My Favorite Photography Accessories! Part 1

September 02, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Hey Everybody! Hope your having a great day!  This week I want to talk about my photography accessories that I like the most.  Everybody likes gadgets and I am no exception.  Over the years I have acquired lots of photography stuff and a few of them I don't think I could do without  I can't go over all of them there are just too many but I thought I would share some of my favorite ones.  Here goes a list in no particular order just as I look around my room and see them.

1. Peak Designs Slide shoulder strap.  This was the first thing that I ever bought off of Kickstarter and have been a fan of the company ever since. I have had many slide shoulder straps with my big cameras when I shot full frame to the smaller camera's I use now. They are made out of a material like a seat belt and have a really neat quick disconnect feature to quickly take it off of my cameras.  I'm also going to include wrist straps that I use that were made by Peak Designs.

2. Peak Design Camera Pro Clip,  This great clip attaches to your camera backpack strap, or they have one's that fit on your belt.  There is an attachment that is Arch Swiss compatible that screws onto you camera.  The clip on your shoulder strap grabs this attachment and locks your camera in place .  The little clip makes it easy to hike with your camera out and ready to shoot in just seconds by just pushing a button and sliding your camera out of the clip.  Awesome! Awesome! Awesome!

3. Lumecube 2.0 waterproof LED portable light.  This is a new addition to my camera kit but it makes the perfect off camera light when doing landscape photography.  Maybe you're shooting a detail shot but you need some extra light this little light has lots of punch to light up your scene.  You can remotely control this light with your phone and it is re-chargeable via USB-C connector.  It comes with attachments and it is only 1 1/2 inches square.  It comes with Barn doors and defusers and gels to control your light.  

4. Mountain Smith Daylight Lumbar Bag.  This is not a camera bag but a hiking lumbar pack.  But I have adapted it to my camera shoot bag or my street photography bag.  I have taken the shoulder strap off and replaced it with a Peak Design Slide Camera Strap.  I put a cheap camera divider that I got off of Amazon to keep my camera equipment safe.  Love this bag.  People that shoot with me know that I call it my Purse. LOL

5. Shimoda Action X 30 liter camera bag.  This is my main camera bag that holds all of my Landscape stuff. This is another Kickstarter acquisition.  This bag has a roll top entry and can be expanded to hold more than 30 liters easily.  This bag is water proof with waterproof zippers.  It is set up like a backpacking pack. Very comfortable to wear. Many popular professional Landscape photographers make Shimoda their bag company.  They have many bags in various sizes.  The bag is a little pricy but it is the best photography backpack that I have ever had.

6. Backblaze Cloud Storage.  We all have many, many, photographs on all kind of drives and one thing about drives its not " if " they will fail its when.  Backblaze backs up your computer and any drive that you have connected to it.  I have a solid state drive that all my photo's live temporarily while I edit them.  When I'm done I have another drive that I store all of my photographs on.  Backblaze backs up all of your computer and any drive that is connected to it.  It does this automatically.  You don't even have to think about it .  If your drive fails you can get access to all of your files through them.  Its a great peace of mind knowing that when your drive fails you still have all of your stuff.

Well it looks like this is going to be a two part Blog.  So this is part one and part two will be next week.  I just have too many photo accessories that I like to get into one blog.  Next week I'll go into my camera bag and share some of my accessories that I always use.  Until next week Keep shooting and get outside!


What Lens Should I Get? Nifty 50!

August 27, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Hey Everyone! Hope you're doing great today! Today I want to talk about lenses.  I get asked from time to time by new photographers, "What lens should I get next?" Well, today I'm going to answer that question. Some experienced photographers should listen also.  The lens that I'm going to talk about either already is or will soon become the most versatile lens in your kit. For the experienced photographers, they probably have this lens stuck in a bag somewhere not using it. But they should dust it off because it is awesome.  I'm of course talking about the Nifty 50 lens.  The 50mm lens is the most versatile lens, and old-timers like me remember that this was the lens that came on a film camera. It is a great all-around lens and is said to have the same look as your eyes do.  This is the most natural lens that you will use. If you are using a crop sensor camera, a 35mm will give you the same focal distance as a 50mm on a full-frame camera. So if you have a crop sensor as I do, a 35mm is the same as a 50mm.  It can be used for all types of photography from portraits, landscape, street, low light, product/food, and everything in between. So I have 10 things that make the Nifty 50 so great.

1.  The 50mm is sharp!  It's a prime lens.  People use zooms so much because they are easier, but primes are Curved CupsCurved Cups known as a general rule to be sharper. That was very much so 20 years ago but not as much now.  But they are still sharp!

