A Better Camera Bag

I’m not thrilled with my camera bag.  I’ve got your builder basic, came free with the camera, boxy black camera bag.  When it comes to having a place to stash my camera and lenses, it works.  When it comes to how I want it to function in my life, it starts slipping.

f/2.8, 1/13 sec, ISO 1600

f/2.8, 1/13 sec, ISO 1600

I carried this bag when we visited Monticello.  All my gear fits like puzzle pieces with little room to spare, so I was only able to carry a few extra essentials like cash and a few cards in my pockets.  What happens when my outfit doesn’t have pockets?  I don’t want to be carrying multiple bags.  I also got a little concerned when trying to switch my lens.  The strap kind of swivels where it meets the bag, and I was worried that it would flip over and dump out its contents when I was rummaging around in it.  This is probably unlikely, but I don’t want to take a chance with all this expensive equipment!

So when we went to California, I tried using a large purse I’ve had for a while.  It’s one of my go to travel bags because it’s deep and roomy so I can stash my wallet, a travel book, water bottles, etc. — all the goods I might want to carry around during a day of sightseeing.  It’s not padded though, so I have to be VERY careful with it when I have my camera in there.  The strap is also too short to be worn crossbody, which I would prefer when it gets heavy.  I could just buy a padded insert to turn this purse into a camera bag, but I’ve had it long enough that I wouldn’t feel bad putting it into retirement and buying a new travel bag.

f/2.8, 1/60 sec, ISO 3200

f/2.8, 1/60 sec, ISO 3200

So I’ve been eyeing up a new camera bag.  My priorities are:

1) Large enough to accommodate my DSLR, lenses, and a travel book with a little room to spare without looking huge
2) The option to wear it crossbody.  Bonus points if the strap doesn’t look like an afterthought (unlike bags like the Missy and Mimi below that have shorter handles that can’t be removed).
3) Comfortable to carry around all day, so probably something less boxy
4) Cute!  I can pretend this is for “security” so pickpockets don’t notice I’m carrying expensive equipment, but really I just like pretty things.

Below are some of the options I’ve considered.  Most didn’t meet all my desired criteria.  It’s been hardest to pick something that’s both large-ish and not boxy.  (The following photos obviously do not belong to me – each image links back to the original source.)

Jo Totes Abby

Jo Totes Missy

Jo Totes Betsy

Kelly Moore Mimi

Kelly Moore B-Hobo

But for now I think I’ve settled on the Gracie bag from Jo Totes.

It’s dimensions are pretty similar to the bag I carried in California so it should be able to fit all of my stuff, and I like all the extra pockets and that it isn’t too boxy.  Jo Totes bags are slightly cheaper than the ones from Kelly Moore, but that wasn’t a deciding factor.  I haven’t pulled the trigger yet — I don’t need it immediately and I’m hoping I’ll find a discount code somewhere — but all I need to decide on is whether I want mint or butterscotch?  (It seems that someone at Jo Totes has a sweet tooth.)

Do you have a favorite camera bag that you can recommend?

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Santa Monica Pier

We weren’t quite ready to head back to the hotel after finishing our self-guided scavenger hunt/walking tour of Hollywood, so we hit up Santa Monica for dinner.  I took advantage of the scenery for some more photo ops, naturally.  I really think a lot of these images could benefit immensely from some editing to brighten them up and give them more of a golden quality.  Perhaps I just feel more attuned to that lately since my Lightroom class is due to start in a few days.

