Todd Hatakeyama

Oct 222015


It’s become something of a family tradition for me to accompany my dad on a trip every year in the fall for some prime father-son quality time. Recently, however, his mobility has become more of an issue, so on this occasion we decided to take a cruise to Alaska, which would not require my dad to walk as much as on some of our past excursions.


I’ve been on more than fifteen large ocean-liner cruises all over the world, but lately I find that I prefer small-ship cruises like those that tour the rivers of Europe. With fewer than 200 passengers on board, small-ship cruises offer a more intimate, relaxed experience: no crowds or long lines for dining or activities, more personalized attention from the crew, better food, tours and day-trips included with the cruise package, and myriad other advantages. Thus, when I began planning the annual trip with Dad, I searched for small cruise lines in Alaska and found Un-Cruise Adventures, a company for travelers like me who are tired of the impersonal big-line corporate cruise.


Un-Cruise specializes in small-ship adventure cruising, with tours in locations such as Hawaii, Mexico, the Galapagos Islands, and the Northwest. From their Alaska tours, we chose the cruise through the Northern Passages and Glacier Bay, which started in Sitka and ended seven days later in Juneau. We got the lowest-priced room they offered, which was still much costlier than cabins for comparable tours aboard large ocean liners. However, when you calculate the value of the day-trip tours that Un-Cruise includes with their cruise package and for which a large cruise line would charge extra, the difference in total cost is not that great.


We were a bit taken aback when we saw how tiny our cabin was: barely long and wide enough to accommodate two side-by-side berths, with a bathroom smaller than the closets at most of the hotels in which I’ve stayed. Located on the lowest deck of passenger cabins, the room was very near to the engine room and generator, so we had to put up with quite a bit of noise as well. Both Dad and I are used to sleeping with earplugs, though, so it was worth saving $1000 or more rather than upgrading to the next higher room category. As for the small space, we would only need to be there to sleep. The rest of the time, we intended to be out adventuring!


After a breakfast of a $15 French dip sandwich and $9 bagel in Sitka (food in Alaska is expensive!), we settled in aboard ship for the usual preliminaries: a briefing on emergency procedures and an introduction from our guides about the various tours and activities available to us. There are generally around four activities from which to choose each morning and afternoon, and they vary depending on the current location and weather conditions of the cruise. The choices include beginning and advanced kayak tours (either solo or with a guide), paddle-boarding, vigorous hiking, and even snorkeling for the more active passengers. Dad and I selected a few of the mellower options: skiff tours, beach walks, and a short hike.


The highlights of the Un-Cruise experience are unquestionably the excellent staff and the breathtaking scenery. Our adventure guides gave fascinating on-board presentations about a variety of subjects and proved highly educated and knowledgeable about everything we encountered during our outdoor tours. As a huge added bonus for the cruise, a park ranger joined our cruise when we arrived in Glacier Bay and stayed with us for the next two days, giving several informative talks aboard ship and leading a few of our tours each day. Dad and I went on the scenic forest hike with her, and she delighted us with her enthusiasm for all things Alaskan.


We also enjoyed the delicious food served on the ship and the pleasant company of our fellow travelers. The small cruise boat had fewer than 80 passengers, and it seemed like half of them were gregarious Australians and New Zealanders. Mealtimes gave us a great opportunity to socialize, for Dad and I would share a table with as many as four other people. By the end of the cruise, our new comrades had become like old friends. The last two days of the trip, Un-Cruise thoughtfully offered an e-mail list for us on which we could sign up to keep in touch with each other, and the company also sent us a link to all of the photos the staff had taken of us.


My main regret about the cruise is that I didn’t get as many good photos as I’d hoped. I was constantly concerned about water damaging my gear, for it rained nearly every day and many of our best photo ops occurred while we were out on the bay in small skiffs. I brought some dry bags to protect my extra lenses and kept my camera nearly covered in another waterproof bag, ready to drop it in and seal it up whenever the rain got too heavy. I didn’t go kayaking, but even if I had, I don’t think I’d ever risk my Sony on a kayak ride.


