The End of the Blog


of this blog

That‚Äôs right, this is the final post, I won’t be renewing my .net URL when it expires this year. After nine years of sharing thoughts, plugging gear, and getting some cool freebies, I’ve decided to pull the plug on this .net blog. It’s been fun but I’ve decided to better focus on my .com website, posting at Instagram and Facebook, and shooting/editing pics more because that’s what I really want to do. Contrary to what some people think, blogging takes time, it really does. Below is a link to my digital business card, please follow me on social media, and thanks for your support over these years, it meant a lot!

Digital Card:


Covid-19 Lockdown…

Covid-19 Lockdown…

I can’t think of a five or six month period since 2012 where I’ve taken out my camera so little, but that’s not to say I haven’t been engaged with photography in some way. Since I didn’t really get out and shoot, I concentrated on the future by researching potential gear changes, checking out new bags, and trying out some new stock photography companies as well. However, an actual camera in my hands didn’t happen much beyond the occasional iPhone shot, which I still find fun. Since the corona virus had us locked down on the base where we live in Japan, I decided to take a little break from shooting. A lot of time was spent researching cameras, lenses, filters, bags, and even accessories which led to some purchases that I’m excited about. While I didn’t break out the camera much, I did manage to shoot a little, the shots on this post were all taken with the iPhone 7 Plus. The photo at the top was taken just before the lockdown in February 2020 at the harbor in Yokosuka, Japan and the others were taken at various times during lockdown.

My daredevil daughter jumping out of the seat of the playground swing.

While researching cameras, the Canon EOS R caught my eye and it looked like a great upgrade from the 6D Mark II that I had currently been using. I had been absolutely loving the 6D Mark II since 2017 and had even purchased a second backup body. My intention was to keep one 6D and use the Canon adaptor one EOS R for my current EF lenses. The EOS R arrived, I played with it for a while and was completely blown away. Mind you, at this point in time I was planning on keeping one 6D Mark II. I played with the EOS R’s new control ring on the adaptor, decided to use it for exposure compensation, again… blown away. Now I began comparing my current EF lenses with their new RF lens counterpart. Over the next few days I sold both Canon 6D’s and all but one EF lens, the EF 100-400. So much for my plan to keep my backup 6D. I’ve been very happy with the switch to the Canon EOS R and I’ll be sure to do a future review. While the new RF lenses cost a lot more they are noticeably better. The good news is that if you want the Canon mirrorless EOS R but don’t want to upgrade from EF lenses (or EF-S) to the new RF series, the adaptor for the old lenses is pretty incredible and you will see improvements using your EF lenses on the EOS R via the adaptor. My EF lenses looked sharper on the EOS R with the adaptor than they did on the 6D Mark II.

A Latte Florentine Milan Stetson summer straw fedora.

I can hear you already, “ok Mr. Bigshot, if the EF lenses worked so well with an adaptor, why did you switch?” Well, like I said, I spent a lot of time researching and a few things caught my attention. First, the RF lenses have been out since 2018 there is a ton of information online about them. It was this, an interview with Digital Camera World, where a Canon Europe Product Marketing Senior Manager stated that Canon had already launched ten new RF lenses and that, while they’re ready to create new EF lenses if the need arose, “for now, our focus is on RF.’ That told me exactly where Canon is heading, their compass points to the land of RF. Secondly, the last time I believe Canon ditched a series of lenses was around 1987, after more than 20 years of producing over 130+ models of their FD lens series, they made a similar announcement regarding their move to the EF series. As I see it, when Canon goes all in on something, they commit. Just as they committed to the EF series lens and over time dropped the FD series, I believe they are now at the same crossroads with their new RF series. The handwriting is again on the wall and I believe at some point they’ll stop supporting the EF series. However, the BIG difference this time over Canon’s 1987 move is that because of these new adaptors released by Canon, their loyal EF lens users won’t be left holding unsupported lenses as FD users probably were. While I could have stayed with the EF lenses, I took a chance on moving to the RF series because I believe Canon is all in and committed. I bought what RF lenses I could afford leaving me with one lens, the 100-400, that I use with the Canon adaptor and it works no differently than the RF lenses.

So in the end, while there wasn’t a lot of photography happening in my life, there were some meaningful photography changes that I’m hopeful will change the way I shoot. I had been using the Canon 6D Mark II since 2017 and it was still a love affair, but the EOS R unexpectedly rocked my little world more than expected. While “just researching,” the search took me to a new Canon camera which led to new lenses, then new filters, some new Peak Design bags which I’ll be reviewing, and other things that come with being locked down for months with nothing but “research” time. It turned out to be pretty productive and actually did some good. Oh, also during this Covid-19 lockdown in Japan, I somehow got in to the wonderful world of fedoras too, please don’t judge me…

My first video

Here’s my first attempt at a video, it combines still and time-lapse images. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did making it!




Waterfalls today

Well, today was spent mostly on buses with a tour, other than my wife not being able to go because of work, it was pretty awesome. First up was the Yudaki Waterfall (below) and second was the 320 foot Kegon Falls (above). Lastly, we ended up at the Toshogu Shrine dating back to the 17th century! While it was amazing, it was hot, we got rained on, and was humid the entire day but I think I got some good shots, we’ll see. It was the first test of my Mindshift Messenger Bag, I’ve had for about four months but this was the first time I lugged it around all day. It worked great! These photos were all taken with the iPhone 7 Plus.

Loving Japan, looking forward to blogging more when out shooting but for now I just need to get off the bus and in bed. Do I sound whiny? Yup! Oh, please check out!

About this…

Photo: Dirty Glass

Location: Norfolk, VA

Date: June 30, 2016

Camera & Lens: Canon 6D and 24-105mm lens

About This ¬†Photo: ¬†This is about Wisky, Wisky is not a typo, yes it’s without the H. ¬†Wisky, not the bourbon kind, this is Wisky, the Navy kind. ¬†Wisky was the nickname of the USS Wisconsin (BB-64), a WWII era battleship that, like her three mighty sister ships, America couldn’t seem to do without. ¬†She was originally¬†Wiskycommissioned in 1944 near the end of the Second World War but would be¬†recommissioned two more times and decommissioned a total of three times! ¬†This beautiful ship, and piece of history, now sits in Norfolk, VA. ¬†Back in 2016, I was going to one of my bestest bud’s retirement from the US Navy and decided to turn it in to a photo trip. ¬†Having lived in Norfolk a couple of times, it originally wasn’t my cup of tea but over the years it really grew on me. ¬†Going there just for a ceremony was cool, but turning it in to something much more could be even better. ¬†Besides Wisky, the plan was to get some shots at Williamsburg, Jamestown, and¬†some rural shots as well. ¬†Shooting well-documented sites and objects in a new way is¬†Centeredalways a challenge, sometimes I’ll research before leaving just to see what NOT to shoot. ¬†Upon arriving at BB-64 in Norfolk, I set up right in front of the battleship and tossing the rule of thirds out the window, shot straight down the middle of the bow to get this BW shot called Wisky. ¬†With the clouds behind BB64, no wind with calm waters to reflect, and no tourists at this given time, I took quite a few shots like this. ¬†While I tried adhering to the rule of thirds, it just didn’t speak to me on this occasion ¬†Shooting to the left would leave out the apartments and shooting to the right would miss out on the museum that houses the warship. ¬†It felt to me like both of those aspects needed to be included. ¬†Another photo, the similar color shot called Centered, came out decent and I really like both shots. ¬†Confident that I got what I wanted, I wanted to find other angles and include items located there as well such as statues and park benches. ¬†Checked all those off the list!

After shooting plenty in the immediate vicinity of the ship, I noticed a parking garage across the street and wanted to see if I could get up high and have a look. ¬†There was an elevator, why not take it? ¬†Well… ¬†it’s what I call the Chizek Luck. ¬†Here’s a summary of the Chizek Luck; almost any time that I’m fortunate, like being the guy who gets in the shortest line at the grocery store, it’s usually followed by having the “closed” sign go up with the person in front of me. ¬†Sure, the cashier is always sorry, tells me how bad they feel, but I understand the Chizek Luck well. ¬†Heck, even my 7 & 10 year old daughters picked up on my luck. ¬†If I were to take that elevator to the top, somebody, somewhere, would tell me about some missed opportunity or show me their award winning photo THEY got by taking the stairs in that building… ¬†Deciding to hoof it up five or six floors, I came around the corner on about the third floor and was looking at Wisky through a dirty window in the stairwell. ¬†I’m honestly not sure why, but something inside said, “shoot it” and up I went to the top. ¬†I reached the roof of the parking garage, forgetting about the window shot, and went to work with the intended shoot. ¬†Both of the below photos were taken from the garage, on the left is Norfolk (B&W) and on the right is Anchor Up. ¬†While I like both of these photos, it’s Dirty Glass, the photo taken in the stairwell that hangs in my little office. ¬†After returning from the Virginia trip and beginning to work on the photos, I noticed this window photo, it clicked with me. ¬†Maybe it’s because my usual luck didn’t hold true or because of the little voice inside that said “shoot it” had compelled me to listen. ¬†This was a spontaneous shot that just worked, the angle of the ship, the light and shadows, even the dirt on the window make it cool. ¬†Anyway, I love this shot and it gets looks when my Navy friends come over, and for me, that’s the best part.


My other camera

In the past, I’ve written here about the Canon 6D and 6D mkii, the disappointing year with the Sony A7R II, and even the iPhone’s I’ve owned. Last year, realizing it was just plain foolish not having a back-up camera, I began researching a second camera. ¬†I had also ruled out getting another Canon 6D mkii for this purpose. ¬†Why rule out another? ¬†Well, while the Canon has been a great camera, this camera needed to cost less and not only fulfill the role of faithful back-up but also be something smaller to use when out with family. ¬†Summing this up, it needed to be smaller, take decent quality photos, and not break the bank. Looking at just about anything smaller in size, all name brands, the search narrowed after a few days. ¬†While considering other Canon cameras, there was also Fuji, Sony, Minolta, Lumix, and a host of others to review. ¬†Then, one camera began appearing more and more; the Sony A6000. ¬†Reviews like this one at PhotographyLife became helpful. ¬†It quickly became evident that this wasn’t some old camera that had been cast to the wayside, this was 2019 and people were still actively shooting with the 2014 Sony A6000! ¬†Really? ¬†Yup! ¬†Just search for photos taken with this camera on Flickr! ¬†After reading further, the enhancements to Sony’s later models, the A6300 and A6500 were primarily to address the A6000’s shortcomings in its video capabilities. ¬†However, even though the A6000 was released in 2014 and followed in 2016 by both the A6300 and A6500, all have the same 23.5 x 15.6 mm CMOS sensor. ¬†So, if you’re not concerned about the video enhancements to the later models that arrived in 2016, the A6000 is pretty much the same camera and a steal because it’s five years old!

