Tag Archives: camera

Why I Use The BlackRapid Curve (RS-7) Sling Camera Strap

This is not a paid endorsement and I’m not affiliated with BlackRapid.

The reason I use the BlackRapid Curve (RS-7) camera strap is simple, it’s more comfortable for my back. In case you aren’t aware, the Curve (RS-7) is a sling-style camera strap. The RS-7 is worn just as you would wear a messenger bag, slung over one shoulder and across your upper torso. The camera hangs upside down (attached to the tripod mount) at hip level.

blackrapid-curve-rs7-brad

I found with a regular neck strap, my neck, shoulders and upper back would ache after a couple of hours. While I cannot claim pain-free multi-hour photography sessions now that I’m using the RS-7, it has nonetheless helped tremendously to reduce the strain on my neck and especially my upper back. You might be surprised how much lighter your camera feels hanging from this strap compared to a neck strap, and it has the added benefit of keeping the camera at your side (even slightly behind you), which keeps it out-of-the-way during times when that is desirable. And I always found it irritating how the camera would bounce and bob while walking when using a neck strap. With the camera hanging at my side, it generally stays in place, at most rocking back and forth, but not bouncing. And when the time comes to take the shot, I find it no less convenient to grab the camera from my side. Maybe it takes a fraction of a second longer than lifting it from a neck strap, but if I find myself in a hectic and fast-paced situation where I need to get a shot, I probably should already have the camera in my hands. For my purposes, any sling-style strap probably would have worked, I chose the RS-7 because it appeared to meet my needs at a price I could accept (just over $60).

I’ve owned the RS-7 for a few years now, but only recently started accessorizing, adding the BlackRapid “Brad” accessory (can be seen attached to the RS-7 in the picture above) which is an underarm stabilizing strap. This accessory is designed to prevent the RS-7 (and other BlackRapid straps) from sliding up and down. While I didn’t have much of a problem with this, from time to time the RS-7 would slide up and down and I would need to adjust it. I haven’t used it in the field yet, but the Brad accessory looks like it will completely eliminate that “problem.”

I also added the “Joey 3” storage pouch accessory that attaches to the lower front part of the shoulder pad section of the strap. This puts the storage pouch at chest level and is good for storing extra batteries, memory cards, a smart phone (although it may not be large enough for some phones), and even a small point and shoot camera. I plan to use it to hold my Sony RX100 II compact camera. This will be a great way to have a second camera offering focal length flexibility on photography outings where I only take my Nikon D7100 with a prime lens like my 35mm or 24mm. If you want built-in storage in your camera strap without the need for an additional accessory, for $10 more than the RS-7 you can get the BlackRapid Cargo (RS-5) strap. But for my purposes, I think the RS-7 paired with the Joey 3 is a better option because it offers enough storage capacity for a small point and shoot camera, something that does not appear to be possible with the RS-5 (without accessorizing).

And last, I added the BlackRapid Tether Kit, giving me some peace of mind that my expensive camera and lens won’t end up falling to the ground. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with the design of the RS-7 and how it attaches to the tripod mount, I’m simply paranoid. If you too are paranoid, and you decide to purchase the RS-7, you might want to consider the Tether Kit, which uses one of the neck strap posts as a second connection point back to the main strap. It will save your camera in the unlikely event the tripod connection comes loose. If you don’t like the cost of the Tether Kit ($23), I can offer you a cheaper alternative, just buy the OP/TECH USA System Connector Uni-Loop ($7), connect one end to the neck strap post (opposite the grip), connect the other one to the metal rectangle that slides up and down the RS-7 main strap (don’t connect to the loop that is part of the tripod mount because that will partially defeat the purpose of connection point redundancy). Then connect both ends together. Now you have a cheaper alternative (which I have personally used) to the BlackRapid Tether Kit.

With the BlackRapid Curve (RS-7) camera strap I’m able to relieve the strain on my back, while still lugging around my Nikon D7100 and fairly heavy Nikkor 24mm f/1.4 lens, and I have the added flexibility of bringing along a high quality compact camera and storing it in the Joey storage pouch. What this means is on most photography outings, I can leave my bulky camera bag at home, which also helps the ailing back! And that was precisely why I bought the BlackRapid Curve (RS-7).

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The Obligatory ‘My Camera Gear’ Blog Post

Okay, let’s get this one out-of-the-way. Here’s the obligatory “my camera gear” blog post that I know you’ve all been waiting for! Well, it’s not exactly compulsory, and well, I’m sure most visitors really don’t care. But for the aspiring photographers visiting my blog (I thank you), who might be interested in finding out what gear I use, this post is for you.

