Posts Tagged ‘Photography Equipment’

October 19, 2016

My Lens Collection

I’ve always enjoyed reading what equipment other photographers use, so I thought I’d put together my own. I should point out that I’m currently shooting with the Nikon 5100 which, I believe, is considered the entry level DSLR. It’s a crop sensor, and while I’ve toyed with the idea of full frame, I doubt I’ll ever make the plunge. I’ve subscribed to the it’s-all-about-the-lenses philosophy, and have the focal lengths that work well with my crop sensor. I’d have to buy a whole new set of lenses for a full sensor, which would be really silly at this point given there there are crop sensor cameras of comparable quality. I do plan on upgrading to a mid range DSLR, like the 7000 series.

So here are the lens I currently own:

35mm f/1.8 ($200)
This has become my go to lens for indoor photography. On a crop sensor what you see through the view finder is more or less the same perspective you see with the naked eye. When the kids were small I’d use this lens so I could be physically close, and still capture everything I wanted to on frame. There can be a little bit of a distortion effect shooting so close, although I hardly ever notice it.


If you buy only one lens, and you have a crop sensor, this is the lens I recommend. It’s the most versatile.

50mm f/1.4 ($450)
This is the first ever lens I purchased, and one I really should use more often. It takes beautiful portraits (equivalent to the 85mm), but it can be really difficult to use in doors since you have to stand so far back. Almost all of my favorite photos were shot with the 50mm.


I also really enjoy the light shaping (bokeh) capabilities with this lens.

60mm f/2.8 Macro ($600)

Jewlery, bugs, flowers, this lens is great for all things tiny. It also works as a good portrait prime lens, though I generally prefer the 50mm for it’s wide aperture. This lens is the one I use the least out of all of them, but it’s also the most specialized. Pre-baby Sarah definitely got more use out of it than post-baby Sarah.

18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 (free, came with the camera)
Believe it or not, I use this as my “selfie” lens before I had a camera phone. At 18mm focal length, you can turn the camera around, stretch your arm all the way out and take a photo of your face. It’s great for travel when you don’t have a smart phone. There is a distortion effect, but I don’t mind. I actually think the distortion made my face look a little thinner.


It’s also a great lens for getting light stars. The slower the shutter speed (and thus longer the exposure) the better the stars. This kit lens is what I used to take my favorite newborn photos by the tree.

24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 ($500 new, $350 refurbished)

This is my go to lens for photographic the kids while playing out back, or at the park.

70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 ($500 new, $300 refurbished)

For wildlife and, maybe one day, soccer practice.

$1,900 over seven years not including the camera body? Photography is an expensive hobby. That works out to about $270 a year, or $23 a month.

Overall, I’m very happy with the lens choices I’ve made. They may not be the best, pro lenses out there, but I have full confidence that failure to get the shot I’m after will be more of a user issue than an equipment one. Short of other great falls, I don’t see myself buying another lens for a very long time.

October 15, 2016

70-300 is a Winner to Me

The longer I wait for something in the mail, the more nervous I get that I ordered the wrong thing. After purchasing the new lens, I began to worry if 300mm wasn’t enough reach for me. Online calculators weren’t helping assuage that fear.

The first available daylight after the new 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 lens arrived last Saturday, I was outside experimenting with it. That happens to be shortly after dawn on a Saturday (kids generally get us up these days a bit before dawn). Shortly after dawn is not a very good time to try anything photography related. There just isn’t much light. Once I realized I wasn’t shooting with VR (vibration reduction) on, things got much better. When there was more light they were better still. I got the lens mostly for wildlife so I really wanted to test with wildlife. Wouldn’t you know that the mornings I got up with the kids we had no furry visitors but when Domingo got up with the kids there was a return of the deer, and a fox got trapped in the back yard? Twice?

When weekend rolled around again, I was pretty anxious to go to the zoo. It had been a while since our last trip, and the kids always seem to have a better weekend when we spend at least a little time out of the house. It was chilly and overcast as rain was expected thanks to the Typhone Songda, which meant the animals would be out.