One serious benefit about researching the A6000 is that it’s been available for many years and so many people have reviewed it! ¬†Finally, when the A6000 arrived it came with the Sony 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS Alpha kit lens, it wasn’t a bad lens, I just didn’t care for it. ¬†At the 16mm end it didn’t seem to be the best wide angle and at 50mm it lack clarity. This photo at left, called The Staircase, was¬†The Staircaseshot at ISO 800 on the El Paso Mission Trail at the San Elizario Presidio Chapel¬†near El Paso, Texas. ¬†This is the only photo here shot with that lens. ¬†Why didn’t I like it? ¬†First, I read that because the lens is retractable, it pops out when powered¬†up and retracts when powered down, that motor is the first thing to crap out. ¬†Second, there was some distortion in the corners especially at 50mm. ¬†Again, I consulted my good friend Google and was guided toward a Sony SEL35F18 35mm f/1.8 prime fixed lens. ¬†It costs about $50 more than the camera but was worth it. ¬†By relying on the 35mm and using the 16-50 sparingly for wide angle shots, I’ll hopefully extend the life span of that retractable lens. ¬†It’s not a bad lens, just not my cup of tea. Frankly, I found that I like SEL35F18’s 35mm focal point more than I like 50mm in my Canon lenses! This may be why I use the 40mm f/2.8 pancake lens more than the “nifty fifty.” ¬†Recently, the Canon 6D mkii went back to the states for cleaning, forcing me to rely on the A6000The Kids¬†for a month. ¬†Being completely honest, I didn’t shoot for a couple of days because I just didn’t feel like going out with the back-up camera. ¬†However, once I did, it was quickly evident how great the A6000 was, this was a powerful camera in a little package. The photo at right, The Kids, was taken of two Japanese girls wearing kimonos in Kamakura, Japan. ¬†The first thing that blew my mind and caught me off guard was the burst rate. ¬†The Canon 6D mkii fires a burst rate of 6.5 FPS, or Frames Per Second, meaning in one second it captures 6.5 photos. ¬†However, this little A6000 from 2014 shoots at 11 FPS, almost 5 shots PER SECOND more than my Canon!! ¬†What? ¬†I couldn’t believe how fast this thing was at capturing movement! ¬†Let’s put this in to perspective, Sony’s newest flagship camera, the Sony A7R III, only shoots at 10 FPS!

I hadn’t really known much of the Sony A6000 back in 2014 when I was having an extra marital affair with my original Canon 6D. ¬†However, this A6000 must have been a monstrous beast back then shooting photos at 24.3 MP and face detection included, sporting a tilting 3 inch LCD screen with 179 phase-detect focus points and the already discussed 11 fps continuous shooting! ¬†It’s also a capable landscape camera as well, I recently took the below photo, Rock Art, at Tomyodo Beach near Yokosuka, Japan and I think it’s a decent example of the A6000’s capabilities. ¬†Don’t take my word for it, this thing is such a beast that the travel website, Independent Travel Cats, recently published an article entitled, Travel Photography: Best Mirrorless Cameras for Travel 2019 and this Sony came in at number two! ¬†Yes, the five year old camera with technology from 2014, was still relevant at number two on that list! ¬†Sony is currently on the Sony A7RIII, while I don’t know of anyone using the original Sony A7R, that original A6000 is still actively used out there. ¬†While I wish the battery lasted longer, minimizing the LCD view time has helped battery life. ¬†I’ve also never been a fan of Sony’s menu system, it seems to have been designed by drunk guys at a bar… ¬†However, the bottom line here is that if you don’t give a flying you know what about shooting video, you may want to look in to the Sony A6000. ¬†It’s been a very pleasant surprise to shoot and I plan to devote more time to it! ¬†I’m much more likely to grab this camera on days I just don’t want to lug a bag around. ¬†Happy to say the A6000 is no longer just a back-up camera, it’s now the other camera.

Rock Art

Third time‚Äôs a charm…

For those of you who don’t know, when it comes to photography I’m what you might call a late starter.  I became interested in photography after joining the US Navy in 1981 and my first camera, the Canon AE1 Program (left) cost half of my monthly salary.canon_ae_1_program_35mm_slr_305135  I was living in Italy and shooting with film was crazy expensive, plus I was a really crappy shooter.  To save money, I sent my film to a company in California, they would develop the film as slides and send them back; it was cheap.  Then I could pick out the keepers, send back the slides, and they would return the slides with prints. Why all this?  Well, it prevented paying for multiple blurry photos shot with different settings (the crappy shooter thing) but it also took weeks to get prints.  At just twenty years old, living in Italy, I wisely chose sell the camera gear and spend the extra cash on Napolitan pizza, pasta, and European beer.  In the last years of my Navy career, I took up photography again with a little Sony DSC-W7 digital camera
Morning Bluesand eventually moved to DSLR’s. This photo of Mount Vesuvius, at right called Morning Blues was taken with that camera.  Retiring in 2011 after 30 years as a US Navy Musician, my remained on active duty.  By 2014, photography was getting to be a serious hobby so I began blogging, it was a way to post what I was doing as well as talk about my photos.  I currently hold the titles of military retiree, military dependent, and stay at home dad which is WAY harder than it sounds.  In the summer of 2017, my wife transferred and we moved from Coronado, CA to the Washington, DC area.  I couldn’t have been happier, my love of photography is paralleled by my love of history!  My wife’s transfer put us smack in the middle of everything I loved!  I was so floored by everything around us in the northern Virginia/DC area that I completely let the blog fall by the wayside…

By the summer of 2017, the blog was a memory, not intentionally, there was just so much to do and see near our new home.  I didn’t leave the house without a camera it seemed.  We lived thirtyDiving Duck minutes from a half dozen Civil War battlefields, the Smithsonian Museums, near the colonial city of Alexandria, and everything that comes with Washington, DC!  The last blog post in September 2017 was The Old Switch-a-roo detailing my recent switch from a Sony a7R II back to the Canon 6d Mark II, a move I don’t regret to this day.  I had also been a user of Peak Design bags for a couple of years and loved them. However, after moving to DC, there was another company that I loved, more on that later – maybe a future post?  I was selling stock photography at this point for about six months and was making a few bucks.  screen shot 2018-02-20 at 10.29.51 Since then it has taken off in a big way, it has become a small business.  Stock photography is tricky and it’s difficult to know where photos are used unless I search or someone tells me.  By the time the blog died in September, I discovered one of my photos had been used on the cover of National Geographic India’s Road Trip Edition the previous April.  My car photo, The Fifties, was used as a composite image where another photographer’s photo was used in the hubcap (right).  I couldn’t have been happier, especially when credited for the photo inside the cover!  It seems every photographer’s dream is to end up in NatGeo any way possible, that was simply amazing.  Since then, my stock photos have been used many times, pretty happy about that too; click [HERE] to view them.

After a little more than a year in DC, my wife was transferred again; this time to Japan where this post is being banged out.  While I hated leaving DC, at least it was for a place as cool as this.  However, I recently pondered the mistake of not blogging while in DC and decided not to make that mistake again.  I went back to WordPress, reactivated the old account, and quicker that jack rabbits making love – everything was sitting there just as I left it.  It was as if Congress was asked to do something with it, nothing happened at all!  Everything was there, even the previous followers!  The goal now is to post something thought out, or as much as this brain can manage, every two weeks.  In between those posts I’ll post live from wherever I happen to be shooting from, something for which I currently use Instagram (@ BillChizekPhotography).  If you’re checking this out for the first time, THANK YOU!  You can follow or subscribe on the right side of this blog to receive notifications for new posts.  If you’ve returned, welcome back and thank you as well!  I’m really looking forward to this blog and future feedback, hope to hear from you!


Fuji 1 My first time shooting Mount Fuji as seen from across Sagami Bay near Hayama, Japan.


The Old Switch-a-roo

Last November I made the switch to Sony leaving my beloved Canon 6D for a Sony A7R. ¬†In my blog post entitled “Goodbye Canon ūüė≠, Hello _______ ” from November 2016 I spelled out why I went to a Sony mirrorless system and closed with, “While I‚Äôve moved to Sony for the moment, I‚Äôm still keeping my eye on Canon and hoping for game changer from them down the road.” ¬†My eleven months with Sony was not what I had hoped for, I missed my old 6D almost from the minute I sold it. ¬†As I mentioned back then, the menu system was flat out strange and illogical but I found two issues I just couldn’t overcome. ¬†First, much of my stock photography almost immediately was rejected for being blurry, something not previously encountered. ¬†Second, shooting any action was almost too much for the Sony to handle, sharp images with any movement were hard to come by.

Something I didn’t mention in my blog was that I hated the A7R so much that I sold it and upgraded to the A7Rii. ¬†Problem solved? ¬†Well… ¬†I was happy at first because when it did focus, it was very good. ¬†However, I found that unless I manually focused, there were still issues with the auto-focus. ¬†While less of my stock photography was being kicked back, it was still an issue. ¬†Taking the A7Rii out to a Red Bull Air Race, I thought even though it was out of its element, I still might get a couple of decent action shots by spending the day concentrating on shooting action with this Sony, w-r-o-n-g. ¬†This A7Rii was a far superior camera when compared to my 4-year-old Canon 6D, yet the 6D NEVER had a focus issue. ¬†I missed picking up my 6D and just shooting, a couple of presets and a decent auto-focus system made me feel like I was better prepared to capture whatever unfolded in front of me. ¬†Not to mention, with Canon my life didn’t literally revolve around battery life. ¬†When you shoot any action with a Sony mirrorless, it drinks batteries quicker than a DC politician at happy hour! ¬†Whether shooting the A7R or the A7Rii in continious-hi, continious-lo, or the sports setting, nothing produced consistently crisp images, but I could depend on the battery getting drained quickly. ¬†Finally, I was on vacation this summer and went to shoot a friend’s car, 3 out of 51 photos were decent and the rest were not crisp. ¬†I felt that auto-focus shouldn’t even have been an issue for a camera costing just under $3k! ¬†After 10 months, I decided it was time to end my Sony experiment. ¬†I know there are plenty of people who swear by Sony mirrorless, it just didn’t work for me.

