It’s In The Bag

For me, a camera bag is a constantly evolving beast, especially these days as I complete my transition to mirrorless video maven. I’m teaching a couple of seminars on travel photography for National Geographic Traveler in the next couple of  months, and so it was time to update the pictures of my latest gear configuration for travel. Here’s a breakdown of what I take on travel gigs these days…

This is the beast fully loaded, and even at that, it’s about half the weight of my old DSLR setup. I will often leave the fisheye Rokinon behind. But it’s nice having relatively fast lenses like the Rokinon 12mm f/2 (18mm equivalent) and the 35mm f/1.8 (50mm equivalent) ready to grab.

Let’s go over the thinking behind this bag. For the first time I can remember, my outfit does not include two matching bodies…I never went out without a matching pair of compact Nikon DSLRs..but that was before the advent of mirrorless cameras of theRX10‘s quality with a built-in Zeiss lens that is the 35mm equivalent of a 24-200mm f2.8 on the camera’s one inch chip.

Think of that; a super sharp, reasonably fast 24-200mm with a constant f/2.8 lens. Oh yeah, the full frame pixel peepers are going to go on about the chip size but for both still and especially video purposes, in my opinion, this is the best shot-grabbing, all-in-one travel camera ever made (there, I said it). With the latest firmware upgrade that got us out of the awful compressed AVCHD codec and into a broadcast quality, 50mbps X AVCS codec, Sony has just knocked this out of the park.

But one camera can’t do everything and one thing that the RX10 doesn’t do too well is that soft-background creamy bokeh full frame look (it’s a matter of sensor size, not a design failure). And the images can get noisy above ISO 1600 (which is still an excellent high ISO threshold for a smaller chip camera). And while 24mm is wide enough for most things, I love an ultrawide look too.

And that’s where the A7s comes in. It’s a lowlight monster, and is usable in two modes—full frame, and APS-C mode. I use it primarily in the latter mode for two reasons. First, most of my Sony lenses are for the NEX series which were all APS-C sized chips. And secondly, because in video mode, the APS-C mode is less prone to rolling shutter, that phenomenon that can create a wavy video image if you’re moving the camera around too fast (which you shouldn’t be if you’re shooting video, but hey, sometimes you’re not as stable as you want to be).

Recently, in Iceland, I shot video with the A7s at ISO 25,400 (or something like that) in a shepherd’s hut lit with a couple of little candles and it looked fabulous. I don’t know how they did it, but this camera shines at ISO’s so high that you really need night vision goggles to see what the camera can see.

So on this camera, I have my 10-18mm (which in APS-C mode is equivalent to a 15-28mm approximately). I also carry the sharp Zeiss 16-70mm f/4…what a nice lens; Optical  Image Stabilization, and a range (35mm equivalent would be a 24-105mm) that will cover almost everything I usually need in any given situation.

For low light and nice bokeh, I’ve got the tiny, sharp, optically stabilized (way to go Sony, offering stabilization in fast primes!) 35mm f/1.8. It’s great for those face closeups with good bokeh, like this one:

The rest of the gear is pretty self-explanatory. The table top tripod doubles as a kind of chest or belly brace for handheld shooting. I come from the “time before selfies,” so I don’t really shoot them, but the selfie pole and the mic extension cord allow me to mount the ultra light Smartmyk mini shotgun on it and do a one-handed boom mic arrangement for impromptu interviews.  The Olympus audio recorder is for capturing ambient sound.

The camera raincoat, the bag o’ batteries, the cable release are standard issue items. But the result is a bag I sling over my shoulder (bandolero-style so the bag rides in the small of my back until I need to get something out of it), that I can carry all day, every day, and be ready for just about anything!

Hockey betting

Highlighting the most spectacular and fast sports games in the world, in the first TOP-3 we should definitely put the hockey. Hockey is so popular because of its spectacular moments. Of course, the full geography of these matches is not as extensive as, for example, in football, however, the number of fans here is also quite large. It is important to note that hockey bets are in high demand among residents of Russia and other countries (Canada, Sweden, Czech Republic, and so on). You can bet on hockey in free online casino games to play now.

The incredible speed of the game, the various removal of players from the field, and much more that can change the main account of the meeting of two opponents – these are the main features of hockey bets. It is important to note that in order to achieve the desired successful results you may need not only the required level of professionalism, but also quite strong nerves, especially those who decide to try themselves in the live mode.

