What camera should a beginner buy?

Stident on old collage chum George Neal had never picked up a camera till I got him shooting a Fujifilm X-20. Later he ugraded his camera to a X-T1. Here is George on the left with both camera next to Piet Van den Eynde on a recent trip to India.

Student and old college chum, George Neill, had never picked up a camera till I got him shooting a Fujifilm X-20. Later he added an X-T1 to his kit. Here is George on the left with both cameras next to Piet Van den Eynde on a recent trip to India.

One of the more frequent questions I get asked, is “What is the best camera I should buy if I am a beginner?” Honestly, these days there are so many choices, which can make it confusing and overwhelming. But the reality is it doesn’t have to be. I tell newbies to step back, take a breath and answer a quick question or two. Then I give them usually one, possibly two answers. They are almost always happy if they follow my advice. Continue reading

A Podcast: A conversation on the Fujifilm X System with Piet Van den Eynde #02

Piet and I checking out the menus of the X-E2 and X-100s.

Piet and I checking out the menus of the X-E2 and X-100s. © René Delbar

 

Last year after the Rajasthan Photo Trek, Piet Van den Eynde and I decided to take a few minutes to talk about our experience with the X-series cameras in the field. Piet is a brand ambassador for Fujifilm Belgium, an Adobe Lightroom Guru and an e-book author with Craft & Vision. More importantly he is my co-leader of the Digital Trekker Photo Treks. Last year after our first Photo Trek together Piet and I thought it might be fun to do a podcast about the Fujifilm X-Series gear we used. You can listen to that conversation HERE. That podcast turned out to be one of my most listened to podcasts and quite a few people had asked for a sequel… So, always eager to provide the content that people want, we though it might be fun to do this again… sort of a part two. This year, after the Photo Trek was officially over Piet and I huddled under a blanket together – no really it was the only way to deaden the sound in our cheap concrete day-rooms – and recorded this podcast. We talk about the latest gear and how we have been using the X-system since our last podcast. I hope you enjoy this conversation. Continue reading

In My Bag

Gear is one of those things that people love to talk about, play with, and drool over. But as every reader here knows any piece of gear is only a tool to help achieve a desired goal. I thought long and hard about making a gear page. But after talking with some friends on Facebook, I decided to list the gear I use in as much detail as possible. I want this page to be a resource to help other photographers. Maybe you are just starting out, or maybe you just don’t travel much, whatever the case may be, my hope is this page can be a help for you. My intent is to give you a look at what I bring on a general assignment and why. On this page and under each tab you will find an overview of that gear. It is not a complete list, nor is it a stagnate list.  But it should give you a good starting point if that is what you are looking for. The first tab is a packing list, it is also changing, so what is in my camera bag this week you may not find it there next week.

  • Cameras:

    For many, many years all I ever shot was a Canon brand camera. It was not an emotional thing, but rather a practical thing. I started shooting with Canon as a young man and stuck with them (except for a brief stint using Olympus). But today that has all changed. Now my go-to kit is made up of Fujifilm equipment. For a further look of my transition from Canon to Fujifilm read the post Fujifilm X – Switch or not To Switch.

    You will be quick to notice that I have several cameras. On any given shoot I have my X-T1 over one shoulder and the X-E2 over the another. Why is that? You can read all about it here: Two Cameras vs One

     

    Fujifilm X-T1

    Fujifilm X-T1

    Fujifilm X-T1

     

    This is a small, light weight and very serious camera. Don’t let the size fool you, this is no toy! The Fujifilm X-T1 Mirrorless Digital Camera features a 16.3 megapixel APS-C X-Trans CMOS II sensor and an EXR Processor II to produce high-resolution imagery with an expandable sensitivity range from ISO 100-51200 as well as a top continuous shooting rate of 8 fps. Fujifilm’s proprietary X-Trans sensor uses a unique randomized pixel array in order to avoid the use of a resolution-reducing optical low-pass filter, therefore providing images with the utmost sharpness and clarity. This imaging system is benefited by the Intelligent Hybrid AF system, which uses both contrast- and phase-detection methods to acquire focus quickly and accurately. Enhanced manual focusing capabilities are also a result of these technologies; Digital Split Image and Focus Highlight Peaking are two methods for quickly and precisely determining focus using intelligent focusing aids for improved control and optimized efficiency.

     

    Fujifilm X-Pro1 & Really Right Stuff L-plate & Grip (back up camera)

     

    Fujifilm-XPro1

    Fujifilm X-Pro1 with the Really Right Stuff L-plate & Grip

     

    I have really grown to love this little camera. In many ways it has brought the joy of photography back to me. I love the layout of the camera, from the aperture ring on the lens to the analog shutter speed dial on the top of the body. It has its quirks, and it is these quirks that keep me from using only the X-Pro1. But over all, this is my camera of choice. I have added the Really Right Stuff BXPro1 Set: Base + LPlate + Grip.