Deciding to get a new Canon was easy, however my reasons for leaving Canon hadn’t changed, the Sony system was lighter and easier on my back (after surgery). ¬†I knew going back to my familiar Canon turf would mean some sort of compromise, meaning carrying less weight (lenses). ¬†The Canon options I looked at were my old EOS 6D because I truly missed it, but also the 6D Mark II, and the 5D Mark IV were up for consideration. ¬†It came down to this, while I loved the original 6D, is already outdated. ¬†The 5D Mark IV was about $1k more than I wanted to spend, that left the 6D Mark II as serious choice for me. ¬†While I’ve only had the new camera for a few weeks, I do love it and it feels very familiar after having the original 6D. ¬†I bought the Canon¬†EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM¬†to use as my main lens, a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM for low light, but not an everyday carry. ¬†However, I also bought one lens I used to own, the Canon¬†EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM. ¬†I actually liked this lens so much that I wrote about it here in September 2016, see Diffractive what? for more. ¬†I’ll write more later about the Canon 6D Mark II, once I’ve got more shooting time under my belt. ¬†I will say this, picking up the 6D Mark II was like saying hello to an old friend…








Life revolves around batteries

My pic made the list!

I think someone at likes me… ¬†I made their¬†list of “34 Vertigo Inducing Shots Of The Some Of The Tallest Skyscrapers In The World” with¬†mine, Summer Night, at 20! ¬†The photo was taken at the 2015 Miramar Airshow. ¬†This photo of the San Diego skyline was taken on August 20, 2015 at Centennial Park in Coronado, CA.

Original photo is at:

Summer Night
A summer view of San Diego at night from Coronado, CA.

Number 14!’s list of the¬†“30 Photographs Of Motion That Will Get Your Heart Pumping And Your Face Smiling” has my photo, Chutes, is¬†at number 14! ¬†The photo was taken at the 2015 Miramar Airshow.

Original photo is at:


Shockwave, the world’s fastest truch deploys it’s parachutes to stop after hitting over 340 mph at the 2015 Miramar Air Show.

My Pic is #17! just published¬†a list of photos¬†called “32 Delicious Examples Of Food Photography. Guaranteed To Inspire And Make Your Tummy Rumble.” ¬†My photo, called Strawberry Slices, just made #17 and I couldn’t be happier! ¬†The strange thing is that I took this photo exactly one year ago today! ¬†It was shot with my old Canon 6D and a 24-105mm lens in my garage.

The original photo can be found at:

Strawberry Slices
Cut strawberries with other fruits on a cutting board.

My Two Photo Lessons…

I’m just a retired vet who likes to take photos, a hobbyist with some free time. ¬†The actual photography business doesn’t appeal because, after 30 years in the military, I know what I like. ¬†The idea of having a boss or agent, deadlines, an office, clients, obligations beyond my control, and paying for child care just to have these things I don’t want, is not appealing. ¬†When I was a musician I almost always¬†played¬†what people wanted to hear, not necessarily what I wanted to play. ¬†That’s what I imagine the photography business to be, taking photos of what other people want or need for business, not necessarily¬†what I like¬†to shoot. ¬†I love fitting photography in to my ‘Mr. Mom’ days with my kids and the¬†six Saturdays and a Sunday lifestyle. ¬†I also try to see the world as easy to break down when it comes to our abilities, no matter what level we’re at in life. ¬†All of us are better than some folks at things, not as good as¬†others, and if we’re smart we know our place. ¬†When I was a musician I saw¬†myself as just that, better than some and not as good as many others. ¬†The same is true with photography; if you want¬†a jolt of reality just go to Smugmug or 500px, search a subject you’ve shot and think you understand, then get ready to be humbled! ¬†If you really want to be brought down a few rungs on the ego ladder, search for your camera model and see photography that has been shot with your camera. ¬†This¬†will leave you wondering how other people¬†can get these incredible images, but you can’t.


As I’ve said many times, there are similarities between a music lesson and one in photography. ¬†A lesson is just a starting point, what you do with the information taught is what matters. ¬†While I’ve had only two photography lessons, I have had many music lessons and have also given them. ¬†In both photography and music, there are incredible people who are simply gifted and willing to share their knowledge when asked. ¬†These ‘good people’ propel their craft by example and having¬†humble nature about their abilities. ¬†There are also the other kind, the people I don’t understand… ¬†These types of photographers/musicians seem to see everyone as a potential threat, competition¬†to their livelihood, as if there were no room for others in their line of work. ¬†Photographers and musicians with this attitude seem to be¬†out for themselves and are people I see as thin-skinned. ¬†The point is that if you run in to these kind of folks as I have, don’t be discouraged because there are plenty ‘good people’ out there to make up for it. ¬†Two of photographers I’ve met, the ‘good people’, are Will and Ed; who were both generous to share their talents with me. ¬†Here’s a summary of what I learned in the¬†two photo lessons of my life.


We were¬†living in Italy around 2012¬†and I had recently upgraded to a new DSLR. ¬†This was only my second DSLR, a Canon Rebel T3i and¬†a major leap. ¬†While it made photography more fun, poking around the camera menu left me wondering if I had bit off more than I could chew. ¬†Was I up for this? ¬†Honestly, I didn’t know because my photos weren’t any better with the T3i and I was still letting the camera call all the shots. ¬†The auto mode was my buddy, the camera did everything and I began to wonder why I didn’t just stay with my old camera if I was just going to¬†shoot in auto mode anyway. ¬†I tried shooting in the other modes but had no idea what I was doing. ¬†It was apparent that I was in over my head and just taking bad photos. ¬†I had heard through friends that a photographer was giving a free lesson on the weekend and it was for people of all levels. ¬†Count me in! ¬†When I got there, we were all in a room with Will, a very accomplished photographer and someone with a knack for breaking stuff down so people like me can understand. ¬†He started off by asking us individually what we hoped to gain¬†from his lesson? ¬†What did we want to learn? ¬†I said that I needed to get unchained from the auto mode, if I didn’t it would mean more crappy photos. ¬†In about 10 minutes Will broke down everything I had misunderstood about shooting modes, f-stops, ISO and everything that goes with it. ¬†He put everything in to “ga-ga goo-goo” words which I could wrap my head around, and that was the last day I shot in auto mode. ¬†Thanks to Will, I have been shooting in aperture priority mode ever since; however, I also shoot shutter priority and even full-out manual mode for night photography. ¬†That one lesson from Will came at the perfect time because I was asking myself if shooting with a DSLR¬†was really for me. ¬†I was convinced that I was never going to undertand DSLR’s and shoot anything better than crappy photos.

The long-term take away from Will’s lesson?¬† Will told us that when you want to learn about your camera and your abilities, shoot in your house. ¬†Your house is real world, it has no specially lit rooms, no special set ups, nada; if you practice in your house and get decent results you’ll fare much better in the real world! ¬†Whenever I’ve purchased a new camera I shoot in my house and see where I stand. ¬†THANK YOU WILL!

Pile of Horns


After Italy we moved to San Diego, one day we were out wine tasting¬†and I had my camera with me, totally by chance we ran in to Ed. ¬†He asked if I was a pro or amateur, “amateur” I stated and he began to show me a couple of books he had of his photography. ¬†Ed is a pro photographer, he knows his stuff, and also likes music so we sat and talked a lot about Cuban music; one of his loves in addition to photography. ¬†Ed is also a musician who plays the congas and understands both music and photography. ¬†He agreed to let me come back and see him the following week. ¬†When I arrived, just as Will had done, Ed basically asked what was it I wanted¬†to learn from him? ¬†This time, five years later, my response¬†was different. ¬†I explained to¬†Ed¬†that I wanted to learn how take¬†that creativity I knew with music,¬†process it through¬†my eyes, and ultimately have it show in a¬†photograph. ¬†In some ways this didn’t even make sense to me but it was the only way I could explain¬†it. ¬†Since he is both a musician and photographer, he understood what I meant. ¬†There was no “you need to _____” type answer, he talked about how photographers engage visually and the rest of the day was really the long answer to my short question.

Stolen MomentsI was also amazed at Ed’s lack of gear, the man literally has one camera and a couple of lenses, that’s it. ¬†Here I was, a much newer camera toting¬†a backpack full of¬†lenses, and my photography couldn’t compare. ¬†I realized I was a user of many lenses and master of none. ¬†The old lightbulb went off, it’s not the gear buddy.. It’s possible to take great photos with an iPhone and crappy photos with top of the line gear! ¬†Later, Ed¬†took me to his computer and showed me how to do a few things. ¬†It was a lot to take in. ¬†He wasn’t giving¬†“this is how you do this” advice, it was “this is what works for me” and take what you can from it. ¬†My chance meeting with Ed was almost a year ago and his tips¬†still pop up when I’m working on photos! ¬†Ed was in the business for many years, long before Photoshop, he had paid his dues. ¬†He showed me many of the photos he had taken over the years and¬†I couldn’t believe what he showed me! ¬†I was now amazed at how humble this man was about his abilities. ¬†I was looking at some iconic photos of the eighties that were all Ed’s work. ¬†He also introduced¬†me to the concept of light painting, something I had never heard of and am now just beginning to grasp. ¬†All of the photos on this page were done with light painting, a technique of using a dark room and lights to shine on¬†a subject in the dark. ¬†Before I left, we had lunch and talked about how he is constantly looking, even hunting, for things to shoot that are in plain sight. ¬†I realized that photography¬†is just that, a hunt. ¬†The chances of actually stumbling on to an incredible photo scene are not likely, but if you’re constantly looking for something and have your camera handy,¬†the probability increases.

The long-term take away from day with Ed?¬† Always be on the lookout for things hiding in plain sight. ¬†However, the most important tip Ed shared was¬†to always ask, “what am I not seeing here?” ¬†Whenever I find something promising to shoot, I always as this and I look from a low angle, high angle, or try something different with the camera itself to find that one thing I’m not seeing. ¬†Now when I’m researching a place I want to shoot, I go to Google, 500px, and Smugmug to look at the location and see the popular images; then I look for something different when I get there. ¬†With a little luck I’ll see something they didn’t. ¬†I also take my camera everywhere and I’ve gotten photos that I would have otherwise missed.

