One strap, one bag; Crumpler & BBB

Man, talk about bored. Bored is the only possible motivation to write about a camera bag and a camera strap.

There you have it; I’m bored.

First the strap. You all know the Crumpler name. You know the make nice stuff, especially their somewhat unusual bags. But, did you know they made a nice strap, too?

No, not their lackluster and bulky Industry Disgrace. Today I’m talking about their very lightweight (and somewhat light duty?) Popular Disgrace. This 2.5 centimeter strap is da bomb for a lightweight camera like my aged Fuji X100. Its magic resides in its simplicity, and also the perfectly textured neoprene that covers the conventional strap material.

I hike a lot with the X100 so it spends a lot of time slung across my back. The neoprene has just the right about of traction and just the right amount of slip (dare we call it, perfect coefficient of drag). The strap material underneath is quite stout. It would be totally suitable for a larger and heavier camera, if the neoprene section were a tad wider.

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Me? I don’t like heavy cameras. My old Nikon D300 is as heavy as I can stand. That’s what keeps the X100 nearby so often. If you have an X100 or any other lightweight camera you might want to check out the Popular Disgrace, if you can find one.

In case you’re one of those folks who find camera bags slightly less dull than camera straps, I have a good one for you. The Bare Bones Bag (BBB hereinafter). I’m being kinda charitable to the folks at Figital Revolution. They’re not really the ones who’ve done the heavy lifting (stitching?) in the creation of the BBB. The real work was done by the hard-core, hard-asses at CourierWare.

For those of you who are even more bored than I am (come on,  you’re reading this aren’t you?) feel free to check out my review of yet another CourierWare bag here.

No, you cannot stuff a lot of shit into the BBB.

And, no, the BBB is not possessed of a great deal of padding. Heck, my version of the bag doesn’t even have a velcro closure for the top.

And, yes, the BBB may be able to pass as a purse, assuming that the woman who’s carrying it is good looking enough.

Still, for me it’s just dandy for carrying the (wait for it) Fuji X100. It holds that, my beater Panasonic LX3, both their chargers and spare batteries, my faithful Benchmade knife and a lot (but not too much) other crap. There’s a touch of padding in the bottom of the bag but the rest of the bag is just plain (if very high quality) waterproof 1000 denier Codura nylon.

If you’ve been living under a rock you may not be aware that CourierWare makes a superb bag. They are light yet totally bombproof and guaranteed for life. The care and quality of the stitching is beyond reproach. Now, the truth is that I’m not even sure that you can buy the damn thing. I got mine used and you’re never getting mine, believe me.

But, if you have a load that’s the right size for it, and if you can find one, the BBB cannot be beat. If you value function and give not one shit about style, it may be the bag for you. If you need a larger bag, check out the CourierWare website. CourierWare’s owners, Diana & Eric, are amazing, salt of the earth kind of folks and they’ll make the bag of your dreams.

 

 

One strap, one bag; Crumpler & BBB

Change of Seasons: California Oaks

Southern California is a place of slow and subtle shifts. Traffic moves slowly and the differences of our seasons can sometimes be hard to discern, especially for people from non-Mediterranean climates.

I’ve spent all my life here and can tell the different seasons by a number of different clues. I can see the how the light differs on a clear summer day and a clear day in winter. I can also smell the seasons, especially the spring & summer. As winter glides into spring I started to think about another seasonal clue.

Oaks.

We have no fewer than twenty different varieties of Oaks in California. Even in our vast urban and suburban sprawl, Oaks are common and for the most part venerated. We even like naming communities after them like Sherman Oaks, Thousand Oaks, Oak Park, Oak Hill and of course, Oakland.

The Santa Monica Mountains is home to scores of oaks and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy does a marvelous job of preserving the hills and valleys where the oaks thrive, often times surrounded by upscale housing developments.

I thought it would be fun to capture the transition of some of our oaks from winter to spring, from cold to warm, from brown to green.

Allow me to start with a short poem.

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay.

– Robert Frost / 1923

Oak 8
Oak 8
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Oak 7
Oak 6
Oak 6
Oak 5
Oak 5
Oak 4
Oak 4
Oak 3
Oak 3
Oak2
Oak 2
Oak 1
Oak 1
Change of Seasons: California Oaks

Prior Recognition & Landscape Photography

Of late, I’ve been thinking a great deal about landscape photography. It’s not just because spring is drawing closer every day. In fact, the prime motivation is the fact that after eight years of using Flickr, I’ve struck up a couple of very interesting internet friendships. It happened quite out of the blue but soon I found myself exchanging emails on subjects that had previously been confined to the hollow space between my ears. To top it off, there were actually discussions about our actual photographs; imagine that.

