Todd Hatakeyama

Feb 272015


Sometimes, even a dedicated nature photographer like me just wants to stop and smell the roses…without taking pictures of them.


In that spirit, MIU COLOR claims its company promotes the “slow life,” a more relaxed, eco-friendly, unhurried existence. Among the wide range of products they offer through their worldwide distribution system, the new MIU COLOR Packable Handy Lightweight Nylon Backpack Daypack serves as a nice option for those occasions when you want to go out for the day without a bunch of camera gear.


Fashioned from durable nylon, the MIU COLOR daypack is as handy and packable as its elongated name implies. Spacious when open (12 x 16.5 x 6.3 in.), the backpack folds easily to a very flat, compact size (9 x 5.5 in.) to fit in your other luggage, making it a convenient bag to take along as a light alternative to your main gear bags. Its carrying capacity makes it an ideal backpack for a day trip, with just enough room for snacks, a light jacket, flashlight, sunscreen, and other essentials, including pockets for two water bottles on the outside of the pack. The breathable mesh shoulder straps make the backpack comfortable enough to tote all day. My wife Autumn wore this backpack when we went hiking in Sequoia National Forest, and she was able to carry everything we and our two dogs needed for the entire afternoon.


True to its name, the MIU COLOR daypack is available in two brilliant hues, an electric blue and a neon green. The eye-catching colors and the reflective patches on either side of the pack ensure the bag is easy to spot, so you and your fellow hikers can keep track of one another in thick forests and oncoming drivers can see you on dark, winding roads. If you get caught in a light drizzle, the water-resistant fabric will help keep the bag’s contents dry, another feature that makes this a nice outdoor pack.


So the next time you feel like communing with Nature rather than snapping photos of it, consider taking along the inexpensive and well-made MIU COLOR daypack. Let’s all enjoy the “slow life”!

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Feb 232015


Suppose you’re flying to Switzerland for a week of luxurious landscape photography among the Alps. Do you take your camera and lenses in a nice trolley case to roll through all those interminable security lines at the airport? But how do you carry your gear when it’s time to go for those rugged mountain hikes? The trip up the Matterhorn can be a bumpy ride for a trolley case.


Clearly, the minds at Think Tank Photo have been pondering this dilemma, for they’ve come up with a solution in the design of their Airport TakeOff Rolling Camera Bag. This trolley case lets you cart your camera equipment with ease through long terminal gangways, then converts into a comfortable backpack for trekking over uneven terrain, making this one bag that’s as handy to have when you get off the plane as when you got on.


If you’re like me, there’s no way you’ll check a bag with thousands of dollars’ worth of high-end camera equipment, only to have it tossed around by a bunch of strangers then thrown into a cargo hold with a zillion other bags. I want my gear no further from me than the overhead bin directly above my seat. The Airport TakeOff is designed to remain within standard international and domestic carry-on size limitations (External Dimensions: 14” W x 21” H x 8” D or 35.5 x 53 x 22cm), although Think Tank recommends checking with your airline carrier for any specific requirements for your particular flight.


The main compartment offers sufficient capacity for two standard or pro DSLR camera bodies with or without lenses attached, plus enough extra space for up to a 400mm f2.8 as well as other lenses (Interior Dimensions: 13” W x 18.5” H x 5.25 – 6.75” D or 33 x 47 x 13–17cm). I easily fit a Canon C100 video camera with several lenses and accessories. The pack’s front pocket can accommodate a 15″ or even a 17″ laptop, although the length and thickness of the computer may cause the case to exceed carry-on restrictions or make it difficult to store in overhead bins. Think Tank thoughtfully includes plenty of padded dividers in the storage compartment so you can configure a setup that works best for your gear. A plethora of stretchable pockets provides lots of additional storage for batteries and other small accessories.


Even when fully loaded, the Airport TakeOff remains lightweight (about 9 or 10 pounds), and its wheels roll smoothly when you pull it with the retractable handle. Think Tank anticipates that you’ll get years of use from this sturdy trolley case, for the customized “skate” wheels can be replaced as they become worn, so you won’t have to trash the whole bag if you get a “flat.” When it’s time to go from the terminal to the nature trail, you simply collapse the handle and pull the backpack straps out of the convenient pocket on the back of the bag.


The straps are durable yet well-padded and comfortable, and the pack remains well-balanced and not too bulky when fully loaded. It gives me peace of mind to carry a backpack that I can wear even while shooting, so I never have to set the bag on the ground where my equipment might get stolen or damaged. The pack features a built-in rain cover and a convenient side pocket for a monopod or small tripod, and it also includes a special “tripod cup” and straps that permit you to attach a larger tripod.