What did these lessons actually cost me? ¬†The costs of Will’s lesson was my time, nothing more. ¬†The return has been immeasurable because I’ve haven’t shot in auto mode since and his lesson gave me the confidence to learn aperture & shutter priority shooting and manual as well. ¬†Not to mention, it came at a time when I considered giving up on DSLR’s in general. ¬†At that moment, I could have gone to pocket camera and moved on. ¬†Ed’s lesson cost was time, a little gas money, and a couple of bucks for a great catfish lunch where I learned as much as I did back at¬†his computer. ¬†Long term,¬†I learned how to better use Photoshop and how to look, actually LOOK for subjects to shoot. ¬†I attempt to search for the ‘not so obvious’ when I’m out, hunting. ¬†I learned that people like Will and Ed exists, they are educators and masters of their craft, who are willing to share if you ask. ¬†But more importantly, the life lesson learned is that don’t be too big to share with others if asked and to remember that it just makes photography better.


#15 of 26 photos featured at!

A photo of my girls, White Sands Walk, was taken at White Sands National Monument, NM and was featured¬†today by the¬†website! ¬†The article is called “26 Incredible Shots Showing That Sometimes Less Is More” and this photo is #15 on their list. This was shot with a Canon EOS 6D with an EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM lens on June 23, 2015.

The original shot is at my website at:

Goodbye Canon ūüė≠

This isn’t an angry “screw Canon” sort of message, it’s actually a bit sad for me as I’ve been a loyal Canon user for eight years now. I have also loved every Canon camera I’ve owned, as well as their lenses. Most recently were the¬†EOS 6D, and L Series lenses because¬†they’ve gone with me everywhere and that is part of the problem. ¬†I learned so much on Canon’s T3i, EOS 7D and 6D, not to mention those cameras made photography fun. ¬†However, I had back surgery back in 2010 and carrying a camera bag with just a couple of lenses has gotten to be¬†too much for my lower back. ¬†I needed to find a lighter alternative, it wasn’t an easy process or decision. ¬†However, the first hurdle was cleared when my wife gave the go ahead, easy right? ¬†Just buy a lightweight mirrorless camera setup after a little research and bam, new camera on the way! ¬†Well, not so fast…

_a-wjcI’m not wanting to name¬†the brands I looked at because I’ll get slammed by every fanboy and brand loyalist on the planet. ¬†Nor do I want to have to justify my decision to anyone, this is how I found what will hopefully work for me. ¬†However, I will say this, Canon’s mirrorless systems were at the top of the list, and sadly the image quality of the new Canon M5 just wasn’t there; I really wanted a Canon mirrorless… ¬†No matter which brand I decided to go with, even Canon, I was looking at buying all new lenses so this wasn’t going to be cheap. ¬†Now, with Canon unfortunately out of the way, I began looking at every other mirrorless system out there. ¬†I found an unlikely system that was very unfamiliar to me but¬†looked very promising, I ordered it and knew I had a 30 day return policy during which time I’d shoot images in back yard with my Canon 6D and the new camera to compare image quality. ¬†If I liked the results, I’d keep the new mirrorless; if not, I’d return it. ¬†With a new ¬†mirrorless camera on the way and a plan, I felt good; or so I thought. ¬†I was really dumping my Canon 6D, I LOVE my 6D… ¬†Then I¬†stumbled upon the Interactive Studio Scene widget at Digital Photography Review¬†or DPR.¬† It’s essentially a studio photo that has images¬†taken with just about every camera out there using multiple settings shooting in JPEG and RAW allowing you to¬†compare image quality side by side in just about every conceivable way. ¬†You can even download these photos to enlarge them on your computer and knit-pick at blown up details. ¬†Hold on here, did this mean I could now compare the new mirrorless camera’s image quality with that of my current Canon 6D and never leave the house?? Yup, it did¬†and I didn’t like the results and immediately cancelled my new camera order, back to the drawing board. ¬†Ah… back in my comfort zone with the Canon 6D right? ¬†Well, not so fast…

This process of viewing images at DPR’s Interactive Studio Scene was not the end all of deciding on a new camera, but it gave me a good starting point. ¬†If I didn’t like the exact same images taken by all these other cameras compared to my own 6D, did I really¬†need to have it shipped just to take pics in my back yard. ¬†The factors I needed to consider were the actual camera weight (my reason for a new camera), availability of lenses, image quality, and costs. ¬†I looked at one camera which is probably considered the best mirrorless out there with¬†unmatched image quality; however, the uncompressed RAW files were over 80Mb in size and compressed was around 40Mb. ¬†This would require lots of hard drive space for photos, 99% of which would likely never be seen by anybody! ¬†I’m not making a living as a photographer, just a retired guy who loves to shoot guns and cameras, since 80Mb files will add up quickly I now needed to consider file size¬†as well. ¬†If I were putting food on my table from photography and quality was the only concern, I would have gone with this camera and bought bigger hard drives. ¬†So on to¬†other cameras I went and found one that looked promising; it met the above criteria and while the lens selection was nowhere near Canon’s, they did have two lenses that functioned well for¬†what I currently do with three. ¬†While I planned to lighten up my camera bag in other areas, this decision alone meant the weight of just my camera and lenses would be cut¬†in half!

sling7So, besides weight, what was I giving up or compromising? ¬†For starters, my ability with Canon compatible lenses to reach out to long distances like I had¬†with the Tamron SP 150-600 was gone. ¬†It’s not like this was a lens I carried often but it was a very nice piece of gear to have at times; it was also heavy. ¬†However, one lens I did keep in my bag that allowed me to reach out was the Canon 70-300mm DO and this I would feel in two ways. ¬†First, having this lens in my bag meant I could instantly reach out to 300mm, this was very handy! ¬†Second, and part of my recurring theme, was the weight. ¬†While compact in size, this lens weighs over 1.5 pounds by itself! ¬†I wrote about it in an earlier blog post, Diffractive What?, from September 19, 2016 and I will miss this lens… ¬†For the year and a half that I had Canon L Series lenses, I was blown away by the crispness and clarity of the images.

When the new camera arrived, I took lots of¬†shots and while it wasn’t a familiar Canon I figured I could get used to it. ¬†Feeling ok about my purchase I was on¬†to sell my Canon gear on eBay. ¬†Now I honestly felt like a traitor or as if¬†I was almost doing something wrong by selling my 6D. ¬†Seriously, Canon was easy and I¬†liked for the same reasons I liked my MacBook Pro in that it always did what it was supposed to do¬†with no hassles, it was always familiar too. ¬†Since my first Canon XSi, every upgrade was to another Canon so the learning curve wasn’t too bad. ¬†However, this time was different, I now felt like I was marching a parade with two left shoes on; I knew I’d make it, but not comfortably. ¬†I mean with a Canon, the focus system is very easy and you’ll be shooting decent pics out of the box. ¬†With my new camera, I felt like a photo failure for days just trying to navigate a menu system that could have been set up¬†a late night drunk with what HE thought was a great idea. ¬†Days of trying to navigate and find what I needed in unfamiliar places, and a figure out a focus system that made absolutely no sense whatsoever to me. ¬†So what did I buy? ¬†I settled on the


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Mount Rushmore, lessons learned.

Our oldest daughter was studying Mount Rushmore last year so when planning a trip to Wisconsin it seemed like a no brainer to stop in South Dakota. ¬†Long before leaving, a little research seemed in order. ¬†Why? ¬†Well, I hadn’t been there¬†since the early seventies and this time I was going there to shoot photos; this was probably going to be a one time thing so I wanted to get it right. Our¬†girls would love Mount Rushmore¬†no matter what but I needed¬†to get educated on how to shoot this famous landmark. ¬†I wanted my girls to have the time of their life and still get some photos. ¬†During this process, I learned two important points after literally reading many posts¬†from a¬†photoprapher’s perspective. ¬†Some people actually felt it was a let down, many¬†thought it was good but not worth a specific photo trip, and a others really enjoyed it. ¬†However, most were in¬†agreement that the morning sun was best time to shoot because the it¬†rises on the faces. ¬†The second, after looking at all the photos that went along with the articles, most had the same postcard type captures of Rushmore which meant mine needed to be different. ¬†There had to be more than this one shot… ¬†Then I remembered some recent advice from someone I would consider a¬†Jedi Master of photography; he said I always need to ask myself, “what am I not seeing here?” ¬†I literally need to ask myself this question because it’s not built in automatically. ¬†When I force this question upon myself and look at the subject, sometimes¬†an aspect out of the nothingness will get my attention, somthing that was seemingly not there before.

Rush at Night

With Jedi Master EM’s advice in my ears, I looked at everyone elses photos of Mount Rushmore and pondered, “what am I not seeing here?” ¬†First, most of the photos were shot from the edge of the¬†Grand View Terrace, so I needed to shoot from other places if possible. ¬†These locations needed to be nearby and¬†still offer a great view or shoot from the Grand View Terrace and actually include it as part of the subject. ¬†Second, those who tried to do close up shots of the individual presidents didn’t have long enough lenses. ¬†Problemo solved, I’d bring my¬†Tamron SP 150-600MM F/5-6.3 Di VC USD¬†so I’d be sure to get in close (see the photo, Abe, at the top of this blog). ¬†If I hadn’t researched, this lens would have stayed home because¬†it’s huge and doesn’t go out unless there is¬†a reason… ¬†Third, I noticed that most people just showed up and hoped to get a decent shot. ¬†My response to this, not be in a hurry and arrive in the afternoon and stay the night. ¬†This way I could shoot when we arrived, come back in the evening for night shots, then get some sleep and come back in the morning before leaving on the rest of the trip. ¬†Lastly, in most photos, there were no people so capturing¬†tourists gazing at the famous sculpture was a priority. ¬†The photo at right, Rush at Night, was an attempt to capture¬†both Rushmore at night as well as¬†people viewing it.

Rushmore Clouds

The¬†plan of making Rushmore an overnighter in the Black Hills town of Keystone, SD worked out pretty well. ¬†Not only was the weather a¬†bit cloudy before sunset, I was able to capture night shots and the morning sun as well. ¬†Once you pay for parking, your ticket is good for a year so you’re not out any extra cash by seeing Rushmore three times¬†in two days as we did. ¬†In fact, we paid our $11 to initially enter and park, then left the park to check in to our hotel and get dinner. ¬†Later, we returned in the¬†evening and came back the following morning; all at no extra charge. ¬†You only need to pay for a hotel room in Keystone, SD but you’ve got to sleep somewhere right? ¬†Why not Keystone? ¬†Just come back in the morning when Mount Rushmore¬†opens at 7am and there are very few people. ¬†The photo at left, Rushmore Clouds, was taken as clouds were approaching just before sunset. ¬†Personally, what made this trip unique was not simply showing up to see Mount Rushmore and check it off the list, but actually spending a little time there and discovering the different lighting!