2.  They are small.  These little lenses are small and lightweight.  They are usually made mostly of plastic which keeps the weight down.  These lenses are perfect for street photography where you're carrying your camera around with you all the time.  The small size does not intimidate people when you approach them to take their photograph.

3. These are great portrait lenses.  These prime lenses are great for portraits!  They do not distort the facial features like a wide-angle lens or a telephoto lens would.  And the sharpness is really great!

4. They are great for street photography!  These little lenses, as I said before, are not too wide or too telephoto. They are just in the middle of the focal range, which means you can really frame your scene to keep in what you want and leave out what you don't.  

5. They are super for landscape photography.  I know people think of wide-angle lenses for landscape, and yes they Forsyth Park FountainForsyth Park FountainForsyth Park Fountain, Savannah Ga a lovely 30 acre park. Great fountain and lots of shade on a hot summers day. #MaxStansellPhotography #funwithphotography #Getoutandshoot #awesomestuffisee #SonyA6300 #alphashooter #NorthCarolinaPhotographer #NorthCarolinaLiving #visitNC #NorthCarolina are great. But they have a distorted view.  By using the 50mm and doing pantographs, you have more of a natural-looking scene than you do with a wide angle lens which distorts the edges of the frame.  And did I mention that they are lightweight? LOL

6.  They are great for product/food photography.  They are the perfect focal length to shoot product or food photography.  I just got into food photography, and this is a great lens for shooting food.  The sharpness of the lens is a great asset when doing this type of photography.

7.  They have a wide aperture.  These lenses, like all primes, have wider apertures than zoom lenses.  They can come in any size from f2.8 to f1.2, but they're most commonly found in the f1.8 range. These wide apertures make them great for shooting almost anything where you can control how much of the scene is in focus.

8.  They are great for low-light photography.  With the wide aperture as mentioned above, when they are opened up they catch a lot of light. This makes them great for shooting indoors or in low-light situations.  They can even be made to shoot astro photography.

9. Bokeh!!! These lenses are bokeh machines! Bokeh is the amount of blurry goodness that is found on great portraits. The bokeh can be used for art interpretation or just for isolation.  If you have a busy scene behind your subject you can open up this lens and really blur out the background.  People who love bokeh love these lenses.

10.  Inexpensive!  These will be some of the most reasonably priced lenses that you can buy.  Now don't get me wrong, you can spend a lot of money on big f1.2 glass. But if you're not making a living out of your photography, an f1.8 will do just fine, and you can find them well under $300 and sometimes in the $150 range.  I paid about $250 for mine.  

Man in WindowMan in WindowMan in Window. While on a lunch break I took my camera out and took a walk in Raleigh where I came upon this scene. There you go! Ten reasons you should have a Nifty 50mm with you all the time.  And maybe after using it a lot, you might start thinking about getting rid of some of your other lenses to lighten the load.  Until next week, get outside with your Nifty 50 and keep shooting!


What Camera should I get?

August 19, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Pentax MXPentax MXPentax MX, My Pentax MX from 1982 Super camera works great! Hey Everyone! Hope you're doing great today. This week I want to talk about cameras! Yay! I haven't talked about cameras in a while.  I often get asked what's the best camera or what camera should I buy? Well, this is a very loaded question and a hard one to answer. I was listening to a photo podcast, "This week in Photo," and the host was talking about this topic, so I thought I would pile on and share some of his and my thoughts on the subject. So let's do a spoiler alert and say that the answer is that "it depends."  I know, I know, it sounds like a copout answer but it really does depend on a lot of factors. Like have you ever had a real camera before?  What type of photography would you like to do?  Does size Lee Filter HolderLee Filter Holder matter? LOL  Do you have photography friends, and what do they shoot?  These are just a few of the questions that you should ask yourself.  I have owned lots of cameras in my life.  Everything from film cameras that I started with, to a 2mp point and shoot when I started digital, all the way up to a full-frame beast of a camera that had a 36mp sensor on it.  I have narrowed down the system that works for me now.  It may change in the future, but now I think I have the perfect system. "FOR ME."  What you need might be totally different.  So let's go through a few of the questions that you should ask yourself before you go out and spend a lot of money.  And it will be a lot of money.

Have you ever had a real camera before?  When I ask this question, younger people will probably say, "No, just my phone."  A phone with a good camera on it is a great way to start photography, and there is no shame in using your iPhone for your main camera, especially when you start out.  Learning the fundamentals of composition, lighting, subject, and storytelling can be accomplished with almost any smartphone nowadays. And these aspects of photography are the most important skills you need when doing photography.  If you have never had a "real" camera before, I might steer you in the direction of a high-end point and shoot.  These cameras can shoot in manual or can use almost any mode available, and you will get a better quality photo than with a phone because of sensor size.

