A Podcast: Mitchell Kanashkevich

Mitchell K

Mitchell Kanashkevich

Mitchell Kanashkevich is probably one of the most talented photographers I know. He has gotten that way by shooting continuously. Mitch doesn’t stop — or at least not for long. It was during one of these quick respites that I was able to catch up with him and find out what he has been up to over the past two years since we last spoke. In a word: Africa. Mitch has spent the last year or more slowly traveling through Africa. In this hour long interview we talk about his adventures, misadventures and his entrepreneurial adventures. Mitch has started a new e-book publishing house called EyeVoyage where he has published his latest titled called Powerful Imagery: The Photographer’s Insight. As a special offer for Digital Trekker readers you can get 20% off your order if you use the code “DTREKKER20” on your check out.

Visit Mitch’s blog HERE.

Visit his Photoshelter archive HERE.

One of the coolest things about hosting a podcast on SoundCloud is the ability for listeners to comment on the podcast’s timeline – as it is playing. Feel free to give it a try. Continue reading

Depth of Field: Kevin Russ

Kevin Russ

Kevin Russ

Kevin Russ, by his own admission likes to take the path of least resistance. This path has taken him from a shooting studio work (on a DSLR), being one of the first photographers with iStock and later becoming one of their inspectors. To now shooting almost exclusively with his iPhone and living out of his car. He sells his images both on iStock as well as society6.com, a social media website that sells prints and kitsch with your images on it. He goes where he want to go, he shoots what he wants to shoot and he lives by his own rules. Kevin Russ is his own man. Continue reading

Fun Gear from Fun People

As I write this post many of my friends are in Germany at the world’s largest photographic trade show called Photokina. The geeky, techie side of me is extremely jealous that I am sitting here in Malaysia while they’re over in Germany with their hands on all of the latest shiny photographic toys. In response to this (my jealousy–I mean the new gear) I thought I would throw out a few new products that have made their way to my computer’s inbox. My own “Photokina” of sorts.   I thought you might be interested in seeing some of  what’s on the horizon for the last quarter of the year. First off is Phottix.

The new TTL Flash from Phottix, the Mitros™.

Phottix has announced a new flash. They are calling this “the new standard for TTL flashes”: The Phottix Mitros. After more than two years in development Phottix’s series of TTL hot shoe flashes for Canon, Nikon and Sony will be released soon. This represents another way out from under the thumb of the camera manufacture (their words not mine). The Mitros will do everything you expect a Canon or Nikon 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 Phottix Mitros TTL Flash includes a USB port for firmware upgrades and a 3.5mm Sync port.

The Phottix Mitros is powerful, with a guide number of 58, and which features high quality components–custom designed by Phottix or imported from America, Japan or Taiwan. The flash features full TTL functionality as well as manual and multi modes. It is the perfect complement to the Phottix Odin TTL Flash Trigger system.

Use it on camera for shooting events or weddings, or off-camera with a Phottix flash trigger, light stand and umbrella or softbox for portraits or product photography. This is a professional-level flash – at home on-location or in the studio.

Canon, Nikon and Sony versions of the Phottix Mitros TTL Flash will be released during Q4 2012 and Q1 2013.

 

Phottix Strato™ TTL Flash Trigger – Accurate and affordable TTL Triggering

That’s not all Phottix has in store for the next quarter. The Phottix Strato TTL Flash Trigger is the the newest addition to its ever-popular Strato series of flash triggers and wireless remotes.

The Strato TTL Flash Trigger provides an easy-to-use and affordable TTL flash triggering solution to photographers. High-speed and second curtain sync are supported in this 4-channel, 2.4 GHz transmitter and receiver set. Shoot at maximum shutter speeds of 1/8000 s. The LCD display and quick-change buttons makes adjustments fast and easy. Strato TTL versions for Canon, Nikon and Sony will be released during Q4 of 2012, adding another stellar option in Phottix’s flash trigger line-up.

Triggering hot shoe flashes is only the start of the Phottix Strato TTL’s abilities. The Strato TTL will also trigger studio lights as well as function as a wired and wireless shutter release. It’s easy to connect to light stands or other grip with a cold shoe and ¼ inch threaded lug.