All photos were taken¬†with the¬†Canon EOS 6D¬†using the¬†Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM¬†lens¬†including those¬†below; Flags¬†(L) & SD-244(R).¬† However, Abe, at the top was shot with the¬†Tamron SP 150-600MM F/5-6.3 Di VC USD.¬† Planning ahead and dedicating time¬†to Mount Rushmore worked out for us; I got my photos and our¬†girls got memories that will last a lifetime. ¬†Honestly, we would have spent the night near¬†Keystone, SD¬†anyway and left about the same time in the morning; so the Mount Rushmore stop in no way¬†negatively impacted our timeline. ¬†It’s now been two months since our vacation¬†and the kids are still talking about it, they even want to return. ¬†If you can, attend the lighting ceremony, you won’t regret that either. ¬†All in all, the¬†research beforehand was well worth the time, listening to the Jedi Master also paid off, and planning to do more than check off the “we saw it” block for our summer vacation ended up being the highlight of our visit to South Dakota.

The Everyday Sling

Thanks to the great people at Purple Orange Brand Communications¬†for sending a¬†Peak Design Everyday Sling¬†my way before it hit the street!! ¬†Upfront, nobody has asked, or tried to influence me, to endorse this product. ¬†No promises were made and¬†I’m writing my personal opinions freely, plus I would never endorse a product I don’t use. ¬†That said, when originally asked if I’d be interested in one of the new Peak Design bags I actually said¬†“no”… ¬† Sometimes¬†I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer. ¬†I said this¬†because Peak Design’s¬†last bag, the Everyday Messenger¬†(also called the EDM), was working incredibly¬†well and I simply didn’t want¬†another bag. ¬†However, when the opportunity presented itself to¬†check out one of the new bags, I decided to give¬†the Everyday Sling a try. ¬†Why do this if I loved my current bag so much? ¬†Well, I do¬†love the¬†EDM¬†but having a smaller bag of the same style for just walking or biking near home with just the basics seemed worth trying. ¬†After carrying¬†the Sling everywhere for a week and a half, I’m completely comfortable writing my opinions here because the Sling¬†is remarkably similar to the EDM in just about every way. ¬†Before going on, if the Sling¬†wasn’t a comfortable carry, everything I could write below would be meaningless garbage. ¬†So yes, on top of the features and build quality, thd Sling is extremely comfortable and most times forgot it was with me whether walking or on my bike. ¬†If interested, please see an¬†earlier blog entries about my Peak Design Everyday Messenger experiences:

Everyday Sling (L) and Everyday Messenger (R).

The Everyday Sling would arrive¬†in mid-September and I was thrilled someone thought enough of me¬†to offer this bag up. ¬†However, I didn’t think about it much, nor did I know the specifics regarding the Sling other than it was smaller than the EDM. ¬† Remember, I loved my current bag (and still do). ¬†What I did ponder¬†was this; what if the Sling didn’t live up to the hype? ¬†Would I be willing to¬†write a negative review about product I wanted to like from a company I truly LOVE?? ¬†I was comforted by the fact I didn’t¬†know of one Peak Design product that was bad, why would the Sling be any different? ¬†When the Sling did arrive, to my surprise it seemed as if the¬†beloved EDM¬†just had a little brother! ¬†The build quality along with¬†everything else I saw on the outside of the Sling immediately screamed Peak Design. ¬†It is literally like a mini-EDM¬†where they cut¬†out much of the extra storage¬†space and came up with a versatile Sling bag. ¬†I intended the Sling to¬†be¬†for traveling light, a body with a lens attached and maybe another lens or two in the bag. ¬†However, while the Sling is¬†smaller this is not to say the it¬†isn’t without its features. ¬†While there is no perfect bag, Peak Design’s EDM¬†was the first bag that I didn’t feel like I was just settling in some way. ¬†With the Sling, I again found what I need and feel!

Dividers move where you need and fold down to store gear on top.

Since this bag for day use, there’s plenty of space in expandable large side pocket for anything else you may need. ¬†The Sling is similar to the EDM in this way, it expands and contracts as you insert and remove gear. ¬†In this case, the side pocket expands and not the entire bag as with the EDM. ¬†However, this bag differs in two ways from the EDM. ¬†First, it is entered through¬†a zippered closure on top instead of a flap style¬†lid, this alone ensures your gear will stay dry and I almost wish the EDM had this feature. ¬†Second, the¬†inserts used to make divided compartments go one step farther than those of the EDM. ¬†Whereas the fold-over tops of the EDM’s inserts create¬†a flat surface area on top to lay¬†items (above right), the Sling’s inserts have a split top

The split top folding dividers make customizing the Sling very easy!

on the fold-over portion¬†allowing¬†you use them like the EDM’s, or as individual storage above each lens compartment by leaving one part folded down¬†and one up (left). ¬†The cool thing is that if you like the inserts of the EDM, these function exactly the same. ¬†If you need them to function differently in the future, it’s built in! ¬†These might seem like little things, but in a compact¬†bag¬†like the Sling,¬†these¬†small features add up and make the Sling stand out.

The similarities with the EDM are evident in other ways.  The water resistant materials, quality stitching, a clean design with no unwanted straps hanging, space for an iPad or similar device, covered zippers, and built in tripod stowage are all items I have now come to expect from Peak Design; and they delivered!

The Sling (L) and EDM (R) are both able to use the Peak Design Capture to store your camera externally.

There is a pocket on the inside cover that provides easy access to items regularly needed. ¬†In fact, all pockets can be accessed without taking¬†the Sling off and any raising or lowering of the bag is mindlessly simple. ¬†You’ll never fumble for gear or dump stuff in the street (yes,¬†I’ve done that with a backpack). ¬†The shoulder strap is made to easily adjust when you want to get in the bag, so if you like carrying it high on your back it’s not a big deal. ¬†There is also a strap in the main compartment to attach your keys and even a reinforced area to hang a Peak Design Capture! ¬†Like I said, this is a compact and purposeful¬†bag so all these numerous¬†little features amount to¬†a big deal!


Red dead battery stitching.

There’s more, just like the EDM, the battery compartment uses red stitching on the pockets to place your empty batteries so you don’t confuse them with those charged. ¬†So who wouldn’t like the Sling? ¬†Well, honestly, it’s not for everyone and if you carry a ton of gear¬†and expect this to be your primary bag, it’s not for you. ¬†Remember, it’s a Sling and not a backpack. ¬†While capable of carrying a lot of gear for its size, the EDM or one of the new Peak Design backpacks may¬†be a better fit if you carry a lot of gear. ¬†So who would like this new Sling? ¬†Well, even if I wasn’t out shooting photos, this would be a great day bag to just have because of its versitility and ease of carry. ¬†I’ve been carrying a Canon 6D with a lens attached and one other lens for the most part, sometimes throwing an extra lens in, and the Sling has been comfortable. ¬†This would be a great setup for a street photographer wanting a bag as a daily carry that is out of the way when working. ¬†Now if you have a mirrorless system and want to travel light, THIS IS YOUR BAG! ¬†People who use¬†mirrorless systems are usually trying to keep the load¬†light. ¬†If I had the cash for a Sony A7rii (Hello¬†Sony? If you’re feeling generous…) and some Sony glass to go along with it, this would be my bag 24/7! ¬†Before I had the EDM (and now a Sling), I was a backpack guy. ¬†This led to me carrying WAY too much gear, everywhere; backpacks have lots of room for lenses, filters, and everything else under the sun. ¬†Who carries a half empty backpack? ¬†Now that I’ve gone to messenger bags, I’ll never carry my camera gear in a backpack again; I carry what I need vice everything I own. ¬†My opinion regarding backpacks has changed drastically in the last year as I believe backpacks have their place in camping, hiking, etc.; I even understand why¬†many photographers need them. ¬†However, straight up camera bags or messenger bags just work better for me. ¬†Just my two Abe Lincoln’s worth…

sling7My love affair with Peak Design products began about 4+ years ago when I was tired of taking the wrist cuff off the¬†camera so I could put it¬†on a tripod. ¬†After a little searching online, I found a Peak Design product that made¬†exactly what I wanted except it allowed the camera to be mounted to a backpack or belt! ¬†Since then I’ve used much of their gear because it’s built to last and works as advertised. ¬†It is so refreshing to see a company like Peak Design who stand behind their products and haven’t forgotten where they came from! ¬†The Sling is no different and a prime example of Peak Design’s dedication to¬†making¬†quality photography products. ¬†They never stop amazing me with their ingenious products and I actually get excited when they advertise a new product release! ¬†Lastly, two final thoughts about¬†why I have loved Peak Designs products, this Sling fits in to both¬†categories. ¬†First, once you use their gear you’ll wonder why you didn’t check them out earlier. ¬†I wasn’t even wanting¬†another bag, now I’m hooked on the Sling. ¬†Second, all Peak Design products are built tough and whatever you buy, you won’t be replacing it anytime soon. ¬†So, if you’re on the fence about the Sling, don’t be as it’s¬†built to last, will safely carry your gear, and very comfortable to carry. ¬†Thank you Peak Design and Purple Orange for this great opportunity!


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Diffractive what?

Upfront, I’m not a pro photographer or even trying to make a living through photography; I’m just a retired guy who loves photography, nothing more.  Over a year ago I decided to make the leap to Canon’s L Series lenses, a move I still don’t regret.  I settled on the EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM because it was such a versatile lens and would be the work horse that I’d use most.  I also wanted a decent wide-angle and after some research settled on the EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM, it would replace the EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM which is alsso a great lens!  In the bag at the time I had a Tamron 28-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di VC lens which I loved.  I wanted something in the bag that could reach out to 300mm, if it was too big to carry it probably wouldn’t be with me when I went out.  I knew this dream lens would be expensive, but after doing some research I found that all the lenses in this genre were huge.  Like I said, if this didn’t fit in my bag I knew I wouldn’t use it much.  Then I read about the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 L DO IS USM (above).

