Like most, if not, all families, especially in the 90s, and being the youngest, I was often the one in charge of documenting family vacations, events, etc., and it was still mostly a film-centric photography back then.
Then came in point and shoot digital cameras, phones, and whatnot, my job as the family photographer has lessened through the years. And with that, photography has been an after thought and more of a chore to me.
Come 2010, in the middle of my first year in medical school, I was craving for a new outlet other than my then current (and still active hobbies to this day) hobby of PC gaming, collecting action figures, and playing/collecting guitars. I needed another escape…
Then I had the urge to try out digital photography, and in October of 2010, I purchased my first DSLR, the Nikon D5000, and a few months later, in December 2010, I then made a Flickr account, where I can place most of my photos and a much better archival manner than it would have been in Facebook and such – and in Facebook, it severely compresses photos unlike Flickr.
Not only will it be a great place for archive/backups or used as an image hosting service, but I knew I can learn from the photos of other members and get to ask questions in discussions within the groups in Flickr. Finally, the most important for me is that if there will be any comment, either compliment or criticism, it will be from strangers that will give honest to God feedback. And in terms of criticism, they will be more constructive that I can definitely learn from.
From December 2010-December 2018, many things have changed, from my style of photography, my skills (I hope), to my upgraded gear, I was still actively posting in Flickr, but I was never the one that is the most INTERACTIVE; I hardly reply to comments (I do, but not always), to private messages, to play along in group discussions, etc. I mostly post and run…
That changed earlier this year, where I thought it is time to start really building friendships in Flickr, interact in groups, and just increase my knowledge by befriending others and have them give me honest feedback, or simply have their photos that they’ve shared as an inspiration for my next photos in the near future.
And maybe that is why I fell in love with Flickr again – learning new things from other people’s photos, their feedback, and making new friends. Granted, there may be image hosting sites, maybe 500px, but I never made an account in other sites and stuck with Flickr through the years.
To put it into perspective, from December 2010-December 2018, I only amassed 450,000 total views for my account, then when I started being more interactive, from January 1, 2019-date of this posting, I have amassed more than 550,000 total views, thus, my total tally is now over 1 million total views for my account.
That number is mind-boggling for me! I am not a professional, and I will never be a professional. I am just a hobbyist and my day job is that I’m a physician. To think that I got a million total views and that I got more than half of that many views in less than a year, made me think, if I were more interactive in the past few years, maybe I could have broken the 2 million, maybe even 3 million total views by now, as more members will be aware of me and my photos for being more interactive.
But again, I have to get real, to think that there is still a million views in my account is really mind-boggling that there are people interested in seeing my photos, take the time to comment, and some others, interested enough to even follow me so they can keep tabs on my future posts.
And speaking of people following me, from December 2010-December 2018, I only have around 250 followers or less, and now, from January 1, 2019-date of posting, I now have nearly 400 followers – not a lot, sure, it isn’t anyways near a thousand, but hey, we are getting there… slowly yet surely.
Haven’t posted anything special in Flickr for my 1 millionth view, but I did just share a screenshot of the stat screen confirming 1 million views. However, here in WordPress, I think I just want to share my very first photo I post in Flickr and my most recent shot at the time of this posting.
Now now, my most recent photo may not be the most impressive after all these years, but I am still proud of this shot since this is my first real attempt at stroboscopic flash photography. Another thing I love about my progress in digital photography is that I try to learn new techniques, never blaming my gear, even back then when I just had the Nikon D5000 and the kit lens, always thinking that it is my skills that I need to improve and learn many techniques. Up to this day, there is so many things I can learn, and this is one of them: stroboscopic effect.