I won’t weigh the photos down with any commentary.  As always, please leave a comment if you see something you would have done differently!

f/4, 1/4000 sec, ISO 100

f/4, 1/4000 sec, ISO 100

f/4.2, 1/1000 sec, ISO 100

f/4.2, 1/1000 sec, ISO 100

f/5.6, 1/4000 sec, ISO 100

f/5.6, 1/4000 sec, ISO 100

f/4.8, 1/3200 sec, ISO 100

f/4.8, 1/3200 sec, ISO 100

f/4.8, 1/400 sec, ISO 100

f/4.8, 1/400 sec, ISO 100

f/5.6, 1/1600 sec, ISO 100

f/5.6, 1/1600 sec, ISO 100

f/9, 1/160 sec, ISO 100

f/9, 1/160 sec, ISO 100

f/9, 1/125 sec, ISO 100

f/9, 1/125 sec, ISO 100

f/9, 1/160 sec, ISO 100

f/9, 1/160 sec, ISO 100

f/5.6, 1/30 sec, ISO 800

f/5.6, 1/30 sec, ISO 800

Linking up:

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Hollywood!

I recently had the chance to take a quick trip to California!  There was some personal business that took me there, but we were still able to squeeze in a bit of sightseeing in our free time.

It was challenging to capture what I felt were “good” pictures (particularly in composition) given the limitations of things like crowds and traffic.  I was getting spoiled by shooting still lifes under controlled conditions back home!  Also to my shame, I temporarily forgot about changing ISO and was fighting camera shake during unnecessarily long shutter speeds in dim areas.  Oops.  I came to my senses later in the day, but I’m glad most of the sights were out in the sun.  For the record, I had my camera set on aperture priority mode so as not to slow us down too much, but I made adjustments here and there.

Without further ado, here is a small sampling of my photos of Hollywood:

We got off the metro at Hollywood & Vine to find a very Hollywood-themed station.  This shot is of the ceiling.  There were film strip and camera motifs all over the place.

f/4.5, 1/6 sec, ISO 800

f/4.5, 1/6 sec, ISO 800

f/5.3, 1/50 sec, ISO 100

f/5.3, 1/50 sec, ISO 100

I learned that I can’t rely on the screen on the back of my camera to verify that a photo came out 😦  This next image is much darker than I thought it would be.  This would probably be an easy fix in an editing program once I learn how to use one.

f/5.3, 1/1600 sec, ISO 100

f/5.3, 1/1600 sec, ISO 100

f/4.8, 1/200 sec, ISO 100

f/4.8, 1/200 sec, ISO 100

The first Emmy Awards were hosted at the Hollywood Athletic Club which is not currently occupied.  We peeked in the windows and it looked beautiful inside!  The room we could see had kind of a Spanish revival feel.  I hope someone leases it and gives it some love soon!

f/8, 1/60 sec, ISO 100

f/8, 1/60 sec, ISO 100

f/5, 1/160 sec, ISO 100

f/5, 1/160 sec, ISO 100

Entering the lobby of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.  This was the site of the first Academy Awards and is reportedly haunted by Marilyn Monroe, among others.  This is where I FINALLY remembered about changing my ISO.  DUH.

f/3.5, 1/13 sec, ISO 1600

f/3.5, 1/13 sec, ISO 1600

 

f/3.5, 1/500 sec, ISO 100

f/3.5, 1/500 sec, ISO 100

f/4, 1/200 sec, ISO 100

f/4, 1/200 sec, ISO 100

And finally, the pièce de résistance:

f/5.6, 1/1000 sec, ISO 100

f/5.6, 1/1000 sec, ISO 100

Does anyone have any tips for taking better photos out in the real world?  I’m always looking for constructive criticism, so leave a comment!  I know a lot of the small things that bother me can probably be fixed in post-processing.  All of these images are SOOC, but I’m looking forward to the Lightroom class I’m taking next month!

The Grounds of Monticello

Finally, here are some images I shot around the grounds of Monticello away from the mansion.

f/4, 1/400 sec, ISO 100

f/4, 1/400 sec, ISO 100

f/3.5, 1/250 sec, ISO 100

f/3.5, 1/250 sec, ISO 100

The gray dome in the middle of the next image is the rotunda at the University of Virginia — Jefferson’s pet project — as seen from a porch at Monticello.  My 55-200mm lens got a workout!

f/5.6, 1/100 sec, ISO 100

f/5.6, 1/100 sec, ISO 100

The Jefferson family burial ground is still being used today.