The Meyer

The first thing to catch my eye was the green band instead the traditional red on Canon L Series lenses.  While not an L Series that I wanted, most reviews will tell you that it is close.  A selling point for me was that this lens was actually slightly smaller in length than the EF 24-105mm in my bag!  However, this lens is heavier than my others.  Again, my criteria wasn’t so much weight, but size in general.  As I read I heard the terms “Fresnel” and “diffractive optics” and had NO IDEA what I n the heck that even meant.  Fresnel lenses were used in lighthouses because they were compact yet able capture huge amounts of light to project, for their size.  Canon calls their version of the Fresnel technology Diffractive Optics, this allows this 300mm lens to be shorter than others of this kind.  This meant it would be in my bag when I unexpectedly saw the USS Meyer leaving San Diego (see The Meyer at left).  Had I not had a 300mm lens to reach out and touch this ship, this photo would have been San Diego skyline shot…


I’ve been happy with this lens to say the least.  I’ll be honest, I read some less than favorable reviews about this lens before I bought it, especially at Ken Rockwell’s website.  He’s a pro who knows his stuff, I always check his website for great reviews.  Mr. Rockwell reviewed this lens and had a few bad things to say, nothing that didn’t keep me from taking a chance (here’s a link to his review).  I agree with his opinions as well, there are better Canon lenses for less money, but again I wanted a lens I’d actually carry daily.  As my wife can attest, when I don’t use something I generally sell it.  This photo at right, Duet, was another instance where I was driving and saw these guys kite surfing and broke out thee trustee EF 70-300mm!  I do have a longer lens at home that reaches out to 600mm, but it’s nothing I’d carry everywhere I go.  On the other hand, if I had seen these kite surfers and was going home to get my gear, I’d have grabbed the 600mm in a heartbeat.  However, having my camera handy and the 70-300 in the bag meant I got the shot!

RMS Queen Mary

I own four lenses but three of them are with me whenever I go out.  The photo at left, RMS Queen Mary, like the others was taken when I couldn’t have shot this if not carrying a compact 70-300.  Below left (Chutes), this Canon lens does a good job capturing a jet powered truck going 340 mph!  And below right, San Diego Bay, was taken when I was shooting pics at 5k race and had no intention of shooting the bay until I saw this, threw on the 70-300 to get it, then went back to the 5k!  The common denominator here is that these shots were taken while out doing something else and having this lens handy meant being able to reach out 300mm.  This lens also means having room in my bag for other lenses or items.  If I carried one of the other longer lenses, I’d be leaving one of the others at home.  Sometimes taking a chance pays off.



The above photo is a tile I found in a little piazza in Sorrento, Italy depicting the 79AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius. ¬†This region, the Campania region of Italy, has an incredible history, generous people, spot-on vino, some of the best food in Italy, and is also completely underrated. ¬†This is just my opinion based on me having exactly 0% Italian blood running through my veins and how much I’d really love for my website to be named¬†

Just Another Statue

Don’t get me wrong, I like Tuscany¬†and Umbria too, but people make too much of them and everyone seems to¬†forget about the rest of Italy. Again, this is based on the 0% blood thing. ¬†Seriously, Italy almost has an invisible line running from Rome to the Adriatic Sea that culturally divides it. ¬†Depending on who you talk to, this may be good or bad. ¬†South of Rome, there’s just no way to miss the noticeable differences, namely the poverty and lack of infrastructure. ¬†Still, this region isn’t without it’s charm. ¬†No matter where you are in Italy, some things are universal; pizza, pasta, gelato, vino, and cafe are all equally amazing. ¬†However, give me a pizza in Campania, any day, rather than one from¬†any other region in Italy! ¬†Campania has a couple of things the rest of Italy doesn’t; Pompeii¬†and¬†Vesuvio to name a few. ¬†So take that Tuscany and Umbria lovers… ¬†The photo at left was taken in Pompeii, the city that was violently buried under as much as twenty feet of volcanic ash in the year 79 AD. ¬†I’m a fairly traveled individual, but Pompeii is like no other place you’ll visit, you are literally walking on streets that are more than 2,ooo years old!


Campania’s largest city,¬†Naples, is home to approximately four million people and is Italy’s fourth largest urban economy. ¬†Just walking the streets of Naples, which is one of planet Earth’s most continually inhabited cities, is¬†an amazing experience. ¬†Seriously, you can window shop forever and I HATE shopping! ¬†The amazing architecture¬†keeps things interesting even if you don’t know much about the subject and the smell of food is everywhere, no matter the time of day! ¬†One of the most vibrant areas of Naples is Spacca Napoli, here you can find practically anything. ¬†If it exists in Naples, you’ll probably find it in Spacca Napoli. ¬†The photo at right is a good example of what you’ll find here, wall to wall everything! ¬†This area is full of traditional Neapolitan items, other areas may be food oriented, and one area on Via San Gregorio Armeno is better known as Christmas Alley.

If you’re going to visit Italy, don’t be afraid to head south, there is plenty to see and do. ¬†Yes, there is crime, it’s not rich nor modern like northern Italy, and it can be seriously frustrating if you’re driving; but it’s definitely worth the time to see. ¬†Just be a smart traveler, thiefs and pick pockets tend to target the easy mark in very public places or public transportation. ¬†Visiting only northern Italy is like visiting the United States and only going to Miami and San Diego, you’d go home thinking the USA is all palm trees, beaches, and beautiful weather when there’s so much more. ¬†Italy is one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been, Naples and Campania are an incredible part of that overall picture. ¬†Do yourself a favor, walk the streets of Pompeii, hike to the top of Vesuvio to check out the view of Naples, and then get whatever Neapolitan pizza flips your trigger with a bottle of vino and try to say it wasn’t worth the trip. ¬†I dare you…

I took this in January 2012, looking at Mount Vesuvius in Naples, Italy from Capodichino.

Point Loma, San Diego

I have a few ‘go-to’¬†places to shoot in the San Diego area, places I can count on to hopefully take¬†a few “keepers” when the weather is right. Point Loma is one of those locations because of the view of San Diego, the altitude (400+ feet above the sea), and the numerous photo subjects readily available there. The history geek in me loves that Point Loma is where¬†the first Europeans landed in California exploring¬†the new world in the sixteenth century.(1) ¬†There are three main locations at Point Loma that are of interest for photography; the old lighthouse, the monument commemorating the Europeans landing in California, and a national cemetery that honors many heroes of our nation. As my friends know, I hate shooting on sunny days, so when I see clouds I usually head to Point Loma or Imperial Beach, my other ‘go-to’ place (see earlier blog entry: Why I Love IB).

The Old Light

The Old Point Loma Lighthouse is an amazing way to begin any morning. The lighthouse was first lit on the evening¬†of November 15, 1855 and was functional for approximately 36 years until a new lighthouse was built at a lower elevation and closer to the coast.(2) On the grounds are two buildings; the lighthouse itself which also consisted of living quarters for the lighthouse keepers and their families; the other is the small museum building. These grounds are completely kid friendly and even though I’ve taken my kids here numerous times, climbing to the top of the lighthouse never get old for them! The photo at the top of the page, Distant Lighthouse, is the lighthouse captured¬†through the grass that surrounds the lighthouse. The photo at right, The Old Light, shows the walkway around the light itself. ¬†The lighthouse itself is a great subject close-up or at a distance.

Cabrillo (B&W)

It’s hard to imagine a better view of San Diego and Coronado than that from the Cabrillo National Monument. ¬†Here there are actually two views worth considering; by the monument itself and the patio area at¬†the nearby visitors center. ¬†This monument celebrates the arrival of European explorers¬†commanded by¬†Juan Rodr√≠guez Cabrillo¬†of Portugal. ¬†The Cabrillo National Monument was established in 1913 and¬†features¬†a stone statue of Cabrillo commemorating his arrival¬†on September 28, 1542.(3) ¬†Again, this is another area that my kids can run a little but need to be somewhat careful because of the cliffs near the monument area. Any time I can let my kids run and can shoot pics, it’s a win-win. ¬†The photo at left, Cabrillo (B&W), was shot with an approaching storm in front of the camera while the sun was still out behind me creating a strange lighting effect on the statue.

The Gathering

When you travel to the Old Point Loma Lighthouse and Cabrillo Monument, you’ll pass through the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. The cemetery sits on the hills overlooking San Diego Bay and is a beautiful final resting for our fallen service members. There are so many incredible people buried here that, as a retired¬†Navy Musician and former history professor, I could spend an entire day searching the historical people as well as paying my respects to a couple of former bosses. The photo at right, called The Gathering,¬†is the grave of Medal of Honor recipient Michael Monsoor taken a few years ago around the¬†anniversary of his death. It appeared his shipmates gathered for a beer with their friend. Michael Monsoor threw himself on a grenade that landed¬†on a rooftop in¬†ar-Ramadi, Iraq. His actions¬†saved the lives of his fellow SEAL’s; you can read about Monsoon’s action on¬†his Medal of Honor citation. Monsoor is a hero and the very definition of selfless service in my opinion. Another grave, although not a military hero in the same category of Michael Monsoor, is musician¬†Conrad Gozzo.¬† Gozzo is still considered one of the greatest trumpet players-ever, decades¬†after his death. ¬†The photo below, entitled simply Goz, shows his grave not far from that¬†of Monsoor. ¬†During World War Two, many top musicians entered military service to do their part, Gozzo was no different and joined the US Navy. Click this link to here Conrad Gozzo play Torna a Sorrento.


The Meyer

Many times US Navy ships can be seen arriving and departing San Diego and Point Loma offers the perfect view! ¬†The photo at left, called The Meyer, was taken earn¬†the Cabrillo Monument Visitor Center as the USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG-108) departed for the ocean. The below photo, CVN-73, was taken from Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery as¬†the USS George Washington departed. ¬†Both of these photos were taken with a Canon¬†EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 L DO IS USM lens, while a bit heavy its size allow me carry it daily and it sure comes in handy for moments like these. However, you don’t have to be a photographer to appreciate what Point Loma has to offer but in my case, it’s a plus. ¬†Whenever friends or family come to town, were usually make a trip to Point Loma. ¬†However, Old Point Loma Lighthouse and the Cabrillo Monument share the same parking lot so it can get busy, especially in the summer months, and on weekends. If you’ve got the time and don’t like crowds, try going during the week and you won’t be disappointed.



