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After a few years of road trips and wandering adventures, my trusty travel companion - the Vanguard Havana 41, finally met it's end when a rough zipping ripped the zipper clean off the back compartment. As a replacement, the kind folks at Vanguard sent me a new backpack to take on my travels and so far I've been more than impressed. Meet the Vanguard Havana 48BL!
With it's stylish deep navy canvas exterior complimented with brown leather trim (also comes in khaki), the highly photographable backpack looks great in any situation, if Instagram is your thing. Though created with photographers in mind, the backpack blends in well with standard bags giving that extra sense of security roaming city streets since your backpack is not screaming, "I'm a photographer with expensive equipment!"
On the larger size at 48 liters, this bag has been able to fit everything I've needed and more. The bottom pocket comes equipped with a padded interior compartment that is easily removable with velcro and top handle for ease of access while offering protection for my DSLR and lenses. Though, I prefer to keep my camera in the top pocket so I can grab and go ready to shoot in under 30 seconds.
The Havana has a crazy amount of space with more than 6 pockets for storage. The top compartment has small pockets for quick access to memory cards, batteries, pens, wallet, and passport. There are two side pockets with drawstring for water bottles or tripods. The two front pockets I use for things like business cards and camera remotes. Stitched into the sides are hearty fabric loops for carabiners I use to hang my keys and reflector. And the best part, finally a backpack that fits my 15.4 inch Macbook Pro - something the 41L never could manage with the corners of my laptop always sticking out.
Though feeling a bit bulky at times, I would recommend this bag for those like me who have become accustomed to carrying their whole worlds strapped to their back. With photography equipment and padded insert removed, I've used this bag for everything from international travel to overnight trips to beach days to long hours editing at a coffee shop. This is the bag I've been waiting for - stylish, great storage, and versatile.
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Disclaimer: Although I am a Vanguard Pro Photographer, all opinions are my own and this post was not sponsored or moneitized in any way.
If you know how to layer mask, you know how to use Plotagraph Pro.
This month I was approached by Plotagraph to demo their software which adds animation to a photo using only a single image. The program itself is a bit pricey coming in at $349, but the cloud based system is a lot of fun and incredibly easy to use. We are so saturated with images in our daily lives it's hard to get your photography to stand out of the crowd amongst the endless scroll of funny memes in your Facebook feed. I believe moving pictures will be a great marketing tool in the future to grab the attention of your viewers. Plotagraph is at the forefront of this technology.
Unlike a Cinemagraph that requires clips of video turned into a gif, Plotagraph takes a single photograph and brings them to life allowing you to go back into your archives and produce motion in photos you've taken years ago. My first photograph I choose was one of my favorite shots of a waterfall in Kauai because it was such a precious memory for me I never took a video of. It was nice to be able to experience it again a year later. Although I was given a demo of how the software worked, the functions are incredibly easy to use. There are really only three tools you need to worry about to create realistic motion: animation point tool, brush tool, and feathering.
The process is relatively simple, if you are familiar with the basics of Photoshop CS series, this software will be no problem for you. I liked to start with the animation points placing them where the water would flow often following the natural lines in the photo. The space between the animation points dictates how fast the motion will be with a longer distance being faster. For speed, I found less is more in regards to getting natural movement opting to use less points with shorter speeds in most of these images.
After you set your animation points, click on the brush tool to specify where you would like the movement contained, much in the same way you would use a layer mask in Photoshop to affect only the targeted area with adjustment layers. Unfortunately there isn't a way to change the opacity or hardness of your masking brush to be able to blend it out evenly, but there is a feathering tool that gives an overall softening to the masked edges. Preferring the dreamy look, I liked to use the foreground feathering brought almost at the end of the slider which was usually enough to make for wispy waterfalls and smoky fires.
You can export your final project as a gif or MP4 depending on your usage. It was recommended to export as MP4 with at least four seconds for use on Facebook or Instagram as the autoplay feature will activate and loop for a continuously flowing image. I exported as gifs for Twitter and blog posts on my website.
