Comprehensive review: Think Tank Photo – Airport Takeoff V2 Photo Bag

 

If you are like me you spend a lot of time hauling camera gear from flight to flight. Most (though not all) roller bag camera bags work fine rolling along the airport mall (is that the right term?) The issue comes when you need to beat that crowd to the immigration queue and the only way to do this is to take the stairs verses the escalator. But you have a roller bag! Well, for years Think Tank Photo has had your back, quite literally. How? With the Airport Takeoff. This bag has long address this problem by being both a roller bag and a backpack. But things just got better with their release of version 2! Now this bag is 15% lighter, and this means you can now pack another lens or two, or perhaps even another X-T2 or X-Pro2. It also now sports a new handle, stronger and with less shake than the previous one. New pockets and more. Basically they took a great bag and made it better.

Above is my comprehensive video review of this bag. I also took time to do a detailed comparison with my all time favorite bag in the same class, the Airport Roller Derby. How does it compare? Well you ‘ll have to watch and see. 😉

On paper here are the features and specs:

KEY FEATURES

  • Pocket for tripod mount or water bottle on side (Additional straps included for larger tripods)
  • Cable and combination lock included for securing the lockable zippers
  • YKK RC Fuse zippers, ballistic nylon, high-density velex and closed-cell PU
    foam are the highest quality materials in the industry
  • Top compartment cradles large camera bodies for a perfect fit
  • Interior zippered pockets for batteries, CF cards, filters and accessories
  • Custom-designed, high-performance, 80mm wheels with sealed ABEC grade 5 bearings for quiet rolling
  • User-replaceable retractable handle, wheels and feet
  • Extra tall wheel housings protect bag from scrapes and scratches
  • Seam-sealed rain cover included
  • Grab handles on three sides for lifting bag into the overhead bin
  • Reinforced dividers support heavy gear and maintain strength over time
  • Business card holder on top for identification

PRODUCT SPECIFICATIONS

  • Internal Dimensions: 13” W x 18.5” H x 5.3– 6.8” D (33 x 47 x 13–17 cm)
  • Exterior Dimensions: 14” W x 21” H x 8” D (35.5 x 53 x 22 cm)
  • Laptop Pocket: 11.4” W x 16.3” H x 1.4” D (29 x 41.5 x 3.6 cm) (Fits a 17″ laptop)
  • Tablet Pocket: 9.8” W x 9.4” H x 0.8” D (25 x 24 x 2 cm) (Fits a 10″ tablet)
  • Weight: 7.0–8.7 lbs. (3.2–3.9 kg) depending on accessories used

In the video jump to the review at 4:00
Jump to the comparative review between the Airport Roller Derby & the Airport Takeoff 7:57

Links to product (yes, it’s an affiliate link):
Think Tank Photo AIRPORT TAKEOFF™ v2: http://dtrekker.com/TTP-Takeoff
Think Tank Photo AIRPORT ROLLER DERBY™: http://dtrekker.com/TTP_rollerderby
Think Tank Photo AIRPORT INTERNATIONAL™ V3.0: http://dtrekker.com/TTP_intlv3

In this review, I look in detail at the Airport Takeoff v2. It’s new features and just what fits in it and what doesn’t. I also compare the Take off to two other roller bags; the Airport International, Roller Derby.
Music: Severe Tire Damage Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/b…

6 Ways to Improve your Photography Portfolio: The Goldilocks Principle


 

I call it the Goldilocks Principle in editing. Of course, you remember the story of Goldilocks. The little girl who stumbled into a cabin with three bowls of porridge and three beds. One bowl of porridge was too hot, one too cold and one was just right. In the same way, one bed was too hard, one too soft, but one was just right. Apparently, Goldilocks was a ruthless editor. She didn’t settle for anything but what she wanted. She didn’t settle for anything – she knew what she wanted. If Goldilocks were a photographer, she would have a killer portfolio.

Over this past week or so I have been working with a photographic mentee/student. The biggest issue out of the gate has been she has way too many photos in her portfolio. Many of which are not up to the standard of what she is capable of. I get it. Being ruthless to one of your children is hard. As photographers, we have to be disciplined and practice tough love on our portfolio. We want to allow viewers to leave wanting more. Here are six principles (questions) to help you do just that.

1. Is the image technically correct?

 

By “technically correct” I mean is it exposed correctly; is the subject, whatever that might be, in focus or is it soft? Did you push the ISO too far is it grainy?

I love intentionally blurry images. But if an image is blurry because of carelessness then, most of the time it needs to be tossed (there is that happy accident). Soft images are not artistic, they are…well, soft. If a photo is not your best work then it doesn’t need to be in your portfolio. As far as a soft image in your portfolio is concerned, there is one exception, and this brings us to the second point.

