More than a New Bag

As I think back, it was about 7 years ago that I was a Think Tank affiliate. Their offices were right down the street, and they were starting to get some traction in the photo industry thanks to their serious-shooter-focused bags. I liked their stuff, and their attitude.

Just as we were getting some momentum working together, Lowepro contacted me and offered me a contract to be their photography evangelist. I had published some reviews about their gear, and I had a good working relationship with them. They liked how I handled myself online, and thought that I would be a good fit for them. They were right.

A contract is a wonderful thing when you're an independent. I quickly notified my friends at Think Tank and told them about the offer. They understood completely and wished me good luck.

You probably know the next part of the story. With Lowepro, I traveled all over the U.S., and to Germany twice. At the highpoint of our relationship, I was involved with design decisions and sat in on high level meetings. It was a great run.

Then the bottom fell out of their bottom line. A sequence of top level management changes left me, and many others, out on the curb.

Since then, I haven't really struck up any new relationships for carrying solutions. (That's a term that Lowepro used. It always made me smile.)

That is, until the other day. Brian from Think Tank contacted me through theAnalogstory (of all places). We agreed to have coffee and catch up. The meeting was terrific.

Essentially, we picked up where we left off years ago. At one point he commented, "I appreciated how you handled things back when you were offered the gig with Lowepro." I told him thanks for saying so.

After the meeting, I was thinking about life as an independent. There are all of these relationships to consider. It's not like working for one company and having your allegiance focused there. It's more complicated than that.

And one of those relationships that I have is with you. Just like I chose to let Brian know years ago that I had a new gig with Lowepro, I need to let you know that I'm working with Think Tank again. It's not a job, but we're going to help one another.

As a result, you'll be hearing more about Think Tank Photo. They're a good company. You're part of a good community. And once again, I'm right in the middle of a lot of goodness.

Oh, and I have a couple new bags too. More on that later.


The 7 Year Itch

When Olympus first revealed the PEN E-P1 to me in the Spring of 2009, I felt like I was gazing at the future and the past all at once. It was a suspended moment.

Our first date was Coney Island. I had never been there before, and here I was with a new camera and a group of journalists, each with a PEN in their hands. There were only two lenses available then: the original 14-42mm zoom (a beast by today's comparisons) and the 17mm f/2.8 pancake (which I still use on occasion).

I photographed the boardwalk, explored the fun zone, and rode the rollercoaster. We had to compose on the LCD because there wasn't an optical or electronic viewfinder option then. So on that day, we were using 2009 LCD technology only. (Here's that first set of shots with the E-P1 if you'd like to see them.)

I returned from New York with the camera in my backpack. Over the weeks and months that followed, I used the E-P1 for street photography, candids, and family outings. It wasn't my serious camera yet. But I was clearly smitten. And the affair was far from over.

In December of 2011, I received an email from Olympus asking if I were to attend CES. I was. "We'd like to meet with you. You're going to want to see this." 

They were right. In February of 2012, Olympus announced the OM-D E-M5, and mirrorless photography transformed from a curiosity to a legitimate DSLR alternative. The E-M5 is so good, that I still use it today in the studio for product shots and portraits. Mine has a 25mm Leica f/1.4 Micro Four Thirds lens, and the shots that tandem produces are impressive.

As much as I liked the PEN, I loved the OM-D. The mini-SLR styling, the electronic viewfinder, the way it feels in my hands, 5-axis image stabilization that works with any lens, and the clever two-part grip system... talk about a killer body.

Today, my preferred digital cameras are the E-M5 Mark II and the E-M10 Mark II. Seven years later, and I'm still committed as much as ever.

You probably thought this was going to be a story about a new infatuation - about me getting all twisted up with something young and pretty.

Well, here's the thing: I don't believe in the 7 year itch. Sure, if you make a bad choice and try to stick it out, you'll probably tire of the situation at some point... maybe in 7 years. Probably before. But if you make good choices - in your relationships, career, and yes, cameras too - desire becomes life itself.

Sign me up for another 7. I'm not even close to being through with you yet.



I Wouldn't Jump Out of a Plane Without My Smartphone

Before I leave the house, I check my pockets for two things: my wallet and the iPhone. It's at the top of my essential gear list for nimble photography. In fact, I can't imagine my work without it.

But not for the same reasons as many others.

When you're the type of shooter that I am - always working with new gear ranging from the latest digital to decades-old analog - I need a constant that I can depend on. The smartphone is the one tool that works with everything else. Here are five top of mind examples.

Snapshot Camera - Yes, I'm starting with the most obvious. But the ability to never miss a moment is huge to me. For decades, I've always wanted a camera that would be my constant companion, and the iPhone 6S is exactly that.