Let me tell you the 70-300 did not disappoint!

I think the biggest advantage of the lens was it’s vibration reduction. The lens is a beast, easily my heaviest lens at 1.6 pounds. It’s 6 inches long when using the lowest focal length, and 8 when extended. That makes it’s center of gravity a bit out from you when you hold the camera to your face. I was shooting one handed, while balancing Alexis in my other arm. I was having a devil of a time keeping the camera level enough to get the framing the way I wanted it. The below photo was shot at 300mm, 1/250 a second with a very shaky hand, yet there’s no camera shake visible.


I was a little nervous about the depth of field, since the aperture of the 70-300 doesn’t open as wide as the 55-200 lens which was being replaced. While the difference in focal length to 300mm to 200mm might not translate to much in a photograph, it makes a big difference in terms of depth of field thanks to the distance to subject minus focal length (s-f) part of the depth of field equation.


And, of course, the lens is very sharp. It’s sharper than I ever remember the 55-200mm being. However, I am wondering if maybe I’m comparing apples to oranges. I had that lens for seven years. It’s possible the great fall wasn’t it’s first fall and the elements may have been slightly knocked out of alignment previously.

Regardless, I’m very happy with the new lens. Now I just need that fox to come back.

September 27, 2016

A Bad Fall

A few days ago I saw an adult male deer out by the fence. It’s only the second time I’ve seen a buck, so naturally I grabbed my camera, my telezoom (55-200mm) lens and raced outside.

50% crop. Click for non-resized version.

Sad Trombone. At 1/4000 a second, in full daylight the photo should have been sharp. I started taking photos of various things around me. Anything at focal length 100mm and above started to look blurry. That’s when I remembered the incident of the previous week. After spotting some wild turkeys I had rushed to grab my camera and distance lens. My hand slipped as I was screwing the lens in place. I lost my grip on it and it hit the stone floor hard. Hard enough I was amazed the glass didn’t shatter. I missed my chance at the turkeys, counted my lucky stars that I wasn’t sweeping up glass, and put the lens and camera back.

I don’t think my stars were quite so lucky after all.

The internet seemed to think it was just the focal elements knocked out of alignment. Not great, but not horrible. The lowest price I saw quoted anywhere for Nikon lens repair was about $40 plus shipping. I could save myself the shipping cost by going to a local certified Nikon repair place, but I’ve always found local labor tends to be a bit more expensive than national averages. (One of the perils of a high cost of living area.) I figured $50 was likely the cheapest repair price I could expect to pay.

The lens in question was a 7 year old kit lens that cost $150 new. You can reliably get one used for $100 off e-bay, and sometimes as low as $80. That also meant my lens, in working condition, would be worth at best $100. I was on the fence. After all, I’ve been thinking about a new Telezoom lens since 2014. My 55-200 was certainly serviceable, although not the lens I would have preferred. “Was” being the operative word.

That evening, after the kids were asleep, I decided to take the lens off my camera and have a look at it. A spring had become dislodged. Those things are re-attachable. No biggie. I thought. Except as I was turning the lens over in my hand, the head of the spring fell off! The spring was now in two pieces, and one of those metal pieces was dangerously close to the glass. I got out my trusty tweezers and very carefully removed the free floating metal spring piece. That’s when I noticed another metal piece had snapped and a band had come loose. The repair wasn’t going to be just realigning the elements. There were at least a couple pieces that needed to be replaced, and I couldn’t even be sure that the physical damage I could observe was the extend of it.