Indeed, Think Tank Photo has made the Airport TakeOff Rolling Camera Bag such a great backpack as well as a reliable trolley case that you may want to use it for virtually any photo excursion, even if you never leave the ground.


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Dec 112014


Think small!

That seems to be the motto among electronics manufacturers these days due to the growing popularity of mirrorless cameras and ultrathin tablet computing devices. Why lug around a bulky bag big enough for one of those clunky old DSLRs when your compact little camera will fit a sleek case half that size? And who better to “think small” than the dependable brain trust at Think Tank Photo?


With their new Perception Tablet backpack, Think Tank has created their smallest, lightest backpack yet (Exterior Dimensions: 10″ W x 16.3″ H x 5.9″ H or 25.5 x 41.5 x 15 cm; Weight: 1.7 lb.), tailored especially for mirrorless camera systems. It’s so compact, in fact, that casual observers will never suspect you’re carrying expensive camera equipment in such a modest bag–a definite advantage when you’re out on the streets in sketchy urban environments.


Despite its small size, the Perception Tablet holds enough gear to serve as a great daypack, accommodating a mirrorless camera body with lens, an extra lens, and an 11″ laptop or tablet in its padded interior compartments. A drawstring cinches the camera compartment closed for added protection. Two outer pockets and one interior pocket provide plenty of places to stow accessories, and the space below the camera compartment can hold clothing or other little necessities.


A tripod-carry on the front of the backpack allows easy access to the bag’s contents even when a tripod is attached, and a seam-sealed rain cover complements the backpack’s water-resistant fabric to guard your gear against inclement weather. The breathable padded shoulder straps and adjustable sternum strap makes the backpack a breeze to carry. I would have liked an external side holder for a water bottle, but I can hardly complain when Think Tank has crammed so many great features into such a small package.


I recently traveled with a couple of business associates to Indianapolis to shoot a promotional video for a client, and the Perception Tablet backpack permitted me to pack all the basics for a quick overnighter. Its durable construction enabled me to stuff the bag to maximum capacity without endangering any of my fragile valuables. For gear, I took along my Sony A7r with Leica 50 Summilux, a Sony 16-35 f/4 lens, two Sony batteries, a sound recorder and lav mic, a charger and cables for my iPhone and Anker battery pack, an SD card reader, a few SD cards, a pair of Phiaton PS 210 Bluetooth Earphones, and a 11” laptop with ac adapter.


I was also able to squeeze in all my personal items for the one-day trip: a Uniqlo down jacket, two shirts, a pair of shorts, boxers, a pair of socks, and my toothbrush and other toiletries. My traveling companions couldn’t believe I fit everything I needed for the trip in a bag that was half the size of the ones they carried. In fact, I had to add a Canon 85mm f/1.2 to my Perception Tablet backpack because their bags were already too full to slip in the extra lens!


Even packed to the gills, the Perception Tablet fit easily under the seat in front of me on my plane flights, so I didn’t need to fight the other passengers for space in the overhead bins. I appreciated the sleek, streamlined design, but those photographers who want to carry additional camera bodies, more lenses, or a larger laptop may prefer one of the two larger backpacks in this Think Tank series, the Perception 15 and the Perception Pro. For a travel-light day-tripper like me, however, the Think Tank Perception Tablet is a great pack to get you there-and-back!

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Dec 082014


Simple Photo Tours is a Southern California-based company founded by two photographers who want to share their love of photography and travel with others through fun, well-planned photo excursions to exciting, picturesque destinations.

Todd Hatakeyama, the CEO of Simple Studio Group, Inc., is a former studio and wedding photographer whose product knowledge, business acumen, and entrepreneurial vision have turned Simple Studio Lighting into one of the preeminent e-commerce suppliers of studio lighting equipment. He has since diversified his enterprise into a burgeoning photographic services business, and now manages a thriving studio and a team of talented photographers and videographers. He travels extensively to pursue his passion for landscape photography and writes about his journeys and reviews the latest photographic products on his blogs, and

Jay Bartlett, Vice President of Simple Studio Group, Inc., perfected his craft by taking battlefield pictures for the US Air Force while on active duty in Desert Storm. After shooting product for a medical company for several years, he became a full-time commercial photographer. Jay now specializes in shooting people and clothing for editorial, advertising, and fashion accounts and has worked for such illustrious commercial and corporate clients as Harley Davidson, Home Shopping Network, and Margaritaville Apparel Group.

