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Think Tank Photo Airport TakeOff Review

March 19, 2010

I have an old Samsonite roll-aboard suitcase that I put a padded divider set in to hold camera gear. The wheels are terrible, the handle is rickety and it tips over when it’s loaded. I was preparing to lead a workshop in Costa Rica recently and I figured it was time for a new rolling camera bag.

Photo courtesy of Think Tank Photo

My experience with Think Tank Photo products made their rolling bags my first choice. Think Tank has a few bags to choose from that are US and international carry-on size. I decided on the Airport TakeOff because it has backpack straps that you can pull out if you need to carry the bag instead of rolling it. It is usually not a problem to roll a bag like this around town, but outside of the city limits it’s nice to have the option to throw it on your back.

When I got the Airport TakeOff (from outdoorphotogear.com), I found the usual Think Tank Photo quality and attention to detail. This bag just feels sturdy. The handles on the side and top of the bag are big and easy to hang on to. The pull-out handle is thinner than the handle on most roll-aboard cases. I’m sure this is so the handle doesn’t take up valuable space inside the bag. It feels a bit flimsy at first, but it has given me no trouble in real-world use. The instructions tell you not to lift the loaded bag by the pull-out handle, and I would definitely second that. The bag comes with a rain cover and straps to carry a tripod on the side of the bag.

Photo courtesy of Think Tank Photo

I was surprised by how comfortable the backpack straps are on the Airport TakeOff. They are actually very similar to the straps on my Think Tank Photo Rotation 360º backpack. They are wide and nicely padded. The contoured shape makes carrying the bag on your back pretty darn comfortable. I wouldn’t carry this bag on a long hiking trip, but it works well for when you can’t roll the bag.

The interior of the bag is easily customizable (like ALL Think Tank Photo products), and it includes plenty of different dividers for organizing your gear. I especially like the lens cradle dividers for holding a camera with a lens attached. I can easily fit a Nikon D700 (with or without the battery grip) and a D300s with lenses attached, and everything else I needed for a week in Costa Rica. Some sections of the bag are deeper than others because of the collapsible handle. This is not a problem, you just have to put your taller items along the sides of the bag.

My loaded Airport TakeOff

The front pocket of the Airport TakeOff is large enough to hold a 15″ laptop. I like having an outside pocket for the laptop because it makes it easy to remove the computer for the nice people at TSA. The pocket is designed to hold Think Tank Photo’s Artificial Intelligence 15″ laptop case, so the pocket doesn’t provide any padding for your computer.

I’m definitely happy with my new roll-aboard. Everything works as well as I expected, except the backpack straps. They were much better than I expected. If you are traveling to places that are not necessarily roller friendly, the Airport TakeOff is a great choice for a carry-on camera bag.

Friends of DphotoA receive a free gift if you order the Airpot TakeOff from ThinkTankPhoto.com.

Success in Costa Rica. Pt. 1

March 15, 2010

The Edge of the World crew had a wonderful time in Costa Rica this past week.  I think the students had an equally great time as well.

On Thursday (3/4), I took a few students to Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve, near Cabuya.  We stopped a few times along the way.  Take a look at some of the scenery and the students at work.

When we arrived, we were greeted by some very kind volunteers.  They walked us around the reserve showing us the animals that they have rescued.  We were able to play with Ante the Ant Eater and photograph the many birds they had.  After walking around for a bit we heading straight for the monkeys.  They had 5 in total.  3 babies that would crawl on your head and rest there and 2 older monkeys that were not as active.

(One of our students letting a monkey crawl on her.)




The monkeys were very sweet and loved having people pay all sorts of attention to them.  Here’s some more photo’s of our students hard at work.
Stay tuned for more entries about our Costa Rican adventure.

Notes From Mal Pais, Costa Rica

March 14, 2010

Students on the beach. Mal Pais, Costa Rica

Mal Pais may mean “bad lands”, but it’s one of my favorite places in the world. This little town on the Pacific coast was the venue for our first “Edge of the World” workshop in Costa Rica. Jesse and myself had five photo students and Kevin Chambers taught a sculpture class to six students.

The weather was great for us. Highs in the low 90’s and lows in the 70’s; fahrenheit, that is. We had generally finished shooting for the day by the time it got too hot in the afternoons. The harsh afternoon sun is not exactly the best light for making great photos anyway. There were barely any clouds during the day, but we got enough by evening for some truly spectacular sunsets.