     

    Fujifilm X100

    fujifilmx100

    Fujifilm X100

    This is a camera that started it all. This is what started the mirrorless camera revolution. Oh sure, there were mirrorless cameras before this one, but this is the one that got me excited. It was the first camera in the Fujifilm X-series. It introduced the aperture ring back on the lens where many people say it’s supposed to be, and put the shutter speed dial back up on top of the camera. Additionally, many people say this feature is what brought fun back into photography. With the 23 mm lens on its APS-C cropped sensor it became an instant hit with street photographers. Fujifilm has since come out with a X100s– a faster and more accurately focusing update. This comes with me as a backup, and every time I go to dinner it’s on my shoulder.

     

    Peak Design Camera leash and Cuff

    Peak Design Camera leash and Cuff

    Peak Design Camera leash and Cuff

     

    I have tried so many camera straps along the way from the high end sling straps like Black Rapid, the more costly Artisan & Artist (see the X-Pro1 photo above) all the way down to the humble homemade strap and none work as well as the Peak Design Leash. They are light, soft on the neck, easy to put on and take off the camera. Plus they are versatile. Easily configure the Leash as a sling strap, neck strap and more. When you don’t need a strap it quickly disconnects and stores in your pocket, purse or camera bag. What else do you need in a strap? The Cuff is a handy wrist strap that uses their Anchor Link quick-connection system. Releases with one hand and can be connected to your camera in a variety of locations. When not in use it can be worn around your wrist like a bracelet.

  • Lenses:

    When it comes to Canon lenses I am pretty maxed out and have just about all that I would need for any normal shoot. If I need something unique then I would just rent it. To me, there is no sense in owning a lens I use once a year. This is why I don’t have any specialty lenses. Fujinon lenses are another thing altogether. The X-series lenses are so new they don’t even have all of them out yet.

    Fujinon XF 35 mm f/1.4R:

    Fujinon XF 35 mm f/1.2R:

    Fujinon XF 35 mm f/1.4R:

     

    matt_brandon_jessie.04.20-13.58.08

    f/2.2, 1/220 sec, at 35mm, 400 ISO, on a X-Pro1

    This lens is crazy sharp. on the cropped sensor of the X-Pro1 this lens if effectively 53 mm on a full frame camera. Not an ideal portrait lens, but you use what you have, right? With a f/1.2 depth of field this lens has a really nice bokeh.

    Fujinon XF 14 mm f/2.8R:

    Fujifilm-XF-14

    Fujinon XF 14 mm f/2.8R

     

    f/3.6, 1/40 sec, at 14mm, 200 ISO, on a X-Pro1

    f/3.6, 1/40 sec, at 14mm, 200 ISO, on a X-Pro1

    Fujinon XF 14 mm f/2.8R is another prime that like all the Fujinon lenses is sharp. At this point in the fujifilm’s lens roadmap this is the wides lens they make. It works well for street photography.

     

     

    Fujifilm XF 23mm f/1.4 R Lens:

     Fujifilm XF 23mm f/1.4 R Lens

    Fujifilm XF 23mm f/1.4 R Lens

     

    f/8, 1/35 sec, at 23mm, 4000 ISO, on a X-Pro1

     

    Fujifilm XF 23mm f/1.4 R Lens is the full frame equivalent of a 35mm and at f/1.4 it is super fast and like so many f the Fujifilm lenses it is razor sharp! You can read my review of this lens HERE.

     

     

    Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2R:

     

    fujufilm_56mm

     

     

    f/1.4, 1/1500 sec, at 56mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

    f/1.4, 1/1500 sec, at 56mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

     

     

    Fujinon XF 56 mm f/1.2R is equivalent to a 85mm on a full frame camera. At f/1.2 it is a crazy fast lens with wonderful bokeh. You can read my review on this lens HERE.

    Fujinon XF 10-24 mm f/4 R:

     

    fujifilm_10_24mm

     

     

    f/4, 1/180 sec, at 17.4mm, 400 ISO, on a X-E2

    f/4, 1/180 sec, at 17.4mm, 400 ISO, on a X-E2

     

     

    This is lens and the 56 mm f/1.2 are the two lenses from Fujinon that I had been waiting for since they first camera out with the X-Pro1 body. This is the full frame equivalent of a 16-35 mm. My only gripe is it is slow at f/4. But it does have an effective lens stabilization built into it. Read my review HERE.

    Fujifilm XF 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 R LM OIS:

     

    Fujifilm_XF_55-200mm

     

    f/22, 4.5 sec, at 121.8mm, 250 ISO, on a X-Pro1

    f/22, 4.5 sec, at 121.8mm, 250 ISO, on a X-Pro1

     

    A sharp telephoto, the XF 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 R LM OIS is a full frame equivalent of a 84-305 mm with optical stabilization it is great way to get those hard to get distant shots.

  • Lighting:

    If there is a weak spot in my skills it has to be lighting. For whatever reason the theory and math just goes in one ear and out the other. So I need lighting gear to make it simple to make it simple. Here is what I have gathered over the years.