Practically, as in any other sport in hockey, the main result of a match can be influenced by a lot of different factors that are extremely important to take into account in order to increase the probability of winning. These factors should be completely attributed to the general form of the team, analyzing its recent matches, news from hockey clubs, which may mention injured or disqualified players, a kind of level of motivation for a particular game and the like.

Before the final decision to put your money on the game, you need to try to find a decent and honest bookmaker who will provide a quality line of necessary events with a very large list for upcoming hockey matches, including for live modes. The more different betting options a bookmaker can offer you, the wider your choice is in terms of the most successful bet. Usually, the schedule of betting on the hockey leagues of the NHL and KHL is very rich, compared to the usual European championships.

Live bets are the most profitable in hockey

This is due to the fact that during the main broadcast during the game you can evaluate the real forces of the opponents and make the right choice. For proper evaluation it is enough to watch the match a couple of minutes.

As elsewhere, in the reception of bets on hockey in live mode there is one not very pleasant feature. Given that the scores change regularly, bets may be suspended. Doubtful bookmakers can forbid to make a bet at all when one of the teams plays in the majority. Deletions in this game occur quite often, so making bets in this mode on such bookmakers is not very convenient.

Also, quite an important point is the features of the calculation of the rates for hockey

Some bookmakers take into account only 3 periods, while others may take into account the time of overtime, and maybe even the shootouts. Before you bet, be sure to familiarize yourself with such subtleties in the rules of the system. Do not forget that there are simply amazing comebacks in hockey (a weak team still strives for victory). Do not be surprised when a bet with a factor of 1.06 can lose. In such cases, it is better not to risk your own funds and simply abandon these small coefficients, because the risk will be until the last second of your chosen game.

Experienced players know the features of hockey, one of which is that the goalkeeper can be replaced by the 6th player. Such replacements are made by the coach usually at the end of the match, with a minimum loss of one or two goals. In such situations, it often happens that the losing team misses the next puck, or, on the contrary, scores and thereby compares the score. Therefore, in the end of the match you choose, it is better to abandon the bets on the total less.

Software development for betting companies

Gambling gives an excellent chance to earn money for businessmen. It is known that the easiest way to open a betting company is to use the services of the gambling platform sports betting provider. Now there are a lot of such companies, but only some of them have managed to achieve impressive results in this complex business.

Development of gambling software is quite a lengthy and complicated process, which includes many different actions.

  1. Assemble a team of specialists in various fields who will be able to be responsible for carrying out their own processes and ensure the creation of a high-quality product. In such a complex matter as the creation of sports gambling software, a good team have a major role. Each team member must be an expert in their field and provide the highest level of work in their own direction. You can determine the company that takes the most responsible approach to this issue by talking to the customer support or sales staff. If these people are clearly aware of their responsibilities and they are able to answer all the questions you may have, then it is likely that the company is very careful in the staff selection process. Thus, it increases the likelihood that you will receive a quality product, and will be able to begin its development with the confidence that all processes are established and functioning.
  2. Properly plan all processes. The planning phase is very important for such a complex process as the development of gambling software. If all the needed processes are built correctly, the movement of the project goes clearly about the plan and you can be sure that the final result will be closest to your requirements.
  3. Customer feedback. It is extremely important that at each stage the company’s representatives maintain constant communication with their clients. This stage is created initially and improved in the process of work and development of the company. Each new client must be unique for the company, it must be able to adapt to its needs, and all its requirements must be met as closely as possible. This is how a reputation is created and the company’s contacts with its customers are being established.
  4. User support. Any good company provides high-quality support to its customers even after the project has been launched. It’s very important in the process of work, and especially immediately after the launch, when the client may have a number of additional questions that may concern the work of online gambling software or errors that can occur after the launch. It is important to note that even if the preparation and launch of the project were carried out at the highest level, minor errors can still occur in the process of work. High-quality technical support, which will always be online, will be able to solve these problems and will not allow the project to go offline.
  5. Responsibility. This principle builds the work of all successful companies. It is the ability of the company to take responsibility for the quality performance of all processes that can eventually lead to its success. Clients of such a company will be satisfied, because they will quickly be able to understand that the actions of the company can be trusted and that they are in safe hands.

Gambling business is fraught with many risks that begin with the choice of the gambling software platform provider, and pursue the founder of this business in the future. Almost every day there are new companies that seek to conquer this market, but their success depends on many different factors. Only a clear focus on results and the desire to achieve significant results with this business can lead a person to good results.

Are We All Dying From “Exposure?