It showcased, though not obvious, how I combined the things that I learned through the years, and how I took advantage of my current gear to take this shot. It goes as follows:
I setup my Nikon D7200 on the Zomei Z699C tripod; I then used the Nikon Wireless Mobile Utility in my Android phone to frame myself and to make sure I was in focus (for the most part, since I am moving during the stroboscopic shot); I set up my Ginto Intervalometer’s delay and interval per shot, so I can be at the ready and anticipate the shot when I click on the shutter release; I then set up the flashes, the SB-910 facing towards me from above, the 2 SB-600 behind me facing the wall, and then the Nikon SU-800 Wireless Speedlight Commander on my D7200 hotshoe, set up on repeater mode and trigger the flashes each at 1/64th power, 4hertz, and a total of 8 flashes (based on my readings, you divide the number of total flashes you want by the speed/frequency of the flashes or hertz you desire, thus why I got 2 seconds shutter speed); knowing that I am shooting at 2 seconds based on the frequency and total number of flashes I want, I may be way overexposed, so I used my cheapo Andoer 77mm ND8 to lower down the exposure.
And thus, even if it isn’t my sharpest of photos (obviously, since this is a stroboscopic effect and I tried to stay still in one place instead of full motion), but it really showcased how I can just think of a shot and use the things I learned throughout the years, and use the gear I have collected throughout the years, and most importantly, I am not full of myself that I will not crave to learn new things.
Now let us look back at my very first DSLR and its kit lens, albeit I did get a flash for it back in the day (not a Nikon one, but Yong Nuo one), a sling strap for it (not the Black Rapid, but a knock off), and other accessories for my Nikon D5000, I want to show my first DSLR in its simplest… when I had nothing but itself – inspired me to work on my craft, have dreams of the gear that I have now, but never to ignorant that my photos that are bad or awful back then is due to the camera I have, instead, it was my lack of knowledge and skill. It taught me to be better.
Then fast forward to today, and my current camera and all the gear I have collected through the years (most of them are hand-me-downs from the Nikon D5000 days), though it may be a big upgrade from where I started (albeit not being mirrorless), and admittedly, the photos I’ve been taking have been what I envisioned in my head and have it come to fruition, I still owe it to my years using the Nikon D5000 and kit lens that made it an absolute pleasure to photograph with my Nikon D7200 and all my lenses, flashes, and all the rest of my gear, today. I don’t think I would have enjoyed shooting this much with my current gear, heck, I may not even have an improvement of my skills, if I always blamed my gear for bad photos. That is why the Nikon D5000 and kit lens is still with me, because I learned a lot and improved my skills.
Hopefully this post will serve as a reminder that we all started somewhere: I started in Flickr without even getting a single view per day, now here I am, averaging at least 2000 views a day – that may not be a lot compared to others, but for me, I never thought I would see such a thing for my account, not look, I have broken a million views, and more than half of that was amassed less than a year!
Look at my first photo, so simple, didn’t even use the popup flash for goodness sake, to my most recent, where I used a new technique that took advantage of my 3 flashes in repeater mode, combined with other techniques I learned through the years,
Then see my starting DSLR to my current DSLR and gear.
We all start somewhere. Thought I often dreamed of those numbers and those gear when I first started out, I knew, what was more important, was to upgrade my skills before I upgrade my gear.
With upgraded skills, comes upgraded photos, comes more views in your chosen site, and more confidence for when you finally upgrade your skills to ensure that you’d take advantage of the features of your new gear. But never ever be content with your skills. Especially if you are just a hobbyist like me and not a professional… Never be content with your skills… always find something to improve… read new techniques… experiment. And never blame your gear.
I get often asked by my friends what do I bring with me when I do street photography, since, after all, street photography is one my favorite genres of photography – I love taking the life of the city/street or the lesser known areas and not just the landmarks its known for; I love taking candid shots of people and how they naturally act; I love the thrill of walking the fine line of being artistic and not crossing anyone’s privacy; the list can go on… Thus the majority of my shots I usually post in social media are street photos.
But what do I bring with me in the streets?
Well, let us check out what is in my camera bag… and well, what is my camera bag, too! So, let’s start with the bag!