2. Does the image show emotion?

 

Emotion is a powerful force and can cover a multitude of technical sins.

There is a passage in the Bible that says, “…love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8). In this case, we can broaden the emotion of love to almost any type of visible emotion; anger, sadness, laughter, really any emotion that can appear on a subject’s face can cover or shall we say, override many technical errors. We see this in photojournalism all the time. An image with powerful emotion trumps a technically flawless one without emotion. Some people might argue that John Filo’s Pulitzer Prize–winning photograph of Mary Ann Vecchio, a 14-year-old runaway, kneeling over the body of Jeffrey Miller during the Kent State shootings was technically flawed. In the original photo, we see a pole that appears to be sticking up through Vecchio’s head. But the image is so profound and so full of emotion that this isn’t important. Emotion in a picture trumps almost any other compositional or technical aspect.

So all this to say, does your photo have emotion? If it does, then there is a good chance it’s a keeper.

3. Is the subject the subject?

 

Don’t be afraid to move in close to your subject.

Do your photos have clear subjects? Ok, so you have a photo of a village. Why? What’s in it? Is there a person that important? Maybe a building that is unique? Is there an unusual pattern or shadow at play? The viewer’s eyes need to be drawn to something. If we can’t see it pretty quick, then it’s pointless. It just isn’t interesting.

I often see images by students that are shot wide. I love shooting with a wide angle lens, but you have to make sure that in a wide image there is a clear subject for the viewer to focus on. When shooting a wide or ultra wide lens, think about putting the subject off-center, nearer the edge of the frame, this might add a slight amount of distortion, but this could help the subject be more dominant within the frame.

Always remember the famous quote by war photographer, Robert Capa “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”

4. Is the image uniquely mine?

 

Look at your image and ask yourself, “Is this my image or am I trying to channel Steve McCurry?” It is ok to be influenced by other photographers or artist, but don’t try to be them. We already have a Steve McCurry or an Amy Vitale. What we need is a [insert your name here] image. If there is one thing I see the most on my workshops is participants trying to be Steve McCurry. Find your style. I have had many people tell me that they can always tell a Matt Brandon image. I am not sure that is entirely true, but it does tell me that I have created a unique style of my own and this is just what you want to achieve. How do you do this?

Honestly, it happens over time. You take influences from those significant photographers and you borrow a little of this and a bit of that. Everyone is influenced by a mentor. That’s kind of the point on a mentor. I doubt anyone’s style is 100% their own, certainly not from the start. But over time you mold it to what you like and who you are and it becomes your photography, your style.

 

5. Does the images have context?

 

This photo is rich with context. A Hindu priest leaves a temple that is adorned with the Indian imagery.

I like my images to tell a story and a good story needs context. Imagine I am telling you a story, but all I did was describe how the main character looked. I don’t say what country the story takes place. I don’t say anything about the weather or if the location is crowded or not (not to mention develop a plot). All I do is describe the person. That is no story. If all you ever make is tight portraits, then your portfolio is going show you are a portrait photographer. Maybe that’s all you want. But if you want to keep people’s interest, mix things up. Shoot wide, medium and close-up and include context. Mix up your lenses. I shoot primarily with a wide-angle, 10-24mm (16-35mm full frame). Why? It includes context.

Many, many years ago, (1985?) I had a National Geographic photographer do a short portfolio review for me. I had two images of two different little Nepali girls. Each image was a tight head and shoulders crop of a shirtless child in black and white. I thought they were stunning. His comment was, “I have no clue as to where this photo was taken; New York? In a studio? India? You need to pull out and give me context!” He was right. If you are taking “travel” imagery, then allow the viewer to travel through the image. Travel images need to transport people to the location of the photo. We do this through context.

Context can be communicated through anything from clothing like a turban or a ratty t-shirt to writing on a wall, or a statue. These give contextual clues to the location, timing, and environment of the photo.

6. Was the image premeditated?

 

 

What do I mean by that? So many photos I see in carelessly or quickly edited portfolios are images that were taken on the fly. Photo walks can be fun but in my opinion, rarely provide the photographer with images that are well thought through and executed. I can almost always pick out a photo that was “snapped” on the fly. These images feel like a stolen moment and often convey a sense of voyeurism. Your images need to be premeditated, thought through and executed. What angle will communicate the best context? Do I want the subject camera aware or not? What you leave out of the frame is just as important as what you put in, and if you are grabbing an image on the fly, then you are, in the words of Ansel Adams, not making a photograph, you are taking it.

