What’s in my camera bag? Part 1: Overview

Like many people, I like to carry a bag with me almost everywhere I go. Beyond being pretty handy for carrying reading materials on long train journeys, a raincoat (oh the joys of living in Blighty), or stowing away purchases while out shopping, my favourite rucksack (with its well hidden laptop slip, very large central compartment, and two outer pockets) also lets me carry my entire photography kit with me wherever I go.


Left to right: 2011 MacBook Pro (still going strong!), Canon Powershot A590 IS, “Explorer Nocturne” Diana F+ (1 of a Lomography special edition run of 1000) and flash with colour filters, mini telescopic tripod with phone and action cam mounts, notebook (by Muji; for camera settings and photo locations, dates, and times), Akaso EK7000, iPhone 6s, chest mount harness (with action camera, mobile phone, and camera tripod head screw options; action camera mount pictured).

I am sure many will be quick to notice the absence of a (D)SLR (often so bulky that one can easily occupy a similar amount of bag-space to my entire current kit combined): an absence that is not just practicality- or financially-motivated, but also personal choice formed over a decade of photography, but more on that later. Whilst some items (the notebook, tripod, and mounts) need little introduction and even less discussion (though the value of a notebook, particularly for analogue photography, should never be underestimated), over the course of the coming post series I will be going into depth on each part of my kit and how I like to use them, illustrated with examples of my work.

 


Apple iPhone 6s – Nami (with adjustments using Apple’s in-house editing tools).

 

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Canon A590 IS – Nami (no post-processing).

 

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Diana F+ – Nami (400 ISO colour-negative 120 film with blue flash, no post-processing).

 

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Akaso EK7000 – Gloria (no post-processing). I very rarely use the photo mode on this camera due to its fish-eye lens, the lack of any kind of zoom, and the very limited camera settings, but it does step up to the plate in dirty, sandy, and wet environments (the worst enemies of a typical photo camera).

 

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Blogcast Episode 1: Starting a Podcast (with Anchor)

My first full-length podcast has just gone live on Anchor (and, subject to distribution times, tonight or tomorrow on iTunes and Google Play)! And, as soon as Anchor’s embed feature gets whitelisted by WordPress (or I discover an alternative way to embed my audio without uploading it to both sites separately), will be posted straight here so you can listen from within an associated post (which would be perfect for discussing photos in future shows, for example).

Anyway for now please hit one of the above links to listen to me discuss, as meta as it may be, the process of starting one’s own podcast or web radio show, and the benefits and downsides of using anchor.fm’s services. Of course, I’m far from an expert on the topic, but hope to help out people who, like myself, would enjoy dipping their feet into the world of podcasting and have a little fun with it.

Feel free to share your own methods and podcasts in the comments, drop me a line either here or on anchor to suggest improvements, topics for future shows, or just to say hi, and if you enjoy it please do follow my show on Anchor and subscribe to the podcast through your distributor of choice!

See you next time,

X.

 

 

The “Everything You Thought blog show” (Podcast)!

I have decided to venture into the world of audio podcasting as an extension to the posts I will be writing here, so give me a listen, get involved (leave a comment!), and get to know me!

Find episodes here:
https://anchor.fm/everythingyouthought

here:
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-eyt-blog-show/id1288753571?mt=2

or here:
https://play.google.com/music/m/Ier2mb7nzj4n7ykz5vdo5l34ttu?t%3DThe_EYT_Blog_Show%26pcampaignid%3DMKT-na-a 

Until next time!

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Gear knob.

On my drive home from work today I passed a new Nissan GTR, which got me thinking about the age-old debate: manual (“stick-shift” to any North Americans reading this) or automatic? Of course, the Nissan GTR actually has both fully automatic and semi-automatic “paddle-shift” transition modes, and as a supercar whose least powerful model still puts out an almighty 419 kilowatts of power you have good reason to want to keep both hands on the steering wheel. Of course in such high power vehicles dual clutch transmissions (always auto or semi-auto) are nearly essential; the greatest limiting factor to acceleration times would otherwise be the driver’s shifting technique, reaction speed, and judgement.

But, outside the statistic-obsessed world of performance automobiles, the debate rages on. Even in my household growing up my dad always drove manual cars (as do around 80% of Europeans, or so a cursory google search tells me) whereas my mum won’t get behind the wheel of anything with a gearstick (a sentiment clearly shared by the majority of Americans; statistics suggest as many as 96% of cars on roads in the USA are automatic, a degree of homogeneity I must confess I struggle to fathom within the context of such a significant and competitive market in such a large populace).

The truth is that there is no right answer other than personal preference, which will depend on a colossal range of factors. Having personally driven both types of transmission, my preference – as a commuter and keen driving enthusiast – is manual transmission. My reasoning for this choice is a very simple and primitive one: it is a part of the driving experience I really enjoy. As I have previously discussed at some length, the thing I love most about driving is the sense of freedom and control that it brings me, and this extends in part to my control over the mechanical chariot itself. There is something especially satisfying about a particularly smooth gear change, whilst the frustration of an accidentally (or over-ambitiously) skipped gear or poor shift – and the resulting sluggish acceleration or jarring deceleration – only serve to reinforce the idea that driving a manual car requires a degree of skill eliminated by the automatic gearbox. Something about having to change gear myself, requiring attention to be paid to the feeling of the motor and demanding the physical involvement of all four limbs, just makes the driving experience feel more symbiotic.