f/3.5, 1/100 sec, ISO 100

f/3.5, 1/100 sec, ISO 100

f/3.5, 1/250 sec, ISO 100

f/3.5, 1/250 sec, ISO 100

f/6.3, 1/80 sec, ISO 100

f/6.3, 1/80 sec, ISO 100

f/6.3, 1/60 sec, ISO 100

f/6.3, 1/60 sec, ISO 100

And with that I’ll conclude this drawn-out visit.  Thanks for having us over, Tom!

f/3.5, 1/160 sec, ISO 100

f/3.5, 1/160 sec, ISO 100

More Monticello

Here are some more shots from my trip to Monticello, as promised.  I’m trying to develop a style of taking good documentary photos while maintaining visual interest — something between snapshot and blatantly artsy.

Monticello is Italian for “little mountain”.  Little or not, there were some great views of the valleys around it, which is probably why Jefferson built this garden pavilion where he did.

f/10, 1/200 sec, ISO 100

f/10, 1/200 sec, ISO 100

f/5.3, 1/400 sec, ISO 100

f/5.3, 1/400 sec, ISO 100

This is what you see walking up to the side of the main house from the gift shop and bus stop:

f/4, 1/400 sec, ISO 100

f/4, 1/400 sec, ISO 100

This arcade is underneath one side of the main house and is where the kitchen and other servants’ quarters were located.  I wonder if I could have brightened this up by setting my metering mode differently.  I’m thinking spot metering on the left hand side/in the shade?  In reality, I only had a brief moment when there was no one in the shot so I hurried to take this photo.  My reflexes aren’t that quick to make such camera adjustments yet.  I’m working on it.

f/5, 1/640 sec, ISO 100

f/5, 1/640 sec, ISO 100

This sundial was on a porch leading from the side of the mansion to a smaller one-room building that was used as an office by TJ’s son-in-law.  I love how the low depth of field shots turned out!

f/3.2, 1/1000 sec, ISO 100

f/3.2, 1/1000 sec, ISO 100

f/1.8, 1/1600 sec, ISO 100

f/1.8, 1/1600 sec, ISO 100

And finally, a gnarly old tree along the garden path.  Apparently there is only one tree still standing on the property that was around in Jefferson’s time, but this isn’t it.  We never found the oldest tree.

f/5.6, 1/250 sec, ISO 100

f/5.6, 1/250 sec, ISO 100

I’ll have one last post of images from this trip to share with you in a few days.  Imagine the bounty when I take a real trip somewhere!

Signs of Life

f/5.6, 1/250 sec, ISO 100

f/5.6, 1/250 sec, ISO 100

I spotted these little guys about a week and a half ago while on a day trip to Monticello.  It’s been an unusually cold and snowy winter for us, so it’s nice to finally see a little bit of spring pop up and say hello 🙂  I think they are a type of wildflower.  Can anyone out there identify them?

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Little by Little

Monticello

This past weekend the mister and I took advantage of the spring-like weather (finally!) took a day trip to Monticello.

Monticello was the home and life-long project of Thomas Jefferson — it took roughly forty years to complete!  I’m sure that was not helped much by his total revision of plans halfway through construction following his years as the ambassador to France.  With its inspirations from classical architecture, there was no other building like it in the U.S in its time.

f/9, 1/80 sec, ISO 100

f/9, 1/80 sec, ISO 100

monticello_3

f/8, 1/320 sec, ISO 100

We made it out on their last weekend of off-season prices, so the landscaping was still a little bare.

f/3.5, 1/500 sec, ISO 100

f/3.5, 1/500 sec, ISO 100

f/6.3, 1/250 sec, ISO 100

f/6.3, 1/250 sec, ISO 100

But it was still nice to revisit this piece of Americana and enjoy the spring-like weather.  It’s snowing (again) as I write this.  This should not be happening in late March!

f/13, 1/160 sec, ISO 100

f/13, 1/160 sec, ISO 100

I have some more detail shots that I’ll share in another post.  As always, I appreciate any tips for improvement you might have to offer — just leave a comment!