1. ZKIN Champ Camera Shoulder Bag
My first couple of shoulder bags were a small Lowerpro one (funny thing is, I don’t know where this bag is now) and a small Nikon branded shoulder bag. Back when I was still using the Nikon D5000 and didn’t have that much gear, these 2 bags worked like a charm. then inevitably, I upgraded my DSLR and got more lenses and other gear, I needed a new shoulder bag that can accommodate my needs for street photography.
I love simplicity in designs overall; retro/vintage shoulder bags fit the description I’m looking for. Not only do they look quite classy per se, but for the uninitiated, they wouldn’t know you are packing in expensive photography gear inside (until you whip out your gear, of course), and makes going around the busy streets of anywhere easy without getting too much attention (again, until you whip out your gear, of course).
Truth be told, I never heard of ZKIN (Heck, I thought it was pronounced as skin, but with a Z instead, when it is pronounced Z-KIN, or at least that is how it is as per their URL), but this seller caught my eye as the bag he was selling was the Champ series and it looked vintage/retro enough, and certainly quite simple in design, thus fitting the bill. Not to mention it was the right color, navy green cloth and dark brown leather. Perfect.
Upon receiving the shoulder bag, I just wanted to test its max capacity. Take note, I will never bring ALL the items I will mention in the next segment in this bag all the time, but it was only a proof of concept that this ZKIN Champ shoulder bag is indeed a good bag for my needs.
So, what are the things in the photo that the bag was able to hold?
Nikon D7200 with Nikon MB-D15 battery grip attached
Nikon SB-600 with diffuser and stand
Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM with lens hood (reversed)
Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM with lens hood (reversed)
Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM with lens hood (reversed) and tripod collar
Black Rapid RS-Sport Version 2
Extra 2x EN-EL15 batteries; 8x AA Eneloop batteries
LYNCA SD Card Case (an over glorified one, as this one has a USB 3.0 card reader, but had water damaged. Thus an over glorified SD Card Case now)
Transcend USB 3.0 Card Reader (with an OTG dongle)
Eneloop charger (with AC adapter)
Nikon MH25a (with AC adapter; I don’t bring this anymore though, as I use the Wasabi Power Dual EN-EL15 charger)
Romoss Solo 5 Powerbank (and Anker Micro USB cable)
M Square passport case (for overseas travel… duh)
Andoer 77mm filter kit (ND2, ND4, ND8, and CPL)
Quite bonkers to think that many items can fit in the ZKIN Champ! But it is heavy as you can imagine. Again, I don’t pack all these in the bag for most trips, this was just a proof of concept. I will make another post in this “What’s in My Camera Bag” series, this time what I would usually bring for Formula 1 weekends that uses a backpack instead of a shoulder bag.
I’ve owned this bag for almost a year, as I purchased this last April 2018, and we had a lot of adventures around the Philippines already, and been to Japan as well, and surely, I will be adding more places around the Philippines and more countries to its CV in the coming years.
I am quite obsessive compulsive when it comes to anything I own, but this is one of the things I own that I don’t mind it getting scuffed up and such, as I consider them as battle scars for our adventures.
Sadly, I can’t find the Champ series of shoulder bags in ZKIN website anymore. They have the Hydra series on the site, though it appears to be smaller in capacity; they also have the Cetus series and Amarok series that are the closest in capacity as the Champ series available on the site as well.
And just look at it! It looks great while out on the streets!
Now let’s go talk about my DSLR!
2. Nikon D7200
My first DSLR was the Nikon D5000 back in 2010 and as I gotten the lenses I wanted and other gear I wanted, it was time to upgrade the camera body as it was also starting to hinder my creativity and growth as a hobbyist photographer, thus I chose to upgrade to the D7200 in 2018.
Wait… isn’t the D7500 available at this time?
Yes by 2018, the D7500 was already out for a few months, so why didn’t I go for that simply by adding a little more cash to get the newer model? Well, a simple, almost shallow reason… okay, it is shallow… I liked the battery grip better on the D7200 since the D7200 has contacts on the bottom of the body, thus not needing an external wire connecting from the battery grip to the accessory terminal. The D7500 doesn’t have contacts on the bottom and has to rely on wiring up the battery grip and connect it at the accessory terminal… sure, I have a lot of things dangling or connected to my D7200 as it is, but I seriously wouldn’t like a shutter release cable connecting the battery grip and body permanently sticking out.