Yeah, well, you know, that’s just like, uh, your my opinion, man.

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Happy Birthday, Stephen.

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As a young boy (from around five years old, in fact, or so my parents tell me) I lay awake many a night in the grip of existential dread. Or, more accurately, I would lie awake for hours before running into my parents room late at night in floods of tears, waking them up only to confront them with unanswerable questions, my unwavering need for proof and understanding preventing any of my parents’ answers from satisfying my juvenile mind.

“When did the universe begin?” “What lies outside the universe’s boundary?” “Is there a boundary?” “If not, how can anything be infinite?” “What will happen when I die?” “If existence isn’t infinite, how could an infinity of non-existence be possible either?”

Today a man who has dedicated his life to contemplating at least some of these most difficult of questions turns 75; Stephen Hawking. Hawking is remarkable in many ways: turning some of the most intimidating and inaccessible facets of physics into bestselling books, and his remarkable work in such fields; for the innumerable accolades and titles he has amassed, as evidenced by the collection of letters that succeed his name; and for being alive at all, having been told he had at best two and a half years to live some 54 years ago when he was first diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as motor neurone disease and Lou Gehrig’s disease) – the disease’s longest survivor known to medical science.

Perhaps I was too young to fully appreciate the work when I read it, but as much as I found A Brief History of Time interesting, it was The Grand Design that truly enthralled me. This book, co-authored with fellow physicist Leonard Mlodinow, was not met with such critical acclaim as his earlier works (though this may have a lot to do with his assertion that, whilst not explicitly disproving such notions, a God is unnecessary for creation), but aspects of the multiple universe (or “multiverse”) theory explained within excited me beyond belief. Perhaps this is due to my longstanding hope for proof that life exists beyond this planet – not because I believe in aliens (though I do love the X-Files), but because I find the thought that life may not have emerged only once on one solitary planet reassures me somewhat that our very existence may not simply be the result of an incredible, yet meaningless, happenstance. Or maybe it’s the magnitude of such a claim that excites the scientist in me; that science is not only alive and well, but is still as exciting and controversial as ever.

Whilst I still have no answers for the grand questions that continue to haunt me as I fall asleep, some of Hawking’s work has helped me feel less alone. And for that, I will always be grateful. Many happy returns.

X.

POV BMX.

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Today I gave the birthday present I recieved from my parents, an Akaso EK7000 Action Cam, a little test run by jumping down a couple of small staircases near my home with the camera mounted to my bike’s handlebars. The camera shoots in stunning 4k resolution, but I reduced the quality to 720p HD to reduce the upload time. I will definitely be getting a lot of use out of this impressive little thing!

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Here comes the sun.

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No, not that kind of sun – this is England in late November, after all, but rather Pokémon Sun. The game arrived today, the day of the game’s UK release, and quite unexpectedly. If I did place the order (which I must have done, given that it arrived addressed to me) I had forgotten all about it, making for a pleasant surprise on an otherwise rather sun-less day!

Whilst my day has been fairly busy I have managed to get the game underway, and so far I am enjoying it greatly! The latest installment in the franchise continues Nintendo’s habit of bringing an ever more cinematic experience to one of the most iconic game series of all time (though perhaps not ideal for those who prefer to skip lengthy cut-scenes and get on with the game). Just how far the games, now in their seventh generation, have come in terms of both graphics and gameplay is absolutely staggering, though this first impression of mine has undoubtedly been accentuated by the facts that the last Pokémon game I personally owned was Gold (released in 2001), and how of late I’ve been enjoying a return to Yellow (2000) which came pre-loaded on my Pokémon edition 2DS (a purchase entirely motivated by nostalgia – the DS is even made of transparent plastic like my old Game Boy Color!).

Of course, the essence of the game will be familiar to anyone who has played any of the games in the series. And that is precisely the attraction of the series for adults such as myself who may have last felt the excitement of picking a starter pokémon and exploring a new world (this time Alola, which seems strikingly similar to Hawaii) almost two decades ago: we may have grown and developed as people, as has the game, but at heart we are still the same people we were back then, with the same taste for adventure. Now, Popplio and I better get cracking if we’re to conquer all of Alola’s Gyms… Wait… What? There are NO GYMS?! Ok, maybe some things will take a little getting used to after all.

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I got it!

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Today the Nintendo Mini Classic NES finally arrived. In stores, that is. Having pre-ordered it back in July (see previous post), it was odd waking this morning with uncertainty as to whether I would be able to get my hands on one at all. Shortly after 9am I was behind the wheel of my car, heading to the closest shop, a Game. I should have known, given my pre-order ordeal, that this would prove a fruitless endeavor. Alas, around twenty minutes later I found myself standing before an uninterested shop assistant telling me they were only serving store pre-orders and that “any issue you had pre-ordering online is with the game website, not us”, despite the website being the store’s own.