  1. Wikipedia, Point Loma, San Diego, 2016,,_San_Diego  (accessed July 6, 2016).
  2. National Park Servvice, The Lighthouses of Point Loma, 2016,  (accessed July 6, 2016)
  3. National Park Servvice, 2016, Cabrillo National Monument California, 2016,  (accessed July 6, 2016)

Peak Design

BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front): ¬†I don’t ever tell people they¬†NEED to get something, or want to convince someone to make purchases that may not be for them. ¬†However, I have been using Peak Design gear since 2012 and am still wow’d by their products! ¬†In fact, I can’t see myself walking out of the house to shoot without a piece of¬†Peak Design gear on me. ¬†They make durable gear that makes photography easier and once you use it you’ll wonder how you did without it. ¬†They have a selection of products for numerous photography platforms including most camera brands including GoPros.¬†¬†I’ve bought many pieces of gear from them but¬†I’d like to write about the ones that have mattered to me, that made photography better, and life a little easier. ¬†I use their Everyday Messenger Bag, a fairly major purchase for me, and I’ve already written about that a couple of weeks ago (Everyday Messenger, is the honeymoon over?). ¬†Surprisingly, it is sometimes the little things that work the best over the long haul. ¬†The image above is an example of those “little things” that make life easier. ¬†In the above left photo is an anchor which¬†connects to your camera, on the right is the capture plate which connects to the CapurePRO¬†or your tripod.

I use the anchors to connect to the Peak Design Cuff¬†(above left) & Sling¬†(above right). ¬†If I grab my camera from the bag, at a minimum, I’ve got the Cuff attached for protection against dropping. If I’m going to be out for a while and don’t want to change lenses, I’ll take the Slide which is a great camera strap. ¬†The Anchors allow me to attach these wherever I want! ¬†This allows the the Sling (camera strap) to sit comfortably in the manner YOU like. ¬†I personally like the lens to hang down and not out, because I’m a klutz. As mentioned in my review of the Everyday Messenger, I want bang for my buck and this comes in the form of how much I’ll use the item vs. how much space the item takes in my bag. ¬†The Anchors, Cuff, and Sling are used daily and take up minimal space.

The capture plate, on the bottom on the camera in the above left photo, allows your camera to connect to your tripod as well as Peak Design’s CapturePRO¬†(photo above right). ¬†The CapturePRO can connect to a belt via the ProPad, a backpack shoulder strap, or in my case the Everyday Messenger. ¬†It makes for a sturdy platform to carry your camera, again where YOU want it, and in a safe manner. ¬†That’s the important part, these products are versatile and allow you to set them up to your needs. ¬†The below photos show my camera attached on my tripod at right and my bag using Peak Design products.

These Peak Design products have literally made my photography life much easier. ¬†There is no thinking involved and I no longer have to plan how I’m going to carry my camera. I used to own straps, grips, and tripod plates that didn’t interconnect; for instance, the hand strap had to come off if I wanted to put the camera on a tripod. ¬†Everything works together! ¬†While I do carry other Peak Design items, these are the pieces of gear I use daily and I know how much they help me. Like I said in my BLUF,¬†I’m not one to tell people to make purchases but I’m hopeful that I’ve made the case for how these products have helped me.


El Paso mixes old and new

Oregon Street

While El Paso is no longer the wild west city of yesteryear, it’s still an incredible blend of old versus new. ¬†Downtown buildings, many well over one hundred years old, are blended in with new architecture and the redesigned San Jacinto Plaza and newly built Southwest University Park (home of the minor league El Paso Chihuahuas). ¬†As if that’s not enough, the city is bringing back the old trollies that have been stored for years in the desert! ¬†That’s just part of¬†reason I really love El Paso, it’s changing and you can feel it! ¬†It’s easy to¬†spend the day out shooting with a camera walking the downtown area. ¬†As a history buff, it’s not difficult to appreciate El Paso’s rich culture and story¬†which is literally everywhere. ¬†Downtown EP never fails when looking for photo opportunities. ¬†The photo at the top of this page, called El Paso, was taken from Scenic Drive on the Franklin Mountains. ¬†The photo at left is called Oregon Street, and shows US Interstate 10 which passes through the downtown area.


When talking about the gunfighters of the old west, nobody was more feared than John Wesley Hardin; he is considered “the most deadly of the Old West‚Äôs gunmen.” ¬†Hardin was “the best shot, the fastest draw, an excellent horseman and the deadliest gunman in the West‚ÄĒand not simply through hearsay.” ¬†He had killed well over 30 men and his abilities with handguns is well documented, nobody came close in terms of his lethality with a pistol. ¬†Hardin was killed by a shot to¬†the back of his head by John Selman at the Acme Saloon at 274 E. San Antonio Street in downtown El Paso. The Minister called to care for¬†Hardin’s body said if Selman had shot Hardin through the eye from the front, ‚Äúit would be remarkably good marksmanship,‚ÄĚ and if Selman had shot him from behind, ‚Äúit was probably remarkably good judgment.‚ÄĚ(1) ¬†This photo, called Concordia, is John Wesley Hardin’s grave at Concordia Cemetery.

The Plaza

Another older building still in use in downtown El Paso is the Plaza theater. Big name acts routinely perform at this theater which was built in 1930 with the “intention of doing something good for the city of El Paso.” When it opened it was “advertised as the largest theater of its kind between Dallas and Los Angeles” and was the first public theater in the US to have air conditioning. ¬†However, the Plaza finally closed in 1974 and was slated to be demolished in favor of a parking lot in 1986. ¬†The Plaza had become “one of the nation’s largest non-functioning theaters.” Finally, after a $38 million face lift, the theater reopened in 2006 and has been providing quality entertainment for El Paso ever since.(2) ¬†This photo is called The Plaza.

In addition to the historic buildings, downtown EP has become home to some new architecture as well. ¬†This is something I really like about El Paso, while having one foot firmly placed in its history it still has one foot in the future going forward. The Wells-Fargo Plaza¬†can be seen below on the left, this building is a sort of reference point whenever I’m out walking the downtown area. ¬†I shot this photo one night with light traffic last year, it’s called EP at Night. ¬†Below, the top right photo, called Texas Sky, is the El Paso County Courthouse, yet another modern and very cool looking structure. ¬†Finally, the below ¬†bottom right photo, called History, is the El Paso Museum of History¬†and is definitely worth the trip as well and makes for a colorful night shot. ¬†Another aspect of El Paso I may shoot in the future is the food. ¬†After living and traveling for many years in Europe and Asia, I have a spot in my stomach for “mom-n-pop” joints or the local “hole in the walls.” El Paso definitely has a food vibe I’ve close to what I’ve experienced in Europe or New Orleans for that matter.

Since my first visit to El Paso in 2006 to get married, I’ve found it¬†to be a city that definitely grows on you! ¬†I’ve seen and heard complaining about how bad El Paso is from younger people, I’ve even seen some with “Hell Paso” stickers on their computers at Starbucks… ¬†I remind myself that they’ve probably not traveled much and are basing this opinion off never having left the city. ¬†The grass is always greener, till you’ve experienced the “greener” and seen that sometimes it’s not all you thought it would be. ¬†El Paso has a lot going for it in my opinion, not to mention, it’s also in a great location for traveling the the southwest United States; White Sands National Monument is a short trip to the north and Carlsbad Caverns National Park to the east. ¬†With nearby wineries, craft beer spots, minor league baseball, University of Texas at El Paso sports (UTEP), museums, great food & culture, plus very nice people, El Paso is a great place to call home. It’s also a great place to break out a camera every now and then.





1. True West¬†Magazine,¬†Hardin’s Deadly Tools, 2012,¬†¬†¬†(accessed June 7, 2016)
2. Wikipedia, Plaza Theater (El Paso), 2015,  (accessed June 7, 2016).

An Interview 

I was interviewed by a website last week, read it @

Bill Chizek is an amateur photographer who lives between San Diego, CA and El Paso, TX. After retiring as a Navy musician in 2011, he quit playing music and photography became his passion. While Bill is fond of photographing aircraft and autos, his subjects are just about anything that catches the eye. We have conducted an interview with him.


What is it about photographing aircraft that you like?

Photographing aircraft, especially the older models and warbirds, is like capturing a piece of history, which is my other love. When aircraft are on the ground, there is something about the way the aircraft is designed and the how light and images reflect off the clean surfaces. Each aircraft is like its own piece of artwork. Also, the paint schemes which are designed to catch your eye from the ground can be equally incredible up close. When they’re flying it’s about the beauty, gracefulness, power, or speed. But when they‚Äôre on the ground, they are a sort of art and a visual part of history to me.
When comparing aircraft to autos, when is the best moment to capture them and which are your favorite perspectives?
They are two completely different subjects because we all see aircraft in the sky and understand them from the ground, but when not flying they may not seem so interesting to some people. A photo of cockpit controls may not be impressive to some people, but those same people will pay big money to see that same plane fly at an airshow. Most people who aren’t pilots, in my opinion, relate to aircraft better from the ground. I usually like to capture aircraft where you can see that pilot at the controls. Cars are different because we use them every day, see them everywhere, and they’re part of our earliest memories and daily lives. Not everyone will be a pilot, but most of us will drive cars. Even my young daughters like spotting old cars when we’re out in our car. Airplanes I have no control over in the air so I shoot them when and where I can, I like to photograph them on the ground preferably in the morning. Cars, on the other hand, I prefer to shoot on sunny mornings in the shade with lots of natural light. That’s why I love when car shows happen in a park under the trees! I try to photograph the parts of old cars that are from another era, like the old clocks and dashboards, or hood ornaments that we just don’t see today. Again, it’s history…
Why did you quit playing music?
A couple of reasons, first was my health. As a musician since 1976 or so, brass playing took a toll on me. I already had two hernia operations, lost a good deal of hearing, and was having a throat issue that was likely going to get worse if I kept playing the trombone. These factors made the decision easier plus I was already getting active with photography and knew I loved it. Additionally, a musicians life is tough, plenty of late nights whether it’s gigs or rehearsals because everything happens around other band members day jobs. Whether musicians are working or not, most still have to practice to keep their skills up for when someone calls. So, even if you’re not working, it’s still time consuming. Because I played mostly jazz with a lot of improvisation, photography filled that creative void in my brain left by music and really was a better fit in my life as well. The second reason was my family because I have a wife, son, and two little girls. They could rarely come out to hear me play unless I was playing during the day (a rarity). Now when I’m out shooting, one or more family members are usually with me and my oldest daughter has her camera and her little sister has a toy camera. Photography is a great way for me to be with my family and stay creative.
How did you get started in aircraft and auto photography?
Since I was a child I’ve been in to aviation, my brother and I had model planes that we built hanging from our bedroom ceiling, and going to airshows was a big deal for us too. Years later, as an adult I would go to the NAS Oceana Air Show in Virginia before I was in to photography and spend all day in awe of the show. A few years later I began taking my camera to the Miramar Airshow in California, I didn‚Äôt like my photos and started researching aviation photography online, I was hooked. As for cars, my wife and I checked out a local car show a few years ago and it was pretty cool but I didn‚Äôt start shooting car shows seriously until 2014 when I began to grasp the historical aspect of these cars. Initially I started shooting just hood ornaments, that big old piece of metal on the front of the car represented the entire company, early model cars had amazing hood ornaments! They were works of art meant to catch your attention, not some trademarked piece of plastic simply slapped on the car at the factory. I especially love the cars of manufacturers who have gone out of business; companies like Studebaker, DeSoto, Auburn all made incredibly beautiful cars that are not coming back, it was an incredible era. I love when I can combine photography with history! I photograph other subjects as well, cars and aircraft are only part of it. I also photograph buildings and interesting architectural structures, landscapes, seascapes, flowers, boats, and do some night photography among other things.
Which formats do you sell your photography?
They are available in several formats through my website at Smugmug. Paper prints in various sizes and finishes as well as digital downloads are available. If you are looking for something for the home, they are also sold as wall art in the form of traditional, stretched, or flat mounted canvas. These photos are sold as thinwraps or metal prints where again, you can select the finish or covering. Lastly, Smugmug will ship just about anywhere in the world!
Where can our readers see more of your work?
At my website found at I usually post one photo a day on Monday through Friday. I also post a blog about my photos twice a month at You can follow me on many social media websites (below), if you can’t find me, contact me through my website and I’ll gladly help you!
Follow me at:
Twitter: WmChizek
Pinterest: billchizek
Google+: +BillChizek