The Strato TTL flash trigger is part of the ever-growing Phottix ecosystem and is compatible with the Phottix Strato I and Strato II Multi series of triggers as well as the Phottix Atlas II. The Strato TTL features a USB port for firmware upgrades. Don’t get left behind as camera and flash technology changes.

Strato TTL versions for Canon, Nikon and Sony will be released during Q4 2012 and Q1 2013, adding another stellar option in Phottix’s flash trigger line-up.

Phottix announces Phottix Ares™ Flash Trigger

Phottix  also just announced the Ares–a simple way to use off-camera flash. The 8-channel transmitter and receiver units have a range of 200m and feature a “fire-all” channel function. No advanced bells or whistles–simple, reliable and affordable radio flash triggering engineered with Phottix durability and quality.

What makes the Phottix Ares unique is the rotating transmitter (patents pending). The Ares accommodates how photographers want to work– with the transmitter upright for fast channels changes, or locked in the low-profile down position.

With a hot shoe and 3.5mm sync port the Phottix Ares can be used to trigger hot shoe flashes and studio lights.* Cables and adapters are included. Packed in a stylish carrying bag, the Ares uses readily available AA batteries. Both transmitter and receiver have a 5V DC power port and can be plugged into power points when used in a studio.

The Phottix Ares 2.4GHz signals have a range of 200m, offer freedom from line-of-sight restrictions and a fast maximum sync speed of 1/250s. The eight digital channels are fast and easy to set with the push of a button.

The Fire-All function allows photographers to fire all flashes or strobes on Phottix Ares receivers set to different channels–ever useful when using multiple lights during an event or wedding.

The Phottix Ares will be released in October and replace some old Phottix flash triggers including the Tetra, Aster and Strato I.
Contact Phottix for more informtion.

 

The new CityWalker™ Messenger bag.

On the less geeky side of things and more in line with my bag fetish, we have two new very cool bags from my good friends at Think Tank Photo. I am excited about both of these. The first bag we will look at is part of the CityWalker™ series and is a slick new messenger bag. Designed with the urban photographer in mind, the new bags will come in three models– CityWalker 10, CityWalker 20, and CityWalker 30 each of these comes in two colors:  Black and Blue Slate. The Blue Slate is something new for Think Tank and I like it!

The CityWalkers’ design emphasizes fit and comfort, premium quality, and functional flexibility.  Extremely lightweight, the bags feature a high quality silver-toned nylon liner, RC Fuse External/YKK zippers, and antique nickel-plated metal hardware.  They have a sound silencer on the main flap, extra flaps for smaller lenses with a fully lined velex insert for maximum customization, internal pockets that fit a pro-size flash, and a removable padded insert.

The CityWalker 10 fits one standard size body with a 24-70 attached, plus one to two small extra lenses, a flash, and a tablet.  The CityWalker 20 holds one standard size body with a 24-70 attached or a 70-200 detached, plus extra lenses, a flash, and a tablet.  The CityWalker 30 holds one standard size body with a 24-70 attached or a 70-200 detached, plus two to four extra lenses, a flash, and a 15” laptop.

“The CityWalkers are a classic ‘walk around’ bag,” said Doug Murdoch, Think Tank Photo CEO and Lead Designer.   “Built around the same design aesthetic as our popular StreetWalker® backpacks, their style is targeted toward casual urban environments while still focused on an active lifestyle.”

Additional features include:

  • 15” Laptop compartment (CityWalker 30)
  • iPad pocket [front internal] (CityWalker 10 and CityWalker 20)
  • Double security on front flap closure with silence-able Hook/Loop and Dual Cross™ Buckle
  • Removable padded insert
  • Seam-sealed rain cover included
  • Customizable divider layout
  • Two internal side pockets to accommodate flash
  • Deluxe organizer on front panel
  • Water bottle pockets on each side
  • Large zippered pocket on front flap for accessories
  • Rear document pocket
  • Business card holder inside main flap
  • Top carry handle

 

All CityWalker fabric exterior is treated with a DWR coating while fabric underside is coated with PU for superior water resistance.  They utilize YKK® RC Fuse (abrasion resistant) zippers, 420D velocity nylon, 420D high-density nylon, 600D brushed polyester, 250D shadow rip-stop polyester, Derrington™ mesh pockets, antique nickel plated metal hardware, Dual Cross™ Buckle, 3D air mesh, mono mesh, and 3-ply bonded nylon thread.

