What's In My Bag?
It's been a long time since I last did a blog post, but a friendly follower of my facebook photography page (bit of a tongue twister there!), Mr Bob Stark, suggested to me that it might be nice to do a 'What's In Your Bag' post to give an insight into what I carry with me and use as I go around photographing the landscape. Obviously the camera equipment is something that will interest many, however I thought I'd also include the other bits and pieces that I take with me on outings on Dartmoor and the coast because I think they're just as important.
The Backpack - I always used to use a conventional camera backpack to carry my gear with me, but I found this to be a bit cumbersome and impractical when walking about where I do. As much as it was great to carry my gear in, it was unbalanced, uncomfortable if going a fair distance, uncomfortable because being a female the designers don't seem to think about straps being a rubbing and chaffing issue on our extra lumps and bumps, it wasn't strong enough to carry my tripod so I had to hand hold it wherever I went, and it was also not large enough for extra clothing for changeable weathers when out for a decent amount of time. So.....it was time for a change. I was trying to find something that would solve all of these problems when I came across the Osprey Aura 65 AG backpack.
To start with this beauty is designed specifically for women (they do a mens version too which is the Osprey Atmos 65 AG) making it much more comfortable all round to use and wear, it also has an adjustable back section and hip section meaning you can tailor it to your own shape and size perfectly. The back and hip sections are well ventilated so in the summer months there's absolutely no suffering from sweaty back syndrome thankfully! Being a 65 litre it has plenty of room for a good sized insert in which to keep all of my camera gear when I'm out shooting, and although there are loops for ice axes (nope I've never yet been in need of one!) and walking poles, these actually come in extremely handy for attaching your tripod to so that you don't have to carry it everywhere by hand. For all your other bits and bobs, of which I'll come on to a bit later on, there are numerous ample sized pockets to accommodate all of this.
The Insert - The insert that I use is a very simple generic camera backpack insert which I found on Ebay for only a few quid. It can easily hold my two camera bodies, four lenses, filters, holders, spare batteries, camera rain cover and much more as you can see in the photo below.
The Camera - The main camera body that I use for my photography is a Canon EOS 60D and I love it! It may not be full frame or the latest or newest model, and it may also a second hand body (let's face it, we can't all afford to keep updating what we have every couple of months), but it does absolutely everything that I need at present and when it comes to printing it produces the goods. It's a good all round workhorse that I personally find very user friendly. My second/backup body is my old Canon EOS 1100D. This stays in my insert for emergencies on the just in case anything should happen to my main body.
The Lenses - I have four lenses that I use. The Canon EF-S 10-22mm, the Canon EF 75-300mm, the Canon EF-S 18-55mm, and the Canon EF 50mm Prime. The 10-22mm is by far my favourite for landscapes. I love the super wide aspect and although it does give some distortion, which inevitably it will with it being so wide, it's a nice sharp lens, not very heavy either, that I find myself going back to use time and time again. The second favourite of the four would have to be the 50mm. A super sharp lens that's so versatile!
The Filters - I don't actually own many filters but the ones I use at present are Lee Filters 100mm System and I have the 0.45 (1.5 stops) ND Hard Grad, 0.9 (3 stops) ND Hard Grad, and the Big Stopper (10 stops) for those much longer exposures. I also like to use a Sigma Circular Polarising Filter which I have on my 10-22mm, and I have a generic polariser on my 50mm also. The polariser's cut out reflections and they also increase the contrast a little more.
Tripod - I usually use and have with me my trusty Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB tripod which I absolutely love, but have been recently using in order to do a review for Vanguard UK the Alta Pro 2+ 264CT carbon fibre tripod with my own ball head on. I'll be posting this review fairly soon, so if you're interested at all keep your eyes peeled.
Other Gubbins - I also carry with me a set of different sized filter holder adapter rings to fit each of my lenses plus a holder, a shutter release cord/intervalometer for long exposures and times when I want to capture lots of shots at intervals, a head torch for those dark mornings and evenings when out walking around on the moors and the coast (also handy for searching for your gear in your bag), lens wipes and cloths, lens caps, spare batteries for both bodies and memory cards, my LensCoat rain cover for my camera, a spare intervalometer in case the other goes down, and a spare mobile phone and recharge battery pack for emergencies.
There are also some other items that I always keep in my backpack, mostly on the just in case but you never know if and when you're going to need them.
Sensible Extras - I have a warm hat, gloves, neck tube and headband with me for when the temperature drops or weather changes (it's the worst thing to be caught out and not have enough warm clothing with you, plus can also be dangerous at times), in the summer months I also carry a midge hat because sometimes out on the Tors when there's no wind (it doesn't happen very often) the little blighters love to pop out and have a munch. A compass and pen are always handy to have in your bag, accompanied by a map of the area you're walking in. I also have a little zip bag that I take with me in my main bag in case of trips, falls, scrapes and other eventualities. In this little bag I keep handy things like two sizes of tick removers (ticks are everywhere and these little tools are brilliant!), paracetamol, ibuprofen, and Jungle Formula insect repellent (brilliant stuff). There's glucose tablets for energy, blister plasters, regular plasters of varying sizes, small bandages, safety pins in case of quick repairs to tears in things, an extra plastic bag (you never know when you're going to need one), tiger balm muscle rub (I swear by this stuff for soothing aches, pains, strains and alike although it can dye your clothes!), and antiseptic cream with local anesthetic in for insect bites, scratches etc.