Very shallow reasoning isn’t it?
And truth be told, the Nikon MB-D15 battery grip doesn’t add any new feature to the D7200, heck, it only takes 1 battery, just like the body itself (you can place a battery in the D7200 prior to connecting the battery grip, then by using the menu, tell the D7200 what order of batteries to consume first – in my case, I have 3 EN-EL15 batteries, I can place one in the body and another one in the battery grip, tell the D7200 to use the one from the battery grip first, once consumed, replace it with my third battery, and when that is consumed, have the one in the body be used), so why even bother getting a battery grip for the D7200? Because I like big things… that sounded wrong. Another shallow reason, though. The battery grip makes it look like those high end pro DSLR bodies. That’s it.
Those shallow reasons over a better sensor and a newer model… I’m weird like that.
Though the D7500 has a better sensor, I still love the upgrade in resolution and quality of shots with the D7200, not to mention better features, coming from a D5000 over the years. So, I’m still happy with using the D7200 and opting out of the D7500.
I mentioned that it has a lot of things attached on it as it stands, apart from the Nikon MB-D15 battery grip, I got the Peak Design V4 Anchors on each of the triangle split rings, and I also have the Andoer QR-60 on the bottom of the camera.
Andoer Qr-60 is an Arca Swiss compatible plate that has a loop/hook that can be tucked away for use with a monopod/tripod or be revealed to be used with a sling strap.
The Anchor V4, along with a Joby Tether, are for added security in case the loop/hook breaks off from the pivot point (unlikely, but no price for peace of mind), as seen in the following pics:
Now, wait again! Why not mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras (MILC)?
Definitely don’t have that much extra cash to spend on a Sony, maybe a Fujifilm is possible, but that would mean me getting an adapter to use the system with my current lenses, lest I buy proprietary lenses for those systems.
Then comes the new Z series MILC from Nikon that even selling my kidney won’t be able to purchase one without getting into debt.
Thus, I stuck around the DSLR system for now. Maybe sometime in the future I will switch to the Z system of Nikon, but for the foreseeable future, I will be holding on to my D7200 for as long as I did with my D5000, or even longer.
Certainly the D7200 is not a camera to just laugh at, it has great performance for its time, and still is in most cases compared to other cameras right now. And whatever camera you have is already the best camera, as is the words of Chase Jarvis: “The best camera is the one that’s with you”. And I will make the most of my current gear.
Time to show the lenses I bring for street photography:
3. Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM
The first lens I bought outside that of the kit lens that was included with the D5000.
I got this lens sometime September 2011, and it has been, and most of the time still is, my go to lens for most situations even if I have a Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DS OC HSM (more on that later) and the Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM (more on that on the next post on this series of “What’s in my Camera Bag”).
One of the reasons I wanted a prime lens was for me to think more of my shots instead of simply zooming. I also don’t crop my photos if I can, so putting that limitation on myself, forced myself to make framing shots better.
Also, primes are fast lenses for street photography, and yes, I was already thinking about street photography at that time as a genre I want to get into in photography. Having a fast lens in the city streets is very handy, so you can take that perfect candid shot at that moment or take a shot of a stranger so quickly they won’t even notice you took it.
It may be a f/1.4 lens, but as you can imagine, it can get very soft at wide open, but sometimes you can get a good shot with it at that aperture.
For me, I usually shoot between f/2 and f/2.8, and only when I can have more time on a subject in the street that I try the aperture range of f/1.4 to f/1.8. Otherwise, I stay between f/2 and f/2.8 if I want that bokeh effect, and f/4 or f/5.6 for more of the image being in focus, sometimes even reaching as low as f/8 or f/11 to get nearly everything in the frame in focus.