Specifications

CityWalker 10
External Dimensions: 12.4” W x 9” H x 6.7” D (31.5 × 23 × 17cm)
Internal Dimensions: 10” W x 7.5” H x 5.3” D (25.5 × 19 × 13.5cm)
Tablet: 10.3” W x 8” H x 0.8” D (26.2 × 20.3 × 2cm)

Weight: 1.9-2.2 lbs (0.8-1.0 kg)

CityWalker 20
External Dimensions: 13.8” W x 9.8” H x 6.7” D (35 × 25 × 17cm)
Internal Dimensions: 13” W x 8.7” H x 5.3” D (33 × 22 × 13.5cm)
Tablet: 10.3” W x 8” H x 0.8” D (26.2 × 20.3 × 2cm)

Weight: 2.0-2.5 lbs (0.9-1.1 kg)

CityWalker 30
External Dimensions: 16.3” W x 11.4” H x 8.3” D (41.5 × 29 × 21cm)
Internal Dimensions: 13.4” W x 9.6” H x 6.7” D(34 × 24.5 × 17cm)
Laptop: 15″ W x 11″ H x 1.4″ D (38 x 28 x 3.6cm)

Weight: 2.8-3.1 lbs (1.3-1.4 kg)

 

Airport Navigator™

 

The last item in this lineup presents a new concept in the rollerbag. It is designed in the style of the pilot’s navigator bag.  Called the Airport Navigator™  it holds two pro-size bodies, plus three to six extra lenses and most 15.4” laptops, iPads and documents.  The two external side pockets can also accommodate pro-size flashes or water bottles.

The new roller’s lightweight design emphasizes fit and comfort, premium quality, and flexibility and function.  The custom handle extends to total of 40” for easy rolling.  The pilot’s case utilizes the highest quality YKK RC Fuse zippers, custom designed and replaceable in-line skate wheels, and antique nickel plated metal hardware.   It features a shoulder strap with piggy-back function which allows for easy attachment to other rollers.

“This project dates back many years as our designers strived to create a dual access roller,” said Doug Murdoch, Think Tank Photo CEO and Lead Designer.   “Through different revisions, we found that the most reasonable style for this case was a Pilot’s type bag. This effort culminated in the creation of a rolling case that has top and front access for wedding, event and travel photographers. This is yet another unique first for the camera industry.”

Additional features include:

      • 15” Laptop compartment
      • iPad/document pocket
      • Top and front access panels to photo gear
      • Lockable zippers on both main zippered compartments
      • Retractable handle slides through top lid handle to hold lid open for quick access to gear while shooting
      • Removable shoulder strap includes piggy-back function for attaching Airport Navigator to other TTP rollers
      • Two external side pockets to accommodate flashes or water bottles
      • Releasable front panel straps hold the laptop compartment open for quick access to electronics when attached or full access to photo gear when released. Straps also tuck-away when not in use.
      • Custom designed and replaceable handle and wheels
      • Seam-sealed rain cover included

 

The Airport Navigator’s all-fabric exterior is treated with a DWR coating while fabric underside is coated with PU for superior water resistance.  It utilizes YKK® RC Fuse (abrasion resistant) zippers, 420D velocity nylon, 420D high-density nylon, 600D brushed polyester, custom designed replaceable in-line skate wheels, Ultra Stretch pockets, antique nickel plated metal hardware, aluminum reinforcement, rubberized laminate, 3D air mesh, and 3-ply bonded nylon thread.

 

Specifications

Airport Navigator
External Dimensions: 16” W x 15.5” H x 10” D (40.6 × 39.4 × 25.4cm)
Internal Dimensions: 15” W x 13” H x 6.8” D (38.1 × 33 × 17.3cm)
Laptop: 14.8” W x 11” H x 1.5” D (37.6 × 28 × 3.8cm)

Weight: 8.1-9.2 lbs (3.7-4.2 kg)

So how was that? Pretty cool stuff–aye? That should keep your gear fetish fed for awhile. I will be getting my hands on both of these Think Tank Photo bags to give them a good workout. Once I am done with them I’ll let you know my thoughts. Till then, here is the latest feed from Photokina by DPReivew. 😉

Culture Stress: Can’t Win for Losing

Sometimes there is pain in enculturation.