CAMERAS
Nikon D40 – DSLR body
Nikon D7100 – DSLR body
Sony DSC-RX100 Mark II – compact
Pentax K1000 – SLR 35mm film body

LENSES
Wide Zoom
AF-S DX NIKKOR 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED
Good general use wide-angle zoom lens offering 15mm to 36mm equivalent field of view. While not the sharpest glass, I have captured some of my best photos using this lens. So I’m not sure why I don’t use it more often.

Prime
AF-S NIKKOR 24mm f/1.4G ED
On a DX (crop sensor) camera body, this is an excellent street photography lens suitable for both day and night shooting, offering a 36mm equivalent field of view. This piece of glass is a bit on the large side, but workable. On the other hand, the cost of this lens might be completely unworkable. Where this lens really proves its worth is for low light, or landscape (urban or nature). You can shoot wide open (f/1.4) with this lens and still have much of the field of view in focus, particularly when paired with a DX camera body, as long as the main subjects are a good 8-10 feet away (or further). That makes this lens ideal for nighttime street photography. Combine this lens with a camera that allows usable ISO up to 6400, and you should never have an issue keeping your shutter speed fast.
AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G
Another great low-light street photography lens, offering 52mm equivalent field of view. If you shoot with a DX camera, for the price, this lens cannot be beat, and would be my recommendation for your first prime lens.
AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G SIC SW
SMC Pentax-A 50mm f/2

Normal Zoom
AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR
Just a good all-around lens that gives you 27mm to 450mm equivalent field of view. Sure, there are optical sacrifices with this glass, but if you only want to carry one lens while having the flexibility of shooting reasonably wide or very long, this lens is hard to beat for DX cameras. Just keep in mind this lens is big and heavy and when fully zoomed, it’s almost comically long in length.

Macro
AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 85mm f/3.5G ED VR
Good reach that also allows you to shoot macro sans tripod for many situations, as long as you are stopped down a good amount. This lens can also be used as a long portrait lens with a 128mm equivalent field of view.

FIELD GEAR
Camera Bag
Lowepro LP36433-PWW Photo Hatchback 22L AW in “Pepper Red”

Lens Case
Lowepro Lens Case 9 x 13 cm

Camera Strap and Accessories
BlackRapid RS-7 Camera Strap – (Read my RS-7 review)
BlackRapid Joey 3 Storage Pocket
BlackRapid Brad Underarm Stabilizing Strap
BlackRapid Tether Kit
BlackRapid ProtectR (Long)
Custom SLR M-Plate Pro – (Read my M-Plate Pro review)

Tripods
Slik Sprint Pro II Tripod with Ball Head & Case in “Gunmetal” finish
Joby GP3 GorillaPod SLR-Zoom Flexible Tripod + BH1 Ball Head with Bubble Level

Flash
Nikon SB-600 Speedlight Flash

Filters
B+W 77mm circular polarizer filter
Hoya 52mm circular polarizer filter
Tiffen 52mm 0.3, 0.6, and 0.9 neutral density filters
Tiffen 77mm 0.6 neutral density filter

Hand Strap (used exclusively with Nikon D40)
Fotodiox Genuine Leather Hand Strap

Other Stuff
Eye-Fi 16GB Pro X2 SDHC Card
Transcend 32GB SDHC Card

STUDIO GEAR
Strobes
AlienBees B400 Strobe/Flash
Neewer 300W Strobe/Flash

There’s even more gear, and I’ll add it to this page over time, including a complete list of all photography books I own. And I will also add bits of information about how and when I use each piece of gear. So be sure to check out this blog post in the future for more information.

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Curmudgeon Agency

There are people who are ill-tempered for no particularly well-thought-out reason. They simply react poorly to seemingly innocuous circumstances or events. It seems these people are curmudgeons for no other reason than to make it perfectly clear they have agency as a human being. And it’s certainly a good idea to assert yourself and to make it known you have thoughts and feelings too, but overreacting to a benign situation for the sake of expressing your individualism is counter-productive at best.

As this relates to street photography, I’m talking about the person who reacts negatively either verbally or physically to their picture being taken. And certainly that’s their prerogative (at least the verbal part), but people seem to think they have some special right no one else possesses when out in public.

For better or for worse, we live in a surveillance society, and at the same time, nearly everyone has a camera. There is no presumed privacy on the street, or in a park. What is it exactly that people fear about the photograph? These same people do not live in fear that their likeness could be captured by accident with someone’s smart phone camera. They don’t think twice about walking down a city street where the number of security cameras can measure into the dozens. But raise your camera up, and snap a shot, and suddenly you’ve taken away their agency? Most people who react badly in these situations couldn’t begin to tell you why, they just react.