In the image above I saw the yak butter lamps and the light and I knew I wanted to photograph them. But the lamps by themselves were not very interesting, at least not to me. I knew it needed more to make a story. So I waited for the human element; people lighting the lamps. I shot the photo with one hand lighting the candles. It was, OK. But, then another person entered the frame and added symmetry. This was the shot.

There are more points I can add to this list, but if you will just concentrate on these six points and not be satisfied with cold porridge and hard beds, you will have upped the quality of your portfolio several times over. Go be Goldilocks!

A Tribute to Phyllis Brandon, My Mother


 

My mother is what Christian’s refer to as a “Godly woman.” To take that out of Christianese and put it in plain English, would be, she was a woman that mirrored the teachings of Jesus Christ in her life. She loved things that were good; she hated that which was evil. She was concerned for the unfortunate and the downtrodden. She “lived in peace with all men in so far as it was possible” and more. She brought up her children with these morals and ethics as well.

This past week on March 21st, after a running battle with kidney disease she passed away. She went to be with her loving Lord and those of whom she love that went before her.

It was a struggle to be here. Not because I had other things to do – but, because I had to watch my mother die. She passed under the care of my sister Terry Brandon who lived with her for the past eight plus years. Terry devoted her life to Mom, and I am sure extended her life by many years. But in the end, after only eight months of dialysis Mom couldn’t take the pain and suffering of the treatment. So, on the 3rd of March, she stopped her treatment.

I was in India running my workshop knowing she was planning this decision. I prayed I would be able to make it back in time to see her before she slipped into a toxic sleep. In fact, Alou and I did, and Mom defied all odds and lasted for three weeks off dialysis.

In tribute to her, her life and what she meant to her family and friends I was asked to make a short video of her life. The video will be played at her memorial service today. This project has been an excellent way to grieve and process this time with my family. I even was able to interview Mom for the video before she lost the ability to speak near the end.

As you can imagine this has been a hugely personal project for me. I want to thank my sister Mindy Brandon Hamm for many of the photos and her creative collaboration.
Music by:

Song: Quiet City
Artist: Aaron Copland, London Symphony Orchestra & New Philharmonia Orchestra
Album: A Copland Celebration, Vol. I

Song: Nonet for Strings: Slow and Solemn
Artist: Aaron Copland, London Symphony Orchestra & New Philharmonia Orchestra
Album: A Copland Celebration, Vol. I

ADHD and How I cope with it.

I was diagnosed with dyslexia back somewhere close to 1974. In those days many phycologists and other said the same thing about dyslexia that people are saying today about ADHD, “It’s just an “American disease” or “only problem with that kid is the way he was raised.” Now, of course, we know this isn’t the case at all. We have fMRIs that show there is something different going on in the brain of someone with either dyslexia or ADD.

Photographers who are ADD, ADHD or dyslexics are faced with unique challenges that other creatives and business people don’t face. In this video, I look at ways to cope with these differences.

If you are ADD or dyslexia, I would love to hear how you have learned to cope and excel in a world that isn’t attuned to they way you function.

I mention that I would link my packing Pro list so folks can download it. You will find it linked below. I hope it helps. Just use it as a starting point and tailor it to your need.


I am not sure I will have a video next week as I am leading a workshop inIndia with my good friend and workshop partner Piet Van den Eynde. But check back soon for a report of the week’s events.

Vlog #15

 

This video was spur of the moment. Photographer friend Pete DeMarco and I decided at the last minute to go out and try to shoot a seascape at a local beach here in Penang. While waiting for the sun to drop we started chatting about the camera he uses, the Sony a7ii. One thing led to another, and this video was born.

The Sony a7ii is a very cool, mirrorless camera. It is full frame and-and yet small, as a mirrorless camera should be. But what intrigues me is it can use apps. Go figure! In this episode, we look at the Smooth Refection app. Pete demonstrates how to use the app, and its effects.

This week’s tip is about geotagging your photos with the Fujifilm Camera Remote app.

Please subscribe to my video channel and my newsletter. We are about to announce a new photo workshop, and newsletter subscribers get the first option to signup. Only after the first 24 hours has past will we release it to the public. Our last workshop sold out in less than one hour!

Smooth Refection App: http://dtrekker.com/sony_smooth

Fujifilm Camera Remote App on iTunes: http://dtrekker.com/fuji-remote

Fujifilm Camera Remote App on Google Play: http://dtrekker.com/Fuji_Remote_Android

Remember to SUBSCRIBE to my channel:

Pete DeMarco’s links:

Website: http://www.thenomadwithin.com/

FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/PeteDeMarcoPhotography/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/petedemarco/

Matt Brandon Vlog 13: Photographing Iconic Scenes

In this video I look at my struggle to photograph the iconic Tak Bat, alms giving ceremony that takes place every morning in Luang Prabang, Laos. The inherent problem with photographing something that has been photographed millions of times is there is very little chance of making a unique photo.