    Fujifilm EF42 Shoe Mount Flash:

    Fujifilm EF42 Shoe Mount Flash

    Fujifilm EF42 Shoe Mount Flash

     

    A pretty simple flash and that is what I need. It’s a lightweight, portable on-camera flash with a 138′ (42 m) guide number @ ISO 100. It has auto zoom that automatically matches the focal length of the lens (24-105mm in 35mm format), and can be set for APS-C or full-frame 35mm use. Light output is adjustable from full power all the way down to 1/64 power. Exposure compensation of +/-1.5 EV in 1/2-stop steps helps you further refine your lighting. The flash head rotates 90° vertically, 180° to the left, and 120° to the right for total flexibility in directing your light.

    Cactus Wireless Flash RF-60:

    Cactus_RF60

    Cactus Wireless Flash RF-60

    This is one of the smartest flashes I have ever used. It has built-in wireless commander and receiver. You can fire this manual flash from a Cactus V6 transceiver or from another Cactus flash via radio. Of use any other flash as an optical trigger.

    Phottix Mitros TTL Flash:

     

    Phottix Mitros TTL Flash for Canon

    Phottix Mitros TTL Flash for Canon

     

    The Mitros will do everything you expect a top-of-the-line TTL flash to do. Functions include built-in IR triggering with Master and Slave modes, AF assist light, auto/manual zooming flash head, all with fast recharge times. The Mitros has a maximum guide number of 190′ (58 m) at ISO 100 (at 105mm focal length) just like the Canon and much more affordable. The Phottix Mitros TTL Flash includes a USB port for firmware upgrades and a 3.5mm sync port

    Cactus Wireless Flash Transceiver V6:

    cactus_v6

    Cactus Wireless Flash Transceiver V6

    The Cactus V6 is a revolutionary wireless flash triggering system. It brings off camera lighting to new dimensions where it widens the choice of cameras and lights for achieving remote power control. comes with a multi-system shoe that supports TTL pass through. With TTL pass-through, the TTL flashes behave as they would when directly connected to the camera hot shoe. By using an exclusive flash profile learning program, the V6 can learn unique power level characteristics from various flash models. More than 30 popular flash models from Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Metz, Nissin, Sigma, etc. have been profiled and pre-installed on the V6 and each unit. V6 can remotely control the power output of these flashes. If a TTL flash model is not listed, the V6 may even learn its flash profile and then be able to control the power output of the flash.

     

    Photoflex LiteDisc Circular Reflector, Black/Silver, 42″ (107cm):

     

    42095

    Photoflex LiteDisc Circular Reflector, Black/Silver, 42″

     

    Photoflex MultiDisc Circular Reflector, 5 Surfaces, 42″ (107cm):

     

    IMG_89629

    Photoflex MultiDisc Circular Reflector, 5 Surfaces, 42″ (107cm)

     

     

    Tripods & Heads:

    Fotopro MGC-684n and Ball Head:

    fotopro-mgc684n

     

    Fotopro’s MGC684n is a 8x layer carbon fiber tripod is a lightweight and versatile tripod with a built in monopod. The reverse folded function enables it to compact enoiugh to fit in a suitcase and yet remain durable and stable tripod. The leg locks only need a ¼ turn to lock or loosen a leg sections.The molded rubber locks are easy to handle even when wearing gloves. The 2 sectioned center column can easily be reversed for low level use and contains an attachment to hang additional weight.

    Digipod a2830 Tripod:

     

    digipod-a2830-acratech-GV2-ballhead

    Digipod a2830 with the Acratech GV2 Ballhead

    I needed to larger steadier a tripod but I didn’t want to spend as I wont use it a lot. I am not a landscape photographer but every photographer needs a good size pair of sticks. The Digipod A2830 is Chinese brand aluminum tripod. It’s a little heavier than I wanted, at 5lbs. However, it is just the height I wanted and the finishing is quite nice. With my Acratech ball head and the center column lowered it stands exactly 5 feet tall. Once I put the camera body on, the eyepiece of my 5D MKII is level with my eye. All this for only… are you ready..$120.00!

     

    Acratech GV2 Ballhead:

     

    Acratech GV2 Ballhead

    Acratech GV2 Ballhead

     

    The Acratech GV2 Ballhead is a great head with a unique design. It’s light weight and open design makes it ideal for the type of shooting I do. Many other ballheads, and I am not excluding the big names out there, have their ball and socket design encased in some sort of housing. When dirt and grime get inside the housing the head starts to have friction and the movement no longer stays smooth. Not with the exposed design of the Acratech heads and being oilless and greaseless the ball will not attract and hold dirt and debris. Very smart! This is a lightweight head, less than 1 lb (.45kg). A concern with it being so light is, will it support the weight of a DSLR and a 70-200 2.8 lens? It does, and in fact easily holds over 25 lbs (11.4kg) at any angle. They are made with a quick release clamp that is compatible with most major manufactures QR plates.