The interview I had planned for today would be better as a Depth of Field podcast. So, left with a blank piece of paper, or screen as the case may be, I found myself musing about last week’s guest post from author Shiloh Lane. She ruffled a lot of feathers and, quite frankly, I was surprised by the amount of flak she took (but I don’t want to go back down that road). It reminded me that there is a big difference between traveling abroad and living abroad.

Travel photographers are often based out of their home culture. Receiving an assignment, they have to book tickets quickly, get visas, pack bags, and then, head out. After a week or two in the host culture, they head back home to the safety of the familiar. They are there long enough to see the beauty of the host culture, experience a little frustration, and remain in awe of the differences. Living overseas is quite a different story. Culture stress, or as it used to be called culture shock, is an extremely difficult stage of living abroad, and, if truth be known, we never fully get through it.

Belonger, Insider

My wife (L) with her good friend in Kashmir.

Experts in the field of culture stress and culture acclimation tell us that the road to making a second culture home can take up to two full years before you feel that sense of belonging, depending on both the expatriated visitor and willingness of the host culture to open itself to you. Not all cultures are the same, as if you didn’t know. Some are very open and accepting of foreigners, while others are very closed and may never fully accept you as a “belonger.” Often, cultures that place a high value on “sameness” and on identity make it very difficult for an outsider to ever become a belonger. Notice, I’m not using the word “insider.” As an outsider, a foreigner, it is very rare that you can become an insider in another culture. Really, the best an outsider can hope for is to be accepted as someone who belongs there.

This lines up both with my own feelings and experiences and with the extensive reading I did over many years as I tried to figure out how I could ever become an insider, or a belonger, in Kashmir. After 13 years, I came to realize that it wasn’t going to happen – but I did become accepted as their “resident outsider.” That was better than always remaining a visitor who knew nothing!

Language and more

When living in a place extremely different from your home, your first tendency is to view things that are different as “wrong.” Travelers who make quick visits abroad experience this. When you live in a place day after day, these thoughts are magnified 1000 times over! Constant stress comes from a lack of identity and control in this new place. You can’t seem to communicate. You can’t get the simplest tasks done. You feel that your whole day is spent simply surviving. Why? Because you don’t know how to communicate! What? Is it really just a problem with language? Yes and no. The words are important, but there is more. There are all kinds of nuances such as the way people use their hands to talk or point, the way they stand or sit, the way they look (or don’t look) into other people’s eyes, and even how quickly they ask or answer a question. You may have the words down perfectly, but without understanding the nuances, you will never completely communicate like a local. Even after years and years, you may never reach that proficiency.

Kashmiri is a very difficult language to learn; it has a gazillion pronouns and other grammatical nuances. On the other hand, Bahasa Malay, the language spoken in Malaysia, is said to be one of the easiest to learn. My wife has been slowly learning Bahasa Malay. She sounds pretty good, but she is finding that there are little things that make even this “easy language” not so easy. In Malaysia, you often hear the particle “lah” used both in Bahasa and in the English that Malays speak. What does “lah” mean? It depends, and that makes it complicated. Sometimes, it is used to mean same as the English “of course.” Other times, it is used simply to elicit familiarity. I can’t go into all of the details, and that is sort of the point: most non-native speakers don’t know how to use it. We sound silly trying even when we are speaking Bahasa Malay. Can you imagine the frustration you must feel spending years learning a language, cultural nuances, proper dress and etiquette, and then a little word like “lah” trips you up in a way that seems to scream to everyone around you, “I am a foreigner!”

You can’t win for losing.

Sometimes, “you can’t win for losing“. For instance, a local once told me that in Malaysia, you never put a fork in your mouth. Most Malay eat with a fork and a spoon only. They use the two utensils to tear the meat apart and then use the spoon to scoop up the rice and meat and put it all in the mouth. That is the “rule,” and yet, sitting in street side eateries, I see locals putting both spoon and fork in their mouths when they eat. So much for that rule!