Mirrorless Conduit - I love mirrorless gear for event coverage, whether it's being a spectator at an NBA game or working as a festival photographer. Generally I shoot RAW+Jpeg, allowing me to transfer files from the camera to the iPhone, then publish them online while still on location. Whether I'm using WiFi or the Lightning card reader, the iPhone is my conduit from professional camera to the online world.

Personal Backup - The minute I copy an image from the mirrorless, or capture it with the phone itself, those images are automatically backed up to iCloud and Flickr. I don't have to think about it. I don't have to push a button. It just happens. That means I will never lose those shots.

Competent Light Meter - I was shooting with a Pentax ME Super this morning and the light meter decided not to work. This happens with older cameras. No problem. I used the 1/125th mechanical shutter option on the ME, pulled out my iPhone, and launched ProCamera. I set the app to ISO 200 and took a meter reading. Those are the settings that I used for the Pentax, and I kept on shooting. I'm sure the shots will be terrific.

Metadata Tracker - I keep a photo journal with the Day One app. So when I shoot a film or digial shot, I grab a quick iPhone image too that also records weather and location. Plus I can add my own notes and comments. I cannot express how helpful these journal entries have been toward helping understand my photography and improving it.

All of this without even discussing image editing or swiping through Instagram shots while standing in the grocery checkout line.

A competent smartphone has the highest of nimbleosity ratings. And it's the parachute that has saved me so many times.


Aperture Settings

Even when you work for yourself, you work for somebody else.

It's true, I don't have to sit in a cubical nor go to endless staff meetings. (I did that for more than 20 years, so I know how to waste time.) And instead of a boss, who has a boss, I have clients. So I've substituted a vertical chain of command for a horizontal one.

But my thoughts are the same as yours, no matter where you work: "How soon before I can grab my camera and go somewhere, anywhere, to take pictures?"

Photography is different for some of us. I watch my kids work their smartphones and acknowledge that digital imaging is huge for them. Snapshots of daily life transmitted electronically from one device to another. In their own way, they love pictures as much as I.

But photography is different for some of us. Smartphones are a part of the feast, in the way that mashed potatoes complement the turkey. But some appetites cannot be satisfied by potatoes and gravy.

I think about taking pictures, working on cameras, and making prints when I'm driving to work, enjoying a coffee break, and dozing off for a nap. There are days when I can't wait to finish a client project so I can grab my bike and pedal down the street looking for photo opportunities.

Many days I never get to it. I'm too busy making a living. And I say to myself, "Tomorrow I'll be done by three and can take that ride. Tomorrow for sure."

It's hard to explain these feelings to those who don't share the passion. "It's just taking pictures; I do it all the time," the respondent will remark while pulling out their iPhone to show me yesterday and the day before.

I photograph to make life better. Even my Instagram shots are attempts to show how beautiful the mundane can be, given the desire to recognize it.

I don't take pictures to reflect how life is. I use my camera to show how I want it to be.

To be perfectly honest, I think there's magic in everything. And for some reason, my looking glass to that world is a lens set to f/1.8, 5.6, or 11. It depends on what I'm trying to say.

There are no aperture settings on an iPhone. Maybe that's the line of delineation between what you saw, and what I want to feel.


A 2016 ToDo List

I was thinking a bit about my ToDo list for this afternoon (instead of actually completing it), and I noticed how throughly computer dependent it was.

Virtually everything on the list was, well, virtual. See for yourself:

  • Update Google webmaster tools for
  • Sign up for Linkedin (at the friendly prompting of the team at lynda) and complete my profile page
  • Write a post for The Nimble Photographer (now, that's a fun one!)
  • Write metadata entries for each of the new movies for the soon-to-be published Flickr Mobile title on
  • Write and record Welcome movie for Flickr Mobile
  • Post new items in TheFilmCameraShop on Etsy
  • Answer reader email
  • Finish refurbishing the Contax 159MM and 139Q film cameras 

Not until the last item did I get to do something truly physical. I think because of this list, I've really come to relish activities such as restoring film cameras, riding my bike, and taking long walks. 

That's also why I love taking pictures. Photography remains a truly hands-on experience. Regardless if I'm using a digital or analog camera, I'm still exploring the world through my viewfinder, adjusting the dials and buttons, pressing the shutter, and hoping that I've created something pleasing to look at.

I'm lucky to be a publisher, writer, and a consultant. As far as jobs go, those are terrific. But at the end of the day, photography is the joy of my creative life. I've loved it since I was 11 years old. And I wouldn't be surprised if my last words were:

"Could you please hand me that lens over there."