In the bag

IMG_7837Admittedly, I used to carry too much gear, way too much. There were so many extras for ‘just in case’ moments that my bag weighed a ton. To be honest, most of it went unused and was just along for the ride. However, since switching to¬†the Peak Design Everyday Messenger Bag, I’ve slimmed down on gear, that was a good thing. I went from carrying a backpack with everything in the world to just essential items; again, a good thing. This¬†led me back to an article¬†I read by Ken Rockwell a couple of years ago where he stated, “trying to be prepared for everything makes you prepared for nothing.” That makes total sense now, Rockwell continued, “carry less and you’ll be more relaxed and have better time, again leading to more fun and better pictures.” (1) ¬†Not only is this great advice but it really works! I have my bag, with just¬†this stuff now, I’m no long digging through a camera bag looking for stuff¬†but actually shooting more. ¬†GAS, or Gear Acquisition Syndrome, is a very bad thing (see an article to fight GAS) (2). ¬†So here is essentially what has been in my bag for a while now.


Starting on on the outside, attached is the¬†Peak Design Capture Pro¬†(above) to carry a camera on the front of the bag, something that comes in very handy. Attached to the key connector behind the Capture Pro tucked away in a pocket is a Nano Light¬†for emergencies. On the reverse side is¬†an REI Square Luggage Tag¬†that semi-blocks out personal¬†info (left) at the casual glance. If the bag were lost, the finder would simply¬†unscrew the cable and pull out the name card for the contact info, it’s not difficult. That’s it for the outside, pretty simple. Once the bag is opened, there are a couple of Ziplit lights attached to the zippers and these things rock! These little lights take up no space, probably weigh less than a penny, but will adequately light the inside of a camera bag. (below) ¬†I hardly ever use them but they have come in handy. Again, bang for the buck, they’re cheap, weigh nothing, can be hung just about anywhere, and take up no space when not in use.

IMG_3192 IMG_3191

Inside the bag’s main compartment is a¬†Canon EOS 6d with the¬†EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM¬†attached most¬†of the time. There is also¬†the¬†EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 L DO IS USM¬†and¬†EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM¬†in the lens partitions and a¬†EF 40mm f/2.8 STM¬†laying in the bottom of the bag for when I don’t want to be out¬†with a big lens. ¬†That’s pretty much it, the rest of the bag contains items¬†that are worth the space/weight vs functionality they bring:

-Extra batteries and memory cards: Lets face it, without these you’re done! Keep multiple backups, I once read somewhere that US Navy SEALS preach, “two is one, one is none” and that makes a whole lot of sense. Having no batteries or cards is the same as forgetting your¬†lenses; whatever you were doing today, it’s not taking pics.

Nikon Lensmen: Takes little space and is great for a quick lens touch up.

Giottos Rocket-Air: Great for blowing off your sensor between lens changes.

Petzel head lamp: Great for going to new places in the dark.

Peak Design Cuff: Like my 24-105mm lens, this is on the camera most of the time because if attaches so easily and provides safety from dropping a camera. Unless the camera in on a tripod, the cuff is attached.

Gerber Dime & Jewelers screwdrivers: Mostly everything needed to make minor repairs on the fly.

Tilley hat: Easily folds up and stored in the laptop compartment. Ideal for shade and rain!

Disposable rain poncho: Nothing worse than being wet, well being wet and cold is worse.

Glow sticks: Instant light if everything else goes wrong. ¬†Living in Europe taught me that you can’t take technology for granted. One glow stick gives me hours of light.

-Business cards: I’m always handing these out when someone approaches me.


-Battery Charger

-Ear plugs

-Band aids, Sun block, SPF Lip balm

-Camera body cap


This looks like a lot of items but it’s really not, mainly¬†small stuff. These items have¬†come in very handy and like I said earlier, when ditching¬†the old backpack I needed to look at what was actually used/needed vice what was ‘nice to have’ in the bag. I would never tell anyone¬†“this is what you need” but have to say that much of this list comes¬†from other lists I’ve found online. Going back to Ken Rockwell’s advice to¬†carry less and having a¬†better time shooting, well it has lead to more fun and better pictures for me.

  1. Ken Rockwell, How to Make Great Photographs, 2016,  (accessed April 6, 2016).
  2. Eric Kim, 10 Practical Tips for Fighting G.A.S., Nov 25, 2015,  (accessed April 20, 2016).

Canon Pancake Lens


In my opinion, when it comes to lenses, there’s practically¬†no better bang for the buck¬†than Canon’s¬†¬†EF 40mm f/2.8 STM, better known as the “pancake” lens. ¬†Are there better lenses? ¬†Sure, so what’s so good about this one? ¬†Well, for roughly $149 or less you’ll get a quality lens that is extremely small for when you don’t want to lug around the big lens or want to be discreet and blend in. ¬†Sure, it’s not a zoom lens but you can go manual zoom and use your two feet for that. If you’re a¬†photography newbie, or on a budget, this is a bargain! ¬†Even though I own better lenses, my pancake lens takes up so little space that it’s always tucked away in my bag as another tool in the toolbox. ¬†It’s perfect for shooting on the street or in tight spaces, I’ve even shot sunrises to see if it could handle it! ¬†The above image is from the Canon website where you can also see the technical specs of this lens. ¬†All of the below photos were taken with the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM pancake lens.


I always¬†mention¬†that¬†I lived in Italy for many years, the reality is that it’s a big part of me and I miss it. ¬†At the time, there was so much to photograph around me that I almost forgot how lucky I was to just be there. ¬†While the food lived up to its reputation and the people were amazing, the other experience¬†I loved from day one was the coffee! ¬†This photo, Cappuccino?, is the the norm for Italy. Coffee isn’t some fad, novelty, or trend; it’s always been a part of daily life in Italy and taken seriously. ¬†Italian bars, very different from American bars, are where Italians meet on the way to and from work, where they socialize, conduct business; you name it and it¬†happens¬†in the bar. ¬†Italians serve real coffee, not the S*******s cup of ‘God knows what’s in it’ stuff we get in ‘Merica. ¬†There aren’t a bunch of flavors either, just a simple cafe of a few varieties depending on how strong your want it or if¬†you’d like it with milk; then there’s the ever popular cappuccino. Made of simply coffee, milk, sugar, and a little coco on top, the cappuccino isn’t¬†complicated and appears pretty much the same all over Italy! ¬†I love the USA, but if any county can complicate something and distort it so far from it’s origins, it’s us. ¬†Man, I miss that Italian simplicity… ¬†This black and white photo, Cappuccino?, was shot with a Canon 7D, at¬†f/2.8, 1/1600 sec, ISO 100. ¬†Can you tell I miss Italy yet?

Special RatesSometimes, as a traveler, I try to find things that are routine to the locals and often overlooked by those of us visiting. ¬†Recently, a photographer mentor¬†of mine gave me the most incredible advice, he said I should constantly ask myself, “what am I not seeing here?” (thanks EM). ¬†It sounds simple in concept, but if I actually¬†ask¬†this question to myself I begin¬†spotting things and shoot¬†subjects I would have previously overlooked. ¬†I doubt this old room and board sign hanging on a motel wall in Balmorhea, Texas draws¬†much attention to the folks who live there but it did make for a nice photo and memory for me. ¬†I was putting our luggage back in the car and spotted this sign. ¬†I call this photo Special Rates, it¬†was shot with a Canon 6D, at¬†f/4.5, 1/250 sec, and ISO 100. ¬†The sun had been up for about an hour and was casting some nice shadows. ¬†This little pancake lens did a pretty good job grabbing the details in the wood too.

The AmaliThis pretty red flower was sitting next to a parking lot in Vietri sul mare, Italy on the Amalfi Coast. ¬†I wanted to see if the colors of the flower became washed out¬†but the pancake seems to have done just fine. ¬†This photo, The Amalfi, was taken with a Canon 7D, at f/11, 1/80 sec, and ISO 100. ¬†There is so much beauty in Italy at every turn of the road that it’s mind boggling. This little pancake lens was very handy when out walking about and really not on a mission to photograph anything in particular. ¬†However, once when I was out shooting a Neapolitan sunrise and I thought I’d test my pancake. ¬†The photo at the bottom, Red Skies, was shot with a Canon Rebel T3i, at f/9, 30.0 sec, and ISO 100. The pancake¬†lens performed¬†well, even on a 30 second exposure!

Brand spankin’ new this lens sells for $149 and I don’t know of a better lens for that price. Sure, it has limitations like any lens and as I mentioned earlier it is not a zoom and it probably¬†wouldn’t fair well for macro work, shooting sports, or action shots. ¬†However, for most other situations this lens does a capable job and much better than some other lenses I’ve owned. ¬†Lastly, I would offer this, if you’re considering shelling out the bucks for a 50mm prime lens, consider this first to see if shooting without a zoom lens suits you. ¬†At $149 you can’t go wrong and might even find this lens a lot of fun as I have!

Red Skies