I was recently invited to submit some of my travel films to a new section on the website of a major American publication. It’s a showcase of short films and when you go to the site, it’s full of spectacular nature, adventure, and travel films that are daringly executed, expertly shot, and beautifully edited…and, to watch one, you have to sit through a 30 second, non-fast-forwardable commercial.

“Fair enough,” I think to myself when I check it out and watch the same 30-second commercial before each of about a dozen films  I viewed on the site to get an idea of what they were running, “you’ve got to pay for these high production-value films somehow.”

(I’m not sure, though, if I were a casual visitor to the site, that I’d sit through more than one film on those terms.)

The process to get a film up there is a daunting two-step gauntlet…first you submit to one of a board of editors. If the piece passes muster with that editor, he or she takes it to the full board of editors, and they must approve the piece and then, and only then, does it make the website.

I submitted six films, waited a month or so, and was thrilled to hear that three of my films made the cut! We were swapping addresses for contracts to be sent and just before we hung up, I threw out a question.  “In all the excitement,” I said, “I forgot to ask you how you pay for these things…by the minute, by the piece, how?”

And then I heard the words that stopped me dead in my tracks.

“Oh we don’t pay to run these…most people are happy to do it for the exposure.”

Dead silence on my end. A giant of American publishing, a 30 second mandatory commercial, a gauntlet to be run that makes getting a film into Sundance look like a cakewalk, and they don’t pay a dime to the content creator?

“Does that change anything?”

“You are #@%$^&*()_&^^$4¢£∞∞¢ right it does,” I think to myself.

But being the well-raised son of a very proper English lady, I say politely, “Yes, it does. I would prefer to be paid for my work, and if I can’t be, I don’t want to give you the films.” They wouldn’t budge, and neither would I, and so we went our separate ways…but it doesn’t always work that way.

A day or two later, I am approached by an editor of a custom publications company to have me and my work featured in an advertorial they are preparing for a photo industry giant. I am thrilled, and will be interviewed by a great writer, and the piece will be featured in a couple of major magazines.

I’ve gotten all the info, know what my deadlines are, but thanks to the experience of being “once bitten, twice shy,” I assume nothing and ask right away, “what are the rates for this?”

And I am told, “oh, we don’t pay—everyone else has been happy to do it for the exposure.”  (Later, I poll some other colleagues, only to find out that some shooters are hiring publicists to try to get in on this “opportunity.”)

Hiring a publicist to get the opportunity to give away work for free for commercial usage?

Oh, sweet mother of Jefferson Davis, break out the defibrillator, because the Old Man in Motion’s heart is stopped from sheer incredulity and disbelief. In what galaxy or universe can this be construed as a business plan for a professional?

You do all this for nothing, I’m told,  so you can get more “followers?” Well, that’s great, because if you run your business like this, it’s just a matter of time before you starve to death. And then you’re going to need a lot of followers to act as pall bearers when they cart you off to potter’s field for your pauper’s burial, because the funeral director wants actual $$$, and not “Likes,” to let you use his hearse.

And so, despite all the good breeding me old English mum tried to instill in me, I respond:

“No, that’s unacceptable….if the writer is being paid, and the magazine is being paid, and the printer is being paid, and if everyone else in the whole process of producing this piece is being paid or drawing a salary, then I want to be paid as well!”

And then, mirabile dictu, I get an email response asking, “How much?”

And we proceed to have a negotiation, just like two professionals, that results in a fee that we both can live with, one that is enough for me to be able to look at myself in the mirror (not, I hasten to add, the Old Man in Motion’s favorite activity these last few years:-). and still call myself a professional.

Look, I know this isn’t same business it was twenty years ago, and I know we’re in a “sharing” economy (which, as far as I can see, means that “many people share so that a few may profit wildly”—think Instagram—300 million contributing free work for a company with about 100 employees, valued conservatively at $20 billion (that’s BILLION with a B).

You do the math, but at a certain point, giving up your work for free so that major corporations can commercially exploit it is just plain career suicide and just hastens the demise of our profession.

Remember the observation that the great Walt Kelly made in a classic Pogo comic poster to promote the first Earth Day, “We have met the enemy, and he is us!”

But this is nothing new…take a look at this clip from the great cult classic 70’s film “Putney Swope,”  a satire of the advertising business (among other things) directed by Robert Downey Jr’s father.

Seeing “E” To “E” With The Sony A7s

Can a newly minted full-frame video and still shooter find happiness using a bunch of 80’s -era compact cheap lenses? Could the old Nikon Series E lenses be the Sony E-mount lenses of choice for the new A7s in full frame mode?