Also, I wish I’d brought along a better lens for telephoto shots. My longest lens is the Sony 70-200mm f/4 for my Sony A7rII. Since I don’t often get to shoot wildlife, I didn’t think to bring a longer lens with me, but I should have been prepared with at least a 600mm. As you might imagine, I couldn’t get very close to the wild bears, bald eagles, mountain goats, orcas, humpback whales, and sea lions we saw, so I needed all the reach I could get.


I made do the best I could with the gear I had. Fortunately, the 42 megapixels of the A7rII allowed me to crop my pictures quite a bit, although their resolution wasn’t as good as that of the photos taken by one of our guides, who had a Nikon DSLR and 600mm lens. I’ve learned my lesson: It may be inconvenient to travel with a long and heavy lens like the 600mm, but if you’re going to shoot spectacular flora and fauna, don’t leave home without it! Beg, borrow, or rent one if you have to. I recommend as a good place to find reasonable rental rates.


Dad and I had such a great time on the Un-Cruise that we were sad to see it end. The smaller boat turned out to be the perfect choice for Glacier Bay, for it allowed us to approach much closer to the glacier walls than the large cruise ships could get. I imagine the folks on the ocean liner Norwegian Sun must have envied our view, for they could only sail past at a distance.


If you’re traveling without children and are keen to see Alaska’s glacial landscapes and diverse wildlife in all their glory, I’d say an Un-Cruise Adventure is the way to go. It may not offer the most luxurious ship, but the obliging staff, outstanding guides, delectable food, and the camaraderie with our fellow passengers made this voyage one of the best father-son vacations I’ve ever had.

Oct 212015


How do you make a great camera bag even better? By adding snazzy leather accents, of course! Think Tank Photo has taken their popular Retrospective line of shoulder bags and jazzed them up with fine leather trim to create camera cases so stylish you’d expect them to be worn by the runway models rather than the photographers at a high-fashion photo shoot.


I recently had the pleasure of trying out the Think Tank Photo Retrospective 7 Leather. Like the preceding Retrospective 7 bags, the Leather edition is the perfect size for photographers who want a compact case (External Dimensions: 13.5” W x 9.5” H x 7” D or 34.3 × 24.1 × 17.8 cm) that will nevertheless give them fast and easy access to a DSLR camera body with a 70-200mm or similar telephoto lens attached. The roomy main compartment (Internal Dimensions: 12.5” W x 8.8” H x 5” D or 31.8 × 22.4 × 12.7 cm) provides plenty of additional capacity for at least 2 additional lenses. This combination of streamlined design and convenient functionality makes the Retrospective 7 an ideal choice for event photographers, who often have to do quick equipment changes in a crowded, fast-moving environment.


In addition to the main camera compartment, the Retrospective 7 offers ample storage space for other necessities. Indeed, the padded front pocket is large enough to hold an extra pro camera body, although I generally stash a light meter and other accessories there. The zippered compartment on the back of the bag snugly stores my iPad or 11″ Macbook Air.


The Think Tank team have put as much thought into how the bag operates as they do into hold much it holds. The unique hook-and-loop “Sound Silencers” on the front flap, for example, allow you to open and close the bag quietly. Now you don’t have to worry about scaring off that skittish deer in the woods or spoiling that candid wedding moment with the sound of ripping Velcro.


With its accents of gorgeous, burgundy-tinged Dakota leather, the Retrospective 7 Leather is such a beautiful bag that you may find yourself skittish about taking it out in the field for fear of mussing up its wonderful exterior. Don’t let that stop you from enjoying this handsome case. Underneath that sleek facade is a product fashioned with Think Tank’s trademark quality and durability. For added protection against the elements, the Retrospective 7 Leather includes a durable, water-resistant coating and a nylon, seam-sealed taffeta rain cover double-coated in polyurethane.

So go ahead and take the bag wherever you want to shoot! Classy but not flashy, the Think Tank Retrospective 7 Leather is a camera bag that works even better than it looks.

