Friday, January 27, 2012

The Lowepro Flipside 300 Camera Bag

Looking for a good camera bag sometimes isn't easy. I've had my Canon camera bag for like 2 years now and I'm in the hunt for something a bit smaller than my existing bag. Something more compact but still able to hold stuff that I really need in the field.

I was looking for something to hold one body with a telephoto lens, an extra lens, and a speedlite, with plenty of pockets to hold the basic photography necessities such as memory cards, and extra batteries. But it doesn't need to be a huge bag that I don't wanna bring when I just wanted to be light. The most important of all...I needed a bag that can hold a small/medium sized tripod with head installed.

After hours of looking online. I came across Lowepro's Flipside series of bags. The Flipside series are bags that have the main opening in the back of the wearer, as opposed to having the opening exposed on the other side, which is typical for most bags. So I looked at the 200, 300, and 400 series bags. For the Flipside bags, the larger the model number, the bigger the bag is. Two models caught my interest...the Flipside 200 and the Flipside 300.

The next day I went to a local camera shop near work to look at the Flipsides. I ended up buying the Flipside 200 and I tried it at home.

Sadly, the Flipside 200 is pretty narrow for me. I put inside my Canon 50d with a 70-200 L lens attached. The width of the bag caused the body to tilt as it is tight. Now add a lens on the side, which I did, and the bag has a bulge on the side which looks awkward. The lens that I put on the side was a 17-40mm zoom lens, and boy that lens with the hood attached is so wide. So I thought maybe this bag is way too small for me. This works well with bodies that aren't that wide...such as the rebel series bodies, and lenses that don't have wide diameters. So I went back to the store to exchange the bag for a Flipside 300 instead.

The Flipside 300 is slightly more expensive than the 200, and the extra price was worth it. I took it home and tried it out. This one looks better than the one I had before.

The Flipside 300 looks compact compared to my older Canon bag.

The back and the shoulder straps are so well padded.

So I put inside the bag the same amount of stuff I put in the Flipside 200 the day before. A 50d with a 70-200 attached and a 17-40mm side by side fit perfectly even with the 2 lenses having big diameters. With the length of the 70-200, I have some room at the bottom to add an accessory, like a speedlite diffuser or a shutter release or some wireless triggers. With an medium sized lens, such as a 28-135mm, you can add an additional lens at the bottom of it, or a speedlite. On the side, you can either put another 2 lenses, or fit a lens lengthwise. The thin side panels opposite to the lens compartment can hold a charger, batteries, or something thin. I use mine to keep my camera charger in there.

The inside is big enough to hold a body with a 70-200 telephoto attached. It might be even big enough for a 300mm

Bag shown with my Rebel XT inside, with a 28-135mm lens. The bottom space is occupied by a Canon 430ex, the side with a 17-40mm and some accessories, opposite of that is my camera charger.

The Flipside 300 is well padded. The panel dividers are also well padded and configurable. The sides of the dividers have velcro in them so you can customize the size of the dividers to what you want. The shoulder straps are well padded and pretty comfortable, so is the part that touches your back. It feels like the bag hugs you when you put it on. 

On the side of the bag you'll find a compartment that can hold your memory cards...2 to be exact, with their protective cases on. The cf cards fit perfectly into these pockets. There's also a pen holder, and another pocket to hold whatever. I use the extra pocket to hold a usb cable, and my Ipad usb adapters and card reader. Opposite to this compartment is a stretchable pocket that can hold bottled water, or an umbrella.

The memory card holder, pen holder, some extra pockets for cables, etc.

The top inside part is a detachable pouch. You can detach this to have more room for your camera on top. I keep it in there and use it to hold filters and some other small stuff like phone chargers and lens and body caps.

The pouch is perfect for holding filters, extra batteries, etc.

The best part about this bag is the tripod holder. The holder at the bottom is foldable when you don't need it. You just slip one foot of your tripod in the pocket then lock the middle part of the tripod with the quick release strap in the middle of the bag. I have put a Manfrotto 190Xprob tripod in this bag and I never had problems with it wobbling around or getting loose, which was a big problem with my older bag.

Shown with my Slik tripod attached to the holder. It can hold a bigger tripod without any problems at all.

I've tried this bag with 2 bodies and 2 lenses all inside. Although one body has to have its lens detached and stored on a different compartment. Basically, you can go light, or you can go heavy with this bag.  

The Flipside 300 is a very good bag that can hold a lot. Though not too big in size, it's still capable of holding a lot of stuff that you might need in the field. It's best used for a one body, multiple lens setup than a multiple body/lens setup. If you need to bring more than one camera body and more than 2 lenses, you might want to go buy the Flipside 400 or 500, or something bigger. In my book, this bag is a winner.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Inside Pheasant Run resort

After the Geneva Illinois trip we decided to stay at a resort called Pheasant run in St. Charles. Pheasant run basically has everything. It has an indoor/outdoor pool which is awesome during winter. I basically was in the pool outside for about an hour in like a 35-40 degree morning weather. The place was fun...the main attraction is the Bourbon street replica inside the resort, complete with balconies with musicians. The food was great too, we had a fish fry all you can eat dinner and some wine. One piece of advice I can give you when you go tho this place is have a camera ready when you are in the pool early in the morning to capture a beautiful sunrise complete with steam rising from the pool. I thought that was a pretty cool shot though I'm not taking any chances bringing my dlsr into the water...this is where a compact waterproof camera is perfect, but unfortunately I don't have one.

I pretty much have the same setup as when we were walking in Geneva. My 5d mk2 together with my 17-40mm, attached to a tripod. You can never leave your tripod on trips like this as you have limited lighting indoors. I had to bump my ISO to get a fast shutter speed indoors as I didn't want to use a flash. Basically I had to set my aperture to the maximum my lens can handle which is f4. The lighting inside the resort is what you'd expect...a lot of tungsten lighting. I had to correct the white balance a bit in post processing although I didn't wanna overdo it, so I did leave the white balance on the warm side, it did however cut the overly yellow light a bit.