Coming from a background in photography and post processing, I wish there are a bit more selective control for blending but overall I found the program to be successful in mimicking motion. But I also really appreciated the ease of use because honestly, sometimes it's hard to keep up to date with all these programs to begin with.
For more information on how the software works, below you will find a speed edit of my screen while using the program to edit a conceptual portrait from 2015.
Please note, as always all opinions expressed are my own. This post was not sponsored and I received no compensation. All reviews are an honest conclusion I've made from my experience using the product.
A few weeks back I was approached by Canvasdiscount.com with an offer to review their product. It's not very often I print my work for my own enjoyment, especially in canvas form, so I was grateful for the opportunity to have a few pieces printed. Upon reviewing their website, I was impressed with the vast variety of sizes to suit my needs as well as the ease of check out on their website. I ordered three canvases, two in the landscape size 16 x 30 and one 16 x 24. The prices were also fairly reasonable especially given the printing quality.
My package was promptly received within three days of ordering and shipped safely in cardboard and bubble wrap. If you know my work you know I am a color fiend often spending hours tweaking the tones to get them just so. To open a box of prints and have the color match exactly on the first try is every photographers dream. The prints were sharp and colorful revealing every minute detail, just the way I like them. After doing some reading on the printing process, I was delighting to learn they also provide UV protection on the prints to help aid in the lasting power of the art.
I didn't have much intent to frame them so I opted for the wrapped look as I appreciate the fluidity of the edges so as not to distract from the pieces themselves. Since there was such a wide variety of sizes, there wasn't much loss in the edges of the photo from the wrapping, only about an inch or so. The canvases were perfectly stretched and taut over the wooden bars.
Overall I was incredibly impressed by the quality. The only thing I wasn't too keen on was the fabric cord to hang which felt a bit like a shoelace. In another lifetime I was a professional framer and I always preferred the sturdiness of a wire cord pulled tightly between the metal hardware and wrapped cleanly around itself. But that's an easy enough exchange.
Sometimes I stumble into a moment so powerful that I stop to soak in my surroundings with the hope to remember the feeling of it forever. Have you ever felt like this? You find yourself in a place so overwhelmingly beautiful time slows down and you are left only to marvel at the landscape in front of you. You know in that moment you are writing the history of your own life in a point of time you will always reference. I wish I could bottle the warmth and life of that feeling. I wish I could leave a small piece of me in that place so I can always recall the memory. In photographs and small audio recordings I take the power of a location with me as best as I can so I can listen and remember the quiet foggy walks in the Redwoods, the sound of the wind whipping our hair with the windows down on a road trip, the barking of seals on a dock in Oregon, the waves crashing against the California coast somewhere on highway one, rainy days at home in Maine. I go to sleep with these recordings on loop with the hopes I'll dream about life's perfect moments and when I wake up I'll be there. That's what it was like in San Diego for three magical days in March.
I was invited by Sony to head out west to test out their Alpha line of cameras, and more specifically the Sony Alpha A7II. I was thrilled for the opportunity to leave Maine with the one hundred or so inches of snow fall that season to head to the sand and sun of the west coast. There is nothing quite like Spring in California, I was incredibly grateful for the invitation. Winter's cold grip was still in my bones as I stepped onto the plane starting my journey on the 25th. Fears, social anxiety and self doubt all left behind at the Portland airport, I was ready for a new adventure and this was the start of what would be six weeks of travel.
I landed in San Diego at 11AM after two flights and seven hours in transit. My hotel room wasn't quite ready so I wasted no time heading down to the ocean to feel the warm sand between my toes. I couldn't stop smiling. I think California has that effect on people. That morning I woke up to hills of snow and now, seven hours later I was across the country with my feet in the sand about to meet so many new creatives, all I had to do was jump on a plane. The flowers were blooming. The weather was warm. Life was beautiful.