Sep 212015


For a landscape photographer like me, there’s nothing like the first light of day, as dawn spreads glorious, golden, diffused light over forests and fields. And now there’s nothing like MindShift Gear’s FirstLight 40L Backpack to help me get my gear out to those forests and fields before the sun comes up. This roomy yet portable pack ensures that, no matter what the weather or environment, you’ll be able to carry all the cameras and accessories you need safely and comfortably.


I’m pretty sure the “L” in “40L” stands for “Large,” for the FirstLight 40L’s main compartment is big enough to fit two DSLRs with grips and lenses attached, as well as up to eight additional lenses, two flashes, and all the trimmings (Interior Dimensions: 13.4″ W x 20″ H x 7.3″ D or 34 x 51 x 18.5 cm). Since I’ve switched to mirrorless cameras, I had even more space to play with: for my recent trip to Alaska, I easily stashed my Sony A7r II, Sony 16-35mm f/4, Sony 55mm f/1.8, Sony 70-200mm f/4, Voigtlander 40mm f/1.4, and GoPro Hero 4 Black, and had plenty of room left for an Inmarsat IsatPhone, Anker battery, some dry bags, a Uniqlo down jacket, and MindShift Gear’s House of Cards memory card wallet.


I slipped my 11″ laptop in the front pocket, which can accommodate either a tablet or up to a 17″ notebook computer, and a variety of other zippered pockets held my Sony and GoPro batteries, miscellaneous cables, medications, a first aid kit, and other necessities. A dedicated hydration pocket on the side can hold as much as three liters of water.
Despite its mighty carrying capacity, I had no trouble stowing the FirstLight 40L in the overhead bin on my plane (Exterior Dimensions: 13.8″ W x 21.4″ H x 9″ D or 35 x 55 x 22.9 cm). It also fit easily under the seat in front of me, except for certain aisle seats beneath which electrical boxes took up some of the space. (MindShift Gear advises you to check with your airline about overhead bin size restrictions.)


With MindShift Gear’s characteristic combination of durability and build quality, the FirstLight 40L performs as well out in the wild as it does in the airport. The bag complements its durable water-resistant coating with a seamless rain cover that can double as a ground cloth. This cover was a life-saver while I was in Glacier Bay National Park, where it rained constantly. The backpack and, more importantly, my gear, stayed snug and dry despite the downpour.
MindShift Gear continues to produce innovative camera bags customized to the needs of individual photographers, and with the FirstLight 40L, they offer another great option for the roving outdoor photographer. It may be the FirstLight…but I’m sure it won’t be the last we see of this line of top-notch backpacks!

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Jul 272015


Whether you’re trekking through a forest primeval or a modern metropolis, a good backpack is essential. A shoulder bag is great for a couple hours of shooting on a relaxed afternoon, but when you need to carry a substantial amount of gear over a long distance, a shoulder bag can be a real drag…literally! A backpack gives you better weight distribution and greater carrying capacity, but most backpacks require you to take the pack off and burrow down through the contents to dig out the items you want. If only there were a backpack that could give you as easy access to your essential accessories as a shoulder bag…


Say no more! Your wish is Think Tank Photo’s command. To resolve this age-old dilemma, the company’s innovative minds have come up with the new Trifecta 8 Mirrorless Backpack, a clever hybrid of the best features of both backpacks and shoulder bags. As its name implies, the bag is tailored to accommodate the smaller yet increasingly popular mirrorless cameras.


Specifically, Think Tank has optimized the Trifecta 8 to grant you fast access to your mirrorless camera body and your three most-used lenses, so you are prepared to shoot ultra-wide, mid-range, or zoom on the spur of the moment as the situation demands.


Stylish and streamlined, the Trifecta 8 is spacious without being cumbersome (Exterior Dimensions: 11.4” W x 17.7” H x 5.7” D or 29 x 45 x 14.5 cm). I was able to fit my Sony a7r with the 70-200mm attached, with my 55mm and 16-35mm in the adjacent compartments, with a bit of room to spare. The moveable padded dividers easily reconfigure to suit either right- or left-handed photographers, and zippered doors in the lower side panels and rear panel of the bag let you get to the lens you want without having to paw past your lunch and windbreaker. The outside of the rear door panel is contoured and padded to rest comfortably against your back; the inside of the rear panel incorporates a nifty sleeve compartment large enough for an 8″ tablet like my iPad Mini.