At that point I had pretty much decided against repairing the lens. If I did nothing, the longest zoom I had would be the 85mm, which would make some photos much more challenging. I also didn’t really feel like spending the money to replace it. Not the $100 for the same lens when I wasn’t fully content with it’s reach, nor the $500 for the 70-300 which I had been considering replacing it with for the past couple of years. I did find a factory refurbished 70-300 on for $350, but that still felt like more money then I should be spending right now. It’s not like I need to be photographing the deer. Domingo’s opinion was to
go ahead and buy the new lens since Photography makes me happy. He spoils me. After a few hours I decided to go back and check on the refurbished lens. Someone else had already snapped it up.

I hate to let emotions dictate shopping decisions, but I was bummed. Really bummed. Even though I hadn’t committed to buying the lens. So bummed I couldn’t sleep that night. At around 3 am I started searching around for more refurbished lenses, eventually finding one on Nikon’s store for $299. Done. (Or rather done in the morning after I managed some sleep and could be sure I wasn’t letting my frustration get the best of me.)

As for the 55-200? Once the new lens arrives I’m going to have some fun taking the old lens apart and getting a better feel for how they work.

Incidentally, this is the second refurbished lens I will own. I highly recommend them if you want more lens but don’t want to spend the money. I prefer refurbished to used. A lens can have minor damage that’s hard to pick up on. If it’s factory refurbished you know you’re getting like-new.

This afternoon I decided to take advantage of the rare June rain to break out my macro lens to practice photographing some water kissed flowers from our garden.

I like to think I have a pretty good handle on my most used lenses – the 30mm and 50mm primes. I know what shutter speeds about I need to freeze fast moving toddlers (1/320s-ish), and what aperture I need to bring their whole faces into focus (f2.8 – f3.2 usually does the trick). I use my 60mm f/2.8G Micro for macro photography. With a focal length so close to my 50mm prime, I expected it to handle about the same. One thing that immediately struck me was how large an f-stop I needed to get the whole flower in focus.

Even at f/8 little of the flower was in focus, and flowers are not that big!

Here’s another example, at f/18

So why the incredibly shallow depth of field? Distance to subject seems an obvious culprate. A quick search lead me to the mathematical formula for calculating the nearest in focus point, and farthest in focus point using depth of field from distance, focal length, aperture and something called circle of confusion.


NearestInFocusPoint = s x f2 / (f2 + N x c x (s – f))
FarthestInFocusPoint = s x f2 / (f2 – N x c x (s – f))


s is distance to the subject being focused on
f is Focal Length
N is the f-Number and
c is the Circle of Confusion

Then the total depth of field can be calculated as the nearest in focus point subtracted from furthest in focus point and simplifying. For simplicity, let Dn be the denominator of NearestInFocusPoint, and Df be the denominator of FarthestInFocusPoint:

DoF = FarthestInFocusPoint – NearestInFocusPoint
DoF = [s x f2 / Df] – [s x f2 / Dn]
DoF = [s x f2 x Dn / (Df x Dn)] – [s x f2 x Df / (Df x Dn)]
DoF = [s x f2 x (Dn – Df)] / [Df x Dn]
DoF = s x [f2 x (Dn – Df)] / [Df x Dn]

Df x Dn = (f2 – N x c x (s – f)) x (f2 + N x c x (s – f))

From the above equation my hypothesis appears to be correct; as distance approaches zero, the numerator approaches zero and the denominator approaches (f2 + N x c x f) x (f2 – N x c x f) or (f4 – (N x c x f)^2). For my camera, c = 0.02mm with a maximum aperture of Æ’/32, far less than the 60mm focal length. Thus (N x c x f)^2 is far, far, smaller than f4. Thus the denonimator, Df x Dn, is positive and non zero. Thus as distance approaches zero, DoF approaches zero.

Of course there are practical limitations and focusing distance to subject cannot be zero. My 60mm lens has a minimal focusing distance of about 7.5 inches, or 190mm. Using my camera’s specs, if the flowers were only 10 inches from my lens, at f/3.2 the dept of field is just .1 inches. At f/8 the depth of field is just 0.17 inches. I’d have to back up another foot to have a depth of field at least 1 inch wide.

