31 Mar 2017

Creating An Inconspicuous Camera Bag


I must say here before I start, that I shoot with an Olympus OMD EM5 camera and Olympus and Panasonic lenses. These are all much smaller and lighter than a full sized DSLR from Canon or Nikon so this idea may not work for you if that's the gear you use.

Now I've got that out of the way,
I've been looking for a non-camera looking camera bag for a while now. Something that doesn't scream "grab me I've got expensive camera gear in me!" but at the same time I want something that gives some padding and protection to my gear. I want this bag mainly for street photography and shooting at fairs etc and I've seen online that it's quite a common wish for street photographers.

Some of the bags I've looked at recently have been rather expensive though and having a family and a life outside photography means that I really want my money to work for me and I couldn't really justify the cost of a new bag when I have a couple of great ones already. 
(I have a large bag that holds everything, including my charger, for long trips and my smaller everyday bag that I use to carry only what I need for that day. After all there's no point in carrying large birding lenses and every other piece of equipment you own around if you're only shooting wide  with one lens in town)

 So that brings me to my messenger bag. I like canvas messenger bags. They're roomy enough inside to carry a jersey, or lunch and a drink, or whatever the kids don't want to carry while you're out at the park or shopping. It's a great mum's do everything type of bag. It's light and soft and hugs the shape of your body when it's emptier and yet can still be large enough to carry some library books if needed.

This is my current messenger bag. I've blacked out the name, but I bought it locally from a Chinese store for $19. I'm guessing it was made in China but it's a very sturdy bag. I've used it in the rain and it seems to repel the water okay. If it stops then I'll spray it with some of that waterproofing spray you can buy.

Now this is where I made a discovery. I have an old camera bag with a removable padded liner (see above) that I thought I'd try out in this bag and it fit very nicely with a bit of extra space to slip in a small water bottle next to the liner if I push it to one side. Perfect.

This padded insert can hold my camera and a couple of lenses if needed, while I can still carry my phone and purse in the regular pockets in the bag.

From the outside it just looks like the original messenger bag. No markings to say there's a camera in there. Just what I wanted and it didn't cost me an arm and a leg to get it.

Sometimes it pays to think outside the box and see if you can find a way to make what you really want in a bag because sometimes what you really want isn't made commercially. 

Have a great week :)

30 Mar 2017

Week 1 Black and White 365 Challenge

Day 1 Light Fitting

Welcome to a brand new 365 challenge!

This year I've decided to go more in depth in black and white photography. It's something I've been thinking about doing for a while now as I think it helps you to pay more attention to the light, textures and composition of an image instead of being distracted by the colors. I find today's world can be rather overwhelming with all the gaudy colors on buildings, toys, billboards, cars, even houses all clashing for attention. It's nice to be able to simplify a scene down to it's composition, it's light, patterns and textures too.

I've also decided to embrace the dark side of photography to try to loosen up and shoot more emotionally instead of the more rigid by the book, follow all the rules type shooting I've been finding myself doing recently. By the dark side I mean allowing loads of noise and grain in my images by shooting at extremely high ISOs, by shooting in very low light, by underexposing my images and any other way I can think of to add a bit of grain to my images. I'm also embracing the flaws that I've been taught not to shoot such as, purposely tilting my horizons instead of keeping them level, allowing images that are blurred or a bit out of focus if it creates more feeling or mystery in an image. I've also boosted the contrast in camera and I'm not sharpening my images.

In other words I'm having a year of breaking the rules I've been taught in the past.

I think this year is going to be a lot of fun and a very good learning exercise. For example I've never really shot in black and white before so I've never had to process these types of images. I'd heard of dodging and burning but had never tried it before and so on day five's image I had to search help in photoshop to find out what the tools looked like and where to find them. I'm quite pleased with the resulting image.

Day 2 Feathers

Day 3 Glass Jar

Day 4 Shadows through a leaf

Day 5 My gorgeous daughter and my first attempt with the burn tool

Day 6 A White moth 

Day 7 Early morning drive to work

I hope you'll join me on this learning adventure and maybe even try it for yourself. I think having a project of some kind helps you grow as a photographer and it's certainly a lot of fun. It's also good to have a project to focus on when you don't feel like picking up your camera, it helps to reinvigorate you. Good luck!

Have a great week :)

29 Mar 2017

New Year Brings New Challenges

Hi, I'm back after a longer break than I expected. I just haven't felt like blogging recently. 
Life has happened since I was working on my last photo challenge. Mum got cancer, had surgery and is now undergoing chemotherapy. She's not in the clear yet but we're keeping positive.

 I kind of never finished my last week of pics in my last challenge. I say kind of because I did take pics for the night theme but hated them all when I went through them later. I deleted them all in a fit of disgust, probably prematurely, and so they were never posted. It's not the first time I've dumped a load of photos or drawings I've thought were beyond help but hopefully I'm learning to be a bit more patient with myself as I grow older, if not wiser. 

Something that Eric Kim wrote in one of his blog posts (click on his name to see the post) resonated with me and I felt that now was the time to re-enter the world of blogging. He said; 

"In life, there are generally 'satisficers' (mix of the word satisfy and suffice) and 'maximizers'. Satisficers do things 80% 'good enough' and move on. Maximizers are perfectionists and try to get things 100% perfect.
Generally satisficers are a lot happier in life, and also more productive. Maximizers are generally 'idea' people and never get anything done, because their obsession with perfection prevents them from finishing anything."

I used to be lot more of the maximizer when I was younger, before I had children. Having children helped me to unclench my grip on the idea of perfection and embrace more of the satisficer's contentment with 'enough' and up until my Mum got sick I thought I'd left the maximizer behind me. I've since discovered though that at times of stress my inner maximizer likes to jump in and try to over-control parts of my life. Next thing you know, I'm throwing out my artwork and photos, and obsessing over the housework and other minor things that I wouldn't even give a second thought about usually. I mean if you come to my house I would think that you've come to see me and not the crumbs on my kitchen floor but maximizer mind sees it differently.

So this brings me to my current 365 challenge. I've fancied doing a black and white challenge for a while as I've never really done much black and white photography and because of recent maximizer issues I decided to go completely against the technically 'perfect' image and embrace the 'noise', the 'grain', the slightly out of focus', the strange composition, and the 'blurred' image. This and black and white seemed the perfect pairing to keep me interested for a year. Something new with something flawed.

So from now on my camera is set to extremely high ISO, with boosted contrast, no sharpening, and I'm also shooting with the camera set to black and white to better help me visualize the light and textures. The RAW files still come out color but it helps that the JPEGS are as I shot them, then I can remember what I was seeing at the time.

The picture above of my daughter was shot early morning, in near darkness with just a bit of daylight/streetlight lighting her face through the window. It wasn't as dark and grainy as I'd hoped so I worked on it a bit in Adobe Photoshop Elements 5, which is all I use (yes I know they are up to version 12 now but why upgrade when I already have something that works ok, right? Satisficer's mind at work here) This was a whole new learning experience for me as I'd never used the dodge and burn tools before and had to use the help menu to find them. It's not perfect but I'm happy and so is she.

Top left- this is the original image. 
Top right-this is the image cropped.
Bottom left-this is the image darkened a little.
Bottom right-this is the finished image after I found the burn tool and tried it out.

I just shot day 6 of the challenge today so I'll post the first week's pics after I shoot day 7 tomorrow. 
Hopefully this challenge will help me to learn more about myself and my photography as it progresses. I can't wait.

Take care :)