Speaking of your lunch and windbreaker, you can stash them in the roomy top compartment, apart from your gear. Mesh pockets on the inside lining of the side-access doors provide additional storage space for small items like memory cards and batteries, and a pouch and straps on the front panel allow you to secure a small tripod to the backpack. Think Tank rounds out the Trifecta 8 by throwing in a seam-sealed rain cover, an accessory that many backpack manufacturers sell separately.


Thanks to Think Tank Photo’s smart design, the Trifecta 8 Mirrorless Backpack gives you a convenient, well-organized, lightweight option for an extended photo safari. So if you’re headed out for a long day’s hike, leave the shoulder bag at home–the Trifecta 8 is all you need!


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Jun 082015


While the weather is cool, we’ll do several off road trails only accessible by 4×4 vehicles. The famous Racetrack Playa and its Sailing Stones, Eureka Dunes, and Titus Canyon to Leadfield Ghost Town. We’ll also see Artist’s Drive, Artist’s Palette, Badwater, Ubehebe Crater, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Devil’s Golf Course and more. We’ll even throw in a bonus side trip to the Trona Pinnacles, the unusual landscape that consists of more than 500 tufa spires, some as high as 140 feet.


October 1-4, 2015

Includes transportation to and from Ontario Airport, lodging in Death Valley, entrance fees, jeep rental for the Racetrack and Eureka Dunes, and all meals.

We’ll have three jam packed days of sunrises and sunsets, we will see as much of Death Valley as possible. We will be staying at the Furnace Creek Resort inside the park, the perfect location to get around without wasting time driving from the surrounding hotels outside of the park.

Our RV will serve as our support vehicle to make our breakfast, lunch and dinner each day around our shooting schedule. Be prepared to wake up early, take an afternoon nap, and stay up late for some long exposure photography.

The Ontario Airport will be our pick up and drop off location, it will be very easy to fly in Wednesday night, stay at a hotel in the area, then stay Sunday night when we return and fly out Monday morning. (Hotels on these nights are not included)


Thursday, Oct 1
6:00am – Passenger pick-up at Ontario Airport hotels
9:00am – Breakfast in Ridgecrest
12:30pm – Arrive in Death Valley, we’ll see some of the sights before checking into the hotel
4:00pm – Check in hotel
4:30pm – Sunset shooting, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
7:00pm – Dinner
9:00pm – Long exposure night photography (optional)

Friday, Oct 2
4:00am – Sunrise shooting, The Racetrack
8:00am – More morning shooting, Ubehebe Crater
11:00am – Lunch
12:00pm – Editing or nap time
4:30pm – Sunset shooting, Devil’s Golf Course
7:00pm – Dinner
9:00pm – Long exposure night photography (optional)

Saturday, Oct 3
3:30am – Sunrise shooting, Eureka Dunes
8:00am – Titus Canyon Trail
11:00am – Lunch
12:00pm – Editing or nap time
3:30pm – Artist’s Drive and Artist’s Pallete
4:30pm – Sunset shooting, Badwater
7:00pm – Dinner
9:00pm – Long exposure night photography (optional)

Sunday, Oct 4
6:00am – Sunrise shooting, location TBD
10:00am – Early Lunch
12:00pm – Leave Death Valley for the Trona Pinnacles
3:00pm – Trona Pinnacles
5:00pm – Dinner in Ridgecrest
10:00pm – Arrive at Ontario Airport Hotels


$2200 Private Room
$1500 Shared Room

Payment details:

$1000 deposit to reserve your space. Balance due Aug 31, 2015.
Refund policy: Cancellations before Aug 31, 2015 will be refunded in full, any later cancellations will forfeit the deposit unless we can find a replacement for your spot.