Values of 0.02 – 0.03mm seemed to be pretty typical circle of confusion values, at least according to the sites I visited while researching this blog post. Even with a very wide angled lens, capable of a very narrow aperture, I suspect my hypothesis would still generally be true. Nikon has a 6mm fisheye lens, and even for that lens the math holds.

It may (or may not) come to a surprise to you that I didn’t know anything about the technical side of photography when I bought my first DSLR in 2009. How little did I know? Well, on July 4th, after just owning the camera for a few weeks, I took some photos of fireworks. When someone asked me what settings I used, I responded with:

I’m not really sure what settings I used, I’m still figuring out what all the buttons do. The shutter was all the way open, and I think “M” and “A” pretty high.

I’ll give you camera gear nerds a minute to pick yourself off the floor from laughing. (For the uninitiated: Aperture priority mode (“A”) overrides shutter speed, “M” is full manual mode and lets you change the shutter speed after you’ve set the aperture speed. Order matters! Also you can have the shutter speed be fast or slow, but you don’t set “manual” to high. Anyway, I digress…).

For the past six years now I’ve been mostly self taught figuring out what all the different settings do, and what all the little icons on my camera mean.

In 2012 shortly before the arrival of our first daughter I purchased a new lens. Shortly there after a new camera body. A few months later I started having problems. Occasionally when I’d go to take a photo nothing would happen. There’d be no whurr of the auto focus, no snap of the shutter. Just a little beep, indicating an error had occurred. It happened in good lighting and in bad, and seemed to be timed perfectly for when I was getting the best baby smiles. A moment or two later the camera would behave as expected. We had lots of theories – bad lens, faulty contacts – but the problem was too intermittent for me to test any hypothesis and I was too cheap to send in the camera for repairs without a good idea what was wrong. I also didn’t want to be without my camera or lenses for weeks.

After moving to Silicon Valley the frequency with which I’d encounter the shutter release issue increased and I became more intent on identifying the problem. I figured since the shutter wasn’t releasing, and there was a beep that was clearly digital and not mechanical – some component must be detecting the issue and trying to signal to me what it was. I just had to figure out where to find the error message. Alas, here’s where not knowing much about DSLRs (and not having bothered to read the manual) was hurting me. I had no idea what half of the icons on my menu view finder screen mean!

For the past weeks (months?) when ever the camera would beep and the shutter refused to release I’d quickly scan every screen I could. I was looking for anything that would appear whenever there was an issue, and not otherwise. It took me a while to notice the little bottom right hand corner had an “[ r# ]” at the bottom, and that the number was typically low when the shutter wouldn’t release. Then I realized that number was always zero.

A quick internet search later (because who keeps around paper manuals these days?) I had my answer. I was looking at the internal buffer indicator. The number was the Number of shots remaining before memory buffer fills. I was taking photos at a faster rate than could be written to my memory card. Momtographer likes to take a lot of photos, apparently.

That’s when it dawned on me. Way back in 2009 when I purchased my first DSLR a photographer friend advised me to get a fast memory card. I did, and I haven’t updated since. When I upgraded my camera in 2012, I went from 10 mega pixels to 16 mega pixels. Once Nicki started smiling I learned burst mode is the best mode for the greatest chance of capturing optimal baby smiles. When she started running, I never took my finger off the shutter button. It wasn’t a progressive problem after all, just reflective of a change in the equipment and the way I used it.

Through empirical study I’ve determine it takes ~10 seconds for a photo to be written to the old memory card, and only ~1 second to be written to a new, much faster one. For the last three years I’ve been having problems stemming from not having a fast enough memory card. When I think of all those missed opportunities where the shutter wouldn’t release, I could kick myself.

June 29, 2014

New Lens

I had been pinning for a new lens ever since I took my kit lenses to the zoo. I just wasn’t happy with the contrast and detail of the 55-200 zoom. As Nicki gets older, she sits still less and less. I love my primes, but a zoom is becoming a must to photograph a toddler.