In this video, I explore my struggles at photographing an event that has been happening every day for who knows how long? This was not an easy task, and frankly, one that I think I failed at. But we learn from our failure, and this is why I am sharing the experience. The big difficulty is the culturally sensitive limitations that are put on the visitor during the Tak Bat, and rightly so. Here are just a few are:

  • Keep your head below that of the monks.
  • Don’t touch a monk.
  • Don’t use flash
  • Keep a distance from the monks.
  • Be respectful of the devotees.
  • And a few more.

 

This was my first time to watch this event. We choose to go out where there were not tourists. It was an area that my host knew and had relationships with the devotees. We check with the devotees if we could sit where we sat. They granted us permission. Honestly, I was extremely tempted to use flash, but I resisted and did not use it. Granted, I did push the boundaries on proximity to the monks and in looking back, I probably wouldn’t do that again. But in my defense, we asked, and we got the locals devotees approved. I sat on the ground, so I was never above even the smallest monk. I say all to help you understand the extent we went to be both culturally sensitive and still get the photo.

In this video, I also give photographers a quick tip on how to better view your vertical (portrait) images on the back of your camera’s LCD.

Below are the images that appear in this week’s video.

 

Here I was literally sitting in a drainage culvert to get this angle.

 

This was close to what I imagined. But without using a flash, the morning clouds proved why too bright and overpowered the scene. My attempt to burn in some sky was useless and did more harm than good.

 

By switching locations and shooting across from the procession I focused on the devotees rather than the monks. This was better but I don’t like her hand in front of her eyes.

 

This is perhaps the best image as I manage to arrange all the element close to what I want.

 

Later that same day we stumbled on a gathering of monks. It was like a school assembly.

 

Children get bored with assemblies no matter what the culture.

 

This photo is my favorite image of the trip. So much emotion and life in this photo.

 

Here is one of those images that you see a setting and you wait for someone or something to enter the frame. That is just what I did here.

 

Early the next day we went back out to my host’s neighborhood and saw a group of local monks leaving the local Wat (temple). Knowing they would return in 30 minutes or so I set up across the street and got this.

 

 

Interestingly enough, this image was taken at the precise moment the florescent light in the archway was going off. Thus the yellow glow and the lack of light. It also gave it the best look and feel. The only real issue I have with either of these photos is that I have lost the story. These pictures don’t tell the story of the Tak Bat. These are just images of monks walking through a gate in the early morning.

 

Kuang Si Falls, another location that is practically impossible to get a unique photo of.

 

Downriver of the falls is this water wheel. I used off camera flash to light the wheel. Alou acted as my VALS (Voice Activated Light Stand).

 

 

Matt Brandon Vlog 12: Fujifilm GFX Review and more.

Currently, I am in Laos, once again. If you recall, I was in Laos back in late November shooting my first ever video for a client. I shot the whole video on the X-T2. I was amazed at the quality. The learning curve to use the X-T2 for shooting basic video was surprisingly short. Not that I know everything, not at all. It just seems more intuitive than when I had my Canon 5D MKIII. But, this post is not about the X-T2. It is, however about the video posted above, the Fujifilm GFX medium format camera first look.

Piet Van den Eynde had a chance to use the Fuji GFX in the field in India. In this video, I speak with Piet about his thoughts and impressions of this new ground breaking camera.

I am not going to reiterate all the information in the video. You can watch it. I will, however, give you the links to the products and the video we shot.

You can visit Piet’s blog to see the GFX’s specs on paper, so to speak. Even more exciting he shows you the actual images this beast can make: Visit his blog HERE.

GFX Challenges Video

Product Links:

GFX Medium Format Camera

GF110mmF2 R LM WR

GF63mmF2.8 R WR

GF32-64mmF4 R LM WR

f-Stop Loka UL

SMDV SpeedBox Review

SMDV BRiHT-360 Compact Monolight

WD My Passport Pro 3TB
WD My Passport Pro 2TB

Lastolite Non-Rotating Extending Handle

3 Legged Thing Albert Tripod

Sirui P-324S Carbon Photo/Video Monopod

Want to hear about upcoming workshops even before they are announced on the blog? Then, remember to sign up for my newsletter if you want to be notified first. 

Matt Brandon Video Log #11

Once again I attempt to start my VLOG. In this episode I talk about what I want to accomplish in these The new reboot of my video log. A small rant blog comments, a look at the Fujifilm X-T2, being a photographer and dyslexic/ADD and more.

Be sure to visit the http://thedigitaltrekker.com
http://mattbrandonphoto.com

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