    Canon GPS Receiver GP-E2:

    GP-E2

    Canon GPS Receiver GP-E2

    Canon’s GPS Receiver GP-E2 records GPS information like longitude, latitude, elevation, direction and Universal Coordinated Time (UTC) as EXIF data on photo files using a compatible EOS camera. This lightweight, compact unit can also serve as an electronic compass or a stand-alone GPS recorder when shooting my Fujifilm gear. It was designed specifically for the EOS system, and offers USB and hot-shoe connections with the EOS 5D Mark III. With that said, the GP-E2 can also be used as a generic GPS logger and the data downloaded and synced in Lightroom.

  • Bags:

    For packing my camera I use Thinks Tank Photo bags for two reasons. The first and most important reason is I find them functional and incredibly well made. They fit my use and so I use them. And in full disclosure, the other reason is that I am on the design board and get a really good deal on any bag I want, but I would use them even if I wasn’t, though I might not own as many as I do now.

    Airport International V2 Roller Bag:

     

    Airport-International-V-20-Rolling-Camera-Bag-10

    Airport International V2 Roller Bag

     

    When I travel and find myself shooting with my Canon bodies and lenses then I almost always pack my kit in this bag. It is spacious and rolls nicely and is seemingly indestructible. This bag has been around the globe many, many times. Like a Timex, it takes a licking and keeps on ticking. Note of Caution: Even though this bag is legal carry-on size, it is big enough that many airline attendants look at it and often ask you to weigh the bag upon checking in for your flight. This is a pain, as it is almost always overweight by the time I finish packing my kit in it.

    Think Tank Photo Airport 4-Sight Rolling Camera Bag:

     

    Airport-4Sight-1

    Think Tank Photo Airport 4-Sight Rolling Camera Bag:

     

    Even though TTP says it works well with larger gear, I find it too small for carrying two pro-size DSLR and a full kit of lenses. But it is perfect for two X-Pro1 bodies and several X-series lenses. One of the best features of this bag is that it rolls on all four coasters. This might not seem like much, but it is really nice to roll this bag through an airport without having to drag it behind you.

    Airport Navigator Rolling Camera Bag:

    Airport-Navigator-2

    Thank Tank Photo Airport Navigator

     

    This is a even smaller bag than the Airport 4-Sight. But oddly enough it offers a lot more. This bag easily carries my complete Fujifilm X-Series kit. It also has padded pockets for a laptop and an iPad both. Perfect for my MacBook Pro 13″ as well as an iPad or my Kindle. I wish this bag rolled on all for wheels, but it doesn’t. It fits nicely into the overhead with no issues and I never get questioned about weight.

    Think Tank Photo CityWalker 20 (Blue):

     

    CityWalker-20-Blue-5

    Think Tank Photo CityWalker 20

     

    This bag has replaced my Think Tank Photo Urban Disguise 70. It is light weight and looks like just another messenger bag. The 20 is just the right size to fit two X-Pro1 cameras with lenses attached and still have room to carry another lens or two. But frankly, I hardly ever use it to shoot out of. I use it when I am traveling from location to location with one slight modification. I replace the handle strap that came on it with another think Think Tank adjustable strap. This allows me to put the bag over the handle of my roller bag and then cinch it tight. While traveling, I carry my MacBook Pro 13″ with my Kindle Paperwhite in it along with some headphones, a small backup drive, various cables and power cord, business cards, pens, passport and more.

     

    Large Luggage:

     

    Eagle Creek ORV Super Trunk 36:

     

    Eagle Creek ORV Super Trunk 36

    Eagle Creek ORV Super Trunk 36

     

    I keep trying to buy roller duffles and I keep getting disappointed. When I need to have a large roller bag I go with my Eagle Creek ORV Super Trunk 36. This think is the perfect size and is easy to pack and roll. But at 11 lbs 7 oz / 5.20 kg it is not what I call light and these days every ounce needs to be accounted for.

     

    The North Face Base Camp Duffel:

    The North Face Base Camp Duffel

    The North Face Base Camp Duffel

     

    There is a lighter – albeit harder on the back option to the Eagle Creek roller, and the one I usually go with, The North Face Base Camp Duffel. It is very light at 4 lbs 15 oz (2240 g). Made from a durable laminate material, the Base Camp Duffel is a bomber of a bag. Amply resilient to be roughed around in-flight, or to be transported up a mountain via a yak, this is one tough duffel bag. At 155-liter volume it provides ideal storage for long, extended trips, or space for photographer to store a large tripod and lighting gear. This bag has no padding, so you need to pack it with that in mind.

     

    General Packing:

    For packing my clothes I find using packing cubes to be the most helpful. I used to by the costly ones, only because I couldn’t find any other. Then eBags started carrying them and now that is what I use to pack and sort my cloths.

    eBags Packing Cubes:

     

    ebags-packing-cubes

    eBag Packing Cubes

     

    These guys are a silent hero for the traveler. They are indispensable. They are simple yet effective at keeping your clothing and gear organized and mostly wearable once you arrive at your destination. If you don’t use them then you must be wearing wrinkled clothing once you arrive.