Jesse Brown at Casa Marbella

Our students were great! Everyone was eager to make great photos and learn something new. The students represented all different experience levels, and I think they all went home with some techniques to improve their photos.

White-throated magpie jay. Mal Pais, Costa Rica

The wildlife around the Casa Marbella hotel cooperated quite nicely with us. The trees were filled each morning with parrots, white-throated magpie jays, woodpeckers and more. The afternoon sun brought several iguanas out in the trees just off our balconies. The largest we saw were around three feet long. There was a troop of howler monkeys in the trees along the beach while we were there. We could see them monkeying around each morning and evening from our vantage point on the hill at Casa Marbella.

Casa Marbella hotel. Mal Pais, Costa Rica

Speaking of the hotel… Jim and Stephanie at the Casa Marbella hotel could not have been more accommodating. They were quick to help our students with anything they needed; from extra towels to surf lessons and tours. We are looking forward to hosting another workshop there next spring. I can’t think of a better venue for a class like ours. The hotel is wonderful and it’s in the perfect location along the coast. It is out of the tourist flow, but just a few steps from anything you might need.

All photos in this post by Rob Knight. Please do not reproduce without permission.

More to come…

Think Tank Streetwalker Hard Drive Backpack Review.

February 17, 2010

Hello all.

For Christmas my wife surprised me with a Think Tank backpack.  It’s the Streetwalker Hard Drive model.

For a long time I’ve wanted a backpack that would hold my gear and my laptop.  I always hated having one carry on for my gear and another carry on for my computer.  Now I can cram all that in to one bag.
Here’s a list of what’s in my bag:
-Outside Pockets:
Pens
Promotional Material; Business Cards
Playing Cards
-Inside:
Canon 5D with battery grip
Canon 28-135mm Lens
Canon 85mm Lens
Canon Rebel XTi
Battery Chargers for both Cameras
Extra AA Batteries
Extra Lens Caps
On Camera Bubble Level (Triple Axis)
3 CF Cards Readers (2 USB’s and 1 Firewire)
LaCie External Hard Drive 120 GB USB2.0
Extra Cables (iPod, Male Mini to Male Mini, PC to Mini, USB2.0, and Mini to Phono)
Compass
Pocket Wizards
Extra Phone Charger
Mini 4 Outlet Power Strip
Raincoat for Bag
Rocket Blower
Sekonic Light Meter
Qp Gray Cards
Power Inverter (70 Watt)
Lens Cloths
Filters (Circular Polarizer, Neutral Density)
Mini LED Flashlight
CF Cards (3 4GB’s and 2 2GB’s)
USB 2.0 Cable for Tethered Shooting
Headache Meds
Camera Manuals
3 Prong to 2 Prong Outlet Adapter
13in Macbook Pro
That’s about it.  It’s a little heavy, especially when I attach my Enduro Tripod to the outside of it, but I would recommend this pack to anyone who is looking for a backpack for your gear.  As with any pack, be careful what you put in it.  The weight adds up real fast.  But that’s with any bag.
I really do like the fact that it has a lot of useable space.  The 4 side pockets and 2 front pockets make it really easy for quick access for any smaller items.  The only thing I would change would be to make the inside a little brighter.  For instance, the Kata bags have a yellow interior which makes it easier to find smaller items that may have slipped in-between  the dividers.  But that’s it.  After getting this pack, I haven’t thought about getting another one.  I’ve even walked 20 blocks in New York with this strapped to my back and I still like it.
Try it out.  You can go to www.outdoorphotogear.com and they’ll treat you right.
ThinkTankPhoto.com

Lightroom web galleries.

January 27, 2010

Creating a web gallery or website can be quite time consuming and difficult, especially if you want to make it look professional.

I’ve recently updated my site, www.jessebrownphotography.com, using Lightroom.  I’ve been using Lightroom to create my web galleries for a while now and I’ve never been displeased with the results.  It’s very easy to use and really quick.