Of course, there was a bit of the old, does my photography matter and a touch of is photography art sorts of questions. These are old and tiresome points of discussion yet somehow they can seem (briefly) new when bandied about by hopeful folks who simply love the potential of their photography. Anyway, one of the Flickrites offered the idea of his landscape photography as a kind of visual recollective of the places he’s been. I’ll admit that I cringed slightly at this idea. I thought of the millions who had come before him and the thousands of images they recorded, the vast majority possessed with the very same humble intent and I thought to myself, what is the point of that?

Now it’s true that far too much of my own landscape photography has been similarly simplistic and banal. If you have a camera, you tend to use it. If you’re standing before beauty, you record it. But, the problem, the point of a disconnect for me anyway, is the lack of the photographer’s own collective vision and intentionality effectively mating with the images that are in front of him.

Last December, I attended an exhibition of a guy I know from a local golf course. I knew the exhibit photos were from Namibia, a place I had never been. So, obviously, I was curious about the visual elements of the landscapes of Namibia. But I was wondering if I would see something more. The photographer’s name is Ding Kalis. I’d seen some of his work online but somehow that did not fully prepare me to see the richness and depth of his Namibia photographs up close and personal. Then on a cool December night, I stood gazing at this:

Ding 2
The Elements Collide © 2016 Ding Kalis

I realized at that moment that one rare element of landscape photography is the ability to see something, or even imagining if something can be seen, before a scene is witnessed. Of course, Ding knew these borders, these separations, existed before he climbed into the Cessna. This scarce and precious element of landscape photography is a kind of prior recognition that can show something that is entirely common in what is likely a wholly unexpected way. The end result is that the viewer is given a gift; the gift in seeing something new, or at least in a new way. The fact that the photo was taken tens of thousands of miles away is secondary to the novelty of the photographer’s vision. This could well have been taken on the coast of southern Oregon, or here in California, and it would still stir my imagination in the same way. It’s the way Ding saw the scene that mattered, far more than the exotic nature of the location.

Here’s another one of Ding’s photographs from the same exhibit:

Ding 1
Three Degrees © Ding Kalis 2016

Again, Ding had to have had the separations, the boundaries, between these dunes keenly in his mind before he actually witnessed and captured them. This is a huge part of good landscape photography and maybe the element with the potential to nudge this kind of photography toward art. It is, as I said before, the art of prior recognition. The scene may unfold before all of us in the very same way. But, when we have the ability to see what’s there in a way we recognize a priori, or maybe even expect before we see it, we have a fleeting chance to capture something of meaning, to ourselves at least, if possibly no one else.

I liken this to a writer settling down to write some verse. For his verse to be true, he must think before he writes. He must know what he needs to say while still striving for the best mechanism to convey it using the crude code of words. I dare say he must plan before he writes if he’s to have any chance of saying something of meaning. He cannot merely react to feelings or recollections no matter how strong they live in his consciousness. He must at once look to the future and into the past to have any chance of choosing his words in a way that matters to whoever reads them. Mere recitations of recollections, in either poetry or photography, no matter how well-crafted, simply cannot be possessed of relevance.

So this is the hurdle I see for the aspiring landscape photographer (and that includes me). He must learn to see before he sees and then, confronted with the vision he wishes to capture, must strive to recognize the relationships that were in his mind before he raises his camera and releases the shutter. If not, all of what’s regarded as the good landscape of the future will be captured by drones, hovering overhead with ideal perspectives, 24 hours a day, clicking away and recording images with perfect exposure and massive dynamic range. And, all of them will mean the same thing to those who see them. Nothing.

So now spring draws nearer still and with it comes opportunity for me to capture images of meaning and relevance. I want to thank Ding for the unspoken lessons that his Namibia photographs have instilled in me. I’m not sure the results will be visible in the images I capture this year, but I am hopeful.

Note: I sent a draft of this article to Ding and he was kind enough to add some thoughts of his own. I’m pleased & grateful to give him the last word:

Ansel Adams talked about “previsualization” though for him it meant seeing the final print in your mind’s eye and exposing for the result you had foreseen.

 I believe what you talk about is somewhat akin…but to achieve either, one needs to be very ready to grasp the image as it presents itself. The more time spent looking at everything, framing every scene, imagining every light, looking for connections, for graphics within an image, boundaries and how and where the edges of things are, the better prepared one is as a photographer to find ways of expressing the meaning one searches for …

 …This stuff starts to sound like “arty gibberish” until one finds oneself on the Cessna. 

 For me, that two hour ride was one of the more intense creative moments of a lifetime. In a short two hours I captured some fifteen images that were good. 

 That was only possible as a distillation of everything photographic that came before. No time to think about framing the image, no way to go back the next morning and get a different light. No time really to understand, just grab the image as it flies (literally) by and hope to recognize something afterwards. 

 Not to stretch a metaphor too far, but, to stretch a metaphor too far…There is no time to think of all the learning and practice that go into a golf swing between teeing up a ball and hitting it, the thing needs to be instinctive…so with photography…

 

 

 

Prior Recognition & Landscape Photography