I decided to replace my 55-200mm with two lenses: a midzoom/portrait 20ish-70ish lense, and a telezoom 70ish-200/300ish lens. The former covers the distance of my most use primes, and is the lens I expect to utilize the most these days where Nicki is never allowed to wonder that far. The later I expect to like more for things likes recitals and soccer practice. I can wait on that one.

The contenders for my new mid-range Zoom:

  1. Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 (~$450)
  2. Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 (~$1,000)
  3. Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 (~$600)
  4. Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 (~$1,900)

Consumer research on the lenses:

The first lens has been in my “save for later” list on Amazon since before Nicki was born. I read a photography forum were all the moms raved about it for child photography. It lacks optical image stabilization, which could be a problem at the far end, so I also started considering the second Tamron on the list. While most of the reviews on the Tamron lenses were overwhelmingly positive, there were more than a few that complained about the auto focusing locking. Apparently when auto focus locks the only way to fix the lens is to detach and reattach it to the camera body. Given that my camera does not have it’s own focusing motor, I was worried that I would be more likely to encounter the locking problem.

The thinking behind considering the nearly $2k Nikon lens is it is one of the “pro lenses”. At that price, I probably won’t be buying anything else camera related for quite some time. Yet, I’d rather buy a top of the line lens that I will love throughout my photography career, than a marginally better lens every few years. In the long run, it’s got to be cheaper, right? The big issue with the Nikon 24-70mm is the weight. It’s nearly two lbs, twice the weight of any other lens I own.

The general rule of thumb that my photography friends tell me is that a lens with constant aperture over the zoom range (e.g. F/2.8) is usually better a quality lens. Then again, I’m trying to train myself not to rely on large aperture.

The third lens, Nikon 24-85 f/3.5-4.5, is actually a kit lens for the full frame (FX) camera models. I admit the fact that it’s a kit lens biased me against it from the start. It wasn’t until I realized my 18-55mm kit lens is also considered semi-pro (as indicated by the gold ring) that I started to lean towards it.

To compare image quality I tried a number of different sites: the digital picture, Ken Rockwell’s review and flickr. The digital picture review made the image seem terribly not sharp, though the sharpness was one of the the things Ken Rockwell raved about. There are also some gorgeous pictures on flickr.

The deciding factor:

A friend pointed out that the Nikon 24-85mm F/3.5-4.5 was available on Nikon’s website refurbished for a roughly $200 off. Yup, I’m cheaped out. At that price I was willing to take a risk.

The verdict:

The lens arrived Monday so this was the first weekend I was able to play with it. We took it out for water play in the park today. It was a hot, bright sunny day and I was exhausted out in the hot sun. I loved the ability to zoom and stay in the shade. The images were pretty sharp too.

Here’s a photo I took of Lily this evening: 1/30s, f/4.5, 28mm focal length, ISO 640.

Lily captured with my new lens
Resized, no other edits

Lily captured with my new lens
Cropped, no other edits

I’m happy with that. At 100% the fur around her eye is a little soft, but given the relatively slow shutter speed, I’m hardly surprised.

The lens is definitely capable of delivering at my current skill level.

January 10, 2014

Avoiding Camera Envy

Or at least attempting to.

I have always been incredibly curious when it comes to other people’s photography. I have even on occasion perused the old Facebook archives of my photographer friends’ Facebook pages looking for inspiration. What are you capturing? What are you capturing it with?!” I often wonder if the reason I struggle with certain photo ideas is due to equipment or skill. The answer, I suspect, is it depends on the photo.

Recently someone I follow decided to upgrade her camera, and I took the opportunity to compare gear. Here I thought we were shooting using comparable camera bodies. Wow, was I in for a shock. Her old Canon 7D, at 3 times the cost of my Nikon D5100, is far superior. And she was trading in the 7D for the full frame 6D. (Canon numbering makes no sense to this Nikon girl.)