I headed to my room for a shower and quick nap before meeting the group. We were given our gear for the week and set off to the beach to test the equipment and to get to know each other. We watched surfers and children play in the waves as the sun set, before walking to a local Mexican Restaurant. Dinner was a delight. Over drinks and burritos I listened to everyone's stories and passions. It amazes me that although each of us enjoy the same craft, our paths are all so vastly and uniquely different, but each of us embodying that love for adventure and photography I know we all feel. It's the common thread that opens so many doors to a lifetime of chasing your dream.
Regardless of the lack of sleep, I couldn't help but drag my tired eyes to the ocean to spend some quiet solo time shooting the waves after dinner. I absolutely loved the low light capability of the camera! Even at 2000 ISO the photos were clean and crisp. I longed for a sky with more stars and less light pollution to really see what the camera could do.
For the photography buffs out there the kit was as follows:
I woke up early the next morning excited for the day with a breakfast to go and hopped on the bus to Balboa Park for a morning of exploring. The architecture was incredible and the company was even better, we got to walk around the park in groups photographing every thing we could. We took a tour of the bell tower climbing the stairs to get a better vantage point of the city. I loved watching the planes coming in so close to the city, I could imagine the people on board looking back at us too, before landing. After a few hours of exploring, tower climbing, and wandering we all piled back into the bus to head to Ironside seafood restaurant where piranha heads decorated the walls. One of my favorite parts of the experience was the intimate meals I got to share with the other photographers and the Sony team. We would lose hours talking about photography, passions, dreams and goals. But we had a hot air balloon ride to prepare for so we headed back to the hotel.
We were given a couple of hours to rest so I used that time for a quick nap and to reflect on the excitement of the day. Here I was three thousand miles away from home in a city I've never been, having the most amazing time with so many talented photographers. It's funny how life turns out the way it does, that's the joy of living a freelance life. Every day is an adventure. Sometimes just opening your email whisks you away to places you've never dreamed of filled with opportunity and joy. I feel grateful to be able to live my passion in this crazy dream filled existence. I'm reminded every day how much of a precious gift this life can be.
Our next item on the agenda took us floating over the San Diego coast at sunset. I took more photos than I could ever possibly edit but I didn't want to miss a single heartbeat. We drank champagne as the balloons inflated and we were all ecstatic when they let us walk inside them. Up we went, for over an hour we glided along enjoying the views, often so amazed by the sights the only noise was the click of the shutters and hiss of the gas firing the balloon. You could see the sun set for miles and miles. It's something I'll never forget. We came in for a soft landing in a field and were met with more champagne and vans to take us to dinner. With all of us flying out the next morning, myself headed to Hawaii, we said our goodbyes around drinks and a buffet style dinner with city light views.
Having the opportunity to test out the gear helped to reignite my passion for the craft, I was able to step out of the comfort of my own equipment and get to know another brand's capabilities. I loved everything about the camera, from the live view viewfinder to ISO capability, to the focus peeking, to the mobile app that allows you to use your phone as a remote! I couldn't get over the wifi feature that allows you to send photos straight from the camera to your phone, that feature alone cut down on so much time in my process of uploading photos. With it's mirrorless technology I loved the size and weight of the camera allowing for ease of transport on long hikes as well as the quality of images I was able to create with it. And can we talk about the Zeiss lenses? The first I ever heard about Zeiss was our Neuro microscope the brain surgeons used while I was working in the operating room. Image that precision in a lens. I noticed a difference in the quality and sharpness of my images immediately. Sony truly is upping the ante so to speak, when it comes to DSLR capabilities. I was throughly impressed with their products.
I am sincerely thankful to Sony for the experience. I learned a lot about myself this trip. I found a strength in self sufficiency and happiness that would last me for the weeks to come. The memories will last a lifetime. And as with all other trips, I wish I took more photos. Even if I take three thousand photos in three days, I wish I took three thousand more.
Next stop is Hawaii!