This will be a small group as we only have five rooms reserved at the Furnace Creek Resort, so book your space before it’s sold out!

Email with any questions

Travel suggestions pre and post tour:

Fly into Ontario Airport on Wednesday, Sept 30 (we depart at 6:00am Thursday)
Fly out of Ontario Airport on Monday, Oct 5 (we arrive at 10:00pm Sunday)
* a red eye flight Monday Oct 5, midnight or later would be ok

Also flying in and out of LAX is possible if you take a shuttle to the Ontario hotel, but leave enough travel time as shared shuttles can take 2-3 hours

Suggested hotel:
Sheraton Ontario Airport Hotel
429 North Vineyard Avenue, Ontario, CA
$120 on Sept 30 – $110 on Oct 4 (non refundable rates)

Jun 082015


Whether you’re hiking a nature trail through a redwood forest or pounding the pavement while shooting street photography in a foreign city, it’s a nuisance and a hazard to have to shrug off your camera backpack to go digging for some lens or small accessory you need. Hence, it was with gratitude and relief that I and many other photographers greeted Mindshift Gear’s rotation180° series. These innovative backpacks each feature a detachable camera compartment that you can slide along the pack’s waist harness to serve as a handy beltpack for your essential gear. When you’re done shooting, you simply rotate the beltpack back underneath the backpack’s main compartment to stow it safely when not in use. Thanks to Mindshift Gear, you’ll never have to set your bag down on a dusty path or dirty pavement just to pull out some fresh batteries.


The latest addition to the rotation180° line, the Horizon 34L is larger than its predecessors the Trail and the Panorama but smaller than the Professional, the largest bag in the series. With 34 liters of carrying capacity (Interior Dimensions: 8.5” W x 11” H x 7.4” D or 22 x 28 x 18.8 cm), the Horizon is a pack big enough for a whole day’s photo safari. The beltpack alone can accommodate a camera with attached lens, a couple extra lenses, a 10″ tablet, and numerous other small items. For my recent trip to Yosemite National Park, I used the beltpack to carry my Sony A7r with the 16-35mm f/4 as well as my 55mm f/1.8 lenses and an iPad Mini. The rotation180° system made it a cinch for me to change lenses on the fly. Also, if you want to travel light for an afternoon, you may even detach the beltpack entirely and leave the rest of the backpack in your car or hotel room.


The main compartment offers plenty of space for clothing such as a light coat and hat, as well as food, guidebooks, and other hiking essentials, and up to a 13″ laptop. For Yosemite, I packed a Uniqlo down jacket, a rain cover, some snacks, and a satellite phone, and I still had more than half the room in the compartment left over. A dedicated hydration compartment holds a 3-liter reservoir, while a side pocket stows a 32-ounce water bottle within easy reach, so you can always wet your whistle. Zippered pockets on the top and front of the pack provide additional places to stash small items for easy access. The top compartment gave me enough storage for extra batteries, energy bars, a first-aid kit, some SD cards, and a few filters, while the front pocket held my maps and cables.


Despite the Horizon 34L’s large size, it was remarkably lightweight even when loaded; indeed, it hardly felt like it was there most of the time. The pack’s adjustable, padded shoulder straps are comfortable and made of a breathable synthetic material to prevent excessive perspiration. Straps on the front of the pack allow you to secure a tripod in a special fold-out pouch, but a separate tripod suspension kit is available for purchase if you want a shoulder sling that keeps the tripod ready at a moment’s notice. Other available accessories for the Horizon 34L include a set of customized, seam-sealed rain covers and r180º Panorama/Horizon Photo Insert, and Lens Switch Case (also sold separately).


I wasn’t the only one impressed by Mindshift Gear’s rotation180° Horizon 34L. Several of my fellow photographers on the Yosemite trip so admired the size and design of the backpack that they tried it on and remarked on its attractive combination of features. I suspect many of them will make a 180° turn away from ordinary backpacks and toward Mindshift Gear!


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Apr 132015


In a very short space of time, drones have gone from being the secret weapons of spy agencies and the military to the hot new plaything of the weekend warrior. Now, photographers everywhere are using compact, radio-controlled quadcopters like those of the popular DJI Phantom Series to take spectacular aerial videos.