This lens acts like the nifty fifties if you use it on a crop sensor body. In my case the Nikon D7200 has a crop factor of 1.5x thus a 30mm acts like a 45mm prime (30 x 1.5 = 45; or just get half the focal length and add it to the max focal length: 30 + 15 = 45), close enough for a 50mm prime.
Here are but some sample shots with the D7200 and 30mm f/1.4 combo (the 30mm f/1.4 has more sample shots combined with the D5000; I will probably post those in a different blog post):
4. Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM
After purchasing the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM in 2011, I haven’t bought another lens until 2017, December 2017 to be exact. I gotten busy with medical school and such, that I was content with my 30mm f/1.4 and the kit lens that came along with my D5000.
As part of my upgrading plan, I decided to buy the Sigma 50-150mm APO EX DC OS HSM the month prior in November 2017, which was one of my original dream lenses for the “Trinity of Lenses” that I was trying to collect when I first bought the 30mm f/1.4, then stumbled upon the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM for a bargain price that I can’t say no to. Come on, it may not be the best standard zoom lens with f/2.8 fixed aperture, heck, the distance scale isn’t even in a window like my 30mm or 50-150mm lenses, but for its original store price being a bargain in itself, having it go on sale more, makes it all the more sweeter. And it does take good photos for what its worth.
The 17mm (17 x 1.5 = 25.5; simply 25mm) on a crop sensor body like the D7200 still offers quite a wide angle perfect for street photography, as it is effectively a 25mm at this point, practically 24mm like other standard zoom lenses for full frames, to literally get, the bigger picture, but can still zoom (max zoom at 50mm is effectively 75mm) to get those closer shots without having to be in the faces of people if they are your subject.
Being wide open at f/2.8 is more forgivable, unlike the 30mm at f/1.4, of course, so shooting at its widest is a pleasure. Then, like the 30mm, I stop down to f/4 or f/5.6 to get more of the frame in focus, and again like the 30mm, can go even lower to f/8 or f/11 to get even more of the frame in focus. It being a f/2.8 lens makes it quite a fast lens as well, and like I mentioned in the 30mm section, having fast lenses helps a ton in the streets.
Here are quite a number of sample shots with the D7200 combined with the 17-50mm f/2.8:
5. Nikon SB-600 Speedlight
Truth be told, you don’t need a flash during street photography, be it day time or night, well for me anyways, but I still bring it just in case I do need to illuminate an object or an area of interest in very, very, low light situations. Otherwise, I just bump the ISO quite a lot; on the D7200 I bump it up to 6400 if needed, it may get noisy, but not so much that a photo is unusable. Plus, if you try to take photos of the people candidly, a flash will surely make them notice you.
Again, I still bring one flash for other situations that may indeed call for it.
Now let’s go talk about the other accessories, starting with my sling strap:
6. Black Rapid RS-Sport Version 2
I was never fond of neck straps ever since I started with digital photography as a hobby. Back when I first began my hobby I got cheaper sling straps that are obvious knock offs of the Black Rapid variety.
Fast forward to when I got my license as a physician and got work as to not pester my parents for money for my hobbies anymore, I got myself the Black Rapid RS-Sport Version 2, finally, after years of drooling over the Black Rapid sling straps.
Sling straps divert the weight that would be on your neck to your shoulder, effectively making it seem you are carrying a messenger/shoulder bag. This comes in handy if your camera gear as a whole is heavy – lesser strain on your neck.
Another good thing is that since it is just dangling on beside your hip, you can be a lot more mobile without having it to be quite bothersome as the day goes on if you just use a neck strap.
Lastly, you look less like a tourist. Not that I don’t like looking like a tourist when I travel especially to different countries; playing the tourist card can get you forgiven for the stupid things you might have done during the trip because you don’t know any better. But with this, you stand out less, so to speak.
Been using a sling strap for nearly 8 years now and I don’t plan on ever switching to a neck strap or any other type of gimmicky strap other than this sling strap.
This strap has the Joby Tether and a Peak Design strap connector for added security when used with the Andor QR-60.