Please check out our upcoming tours!

Nov 252014


Longtime readers of this blog will know how much I’ve admired Think Tank’s diverse product lines. With its new CityWalker 10 Shoulder Bag, the Think Tank brain trust provides a great new “in-between” option to its trusty Retrospective bags. As its name implies, the CityWalker 10 gives the on-the-go urban photographer room for enough gear for a day’s shooting while keeping the bag light and streamlined enough to carry through bustling city crowds.


Larger than the Retrospective 5 but smaller than the Retrospective 7, the CityWalker 10 still offers enough storage capacity to accommodate two camera bodies with lenses attached and an extra lens, with space left over for a tablet or a small laptop (Interior Dimensions: 10″W x 7.5″H x 5.3″ D or 25.5 x 19 x 17 cm).


I was able to fit my Sony a7r with Leica 50 Summilux, an NEX 5r with 10-18mm lens, a Sony 55mm lens, an iPad Mini 2, a Lenovo Miix 8 tablet, a Bluetooth keyboard, charging cables for all my equipment, some extra batteries, a portable hard drive, a few SD cards, a card reader, and other small accessories. In addition, I slipped a bottle of water into the stretchable outer compartment and rolled up my Uniqlo down jacket so I could squeeze it into the main compartment with my gear.


If I need more computing power, I can slip my Macbook Air 11″ in between the camera compartment and the tablet sleeve. Despite the fact that there was no dedicated space for it, the laptop nestled well there in the middle, snug and safely padded.


As usual, Think Tank has put extra thought into the bag’s construction. Unlike the vast majority of shoulder bags, which put the hard, unyielding laptop or tablet at the back of the bag where it’s right up against your body, the CityWalker places its tablet compartment toward the outer side of the bag. This design allows the soft, padded, pliable fabric of the bag to mold to your body for greater comfort. Made of a water-resistant nylon, the CityWalker stays far dryer on rainy days than the cloth-covered bags in the Retrospective series, particularly when sheltered under an umbrella.


Think Tank also increases the CityWalker’s utility and versatility by incorporating a removable camera divider insert that enables you to convert the case from a camera bag to a messenger bag.


On our recent trip to Tokyo, Taipei, and Hong Kong, my wife took advantage of the CityWalker’s dual nature by using it as her main carry-on bag for plane flights, where it stowed easily inside overhead bins or under the seat. It not only safely stored some of my camera gear, it also served as her purse and makeup case. Indeed, the bag has such a plethora of pockets and storage compartments that I was tempted to keep cramming it with knickknacks until it became quite heavy. However, the comfortable shoulder strap ensures that the CityWalker remains easy to carry all day long, even when fully loaded.


Think Tank’s CityWalker 10 is smaller than its sister bags, the CityWalker 20 and 30, yet it should provide ample room for most of the mirrorless camera setups. As such, city-going photographers should find the CityWalker 10 a fine alternative when they want the perfect-sized shoulder bag to hit the streets for a day-long urban shoot.

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Oct 292014


With its rotation180° Panorama camera backpack, Mindshift Gear debuted a truly innovative two-bags-in-one design that solved the perennial dilemma of the hiking photographer: how to access your camera gear without removing your backpack? The Panorama offered you the best advantages of both types of bags, giving you the large storage capacity of a backpack for extra food and clothing and the convenience of a detachable waist pack for ready access to cameras, lenses and other accessories without requiring you to take off the entire pack.


Not every photographer who wants to shoot the scenery needs to take enough gear and supplies for a whole day’s trek through the wilderness, however. For those who want to travel light as they go for a relaxed afternoon walk, Mindshift Gear presents its new, smaller rotation180° Trail backpack. The Trail is essentially a “Mini-Me” version of the Panorama, featuring the same sort of detachable camera pack in a scaled-down size (Exterior Dimensions: 9.4″W x 21.3″ H x 5.9″ D or 24 x 54 x 15 cm).


As with the Panorama, you can pull the beltpack out from under the main pack and maneuver it along the belt to serve as either a side holster or waist pouch while you shoot, then stow it back under the main pack for safe keeping–all without having to shrug the pack off your shoulders or set your camera bag on the ground. For added comfort when hiking, you can tuck away the waist strap in the beltpack compartment when not in use, then easily put it on when you’re ready to shoot. And when you want to travel really light, you can remove the beltpack entirely and use it solo.