Well, the jury is still out but all early indications are definitely YES! The old Nikon Series E lenses, the compact, cheap-but-sharp, E-for-economy lens line Nikon made back in the 80’s, are in many ways the perfect complement of manual focus lenses for the Old Man in Motion, who, as you know, is interested in gear that does the job admirably, but is smaller, lighter, (and cheaper).

When the Sony A7s burst onto the scene, it presented a bit of a dilemma for me. Sure, I had to have this low-light video shooting monster…12 megapixels of moire -free, artifact-free video goodness that can shoot in the dark. Up to this time, I had been using my Sony RX10, with its one inch chip and built-in 24-200mm f/2.8 Zeiss, as my “shot-getter,”  and switching to the APS C sized A6000 for my ultra-wide work, and my work with faster primes for that delicious bokeh.

It was a nice combo and I was happy. But when a game-changing camera like the A7s comes along, one that allows you to shoot great looking video in dark conditions (remember, still shooters…1/50th of a second is our bottom shutter speed in the video game, which is why videographers are always drooling for f/.95 lenses and other optical arcania), I had to go.

Now you can use the A7s in APSC mode with all the Sony lenses (and their nice OSS Optical Image Stabilization and fast autofocus) in video mode with virtually no loss of quality (in fact, the effects of rolling shutter are even lessened a bit). But when it came to really low light, or if you really wanted very soft bokeh, you needed to go full frame.

Likewise for shooting stills…in APSC mode, you’re only using maybe 7 of the 12 megapixels, and that’s a tad low, even for me, someone who’s never been overly concerned with the megapixel race.

So did that mean that I’d have to buy a whole second set of full frame Sony E lenses (not that there’s that many of them yet…c’mon already with the lenses Sony:-). Or would I have to break out my aging collection of vintage Nikkor f/2.8 and faster zooms and primes (which I can and will do, if I have an assistant and am working out of the car). Wouldn’t carrying these bigger lenses  on the road kind of negate one of the whole reasons for going mirrorless? What happened to “smaller and lighter?”

The old Nikon Series E line (they didn’t even give them the coveted “Nikkor” designation) were appreciated by those of us who needed to travel light, even back in the manual focus film days. I used to use the 50 and 75-150mm a lot but I was kind of embarrassed to admit it until the late, great Galen Rowell began singing their praises in Outdoor Photographer. Then, it was easier for the rest of us to come out of that Series E closet:-).

To adapt them to my Sony, I usually use a Metabones adapter…very well made and it includes a built-in Arca Swiss QR plated tripod mount, which is great and provides good balance on longer, heavier Nikkors as well as the 70-150mm above.

But I am also experimenting with the Fotodiox Vizelex ND Throttle adapter, because, hallellujah, it has a variable ND filter, 2-10 stops, built right into the adapter! So outside in bright light, you don’t have to be screwing ND filters onto the front of each lens to get your desired aperture, because it’s in the adapter (in low light, of course, you use an adapter like the Metabones that has no ND at all). It’s a pretty ingenious system and so far, I don’t see any bad issues with sharpness, but I’m still testing.

Are the Series E lenses as rugged and well made as the Nikkors? No.

Are they pretty damn sharp, half the size and weight of equivalent Nikkors, and can you usually pick them up for under a C-note? Yes! (And I don’t know about you, but my mountain climbing days are long over, and while I don’t baby my gear, these were made back in the 80’s, when everything was built like a tank, so they do fine by me). I’ll probably still shoot the majority of my A7s video work in APS C mode with the Sony E glass, but I’ll throw the Series E stuff in the suitcase for those occasions when I absolutely, positively need to shoot full frame. They’re light enough, rugged enough and cheap enough to travel nicely wrapped up in the checked bag.

As for sharpness and the lowlight performance of this combo, I point you to the video below I did last year about the Day of the Dead in Oaxaca. I went back this year with the A7s/Series E combo and swapped out some of the lowlight footage. So if you’ve seen this video before, you don’t have to watch the whole thing (unless, of course, you feel so compelled:-). Just watch from 3:48 through 4:03 to catch a nice sample of “seeing E to E!”

Lightweight, Low-Cost, XLR Adapter Solution

If your knees get a little weak when you check out the price ($500-1000) and the size (relatively humungous) of the XLR pre-amp adapters available for your Sony A7 series, RX10, Nikon and Canon DSLRS,  or your Panny GH4, you’ll like this post.