So there you have it, that is the contents of this photographer's bag. Full of camera gear and full of stuff you'd imagine your Mum telling you that you need to take with you just in case, all bar a clean handkerchief! ;)
Thanks for taking the time to have a read and I hope that you found it of interest, Phil.
Sleeklens Landscape Adventure Collection Review.
I was kindly asked by the folks at the Danish company Sleeklens whether I would do a review of their Landscape Adventure Actions for Photoshop. These actions have been designed by Sleeklens to make the photographers workflow quicker and easier when it comes to post production of their images. They state on their website that there are fifty six actions available but there are in fact sixty four in total, and these can be easily installed by following their online guide. These actions can be used both on JPEG and RAW files, however the lists are based on using RAW images and this should be kept in mind.
To the actions themselves: There are eight different sets of actions within the whole collection. These are Exposure, Base, Tone, All In One, Enhance, Speciality, Temperature and Web File Preparations. Each of these sets have a number of presets within them and can be adjusted by using the opacity slider once applied.
Exposure - I have to say after going through every one of these actions I don’t think that I’d be inclined to use any of them, purely because I tend to make preliminary adjustments in Camera RAW before opening in Photoshop anyway. I also found that I could fine tune my exposure adjustments much better in Photoshop in comparison to using the Sleeklens actions, and to be honest, using the action was not any faster than the way I would normally do it.
Base - As with the exposure actions, I found that some of the base actions were pretty much pointless as these adjustments could be made in Camera Raw before opening in Photoshop. However, I can see how the Autumn Colours, Retro, and Desaturated could be applied effectively if you were going for a certain look in your images. It’s not really up my street though.
Tone - Once again, if you want fine tuning, Photoshop is much better. However, if you wanted to play about and give an overall effect to your image then some of these like the Cinematic and Warm Highlights actions could be quite fun.
All In One Actions - Once again, not my thing. Personally for me they’re a bit in your face and seem to take a lot to tone down. The black and white actions irritated me because as I used the opacity slider to take back the impact, it also completely reduced the black and white effect taking it back to colour. Seems a little pointless really.
Enhance - Out of all of the actions within this set I really liked the Warm Highlights. The fact that I could brush in exactly where I wanted to warm up certain areas of the image was very appealing. Even at 100% opacity it still wasn’t completely overpowering. This action I probably could, and would, make use of. I think the fact that you can brush in on the Enhance set as a whole means that more people would find it useful than some of the other sets in the Landscape Adventure Collection.
Speciality - I’ve never been one for dreamy images previously, however, after trying out the Dreamy Landscapes and Dark Dreams actions I got quite hooked! I can see how both of these could be applied effectively to specific scenes giving a magical atmosphere to images. It’s one that I may well consider using in the future.
Temperature - I can see how these actions could be useful but for me personally I will be sticking to fine tuning in Photoshop.
Web File Preparation - Quick, easy and probably useful for some, however I already have my own resizing action in Photoshop.
Overall I think that the majority of these actions are not for professionals because they will have already formed their own routines for speed, efficiency and personal style with regards to processing their images. However, I do think there are a few creative actions within the collection that may appeal.
There are a huge number of actions; I think this possibly needs to be scaled down somewhat and also the ability to be able to brush in on actions needs to be increased within the collection.
For the £37 you would pay for the package at present, it would be a useful tool certainly for non professionals who aren’t so familiar with using Photoshop, and the collection could make their life easier and make image processing a little less daunting perhaps.
To find out more about Sleeklens and their variety of different photography actions and overlays for both Lightroom and Photoshop please follow the links below.
Sleeklens Landscape Adventure Photoshop Actions
All Sleeklens Photoshop Actions
Recently I had the pleasure of working for Cornwall Councillor for Falmouth Penwerris, and Labour's Parliamentary candidate for Truro and Falmouth, Cllr Hanna Toms. My brief was to provide her with images for publicity usage in her 2015 political campaign. Some of these images were more informal than others and were to include local landmarks, public demonstrations, public speaking, and also doorstep canvassing. It was quite a challenge in several ways. Not only on most occasions did I have to shoot in bright harsh sunlight, but there were times when I was running backwards along pavements and roads trying to avoid crowds of people, cars, and tripping up! I have to say that I really enjoyed all aspects of this job, and I hope that there will be more opportunities in the future to do similar.
From Cllr Hanna Toms:
'Phil was a pleasure to work with, professional, reassuring and most of all patient beyond belief. She took time to understand the brief and gave a lot of thought to how and what would give me the best results. I am delighted with these pictures and would whole heartedly recommend Phil and her work.'
Below are a few examples of the images that will be used.