I decided to try out the new Trail on my recent two-week trip through Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Unlike my photo safaris in the Valley of Fire and Zion, which required the carrying capacity of the Panorama, this vacation consisted of the sort of brief day-trips and afternoon excursions for which the Trail was perfect. It seemed about half as large as the camera backpacks I saw other people carrying, yet it still held all my essential camera gear. This made it an ideal size to carry on the plane, for it fit easily either in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of me.


The Trail’s waist pack (Belt Pack Interior Dimensions: 8.7″ W x 6.3″ H x 4.3″ D or 22 x 16 x 11 cm) accommodated my Sony A7R with 10-18mm lens attached and the Sony NEX-5R with 55mm lens attached. For the most part, I wore my A7R around my neck with my Street Strap and took out the NEX-5R when I needed a longer lens. The compartment also has a slot for an 8″ tablet such as an iPad Mini.


For getting in and out of cabs or the tour bus, I stashed the pack’s belt so I could take the bag off and put it on again easily, but when walking around, I took out the belt so I could get into the camera compartment quickly when necessary.


To take advantage of the Trail’s more compact size, one must, of course, sacrifice some carrying capacity. Storage space in the main upper compartment is a bit limited, but I found it more than adequate to carry the basics: a folded jacket, a few snacks, and small accessories. The compartment on top of the backpack is even smaller, but very handy for little items one need to access quickly, such as pens, medications, or batteries. The rear hydration compartment can hold up to a 1.5-liter water reservoir, but I used it as a fast-’n'-easy place to slip in my 8″ Windows tablet instead. In the outer stretchy compartments I carried an umbrella and a water bottle. Even fully packed, the Trail remained lightweight and very comfortable to wear.


If you need enough food, water and layers of clothing to sustain you for a whole day of hikng through rough terrain, then you might want to consider upsizing to the Panorama. But if you want a light, easy-to-carry, all-in-one backpack for a shorter day of shooting, then the Mindshift Gear rotation180° Trail makes a nice compact alternative.

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Sep 082014


As longtime readers of this blog know, it is my mission in life to find the perfect camera bag for every occasion. I’ve been so pleased with my previous Naneu bags–the Military Ops Bravo Camera Backpack, the K3L Backpack, and the Urban Gear U120n Backpack–that, when I heard the company had come up with a larger, updated backpack to replace the discontinued K3L, I couldn’t wait to try it. Based upon my experience with the impressive new Naneu Adventure K4L v2 35L Hiking Camera Pack, I think I’ll be using many more Naneu bags in future.


Like its predecessor the K3L, the Naneu Adventure K4L is designed to provide enough storage space for and easy access to essential camera gear, a large laptop, and all the necessities for a full day’s trek through the wilderness. Made of durable nylon, the K4L is big enough to offer plenty of room (External Dimensions: 21.5″H x 14″W x 10″D or 54.6 cm H x 35.6 cm W x 25.4 cm D) , but not too bulky or awkward to lug around for hours. For extra comfort, the pack has well-ventilated backing material, because there’s nothing worse than having your shirt drenched in sweat while you’re wearing a backpack all afternoon–believe me, I know! The mighty K4L is the largest of the 15 or so bags in my current collection and I don’t often need to carry as much gear as the pack can hold, but for an all-day hike in uncertain weather conditions, this backpack is my first choice.


Featuring a clever bag-within-a-bag structure, the K4L’s bottom compartment holds a removable camera pod that you can wear as a waist or shoulder pack for quick access to your camera and lenses while you’re on the move. The pod accommodates a pro DSLR body with a medium-sized lens attached (up to about a 24-70mm f/2.8) with additional compartments for a few other lenses and accessories.


The case easily fit my Sony a7R with a lens attached and my Sony NEX-5R with a lens attached and still had enough room for three more lenses or other items. The camera pod also has side stretch pockets if you want to keep a bottle of water, spare batteries, or other gear handy while it’s separated from the backpack.


The top compartment provides enough capacity to store clothes and sundries for nearly any change in weather conditions. If the early morning is chilly, I can start out wearing a light jacket, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves, and other cold-weather accoutrements, then peel off the layers and stuff them in the backpack as the day warms up–far more comfortable than trying to knot the sleeves around my waist and wear the garments like a kilt, as so many backpackers do when they get too hot. Even with all the clothes, I have plenty of space left for lunch and snacks. The K4L includes an internal hydration sleeve (hydration bladder not included), but you can easily insert a couple of extra bottles of water as well.


The laptop compartment is huge for a bag of this size, big enough to fit a 17″ notebook computer. The configuration of the compartment is a bit unusual with the zipper on the side instead of the top, but it’s nice to have such open access to the full pouch. I didn’t need a laptop on my most recent outing, so I slipped a folding camp stool in the space instead, ensuring that I always have a clean and dry place to sit when venturing outdoors.