It was a very pleasant trip. I am pretty sure we'll be back there anytime soon!

Taken outside the resort. It was raining pretty bad. I set my camera on a tripod and used a 1.3 second shutter speed.

Taken near the indoor/outdoor pool.

I guess this is the highlight of the resort. A replica of the famous Bourbon street complete with musicians in the balcony.

The other side of the street.

Still inside the resort. The lighting was mostly tungsten. I shot in raw so I readjusted the white balance a bit.

The Piano and the tree. Basically lighting was kinda not enough inside the resort so I had to use my maximum lens aperture of f4 with my camera on a tripod. The results weren't really that bad.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Walking around Geneva Illinois

On our way to a resort before new year, we stopped by Geneva Illinois to check out what's going on in that beautiful city. What's so nice about Geneva is the small shops all lined up...ranging from clothes to specialty cupcakes. We actually bought this cupcake from one of the shops and it was possibly the best peanut butter cupcake I've ever had. The weather was kinda crappy but I'd prefer rain than snow. I have my trusty 17-40mm so I took shots around the city. It's nice to have weather resistant equipment when walking around and it's raining.

One of the shops in Geneva. This place has a ton of them

Walking around the compound.

One of the life sized toy guards in fron of the shops.

I guess this is one of their government buildings.

I took this one while were were on our way home.

Geneva is a very nice place to go to to shop whatever. The best ones we went to was a wine shop, a cupcake shop, and a popcorn shop. There's also an awesome spice shop in there that we are going to to get tandoori seasoning. We'll be back here during the swedish days in summer!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Spider pics

A week ago a friend of mine asked me to shoot his spider collection. This was pretty new to me. I've shot house spiders and smaller insects but never really shot tarantulas before. I think it would be neat.

So I went to his basement and looked at his pets. Some of them look vicious, but some of them were just lounging around. My fried told me most of his spiders basically just stand still. The ones that run fast are the ones that we should worry about...that's what he said. So our plan was simple...he'd block the spiders from getting out of their cages while I shoot them up close. Knowing he's been raising spiders as pets for a long time, I trusted him...hahahaha.

I used my 100mm macro for the shots. For lighting, I equipped my camera with a 430ex II speedlite attached to a ttl flash cord. A very good technique when shooting little animals. Of course you can attach the flash to your camera via hotshoe but that will give the subject heavy shadowing at the bottom. Unless you have reflectors, you can use this method. I prefer the flash cord method as this will give you very good lighting and also the flexibility to change the position of the lighting as the subject moves and changes position. So I held the flash with one hand, the camera with the other hand while my friend holds the tweezers to keep the spider from jumping out. I set my shutter speed to 125th of a second and varied my aperture from f4-f5.6, which in my situation lets in enough light without giving me a paper thin depth of field.

This one was getting irritated by the tweezers, it was going into attack mode.

I wanted to get so close to see the eyes.

The body in the middle of the legs!

The flash cord enables me to move the flash around for that depth that I wanted.

My friend told me that this one just molted.

When doing these types of shots, make sure that you are with someone who knows how to handle these animals. Do not attempt to photograph them yourself!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy new year!

I just want to wish everybody a happy new year! 2011 wasn't bad at all for me. I had a couple of awards, and stuff that I got from 2011. As far as I can remember, here are the key moments from 2011.

I got myself 2 430ex II's. Perfect team for mobile studio setups!

I got a 35mm f2 lens. Awesome addition to my prime lens setup.

I finally used the full potential of my cameras live view mode. I just learned that it is perfect for macro shots.

Five of my photos won the Chicago flower and garden show photo contest...including best in show.

A water resistant panel was added to my table for water splash shots.

Purchased a Kenko 1.4 teleconverter to use with my 70-200 IS USM lens.

Acquired one of my most important light modifiers...the beauty dish.

Upgraded my tripod to a Manfrotto 190x prob tripod.

Upgraded my ballhead to a Giottos 1302 pro series ballhead.

Shot a couple of cover shots at work.

Maximized the use of the beauty dish in the studio...and the results were awesome!

Learned a ton of HDR techniques.

Went to Tenesse and did a shoot of a live band.

Damaged my Slik tripod. But THK photo products repaired it for free.

Acquired a Canon MR-14 macro ring light.

Maximized the use of AEB feature in my camera.

Acquired a Wacom Intuos 4 tablet.

Went full frame with a Canon 5d mk2.

Went to Plymouth Indiana for the Blueberry festival.

Acquired a Tokina 17mm prime lens.

Sold the Tokina 17mm and got a Canon 17-40L.

Woke up early in the morning one day and experienced the beauty of a really early morning shoot.

Utilized the 70-200 IS USM's ability to shoot flowers.

Got a perfect shot of a rainbow.

Won an Ipad2 from work. (the sweetest prize for 2011)

Shot some really neat landscape shots on a hike one cold afternoon.

Imac at home died on me.

Repaired the Imac back to life.

Purchased a Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens.

Did an afternoon model shot at fall.

Got tired of HDR.

Learned how to use a graduated neutral density filter.

Did a family portrait for a friend at work.

Did Carters 2nd birthday shots.

Was contacted to do a basketball game coverage.

...and the last formal photo shoot of the year, my friends family portrait for Christmas.

And at the end of he of my photos was once again published for the best of 2011 photography.

Last but not the least...I was at the front page of the business section of the Chicago Tribune. NO KIDDING!!!

Hopefully this year will bring more for my photography...and when I mean more, I mean more projects.