If you have some camera experience, I would ask, "What type of photography are you planning to do with the AMT2016-sony-a6300-review-0423-2AMT2016-sony-a6300-review-0423-2Photographer: Anthony Thurston camera?"  Will it be portraits? Travel? Landscape? Wildlife? Food?  What are you planning to shoot?  This will really determine what type of camera you will get. If you are just going to be taking photos of your kids on family outings, I might suggest an entry-level DSLR or Mirrorless camera. But if you were going to concentrate on wildlife or portraits, I might point you in the direction of a higher-end mirrorless camera, an interchangeable lens camera with a larger sensor to get more detail.  So it all depends on what you're going to shoot that determines what type of camera you get.

What do your photography friends shoot?  This question would help me pick out the brand of camera to shoot.  Shooting the same brand as your friends has many advantages.  You can share lenses.  If you were going to do a photoshoot and you wanted a special lens to use for it and one of your friends had the lens, you could borrow it to do the shoot and see if you liked it enough to buy one of your own.  Learning where all the buttons and menu items are on the camera is very hard to learn by yourself, and a friend with the same setup could help you figure out how and where everything is on your camera.  This is a big advantage also.  What brand of camera you shoot isn't that important in the long run, so if you're shooting the same as your friends, the advantages outweigh any disadvantage to any brand.

Does size matter? LOL I always joke with my friends that the answer to almost any question can always come down to size.  Too large, too small.  It can also be helpful in choosing the right camera for you.  If you do landscape or maybe street photography, size will certainly matter. Having to lug a very large camera and lenses up a mountain to get a shot is a big chore when you can get a great shot with a smaller, lighter camera.  Doing street photography with a large camera is cumbersome and awkward when taking photos of people on the street.  It is also heavy and hard to conceal.  This question is what made me change from a large full-frame camera and all of the large lenses that come with it to the kit that I am personally using now.  For the type of photography I do, which is mainly travel/landscape, my crop sensor Sony does great.  So size can matter.

So for every person, the answers to these questions can be different.  And just to make sure you know, there are no bad answers.  And any modern camera you get these days will take great photos.  I was one of the first in my camera club to switch from a big full-frame professional camera to a mirrorless camera system.  It was a hard decision to make, and it took me almost a year to commit to it.  But in the long run, I am pleased with the choice I made by asking myself "What type of photography do I shoot?  Does size matter?" Researching the cameras at the time, I came up with the decision of Sony crop sensor cameras.   I am a nimble photographer and don't get as tired as I used to get lugging around large equipment. Would I pick the same thing now if I had to make the choice?  I would still go to a crop-sensor camera but maybe FUJI instead of Sony, but like I said brand really doesn't matter.  But that's just me. You might need something altogether different.  But asking yourself these simple questions and researching, asking questions, and learning all of the different systems will help you decide what camera is best for you.  So until next week, get your camera and get outside!


New Photography Style for me!

August 13, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Hey Everyone! Hope y'all are doing great today.  This week I want to talk about shooting something new.  Something that isn't outside.  Maybe something to shoot while the weather is bad. I'm talking about Food Photography.  If you know me I love to eat so what better subject to shoot.  I recently went to a workshop on food photography that my camera club was giving and it was the first in person workshop that I had been to sense Covid has invaded us.  I had a ball!  Now I thought it was just seeing everyone again (and it was) but I also had fun shooting the food. Those that know my story know that I have been shooting since I was a teenager starting in film.  When I got my first digital camera I did a lot of photography at my house. Either in the backyard shooting my wife's flowers or in a home studio that I was starting to build. I did a lot of product photography and some food but nothing too fancy.  Let me tell you about my studio.

My home studio is really just a table in a small spare bedroom that my daughter used to have until she moved out. Then I took it over as a office/laundry/gear/studio room.  This room is too small to shoot portraits so its really just a table top studio.  The table I use is a very sturdy table I found dumpster diving a long time ago.  Yes I used to dumpster dive.  One man's trash is another man's treasure. Anyway, This table is about 4X3 foot.  Now most of the time this table just collects junk like any another table its a handy place to set stuff on.  And it can get really junky.  But it is the perfect platform to place things on for product or Food Photography. I have lights and modifiers that I have accumulated over the years.  You can see about my lights and modifiers and how I use them in "My Lighting Setup" blog that I've previously written.