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Street Photography Object Lesson: The Good Samaritan

Percolate, Philadelphia Street Photography

Well, it happened today, the dreaded street photography confrontation. It was only a matter of time. Let my experience (which admittedly was mild) be an object lesson for you, the aspiring street photographer.

Let me start by saying you need to beware the “good samaritan” when you hit the streets with your camera. Try to imagine what you look like to someone who is in a place where they are being more observant. See, for most street photography situations, people are busy going about their lives. Even if they notice you, they aren’t likely to say anything because it doesn’t seem worth it, because the whole thing happened so quick anyway. But, there are other situations where people might be more observant of you and your camera. And it is precisely these situations where the “good samaritan” may press into action.

An example of just such a situation is what happened to me today at Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. If you are not aware, the park at Rittenhouse Square is an urban park with lots of benches and it is always full of people, especially on nice days like today. When people are lounging about in a park, they can be completely oblivious, but on the other hand, some people can be highly observant. And it was just such an “observant” fellow who confronted me today. I won’t get into the specifics of his accusations, because I don’t care to attach myself to the wild fantasies and claims conjured from the brain of a complete stranger. But after I give you a few details of what led up to this confrontation, you will probably be able to figure out the general context of this fellow’s wonderful imagination.

While I did nothing wrong, in retrospect, two specific actions I took probably caught this guy’s attention. One, I walked down the same area of the park twice, actively shooting with my camera. He likely was sitting on a bench in this same area for both of my strolls through. Two, I happened to be shooting from the hip. For the uninitiated, this is exactly as it sounds, I had the camera at waist level (using the flip screen of my Sony RX100 II). Apparently seeing me stroll through with the camera down low was too much for this guy, and he figured I had to be doing something seedy.

Anyway, so while I did nothing wrong, and was completely within my rights to be taking photos, my takeaway is to be more cognizant of my appearance to others. Not only do I need to be observant of my surroundings, looking for the next great shot, I need to be aware of how others might be perceiving me. And if that means not walking down the same path twice in a short timeframe then that’s fine. There’s always another time and another day.

But there is a happy ending to this story. That photo at the top of this article — it was the very first photo I snapped post-confrontation (just after exiting the park), and I happen to think it’s one of my best street shots so far.

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Gear Lust: It Matters Not What’s In Your Hands, But What’s In Your Head

When you find yourself in the throes of a major case of GAS (gear acquisition syndrome), you need to walk out of the store, or move your mouse cursor away from the Buy button. Next you need remind yourself that it is your imagination and creativity that most contributes to your passion, not the gear. What matters is not what’s in your hands, but what’s in your head.

I’m not saying you should never buy new gear, and in fact, I offer you a twist later in this article (more on that in a moment). What I’m saying is, don’t purchase gear with the belief that it will improve your work on the merits of the specifications alone. Think of all the iconic photographs from decades past, many of which are not superior on a technical level, even when they work exceptionally well on a compositional and emotional level. That new Nikon or Canon DSLR or that new zoom lens aren’t going to offer you any greater ability to tell a story with your photographs. The only thing that can do that is your imagination.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Slow down.
  • Don’t take a lot of photos, concentrate instead on what you are trying to accomplish.
  • Beyond the anchor or subject, pay attention to what is in the frame, especially at the edges.
  • Think about your composition and how different elements in the frame are flowing and interacting with each other.
  • Are you trying to tell a story with this shot, and will the composition offer a message to the viewer?

If you are overcome with the urge to buy a new piece of gear, instead look for inspiration by browsing the works of your favorite photographers, or better yet, discover new ones. And if that doesn’t quiet the desire for more hardware, pick up the gear you already own and go out and shoot! Because at the end of the day, taking more photos is how you improve your art, not buying new gear.

But if you still can’t resist that temptation, I offer this suggestion (here’s that twist I mentioned earlier): Head to eBay and get yourself a cheap film camera, like the 35mm Pentax K1000 that I just bought. But wait a second, I thought you said, “it’s not what’s in your hands, but what’s in your head.” — Yes, indeed I did, but I’m also realistic about gear lust. Sometimes you just need to buy something. But instead of the typical lens or camera body upgrade, take a hard left into uncharted territory and buy something you never thought you’d ever buy. For me, I never thought I’d go back to film. Hell, I never really shot much film in the first place. I think the last time I used a film camera I was in my teens in the early 1990s.

I want to reiterate that your imagination is the most important thing, but if gear is ever going to have any impact at all on the creative process, it’s likely to happen when you choose a piece of gear that really shakes things up, and makes you look at your craft in a different way. And in the case of old 35mm film cameras, it’s an inexpensive way to satisfy that hardware craving. Well, at least the gear is cheap. If you really get hooked, the film and developing costs could start to add up! Oh no, what have I done! 🙂

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