    Here is another look at the eBag packing cubes in action and how they keep me organized and save space in my luggage.

    eBag Packing Cubes in Action

    (a) eBag packing cube with my pants
    (b) eBag packing cube with my shirts
    (c) raincoat
    (d) Think Tank Lens Skin that contains my filters
    (e) eBag packing cube with more clothes
    (f) eBag packing cube with heavy winter weight socks
    (g) Think Tank storage container that with two other smaller containers of storage (see below)
    (h) nylon liner for sleeping bag
    (i) Think Tank storage bag
    (j) Eddie Bauer toiletry case

  • Clothing:

    I travel to some varied climate. Often I travel to those varied climates in one trip, so how do you pack as efficiently as possible for trip that you might be hot one day and freezing the next? In truth therer is not a good answer, but here is what I do.

    Anokhi’s lightweight 100% cotton hand blocked printed shirts:

     

    Anokhi

    Anokhi’s 100% cotton hand blocked printed shirts

    The tropics rarely allow me to go through a day without sweating like crazy. So when I found Anokhi’s lightweight 100% cotton hand blocked printed shirts I found relief. For a slightly overweight middle-aged man I like to look nice when I can–I gotta do what I can–after all I am married to a gorgeous Asian woman. These shirts fit the bill, lightweight, casual, with a certain sophistication or dare I say je ne sais quoi. Each shirt is like a piece of hand made Indian folk art. Gavin Gough‘s been lusting after my collection for years. I don’t go to India without picking up one or two of these shirts. They are practical in that you can soak them with sweat but they dry within minutes if you are in a breeze. The only catch with Anokhi is finding them outside of India. Here is the best I can do for you : Anokhi’s retailer’s listing and a catalog of images of some of their other product. At the risk of “TMI” (Too Much Information”) I also wear Anokhi’s super lightweight Boxers shorts. Light weight and breathable, they are perfect!

     

    Kühl Jeans:

    kuhl-revolvr

    Kühl Revolvr

    I have quit wearing nylon packable pants. I find the the opposite that I need. Meaning for the most part they are too hot in the warm climates and too cold in the cooler climates. They also rip easy. For now, I have one brand of trousers that I use exclusively, Kühl, Revolvers. I love them they are just the right weight to take of any chill and still lighter than blue jeans so they remain cool in the tropics. In fact I wear them at home in Malaysia just about everyday. They have plenty of secure pockets for Phones and other valuables. They’re not cheap but they are not crazy costly either. Most outdoor stores carry them, I get mine at REI.

    Kühl Shorts:

    kuhl-short

    Kühl Shorts

    I am sorry if you think of me as uncreative, but when you find a good thing you stick with it. This is why I also wear Kühl shorts. Why Kühl? They are the right length (I hate short shorts) durable, good looking, not too hot and crazy comfortable.

    Hats:

    Ever since I was a young lad I have had a thing with hats, in particular wide brimmed fedora. I like the way they look but they also have a utilitarian function as well – They keep the sun off my ears and neck. Some people might thin I splutge on these hats I hat a hand full and I wear them all. Honestly, there is nothing that says this hat should be worn for this type of day or function. It is really a matter of what I am in the mood for. So here is the list:

     

    Akubra Stylemaster:

    1746acr_lg6

    Akubra Stylemaster

     

    Akubra has been hand crafting hats for over 130 years. I buy their superior rabbit fur felt hat, it’s not only an exceptional looking hat but one of the most durable. The thing most people don’t understand about fur felt is it is breathable and so the Akubra hats have been worn in the heat of the Australian summer right through to their freezing cold winters. This hat was my first Akubra. The Stylemaster is a pre-creased fedora. The pinched telescope crown is 4-1/4 inches at the front, rising to 4-3/4 inches on the side and then down to 3-7/8 inches in the back. This give this hat a distinctive look. The brim is 2-1/2 inches wide and bound with ribbon. I am not a huge fan of cut brims, I like then bound like this one. The snap brim is usually worn snapped down in front and up in back. The pure fur felt is Akubra’s Imperial Quality. The hat is fully lined and has a 1-1/2 inch grosgrain band. A leather sweatband.

    The Squatter:

    Squatter

    The Squatter

    The Squatter is a classic Australian town and country hat. The brim is 3 inches wide, bound edge, and may be worn snapped down in front or as a drop brim down all around. Imperial Quality pure fur felt, 1-1/4 inch ribbon band, fully lined, with chin strap hooks set inside the crown for attachment of a chin strap. 5-1/4 inch open crown, shipped uncreased. Reeded roan leather sweatband.