Of course my first impulse was that I had finally found my reason why I struggle so much with indoor photography: inferior gear. I started to wonder how much would it cost to upgrade to a full frame myself. An hour later I had a amazon shopping cart totaling over $3000. That’s because of the three non-kit and two kit lenses I own, only 1 (my 50mm prime lens) is compatible with the full frame sensor camera bodies. I love my prime lenses, but I can’t shoot a toddler with just prime lenses – they’re always on the go! The cheapest full frame body, the D610, is roughly $2000. Even if I stick with the DX crop sensor series, the D7100 – comparable to the Canon 6D, and the camera body I figured I would buy eventually – is $1,200. (Okay, I admit Nikon numbering isn’t exactly clear either.)

Camera envy is bad for the wallet.

I only just bought my last DSLR in August 2012, after purchasing my first DSLR in May 2009. Here I am priding myself on saving money by upgrading my TV once a decade. Buying a new camera body every couple of years isn’t good for my bottom line. So the next logical question is: would that $3000 (or alternatively $1200) actually buy me anything let alone $3000/1200 worth of joy?

Full frame sensor camera sensors are supposed to have better contrast, and less ISO noise than their crop sensor counter parts. But is it noticeable? I was finding everything from the internet from “yes, definitely!” to “only if you want a 20 foot print”. Now, I’m a big picture girl. Gallery walls are cool, but I have a hard time making my photos look consistent enough for gallerias. Different lighting causes different color depths, different types of shadows. My photos just look too different. I have exactly 6 photos hung, on 4 different walls, 3 of which have at dimensions over 20 inches on both sides. So I decided to conduct a few experiments of my own. At least as much of an experiment as I can do prior to buying a much more expensive camera.

Lately I’ve been taking photos with higher and higher ISO. Those milk & cookies were taken between ISO 1600 and 2000. I don’t tend to notice the ISO on my monitor unless I zoom in, but my monitor is tiny compared to a 20 x 30 large print. I wanted to know how noticeable the grain was on a large print, without actually paying for a large print. Thus I projected my photos to 50 inch, admittedly cheap and probably not very good quality, flat screen TV using a Google chromecast. I was surprised by the results.

Photos with 2000 ISO were crisp on the large screen. It was hard to even spot noise in many 6400 ISO photos. If there was any texture, the noise tends to disappear into it. Grain was most noticeable on solid dark areas of photos. As such, ISO can be more noticeable in shallow depth of field photos, as areas out of focus tend to be blurry and thus without texture. ISO grain is also more noticeable on slightly out of focus photos for the same reason.

On the other hand, a too shallow depth of field was very noticeable. In many of my photos I noticed one eye was ever so slightly out of focus. My aperture was just a little too open for her entire face to be in focus. I have been really hampering my own photography by trying to step down the ISO too much, when what I should be doing is choosing a higher f-stop. If only I could go back in time…

I think the conclusion for me is that my photography would be better served with more photography practice, rather than better gear.

Tangentially related, as someone who has been criticized for taking too many photos, I absolutely love the comic from a few days ago.

Last month a certain study published in Psychological Science which found taking a photo of an object can impair one’s memory of it made the rounds, usually accompanied with the conclusion that we should all put our cameras down. But the study itself did not reach that conclusion. The study actually found that “when participants zoomed in to photograph a specific part of the object, their subsequent recognition and detail memory was not impaired”. Additionally study was also conducted over two days and numerous other studies confirm memories change over time. A digital file does not change.

I have no doubt that some people feel more ‘in the moment’ without a camera in their hands. For them, the conclusions to put the camera down makes sense. For me taking the photo is part of the adventure. I’m always going back over my old photos, reliving past memories and emotions. I would have forgotten so many little details without it.

My underwater camera is struggling. I’m not sure if it’s because the camera is now three years old and I’ve never gotten it re-coated like I was supposed to, or if because consumer electronics tend to die earlier these days. We took Nicki to the community swim center last weekend and the delay between pressing the shutter button and having it actually take the photo was pretty impressive. I was catching the tail end of moments, rather than the moments themselves.