However, a quadcopter is not a toy; higher end models can cost thousands of dollars. Their odd size and shape and delicate parts can make them tough to fit into conventional luggage. Definitely not something you want to carry through airport security in a duffel bag.


So here’s a riddle: How do you fly a quadcopter without turning on the propellers? Answer: You pack it inside the new Think Tank Photo Airport Helipak and take it on a plane! Ahead of the curve as usual, the brain trust at Think Tank has responded to the increasing popularity of UAVs by creating a bag that’s tailor-made to carry a quadcopter like the Phantom 2 safely and comfortably.


The outside of the Airport Helipak is low-key and tasteful but rugged, made of tough polyester and ballistic nylon and treated with a durable, water-repellent coating to protect it from the elements. With exterior dimensions of 14” W x 20.5” H x 9” D or 35.6 x 52.1 x 22.9 cm, the Helipak is far more compact and convenient than the Pelican hard case I’ve previously used to transport my Phantom 2. Its light weight makes it a breeze to carry when traveling, and it fits easily into the overhead bins on planes. Furthermore, while the Pelican case can only be carried by its handle, the Helipak provides comfortable, padded shoulder straps and an adjustable harness so you can wear it as a backpack.


Inside, the case provides plenty of room for a Phantom 2 or similar quadcopter, as well as a remote, a 7” screen, accessories, and extra batteries, with space to spare (Interior Dimensions: 13” W x 18.8” H x 7.6” D or 33 × 47.8 × 19.3cm). A set of dividers specifically designed for the DJI Phantom Series permits you to customize the bag’s configuration to suit your gear, and internal, see-through mesh pockets in the case’s padded lid keep your rotors, spare parts, and tools secure, sorted, and readily accessible. The dedicated laptop pocket accommodates a 15″ Macbook Pro or equivalent notebook and features an adjacent organizer panel with sleeves for your cell phone, wallet, pens, and other small items.


Unlike a large Pelican case, the Helipak requires that you remove the quadcopter’s propellers so that the craft’s body will fit in the bag, which is a slight inconvenience. However, that’s a small price to pay given that the Helipak offers you more actual storage space than a comparable hard case in a compact size that is far easier to carry and stow.


An external side pocket capable of storing a 32-ounce water bottle and a seam-sealed rain cover make the Helipak as handy to have on the nature trail as in the airport terminal. So when you’re ready to take your photography to new heights, tuck your quadcopter in the Think Tank Photo Airport Helipak for safe-keeping and head for the skies. You’re cleared for takeoff!

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Mar 302015


Given the increasing popularity of smaller, mirrorless cameras, it’s been surprising and often frustrating how difficult it is to find bags customized for them. Fortunately, the forward-thinking minds at Think Tank Photo have given us the new Urban Approach 15, a mirrorless camera backpack with all the security, versatility, and convenience of a top-notch DSLR bag.


A traditional camera backpack in function, the Urban Approach 15 takes advantage of mirrorless cameras’ compact size to keep the overall size of the bag smaller and more streamlined than a comparable DSLR backpack. The main compartment (Interior Dimensions: 9.4” W x 16.3” H x 3.9-5.3” D or 24 x 41.5 x 10-13.5 cm) includes more removable padded dividers than the typical DSLR bag, permitting you to configure smaller storage spaces and a greater number of compartments for your gear. Even after I packed in two Sony camera bodies and every lens I own, I had enough space left over for my Uniqlo jacket, a variety of accessories, and other necessities.


Two internal mesh organizer pockets provide additional storage space for batteries, memory cards, and similar items, and a padded outer zipper pocket gives you a safe, accessible place to stash your cell phone or sunglasses . Unlike many camera bags, the Urban Approach 15 incorporates both a laptop compartment large enough to accommodate a 15″ notebook and a separate pocket for a tablet computer. I especially appreciated these features since I like to have both my 11″ laptop and my iPad Mini 2 along when I travel. Now I don’t have to squeeze both devices into the same narrow slot!