The K4L rounds out its design with a generous number of side and front pockets for memory cards and such, rain covers for both the pack and the camera pod, and a tripod support system on the back of the bag. When I don’t need a tripod, I find the support system is a convenient place to hang my walking stick when I’m not using it.


With such an array of useful features and a well-planned, efficient design, the Naneu Adventure K4L v2 35L Hiking Camera Pack serves as an excellent option for hiking and photo daytrips. For those hikes when you need to take both a lot of gear and a lot of clothing, it’s as close to a perfect camera backpack as you’re likely to find.

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Aug 302014

I’m planning a road trip in my RV to Zion National Park, Page and Sedona, Arizona in a few weeks to check out locations for our upcoming workshop with Steve Huff in November. We’ll be scouting locations for the workshop and we decided to take an extra day to hike the Narrows in Zion, unfortunately we won’t have time to hike the Narrows during the workshop in November.

The Narrows, Photo courtesy of

The Narrows, Photo courtesy of

Since hiking the Narrows is a nine mile round trip hike mostly in water, I needed to buy some new waterproof gear. There are several outfitter companies that rent everything you would need, but since I’ve switched to the minimalist shoes, I didn’t want to take the chance on renting shoes and hiking 12 miles in water with shoes that may hurt my feet.

Vibram Five Fingers Komodo Sport

Vibram Five Fingers Komodo Sport

I’ve been recently hiking in my Vibram Five Fingers Komodo Sports, but wanted to find something that would work well in the water.

Vibram Five Fingers Signa Water Shoes

Vibram Five Fingers Signa Water Shoes

I decided to try the Five Fingers Signa Water Shoes but the fit was much different than the Komodo Sports and I couldn’t imagine hiking all day in them. So back they went and the search was on for another minimalist water shoe.



I have a pair of Vivobarefoot dress shoes so I figured I’d try the Vivobarefoot Men’s Ultra Running Shoe. They have a removable nylon/airpene/neoprene footbed and look like they’ll do well in the water. I didn’t want to pay full price so after searching for a while I ran into a store selling this model at almost 50% off.

VIVOBAREFOOT Breatho Trail Shoes

VIVOBAREFOOT Breatho Trail Shoes

LeftLane Sports seemed too good to be true, at almost half off I couldn’t wait to buy them, but my suspicious mind wouldn’t let me put in my credit card number until I did some research on the company. I did Google search for LeftLane Sports and found a few good reviews, some mentioned the slow shipping time, but overall it looked like a legitimate company. I was able to find out they’re in San Luis Obispo, California, which is about four hours from home. Luckily we were camping in the RV just 30 minutes North of San Luis Obispo that week, so I went ahead and placed my order, and added a pair of Vivobarefoot Breatho Trail Shoes.

Since I was camping nearby in Santa Margarita, I emailed to see if I could pick up my order on the way home. They quickly replied and said it would not be a problem. They’re location is a bit tricky to find, but they have a nice retail store next to the warehouse.

It was a great experience and the best deal I’ve found on minimalist shoes. Plus if you use my referral link, we both get $10 in store credit. I used another referral link with my first purchase so I ended up paying about $76.00 for what would cost me $175 anywhere else.

Click here for a $10 store credit

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Jun 272014


Duck hunters and nature photographers may shoot in vastly different ways, but they both need two things: lots of patience and a decent place to sit. Unfortunately, there isn’t always an old tree stump positioned just where you need your seat, and without a place to perch, your legs can go numb from squatting while you wait for the perfect shot. But who wants to lug a big, bulky folding chair on a five-mile hike up a mountain?


Clik Elite to the rescue! This manufacturer of quality photographic accessories has come up with the perfect camp stool to take on a hiking trip. The Clik Sit is a sturdy seat fashioned from high-quality aluminum, durable ballistic fabric, and riveted reinforcements that is strong enough to support a 250-lb. individual yet weighs a scant 1 lb., 5oz.


The stool opens easily, measuring 12.5″ high when set up. It folds down to a mere 9 1/4″ x 8″ x 1 1/4″, so it will readily slide into the laptop compartment of most camera backpacks. Similar chairs on the market may be less expensive, but they lack Clik Elite’s trademark high standards or build quality, and they can be heavier and more cumbersome.


At last, you no longer have to plop your tush down on hard gravel or wet grass! No matter what kind of wilderness you’re shooting in, with the Clik Sit, you’ll always have a comfortable seat.


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