I decided to try something different this time around. In the past it didn’t make sense to get an underwater case for my point-and-shoot since the case was so expensive. These days, my phone has become my point-and-shoot and underwater cases for phones are rather inexpensive. We went with this one.

Daddy and Nicki in the Pool

I have to be honest, I loved the case right up until the moment I started working on this post and looked back over my photos to find a “good” one to use as an example. Don’t get me wrong, the pouch functioned great for it’s intended purpose. No water leaked into the case, and I was able to use my phone in the pool with confidence. On two separate occasions we were waiting for phone calls. It was nice to bring the phone into the pool rather than sit pool side waiting for the call, or worrying accidentally dropping and destroying my phone. It also has a neck strap so I could bring it into the ocean without fear of loosing it. I kept my room key and id with me in the pouch so I didn’t have to worry about loosing either.

The actual photo quality? That left something to be desired. There were two issues with the case that effected picture quality.

1.) Humidity / Fog

When getting in and out of the water, both the underwater camera and the iphone in the underwater case suffered from the same droplets over the lens problem. The droplets distort the light waves and you end up with something looking like abstract art.

The iPhone case had an additional fog problem. Since the case was not airtight, and Florida is a rather humid environment, humid air was trapped in the case. Once the case was in the cooler water, the air condensed on the case and it started to get foggy. There are sprays you can get to help, (spit will help too), but it’s a bit of a pain.

2.) Our figures kept getting in the way.

Chalk this one up to user error, but both Domingo and I kept getting fingers in the shot. Sometimes the entire subject was blocked by the finger! We’re both frequent users of the iphone camera so we weren’t expecting this to suddenly be such a problem.

Normal (at least for me) way of holding the iphone in landscape orientation.

Normally my index and middle fingers are supporting the front of the camera when holding the iphone in landscape orientation, my thumb is in the back. My fingers are positioned in the middle of the vertical axis so the weight is most balanced. The lens is in the top right corner, unobscured by fingers.

Holding the camera in the waterproof case

When the camera is in the waterproof pouch it tends to rest along the bottom. Now when my fingers are along the middle of the edge, they’re much closer to that lens.

The Verdict

Next time I’m bringing both the underwater camera and the waterproof pouch. In the mean time I’m trying not to beat myself up about not taking the underwater camera to our first beach trip. Momtographer fail.

self portrait
Circa Spring 2012

A friend of mine is considering getting his first DSLR camera. (I think I’ve created another Nikon fan, yay!) We were discussing camera bodies and features, before the conversation turned accessories and I started thinking about what accessories I have in my camera bag, and what might be missing.

Here’s my list of favorite inexpensive accessories.

1. Camera Strap

A professional photographer friend once told me he can always spot the successful photographers from the wannabes by one piece of gear – the camera strap. According to him anyone whose getting any amount of business and shooting on a regular basis is going to want to replace the strap that comes with the DSLR.

Back in March I purchased this basic black strap. I didn’t realize how uncomfortable the strap that came with my DSLR was until I got this puppy on my neck! The non-slip elastic is great, and the neoprene/silicone is so soft! It’s a little on the shorter side which is great because so am I. Who knew $8 could make such a difference?

2. Spare Batteries

On our honeymoon we took a bus tour through the Peloponnese in Greece. My camera battery died while we were at the Museum in Olympia. It died right before we got to Hermes of Praxiteles – the signature piece in the museum! Never again. Now I always have a spare battery.

These days I’m actually a three battery gal. I have my battery that came with my camera, and two off brand cheap batteries. When on travel I like to keep one in my camera, one in my bag (or go bag if that’s what I’m using) and one back at the hotel charging. That way I always have at least one fully charged battery each day.