Honeymoon. Experts say, and I’ve seen this firsthand, that the first six months to a year in a new culture is often called the “honeymoon stage.” It’s a stage when things may be difficult and even confusing, but the culture is still new and exciting. You are happy to be there, and the host culture can do no wrong. The average traveler functions in this stage when visiting a new country or culture for a short period of time. When I am on photo assignments, everything is new and wonderful. I leave the country and return home with all of my wonderful memories of the place and people I just visited. I think this is a natural buffer for the next really hard phase.

My wife & I had driven 10 hrs to catch a train.

Frustration. The next stage is a harder and more dangerous. It usually starts six months to a year after entering a country and can take over a year to get through. You often experience frustration, anger, and even hate for the host culture. As nasty as it sounds, this is normal. What is dangerous is the possibility that your nasty attitude creates all kinds of enemies and infects everyone around you with negative thoughts and feelings about where you are living. And, it is dangerous in another way, as well; if you leave the host culture now, you leave with all the bitter feelings and negative thoughts. And, realistically, if you leave during that phase, you may never return.

This stage was very difficult for me.  I lived in the stage for almost one year in India. I can remember being so frustrated with a rickshaw driver that I almost put my foot through his floorboard in anger. One time, and I’m just being honest, I was so frustrated with everyone trying to push their way onto a bus while I was trying to get off that I just shoved hard with both arms and sent everyone flying. Being about a head or two taller than most Indians, I had the advantage of leverage.

Another time my wife and I had driven 10 hours from Srinagar over the mountains to the city of Jammu to catch a 12-hour train to Delhi. I was tired, I had been sick, and the weather was very hot. The train pulled up and people were clamoring to get on it even before it came to a standstill. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! People were shouting and pushing and elbowing their way into the bogey. I managed to get inside with my suitcase in hand only to realize that my wife was not onboard. I had to force my way all the way through the bogey to the exit in the back to get down and find my wife. While trying to get out, one man shoved me a little too hard. I snapped. I grabbed him by his shirt collar and shoved him against the side of the train. Had I not had my suitcase in my right hand, I might have punched him. Later, I found out that he had shoved me because he was a pickpocket and had stolen my Cross pen from my shirt pocket.

I tell you these stories to illustrate the brutal reality of this phase. I’m not proud of how I acted but that is the reality of that time in my life many years ago. I soon worked my way through this phase of culture adaptation and found a more balanced view of the culture and was living in.

Observe. There are ways to make adaptation easier. The first and the best way is to learn the host language. Learning a language gives you an insight into what is happening around you. You realize that your paranoia of everyone talking about you is just that: paranoia. They are really talking about the price of bread or the latest movie.  Once you get to a conversational level in the language, your frustrations quickly diminish. You calm down and you can start observing culture. And when you start observing culture you can start understanding the “why’s” of the people you’re living with, and once you start understanding the “why’s,” you can start feeling at home.

Laugh at yourself. The last thing I would say to anyone entering into a new culture is, “don’t take yourself too seriously!” Learn to laugh at yourself and your mistakes. Develop a thick skin because your host culture is going to point a finger at you and laugh. (By the way, that’s a cultural difference. In my home culture it’s rare to find someone who will point a finger at you and to talk about you within earshot. But that is not the case in many other cultures!) Learn to laugh at your language mistakes because you’ll be making plenty of them.

I remember when I was learning Hindi, I always confused the word sharāb with the word peshāb.  (I can hear my Hindi speaking friends laughing now!) Sharāb is the word for wine and peshāb for pee or piss. One day, an old beggar man came up to me asking for money. I could tell he had been drinking. I tried to ignore him but he would not go away. Finally, he wore me down and I gave him a few rupees. As I handed over the coins, I looked squarely into his bloodshot eyes and told him in my best Hindi, “Peshāb mut ḵẖarīd na!” or “Don’t use this to buy alcohol!“… or so I thought. What I really said was, “Don’t use this to buy piss!” At the time, I did not understand why he gave me such a strange look.

Get off your high horse and learn to laugh at your self. Adapting to culture takes time. Most of the time you never arrive where you want to be, but you can enjoy the adventure and find a home while doing it.