When you first open Lightroom, you’ll notice 5 different modules; Library, Develop, Slideshow, Print, and Web.  Inside the Web module you’ll have a Template Browser on the left side.  Click through and see which one fits your style.  I personally don’t feel as though most of them have a very polished look for a website, however, if you are just creating a gallery for a client to preview and make selects, then any one will fit the bill.  If you want to create a gallery for your personal site you may have to go in and tweak some of the presets.  For example, I chose the Flash gallery.  The main features I wanted to use from this gallery are the scroll bar and the buttons. The rest of the options were insignificant for my purposes.  On the right side you’ll see drop menus; Engine, Site Info, Color Palette, Appearance, Image Info, Output Settings, and Upload Settings.  Since I’m just focusing on the bare minimum of this gallery, the only thing I’m concerned with is the Color Palette.  I set everything except the Controls to their 30% gray.  I also go in and alter the Appearance Module.  Here, you can change Layout and Image Size.  I chose the Scrolling Layout and I changed my Thumbnail size to medium.  That’s about it.  After you’ve finished, click the Export button and choose your destination and folder name.  Then you’re ready to upload and you’re on your way.

Go in and play around with it and figure out what works best for you.

Gearing up for Costa Rica

January 22, 2010

It’s getting pretty close to March, and that means our photo Workshop in Costa Rica, and that means getting our gear together and putting it on a plane or two. I thought I would share a few thoughts about what I’m bringing, how I’m carrying it and some things you might need if you’re joining us.

I bought a new suitcase that is long enough for me to pack my tripod in. I went with the 28-inch “Wheely Beast Rolling Duffel” from REI. This bag is cavernous and lightweight, and at $149 you can’t beat it. There are a few different sizes of this bag, but the 28-inch model is just right for me. I haven’t had the chance to field test it yet but it has many good reviews, including one from Scott Bourne over at photofocus.com.

Jesse got a new camera backpack from Santa Clause last month. He will be carrying his camera gear and laptop in a Thin Tank Photo ‘StreetWalker HardDrive’. I have a little bit of bag envy now, and I’m anxious to see how he likes the StreetWalker on the trip. Look for a review from Jesse soon, and find out more info at ThinkTankPhoto.com. PS… you’ll get a free gift from us when you order!

On the software side, you can’t do without Adobe Lightroom for the workshop. Lucky for you if you don’t already own the software, there are a couple of options available for free. You can download the 30-day free trial of Lightroom 2 at adobe.com. You can only do this once, so download it at the end of February if you’re coming to our workshop in March. The other option is the public beta version on Lightroom 3. You can download the beta for free at adobe labs and it won’t expire until the final version of Lightroom 3 is released.

Another piece of software you are definitely going to want is Photomatix Pro for processing HDR images. I have been working with this software a lot lately, and there are some techniques I’m dying to share with you. You can enter the discount code “RobKnight15” at hdrsoft.com to get 15% off when you order.

We’re getting excited… I hope you’re getting your gear together!

Complete itinerary and online registration HERE

Using the Black Rapid DR-1 Double Strap with Really Right Stuff L-brackets

January 14, 2010

There was only one reason I didn’t order a Black Rapid DR-1 Double Strap when I fist saw one: there did not seem to be a convenient way to use the DR-1 with a Really Right Stuff L-bracket. Yes, you can attach the fastenR-2 to the RRS bracket, but you have to remove it before you can clamp the bracket onto your tripod. I asked the Black Rapid guys about this at Photoshop World and they didn’t really have any suggestions. I emailed David DuChemin to ask his ideas when he mentioned the DR-1 on his blog. He said that he uses a loop of para cord, but I’m not that confident in my knot tying abilities.

I had come up with a possible solution when my wife bought me a DR-1 for my birthday (she digs me). The solution I came up with is very simple, and I wish I had thought of it sooner. I attached a small metal keyring to the strap boss on the L-bracket. I used a small ring that came off of an old 35mm camera strap, but you can find rings like this at the hardware store. Of course, this will also work with the single Black Rapid straps.

Now I can use the DR-1 and my RRS brackets at the same time. I can unhook the camera and clamp it to the tripod without having to unscrew anything or removing any parts. The cameras hang at a slightly different angle this way. It doesn’t cause any problems that I have seen, although you might want to loop the ring around the other side of the L-bracket on the camera you will carry on your left side.

The Black Rapid DR-1 works exactly as advertised. If you regularly carry two camera bodies I can highly recommend this system. I have also found it convenient to carry a camera on one side of the DR-1 and my tripod on the other side. This might not work with a heavy tripod, but it works great with my carbon fiber Induro C213.