I like the off brand batteries because they are so much cheaper than the brand ones. I bought this two pack when I was using my D60. After two years they weren’t holding as much charge as my Nikon battery, but they would hold enough of a charge to last the day. That’s good enough in my book.

3. Lens Pen

For lens cleaning on the go I typically use a Lens Pen. I have the rocket blaster, but it’s so big and bulky I tend to leave it at home.

4. Tweezers

I also keep a pair of tweezers in my bag. Why? It dates back to honeymooning in Greece. When we were visiting the acropolis I noticed a cat hair on some of my photos. Yet there was no hair on or behind the lens! I keep trying to clean out this hair I couldn’t see, but no amount of blowing was getting rid of it. It was the day before we were leaving on the bus tour and the fear of having photos with cat hairs from our once in a lifetime vacation had me pretty upset. We went back to the hotel and online and found that the hair was likely trapped behind the shutter. In order to get it out I had to set the shutter speed for a 30 seconds exposure and unscrew the lens while the camera was taking a photo and the shutter open to expose the cat hair. The next step was to remove the hair with a pair of tweezers. But we were in a foreign country where we did not speak the language. While many of the hotel staff spoke English rather well, ‘tweezers’ was not a common enough word for them to know. Finding a store where we could buy tweezers proved a bit of a challenge, but we succeeded and they haven’t left my bag.

5. Memory Cards

I keep a 32 GB card in my camera, and have a number of smaller cards for backup. I like the 32GB size as it’ll holds about three weeks of photos for me. Another piece of advice from a photographer friend was to get a fast card. After switching to the ultra (30MB/s) I’m a convert! I like to leave my photos on my card until I’ve ensured I’ve backed everything up to both my computer and the external hard drive. That sometimes means I run out of space when using my camera and have to delete some of the older ones that are only backedup on my computer asap. A fast memory card is essential in these moments. I also will use continuous mode when trying to photograph Nicki splashing in the tub or walking. It’s nice not to have to worry about buffering.

I typically upgrade my memory card once a year (on Black Friday, they’re always door busters!) While I’m willing to go off brand for spare camera batteries, I’m much more hesitant to do it for memory cards. The thought of having my memory card dying before backing up my photos terrifies me to my momtographer core.

So what am I missing?

I’m considering getting a set of white balance cards, but the white balance in my photos doesn’t appear particularly off to me. Maybe it’ll be like the camera strap, where I don’t realize what I’m missing until I have them?

So that’s my list. What else am I missing? What would you recommend?

We decided to skip Halloween costumes this year. Nicki is too young to understand, and, since we weren’t planning on going out, a custom didn’t make sense for us. We did have her skeleton sleep and play, so when I started feeling the momma guilt of skipping her first holiday, we thought we’d do a Holiday photo shoot and send out cards to family.

Nicki was only a little over three months for this photo. She’s obviously not sitting on her own yet, but can sit while propped up. To create the card I envisioned I needed to get a little creative.

For this photo I started by folding two towels and placing them on the floor for padding. We have hard wood floors, and Nicki will kick when excited. I didn’t want her to hurt herself by accident. Next I got the plush backrest pillow and put it on the towels. I had bought it umpteen years ago when I was off to college, but never really used it. Since I can’t ever throw anything away, I still had it. I placed the backrest on top of the towels so I would have a cushy spot to prop Nicki up.

The setup

I draped a black backdrop over my setup and with a few props and I was good to go. I adjusted my camera settings so my metering light showed a bit dark and upped the contrast in post processing for a spooky effect.

We got a couple good ones, it was hard to pick a favorite. Ultimately I decided to go with the smile, even though a few of these invoke a more halloweenish feeling. Grandmas adore the smiling babe.

Nicki kept scooting forward in what Domingo called the ‘limp skeleton’ pose. Gotta love her facial expression. I predict she’s going to be quite the little ham!

Another good limp skeleton.

Here’s one were she’s holding a pumpkin between her two hands.

A good one of her ‘sitting.’

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