7. Spare EN-EL15 batteries and AA Eneloop batteries
You can never tell when a simple street photo session can be short one lasting an hour or a long whole day adventure, so having spare batteries for the DSLR is obviously needed.
I have 3 EN-EL15 batteries in total, one from Nikon that came with the camera, and 2 others bought 3rd party, the Wasabi Power EN-EL15, that also came with a dual charger that actually takes in Micro USB instead of the standard AC, which is great if I travel out of town or out of the country, because by then, I would have also packed an Anker 5-port USB charger, thus one less thing to take up a socket.
In terms of performance vs the original Nikon OEM, the Wasabi Power EN-EL15 batteries are really great; holding a charge just as good, if not, slightly better, than my Nikon branded one. I highly recommend this brand if you need spare batteries as they sell for Sony and Canon as well (haven’t checked if they started selling for Fujifilm).
The longest shoot I had was in Japan, for 3 consecutive days, I shot the whole day, for both street photography and during the Formula 1 race, and I never consumed more than 2 batteries on each of the 3 days. Having the 3rd one is still great just in case I do consume 2 batteries one of these days, but thus far, never consuming 2 batteries on a long day shoot.
The AA Eneloops are just for the flash if I really need it.
8. Spare SanDisk SDHC Cards, LYNCA Card Case, and Transcend USB 3.0 Card Reader
Like the batteries, it is best practice to have spare SD/SDHC or whatever memory cards your camera is using.
In terms as to what speed/performance for your memory cards, that is based on what you are shooting really. For me, I don’t mind just using the SanDisk Ultra SDHC 32GB what has a write speed of at least 10MB/s; good enough for any day to day shooting.
For instances, like in Formula 1 races where I shoot Continuous High, I use the SanDisk Extreme PRO, which have a write speed up to 90MB/s; great to avoid buffering during this shots. Also great for long exposures, since it can take a while for it to write on the card.
A card case is simply for convenience. My LYNCA card case is an over glorified card case as it was once my USB 3.0 card reader as well. But water got into the contacts rendering it useless… I have since replaced the car reading duties with the Transcend USB 3.0 card reader and have a generic OTG dongle, so I can connect the reader to my phone and post straight-out-of-camera (SOOC) shots, if I feel like it.
9. Andoer 77mm Filter Kit
I chose to bring a ND2, ND4, ND8, and CPL 77mm filters in case the need calls for it. The Sigma 30mm is a 62mm threaded lens, so I also got a step ring just for it – I need not get the same filters for 62mm threads.
Wow, this is the shortest section of the blog post yet! Because, what else will I say? Oh wait, why Andoer? It is cheaper, that’s why, and I hardly use ND or CPL filters anyways, it is just there for those rare moments I do need them.
The next for is shot with D7200, 17-50mm f/2.8, and a ND8 filter; not a street photo, but yeah, whatever:
10. Dust blower and micro fiber clothes
Because after a shoot, or even during a shoot, dirt, moisture, etc., can be built up on the front of your lens, causing awful artifacts in some of your shots.
Plus… I have Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder.
This is officially the shortest segment.
And those are the things I bring with me typically to a simple street photography session. Most cases I also travel out of town or country, so I have a backpack/luggage to keep the other things like chargers, AC cables, tripod/monopod/gorilla pod (if I deem that I need it), intervalometer (again, if needed), and rain cover for my gear (I usually read forecasts and pack accordingly. A great example was in Japan, where on the 3rd day I’m there, there will be a short afternoon shower during the Formula 1 race; I packed accordingly, and got to use the rain cover when the heavens opened up).
Other things like my phone, a powerbank and a micro USB cable, earphones, shades (just a pair, of course), can still fit inside the ZKIN Champ bag with my street photography gear if I choose to place them in there.
Knoll shot up ahead:
And the following photos are how I usually pack my ZKIN Champ bag with the street photography gear:
Thus with that, this post is done! Tune in next time if ever I do make a sequel to this series, this time what I bring during a Formula 1 event!