Now I'm no expert in Food Photography but I know you must have some sort of vision before you shoot.  For example my wife bought some hot sauce that was named "Lola".  My wife is from the Philippines and Lola is grandmother in her language.  So my grandchildren , children , nieces and nephews all have started calling her Lola.  So when I saw the hot sauce in the kitchen I immediately saw the photo that I wanted to shoot.  The photo is in this blog.  I wanted some Lumpia in the background.  But the star was going to be the Lola hot sauce.  Then I had to find props to have into the photo and a backdrop.  I think a lot of the fun of shooting food is the set up.  This was the hardest part for me.  I used some old flooring for a table top and a DYI photo holder that my mother made for the backdrop.  I look into investing in more backdrops in the future. Then its the things you place the food on or in.  Dishes, cups, saucers, plates, and anything else you have in the photo.  Vintage things seem to go well.  I can see a lot of flea market, goodwill, and antique shopping in my future for Food Photography shoots.  

Looks like I've found a new way to spark my creativity with photography.  I'm looking forward to many hours of enjoyment from this new branch in my photography tree. I'll try to keep you updated in my progress.  Get your camera out and shoot some food.  And don't forget to get out and shoot.


Will things get back to Normal?

August 06, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Hey Everyone! Hope your week has been good.  This blog will be more of me just talking to you instead of telling you about a product or something else.  Well half of the year is over and I feel like I haven't done anything.  Last year even with the Covid-19 pandemic going on I feel like I accomplished more than I have this year.  Last year in the beginning I had plans to go to all of the State parks in North Carolina and then we had two Photography trips planned one in the Spring and one in the Fall.  Well I got started on my state parks then the pandemic started.  Then our photography trips got canceled then we were doing our monthly meetings via Zoom.   Well when some of the restrictions lifted I started my State parks project again.  So I had something to do.  I kept busy.  But this year I didn't have anything really set in stone.  I want to check out all of the National Forest in North Carolina and explore them.  But this plan was more flexible than last years and really I've only gone out a couple of times and have not done much photography. It seems like the only thing I've done on a regular schedule is this blog.  Now half of the year has passed and like everyone else life has gotten in the way of me doing photography and really getting into the outdoors as much as I want.  Blah, Blah, Blah.  I know , I know.  I've got to snap out of the Blah-ness.

This morning I woke up at 4-ish like usual , stumbled into the kitchen, made some coffee and wandered into my office and logged onto "Facebook" and the first thing on my screen was a Fall colors trip scheduled for my photography club to West Virginia!  Now I have gotten excited about what I was seeing.  I haven't seen my photography buddies since the beginning of the pandemic.  We did have one in person meeting but I had to miss it due to family illness.  Let me tell you I am really excited to be out with my photo buddies in beautiful places.  And today the Olympics started after being delayed a year.  So I hope things are looking up.  

So what does all this mean?  Well its given me something to look forward to.  A goal in the distance.  I haven't really picked up my big boy camera this year except to maybe take some blog photo's.  And to tell IMG_1562IMG_1562 you the truth I could do these photo's with my phone and sometimes I do. I'm getting excited about picking my camera up again and maybe some more photography related blogs.  I know that if people are expecting to see photography blogs that here lately its only been backpacking and camping blogs.  So I promise that the photography blogs and new photo's will be coming soon.  I'll still do the backpacking because I have some big goals coming up in the next couple of years.  I'm in training now trying to get back into shape.  I've lost about 15 lbs in the last few months but still have a bunch more to go to get lean and mean for those goals.  Maybe I'll have a few of my training things in a blog in the future.  

I have a fantastic camera kit and haven't even broke it out this year.  My lens and body combo is still great as far as I'm concerned and am looking forward to getting that kit in use again.  If you've forgotten I use the Sony A6500 as my main camera and a A6300 as my backup.  I know there have been about 3 camera IMG_1114IMG_1114 bodies that have come out since then but I think my camera bodies are great and that the advances in the newer ones are not going to make a significant difference in my photography.  My lenses are still great lenses .  Of course I'm always looking at new ones but again don't think that they would make a significant difference in my photography. I'm still in the belief that if the newer camera is not going to increase your photography Quality or do something new that you can't do now I don't see the need in buying newer gear.  I feel like I'm very rusty and will have to get back in the groove and start going back out on weekend trips to take photo's.  I think that getting back in the grove and just start taking photo's again will get me back to taking decent photo's again. 

My photo club had a workshop on Food Photography and I had a great time.  I knew I liked food but taking photo's of it who knew? I had a great time with my photog friends some I haven't seen in over a year.  It was great to get together and mingle and take photo's.  I have included some in this blog for you to see.  So until next week get outside and keep shooting.

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