I first learned of this solution from my friend, the NY-fashion photographer Mike Kobal, and I’m going to link you to his post and please, if you buy any of this stuff, buy it through Mike’s links, because he’s the man who invented this (and check out his pictures and videos of beautiful models too…that’s the kind of stuff I’ve never shot in 40 years in the business!).

This hack will work for any camera, Nikon, Canon, Panny, Sony, etc. with a headphone AND a mic jack.

Basically, this is a two part hack: One is the the iRig Pre, a pre-amp XLR adapter that is designed to adapt an XLR mic into your iPhone. It’s about $30 and you can get it through Mike’s links at B&H, Amazon, etc. It’s tiny, runs off a 9V battery, has Phantom power if needed,  and has a headphone jack–where you’ll be plugging in your  phones because your camera’s headphone (and mic) jack will be filled with adapter plugs to transfer the sound.

And the adapter cord is designed to adapt a headphone to a PC. Mike got his on EBay, but complained about their flimsiness. I found that the six inch cords from worked a charm  ( part no: 23-106-001 Headset to PC Adapter – 6IN ).

So, is this solution flimsier than the expensive modules from Panny and Sony and Juiced Link and all the other makers of adapters?  Bien sur, of course, but is it rugged enough for my use? Yes indeed! (and can I afford to carry, ummmmn, let’s see, at least 17 backup sets for the price of one of my Sony adapters…but right now, I only carry one backup set).

I used this sub-$30 iRig Pre and a $4 splitter cord from ShowMeCables along with my Sony Wireless Mic setup on a recent shoot for a friend of mine, fine art photographer Wendy Paton, as she walked through her provocative exhibit at the Michener Museum in Doylestown, PA talking about her work.

John Campbell, an editor with whom I often work,  said it was the cleanest audio he’d ever received from me, which (given that I’m a still guy who just a few years ago, knew bupkus about audio) could be damning me with faint praise. But I’d rather think of it as a nice compliment from a demanding and experienced video guy.

I used some Velcro to connect the iRig to that other element in the picture, the mounting bracket,which is just a $9 flash bracket from EBay (again, please see Mike Kobal’s post and please click through his links) that I’m using until I find the video cage of my dreams for my Sony A7s and Sony RX10….and when I find it, it will be of course, be the subject of another post.

Residential London Conference Photography

Syon Park was the venue for this two day conference, which consisted of keynotes speakers and multiple breakout sessions, as well as an evening event in the stunning Syon House.

I love photographing large corporate events like this one, as I have the freedom to roam around, capturing the different parts of the conference as well as the overall atmosphere.

The conference attendees stayed the night in the Hilton hotel on site, as did I, which was great as it allowed me to start feeling super fresh and relaxed on the second morning.

Here are some of my favourite images from the two day conference in London.

Reframing Dementia

Dementia affects a huge number of people across the UK (and of course the world). My late grandma suffered for the last year or two before she left us, and my family felt like we had already lost her before she died, because she wasn’t really with it, making little sense and not recognising people she had known for most of her 90 years. So I was happy when I was invited along by the great charity, Alzheimers Research UK, to the launch event and private viewing of their exhibition on the Southbank in London, ‘Reframing Dementia’.

There were plenty of interesting parts of the exhibition, but the one that really grabbed the attention of many attendees was the virtual reality exhibit. You could put on the headset and begin to get a taste of what it’s like to suffer from dementia. Such a clever use of virtual reality, it was great to see.

Here are some of my favourite images from the event.

A Red Roundtable

South Place Hotel in the city of London is a chic venue for any corporate event, with a number of different rooms with super cool decor.

The Kuryakin room is a favourite of mine, with a striking red theme. It has a stunning, circular red table in its centre which makes it perfect for roundtable discussions and dinners.

I was there for Legal Business on this occasion for one of their regular roundtable events. Rooms like this one allow me to create images that stand out from most corporate event photography.

Creative Work Spaces…

…don’t come much better than this place. Mindspace has a couple of London locations. I was asked to take some photos for the brand new Aldgate location for PR purposes and I was blown away by how cool this place is. If I was looking for somewhere in the city to work from, this would be high up on my list. I always enjoy photographing London interiors, and this was quite different from the retail photography I often do.

Mindspace has hot-desking facilities as well as fixed offices for small businesses and startups. The decor is ultra cool, with funky artwork all over the place, awesome furnishings and a friendly atmosphere to boot.

Here are some of my favourite shots from the shoot. The first one is a composite photo of several different frames, with my camera on a tripod and each individual being lit in a separate exposure. I love using creative techniques like this to bring a space to life with people.