    The Squatter takes its name from the men who took up large blocks of pastoral land in the outback under government license when Australia was first settled. These large landowners were often the rich and influential men of the district and the Squatter, made by Akubra, reflects a little of this life style

     

    Brent Black Rollup Monticristi Optimo Panama:

    optimo

    Brent Black Rollup Monticristi Optimo Panama

    I had wanted a panama hat for years. The lightweight tight weave of fine Ecuadorian straw seemed just the thing for Malaysia. After all this hat was a standard part of the well dressed gentleman here for years. This is how hat maker Brent Black describes the Optimo Panama.

    The Optimo is the classic Panama hat style. In Ecuador, it’s called the Natural. The Optimo was the style of choice for British travelers, ex-pats, and empire builders in Malaysia, Hong Kong, India, and throughout the tropics—anywhere a gin and tonic had actual therapeutic value (against malaria, not just tropical tantrums). Even today, the style is more popular in the UK than in the US.-Brent Black

    This is a genuine Panama hat, hand woven in Ecuador – hand blocked and finished in Hawaii. What makes the Optimo different is it is made for the traveler. You can roll this hat up, put it in a packing tube and store it while traveling. Then once you arrive you unroll it and you are good to go… in theory. In fact Mr. Black wrote me a a note and said if I wanted to keep the hat looking like it is don’t even think about rolling it up, it will loose at lot of it’s shape. He even has a caveat page on “rolling up a panama“. My wife keeps reminding me, “It a hat. That’s one of the reasons you got it, to roll it up, don’t be silly.” So now I roll it and pack it and it looks nothing like this any more.

     

    Borsalino Enzo Open Crown Crushable:

     

    borsalino

    Borsalino Enzo Open Crown Crushable

    Borsalino is another hat company that has been around forever. Based in Alessandria, Italy, they make quality fur felt hat for every type of need. The Enzo Open Crown Crushable was the first hat I owned that had a feel of a vintage hat from the 1930s & 40s. The fur felt is light and flexible, unlike that of the Akubra felt that is stiff like a cowboy hat. The Borsalino fur felt is not only pliable but water repellent as well. Like the Optimo this hat is easily rolled up and stuck in a packing tube for travel. You might ask, why don’t you just wear your hat on the plane? Well, often I do, but I always risk forgetting them in the seat next to me when I am disembarking or they can get crushed in the overhead bin by sliding luggage. Half-inch gros grain band. Custom Borsalino cloth sweat band. The brim is 2 3/8″.

     

    Primavera by Orlando Palacios:

    primavera-yellow

    Primavera by Orlando Palacios

     

    Orlando Palacios is a creative artist based in New York City. As the owner and head designer of the New York haberdashery, Worth and Worth, he has grown to be the go-to lid-crafter for musicians ranging from Keith Richards to Elvis Costello and Beyoncé. One day in the summer of 2013 I was standing in the Austin Burgstrum International Airport and I saw this guy with a very cool mustard color hat on. The color caught my eye first, but then the hat brim edging was unique, it was stitched rather than bound with a grosgrain ribbon. You just don’t see that much. I figured his was obviously a musician I mean it is Austin, right? He had a mandolin case slung over his shoulder and was dressing very hip. So I go up to him comment on his hat. He looked shocked and frankly a little perturbed I bothered him. But he lighten up and told me it was a handmade lid by Orlando Palacios out of New York, the Primavera in yellow (His had a yellow matching band). Right then, I thought, I at least got to call up this hat shop up and ask about the hat. Next thing I know I got the thing on my head. It’s soft supple construction and only weights 62 grams which gives it crushable capabilities. Worth & Worth call this hat their original 3 season, travel hat. But there is no way I am going to crush this hat. The Primavera has a 2 ½” brim and a tapered crown with a 3 ¾” profile. Its’ detailed with a chocolate colored 1” hatband.

  • Other Accessories:

    Travel is a big part of my work. Of course, when we photographers travel we don’t just carry cameras and lenses. We have to carry many other accessories that make traveling easier and our work more productive. So here is a list of items that have made my time on the road easier and more productive.

    PacSafe: Wrapsafe cable lock:

    WrapSafe

    The Wrapsafe this is a monstrously long cable with a creative design. Unlike other normal cable locks PacSafe’s Wrapsafe cable is adjustable due to the polycarbonate anchors along the cable length. It’s not exactly light, but it’s effective at securing your luggage in a train station, airport or even in a hotel room while you’re gone all day shooting photographs. It leaves you with peace of mind while you are away from your belongings. Well worth the weight!

    Belkin 4-Way Surge Protector and Extension:

    Belkin surge protector 4

    One of the most frustrating things while traveling is having enough plug adapters for all your different electrical items. Sometimes, you may have enough adapters, but there just isn’t enough sockets in the room. Enter the Belkin 4-Way Surge Protector and Extension. There are several of these available, but I use the one that has the multi-plug slots. In this way I can use almost any type of plug from the round prongs of Indian plugs to the English and Malaysian large square plugs. (Unfortunately, I have never found this particular power extension available in the United States. I’ve only found it available in South and Southeast Asia.)