The bag’s construction is of the high quality that we’ve come to expect from Think Tank Photo. The backpack’s ballistic nylon exterior is treated with a durable water-repellent coating, and it includes a seam-sealed rain cover for further protection from the elements. Special contouring on the back panel cushions the bag for greater comfort and encourages air flow to minimize perspiration. The elastic side pockets serve as a tripod holder or can keep a water bottle or small umbrella within easy reach. Think Tank thoughtfully added a handle pass-through on the back of the bag so you can slide the backpack onto your extendable suitcase handle for easy transport through airports and train stations.


The Urban Approach 15 enabled me to carry all the gear I needed for a recent weekend at Joshua Tree National Park. Although I didn’t do any hiking on that occasion, I did take my Jeep off-road and stopped for several pictures along the way. In a few weeks, I plan to take this backpack with me to Yosemite for some real hiking to give it a good workout. It will be a refreshing change to take along an extra camera body and my 70-200 f/4, which I could never fit in the small camera backpacks I’ve used in the past. As I use mirrorless cameras more and more, I have a feeling Think Tank Photo’s Urban Approach 15 Mirrorless Backpack will become my bag of choice.


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Mar 032015


For an outdoor photographer who loves to hike remote, rugged terrain in search of those perfect nature shots, a reliable backpack is a must. The average shoulder bag will hold little more than your essential camera gear, and you can only stuff so many of your personal belongings in your pants pockets. Unfortunately, many backpacks are so big and bulky that they prove cumbersome to carry and difficult to access. What is an adventuresome weekend warrior to do?


Leave it to the design ingenuity of Clik Elite to offer a sleek new solution to this dilemma–the Clik Elite Obscura 30. I think this bag, when worn properly, rates as one of the most comfortable backpacks I’ve ever used. Its asymmetrical waist-belt system does an admirable job of distributing the pack’s load to avoid fatiguing your shoulders, and well-placed, breathable padding helps prevent perspiration and chafing on your shoulders and back.


Made of durable, rip-stop nylon, the Obscura 30 weighs in at only 3.45 lb. (1.56 kg), impressively lightweight for its size (Exterior Dimensions: 23.5″H x 13″W x 9″D or 59.69 x 33.0 x 22.86 cm). This is due in part to the sturdy aluminum frame, which gives the pack a very solid feel without adding much to the poundage. The frame keeps the bag from sagging when you’re carrying only camera gear, and it adds a bit of load support when the pack is crammed to capacity.


Although more streamlined than many of its competitors, the Obscura 30 still offers plenty of storage space for both your gear and your hiking necessities (Interior Dimensions: 14″H x 11″W x 7.5″D or 35.6 x 28 x 19 cm). The camera compartment is not only large enough to accommodate a standard DSLR with lenses, it even fit my monster PhaseOne DF+ medium-format camera…and, believe me, I wouldn’t trust any bag with this baby unless I was sure the camera was snug and safe! A zippered side-entry portal gives you easy access to the stowed camera so you don’t have to go digging through the pack to get to it for a quick shot.


The main compartment features a double lens holder that, along with the space in the camera compartment, allows me to pack virtually all of the larger PhaseOne and Schneider Kreuznach lenses I like to have with me. That still leaves lots of room for clothing items, food, and toiletries. External elastic mesh pockets can hold such articles as coats or water bottles, and a nifty pouch on the waist belt keeps small accessories handy. Best of all, they’ve even incorporated a dedicated laptop sleeve long enough for a 15″ notebook computer, which makes the Obscura 30 a more useful and versatile pack than one intended solely for trekking through virgin forests.


Indeed, the Clik Elite Obscura 30 has become such a convenient way to transport my gear that I now find myself taking it on more of my professional as well as recreational shoots. The backpack is also my primary bag whenever I ride my motorcycle, for it adjusts quickly and comfortably with a single pull of a strap. If you’re looking for a camera backpack that will serve you as well in the city as it does in the country, the Clik Elite Obscura 30 is a great way to go.


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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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