More determined than ever to get my hands on the device, I began phoning other local stores, which went a little like this:

“Good morning, I was wondering if you have any of the new mini Nintendos in stock?”

“Did you pre-order?”

Great

My hopes beginning to fade, I gave one final shop a call, and the answer to my query?

“Uh, yeah we do.”

It’s funny how had I not bothered to pre-order the console I probably wouldn’t have sweated not being able to pick one up, and yet there’s something about having to wait for something that makes it so much more desirable. And after four months waiting for something, I am getting it one way or another! Sure enough, 35 minutes later I was pulling into the Princess Square car park, ready to pick up that tiny, unassuming box from Virtual Games, an excellent independent store. Victory at last!

Since getting it home the little box (and when I say little, I mean miniscule) has punched well above its negligible weight, an absolutely worthwhile purchase for the nostalgia alone, though I am sure the games included will continue to entertain for many hours to come; I haven’t given all of them a spin yet, and likely won’t until I tire of the Super Mario Bros…

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Where is my Nintendo Mini Classic (NES)? And why I’ll never shop at Game again.

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I have an unusual relationship with videogames. Especially for someone born at the tail end of ’93.

Unlike most of my friends growing up, videogames did not play a major role in my childhood. My afternoons were filled instead with sports, arts, and adventure. As a young boy I swam and played football for local clubs, and joined as many of my school’s sport teams as possible, from baseball to rugby and everything in-between. I filled the rest of my free time skateboarding, riding my bike, running around the local park hunting for ‘treasure’, or playing one of any number of imagination games with my friends. Once I tired I would sit at the piano or mess around on one of dad’s guitars, read a book, write my own stories, or get messy painting or making things long before I’d sit down at a console, mostly setting one up when a friend came round or for the odd game of something against my dad before bed; I never played regularly enough to justify leaving a system plugged into the telly like at some of my friends’ houses.

That’s not to say I wasn’t a typical child of my time; I did not escape the clutches of Pokémon cards and, later, Beyblades, but simply never showed enough interest in videogames to justify saving pocket money to spend on them. Throughout my entire life I’ve owned a total of two consoles, and didn’t actually buy either. The first was a hand-me-down SNES from a friend of my parents, on which I have fond memories of playing Zelda: A Link To The Past, Super Mario World, Mortal Kombat, and a game that a nostalgia-inducing internet search tells me wasn’t called ‘Chupa Chups Land’ as I had remembered, but Zool (though anyone familiar with the game will surely understand why the former made more sense to a small child). I later came into possession of the original PlayStation, this time a gift from an uncle to whom the device had become redundant following the release of the PlayStation 2.

It is, of course, the former that lead to my excitement at the prospect of Nintendo’s new Mini Nintendo Entertainment System or ‘NES’–the console that preceded my beloved Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Whilst not the 16-bit gem I grew up with, I instantly knew I couldn’t miss this opportunity to get my hands on a version of its 8-bit predecessor in all its pixelated glory. What’s more, amongst the 30 titles it comes bundled with are a selection of Mario and Zelda titles, and don’t get me started on the music… Pure nostalgia! Admittedly the experience won’t quite be complete without those clunky cartridges that could be cured of any glitches with a simple blow, but on the bright side the emulator really shouldn’t glitch. Sure, videogames may not have been a defining part of my childhood, but, bit-part or not, the Nintendo Mini Classic promises to bring me straight back to those simpler times.

Aware that the generation before me would have grown up with the NES itself (which made its debut in Japan as the Family Computer, or Famicom, in 1983, reaching consumers in North America and Europe as the NES in 1986) and would likely snap them up at the system’s modest £49.99 price, I was very early to preorder the device (in early July, four months before the device’s scheduled release date no less), opting to do so through Game. Big mistake. You can imagine my horror when I discovered an email from the 8th of November, only three days before the console’s release, telling me that payment had failed for an ‘unknown reason’ and therefore my order had been cancelled. I checked my payment details: all valid and up-to-date. I checked my game account; surely the email must have been sent by mistake? “Order Status: Cancelled”. With my heart in my mouth I then called what turned out to be the world’s most useless customer service team, who not only failed to explain the cancellation (though admitted mine is not a unique incident) but also refused to reinstate my order. Great. To my dismay, aside from re-sellers asking double and triple the price, nowhere online seems to have the system or the extra controller in my now-cancelled pre-order in stock anymore…

Whilst reluctant to let this experience damped my spirits or reduce my excitement for this new/old addition to the Nintendo family, I couldn’t be any less impressed with Game and their lacklustre customer support, and would urge anyone and everyone to avoid pre-ordering with them at all costs. As for me, it looks like tomorrow I’ll be off to the shops first thing in the hope that I can get lucky. Fingers crossed!

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