    Zero Tolerance ZT-0350 tactical knife:

    Zero Tolerance ZT-0350 tactical knife

    Some might feel this is overkill and that a complicated Swiss Army knife might work better or even a multi-tool. Maybe that is true for you. I switched to this knife after years using a Swiss Army knife. But frankly, the Swiss Army knife was too heavy to carry around in my pocket and I never used anything but the scissors and the knife blade, so what was the point? I like the simplicity of this knife. Plus, this particular knife gives me a sense of security in that it is an “every day carry” and I can clip it onto my pocket and wear it. It has an assisted opening that makes one-handed opening easy using the large, ambidextrous thumb stud or blade flipper. It is made of thick S30V stainless steel. S30V steel is really tough, so much so that you can use this knife to pry apart two wood 2-by-4 planks nailed together and not damage the blade.

    LEDLenser-ZL7438 Flashlight:

    LEDLenser-ZL7438 Flashlight

    Any small LED flashlight is handy. But this one is as bright as a laser beam! My LEDLenser has proven to be indestructible. I have dropped this from quite high on many occasions and it still performs well. This little light takes 3 AAA batteries and runs forever on them. It is rated to give 100 hours of battery life. I’m not sure that’s true. Maybe it is 100 hours till the battery dies completely. Needless to say, you will want to replace the batteries earlier than later to keep the light bright. It is not cheap, but it’s been the last flashlight that I’ve had to buy. So, in the long run it might be worth the money spent. This is an Australian company, so I’m not sure how easy it is to find in the United States, I bought mine in the Philippines.

    Giro Blaze Cold-Weather Cycling Gloves:

    Giro Blaze Cold-Weather Cycling Gloves

    You might ask, why cycling gloves? The fact is, I didn’t go out looking for cycling gloves in particular. I was browsing around a few years back at an REI (a sports store in the U.S.) and found these. They are thin, grip well and yet still warm and allow me to feel the buttons on my camera while wearing them. I don’t find much use for fingerless gloves, so these were perfect. These guys went with me to the Everest base camp and will go with me whenever the weather is chilly to down right cold.

    Gatorade powder:

    Gatorade powder

    This is an incredibly handy item to have with you when you travel. Not only does it replace lost electrolytes after you have been sweating in the New Delhi sun, it also can mask the flavor of some pretty nasty water. Oftentimes water that’s been filtered or purified may have a bad taste and this makes drinking it possible. I usually keep around 3 or 4 small packs with me throughout the day.

    Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling In-Ear Headphones:

    981921

    Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling In-Ear Headphones

     

    Audio is very important to my work and I want to be able to hear what I’m capturing with my recorder. But I also don’t want to have to carry along several types of headphones. I used to travel with a pair of huge over-the-ear noise canceling headphones but I found I only use them when I was in the plane. Then I found these QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling In-Ear Headphones from Bose feature their active noise-cancelling technology. In a word, AMAZING! The headphones are powered by Bose’s TriPort Acoustic drivers to produce a balanced frequency response. They are powered by the built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery that provides up to 16 hours of noise cancellation per charge. The in-line microphone and remote allows you to take calls and control your iPhone, iPad, or iPod device.

    Eneloop Ni-MH Rechargeable Batteries with Charger:

     

    Eneloop Ni-MH Rechargeable Batteries with Charger

    A conventional NiMH Battery can be charged only up to 500 times and looses about 10-15% of its charge on the first day itself. In contrast the Sanyo Eneloop retain up to 85% of its charge even after one year. Not only that but they can be recharged up to 1000 times. I have found these to be the best rechargeable batteries out there…by far. They’ve saved me a lot of money over time. Great for use in a flash, radio triggers and recorders.

    iPhone/iPad Pen and Stylus:

    Kensington iPhone Sylus

    Why a iPhone stylus? Good question, since the iPhone doesn’t need a stylus for you to write on it. But, try to get someone who’s never written on iPhone to use their fingers to sign a model release. Trust me, it’s difficult, I’ve tried it. That’s when I went and purchased a stylus pen and everything became easier. If you’re using Easy Release or some other type of iPhone app for obtaining a model release I highly recommend getting a stylus. The one I have (pictured above) doubles as a writing pen as well.

    Pipes & Tobacco:

    Two to Three Pipes

    At the risk of getting inflammatory e-mails by people telling me how dangerous pipe smoking is I put my pipes on this gear page. It’s a simple pleasure that relaxes me. I enjoy the camaraderie it facilitates with other pipe smoking photographer friends. You know who you are – I will not list your names here. 😉

  • Packing List:

    One of the most helpful things I have found when prepping for a trip is a packing list. An easy way to use a check list like this and to keep a the list updated is by using the iPhone app called “Packing Pro.” You can find the full review of it HERE.

