.  It is made easier to carry by the well padded straps and the option to carry it three ways.  It can be carried as a sling bag on either the left or right shoulder or as a backpack to spread the load.   Frankly, getting in and out of the plane I used another option, grabbing the bag by it's top handle and walking along the narrow aisles.  I just had to be a bit careful about not tripping over the dangling straps.  In backpack position and "X" position you can comfortably carry your equipment for long distance walking when needed. The included chest belt and balancing hip strap helps take the load of your heavy equipment off your shoulders.

X-rite i1Photo

xrite i1I recently joined the Leica Users Group (LUG) Print Exchange.  The LUG Print Exchange is a neat program that encourages folks worldwide to exchange prints–a great way to learn from others and to get some spectacular prints.  The LUG is filled with picky photographers who are truly focused on quality–I learned quickly that a standard print from the camera sent to a photo processor just wouldn’t do.  I needed to step up my game.  I bought a high quality photo printer–however it was impossible to get the color on the printer to match the color on the screen–I needed to calibrate my monitor and printer so that the colors would match.

The X-Rite i1Photo system delivers all the tools necessary to implement an effective, predictable and accurate color-managed digital workflow in either RGB or CYMK production environments – from camera through production to display to final output.   The system allows you to calibrate:

  • Digital Cameras
  • Scanners
  • Monitors- LCD, CRT, and Laptops 
  • RGB Printers    
  • Digital Projectors          
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