     

    PackingPro

     

    Below is a general list that I made in Packing Pro called “Assignment.” These items are unique to me– i.e. pipe tobacco, but you can easily change them up and make it yours. Even though it looks huge, most of the items are very small and light weight. Packing Pro gives the option to add a weight to each item and then it will tally the weight for you. A very cool option, but one I haven’t taken the time to use. You can download the app Packing Pro and then download my list linked HERE (be sure to unzip it) and import it to use it as a template for your own list or you can just use this page and tick off each item as you pack.

    So here is my packing list:

    To Do (pre-trip)

    (general prep) buy travel guide
    (general prep) buy E-ticket
    (general prep) create itinerary
    (general prep) reserve hotel
    (general prep) get visa
    (equipment prep) download GPS Maps
    (general prep) check on type of plug adapters
    (equipment prep) get plug adapter(s)
    (physical prep) prep medical prescriptions
    (equipment prep) recharge batteries
    (equipment prep) recharge camera batteries x 4
    (general prep) arrange accommodations
    (gen prep) research for trip
    (physical prep) cut hair
    (equipment prep) zero out camera settings
    (Gen Prep) print assignment brief
    (Gen Prep) notify bank of travel destinations
    (Gen Prep) buy travel insurance

    Essentials

    (documents) passport
    (documents) plane tickets
    (documents) photocopies
    (documents) contact info
    (luggage) Think Tank CityWalker
    (luggage) Think Tank Navagatior
    (money) cash –> $300
    (money) credit card x 2
    (money) ATM card x 2
    (luggage) wallet
    (documents) drivers license
    (documents) passport photos
    (documents) tickets (plane)
    (documents) business card
    (luggage) packing cubes x 4
    (documents) assignment brief
    (documents) visas
    (documents) frequent flyer card

    Clothes

    (shirts) Anokhi long sleeve shirt
    (shirts) Anokhi short sleeve shirt x5
    (pants) Kühl shorts x2
    (pants) Kühl long pants
    (shirts) t-shirt x3
    (underwear) light weight boxers x4
    (Shoes) Chaco sandles
    (beachwear) flip flops
    (hat) buff x3
    (hat) fedora

    Toiletries

    (for hair) shampoo
    (for body) soap
    (for mouth) toothpaste
    (for mouth) floss
    (for mouth) toothbrush
    (for body) deodorant
    (for mouth) chap stick
    (for mouth) mouthwash
    (for body) talcum powder

    Medical/Health

    (creams) anti-bacterial
    (bandages) band-Aids
    (bandages) Q-tips
    (prevention) sunscreen
    (prevention) bug spray
    (prevention) ear plugs
    (pills) pain-relief
    (pills) metadate
    (pills) ciprofloxin
    (pills) baby aspirin
    (pills) simvastatin

    Camera Gear

    (photo equipment) Fuji X-Pro1 body x2
    (photo equipment) Fuji X-Pro1 chargers x 2
    (photo equipment) Fuji X-Pro1 batteries x 4
    (photo equipment) Lens Fuji 35mm
    (photo equipment) Fuji EF 42 flash
    (photo equipment) Lens Fuji 14mm
    (photo equipment) Fuji X100
    (photo equipment) Fuji X100 batteries
    (photo equipment) Fuji X100 charger
    (photo equipment) Reflector disk
    (photo equipment) Flash reflector
    (photo equipment) GP-E2 GPS
    (photo equipment) SD Cards x4
    (photo equipment) Umbrella
    (photo equipment) Off-camera sync cable
    (photo equipment) sensor swabs
    (photo equipment) Gorrila Pod
    (photo equipment) Fotopro Tripod
    (photo equipment) Lee filters

    Gadgets

    (computer gear) 13″ Mac Book Pro
    (computer gear) MagSafe Power Adapter
    (utility) iPhone
    (utility) iPhone USB cable
    (utility) flashlight
    (utility) reading light
    (utility) electrical adapter x4
    (utility) plug converter
    (utility) Eneloop recharger
    (utility) Eneloop AAA batteries x4
    (utility) Eneloop AA batteries 1×6
    (utility) power strip
    (utility) 1tb backup drives x2
    (photo equipment) cable for backup drives x 2
    (utility) GP-E2 GPS
    (audio equipment) Bose noise canceling headphone
    (audio equipment) mic cable
    (audio equipment) Apogee MiC
    (audio equipment) Apogee iPhone cable
    (audio equipment) mini tripod
    (audio equipment) Sony PCM D50
    (recreation) Kindle

    Accessories

    (misc.) packable umbrella
    (misc.) eye mask
    (misc.) extra glasses
    (misc.) reading glasses
    (misc.) luggage scale

    Misc.

    (laundry) dirty clothes bag
    (books) travel guide
    (books) pen x3
    (misc.) padlock x2
    (misc.) plastic bags x5
    (misc.) Ziplock bags x10
    (misc.) sewing kit
    (misc.) cable lock
    (misc.) lighter
    (misc.) pipe x 4
    (misc.) pipe tobacco x3
    (misc.) pipe cleaners
    (misc.) pipe tamp