One Million Total Views in Flickr!

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.

Not necessarily my very first photo ever taken, but the first one I ever posted in Flickr. This is my upperclasswoman during one of our medical missions.
My most recent and first attempt at stroboscopic photography

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.

PHOTO_20190820_184555
The OG! Nikon D5000 with the 18-55mm kit lens. Forgive the photo quality, I just used my Oppo A3s phone that is awful in every way.
PHOTO_20190820_185844
To current gear, well for the most part. Of course, if I took a pic of every single peripheral, it will just be more messy. Again, sorry for the quality of the photo… You can hardly see the lenses on the right and the flashes on the left. Ah well.

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.

‘Til next time! PEACE!!

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What’s in My Camera Bag: Street Photography Edition

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?

  1. Nikon D7200 with Nikon MB-D15 battery grip attached
  2. Nikon SB-600 with diffuser and stand
  3. Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM with lens hood (reversed)
  4. Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM with lens hood (reversed)
  5. Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM with lens hood (reversed) and tripod collar
  6. Black Rapid RS-Sport Version 2
  7. Extra 2x EN-EL15  batteries; 8x AA Eneloop batteries
  8. 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)
  9. Transcend USB 3.0 Card Reader (with an OTG dongle)
  10. Eneloop charger (with AC adapter)
  11. Nikon MH25a (with AC adapter; I don’t bring this anymore though, as I use the Wasabi Power Dual EN-EL15 charger)
  12. Romoss Solo 5 Powerbank (and Anker Micro USB cable)
  13. M Square passport case (for overseas travel… duh)
  14. 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.

One of the scuffs or battle scars of my bag

 

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.

ZKIN Hydra
ZKIN Cetus
ZKIN Amarok

 

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.

Image result for d7200 battery grip

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:

 

You can read more of these two products HERE.

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):

 

Next lens!

 


 

 

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).

 

During qualifying for the 2018 Japanese Grand Prix; packed a rain cover for my camera since I read the forecast and packed accordingly. Again not a street photo shot, but whatever!

 

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:

With the front of the bag facing me, I usually place the Nikon SB-600 on the left compartment and the dust blower can be tucked on top; in the middle, the Nikon D7200 lies and still have space on top of it in case I want to place anything else; and finally, the Sigma 30mm and 17-50mm stacked on top of one another on the right compartment
The space between the case insert and the bag itself I can tuck away the Andoer filter kit and the Black Rapid RS-Sport Version 2 strap
Left front pocket is reserved for the SD/SDHC card case, card reader, and the OTG dongle; still room for anything else
The right front pocket is the “power pocket” where the extra EN-EL15 batteries are placed
Continuing the theme of “power pocket”, the Eneloop batteries can be placed in here, too; there is still space to place a powerbank if I choose to do so.
Back pocket is a catchall, if you will, I place the flash stand, microfiber cloth, and anything else really
And still looking good with all that!

 

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!

Til next time! PEACE!



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Another Dream Come True: My Trip to Japan! Days 0-1!

WARNING:

VERY WORD HEAVY AND PHOTO HEAVY POST!

THIS WAS ORIGINALLY A SINGLE POST OF ALL THE DAYS OF MY TRIP, BUT I DECIDED TO DIVIDE IT TO THREE POSTS:

FIRST POST, THIS POST, WILL BE FOR THE INTRODUCTION AND DAYS 0-1 OF MY TRIP;

THE SECOND WILL BE DURING THE DAY 2 (FORMULA 1 QUALIFYING SESSION);

THE THIRD POST WILL BE FOR DAY 3 (FORMULA 1 RACEDAY), AND DAY 4, WHERE I AM GOING BACK HOME TO THE PHILIPPINES.

FINALLY, IF YOU STILL FIND EACH DAY A LONG READ, THEN TREAT EACH DAY AS A CHAPTER AND READ IN SPURTS.


Introduction

Talk about being late to a party… I traveled to Japan, specifically in Nagoya and Suzuka, for a short vacation and, of course, watch the FIA Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix – a race that I have always wanted to attend since I was a kid, in a country I have always wanted to visit since I was a kid, last October 4-8, 2018, and I only, finally, have time to write about. Here’s hoping I still remember what I have done in those days…

First off, a lot of my friends, both close and otherwise, would know me as a guy, in spite of my age, is still into anime/manga, gaming, collecting, and a passionately weird guy… With that said, it is obvious that someone like me love the country of Japan and anything Japanese. Thus, having to go to Japan is already a dream come true.

Second off, I am a Formula 1 (hereafter, F1) fan for 22 years now, and the Suzuka Circuit that hosts the Japanese Grand Prix ranks as one of the highest on my bucket list of F1 racetracks to attend. And again, having to visit the track and attend the race weekend, is another dream come true.

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That moment I got my Formula 1 tickets!
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Comparison with last year’s Formula 1 package; if you are up to date with F1, you’d know they changed their logo from this year onward.
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No hard plastic/ID card ticket on the package; one must pick it up at the venue, unlike last year in Singapore.

Adding those 2 dreams together, this is like the perfect trip for me! And it was!

Seeing that it has been way over two months since I traveled to Japan alone (yes, another solo adventure, which is better anyway lol), let us go down memory lane together… starting with…


DAY 0

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Solo trip!

The plane ride to Japan was pretty standard, plus no annoyance or drama since I am traveling ALONE, so I can just concentrate on my own things, upon arriving however, it was immediately fun and adventurous as I had to take a train from Chubu Centrair International Airport to the heart of Nagoya in order to check into my hotel.

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Meitetsu μTicket

It was already a trip to ride this just to get to my hotel since Japan is really known for the transport system, and having to ride the metro/subway for the duration of my trip in Japan first hand, I can say they are well maintained. Sure there was one time I did get into the subway at the afternoon rush hour, but it was still minor hassle.

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My hotel, VIA INN, specifically VIA INN Nagoya Ekimae Tsubakicho, since there are actually 2 VIA INNs in close proximity, happens to be relatively close to the station, thus why I chose it, and I am glad I did, as it was seriously in the heart of the city so I can pretty much go anywhere interesting nearby, and since the station was also close by, I can pretty much go anywhere a bit farther.

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Since it was already past 9PM upon check in, and was quite tired from the flight, I decided just to limit my exploration in this DAY 0 and just head out to a Curry House CoCo for dinner.

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Immediately, my love for Japan has increased, because unlike other countries where they use celebrities or athletes in their ads, in Japan they use they beloved gaming characters or anime characters to advertise absolutely anything and everything.

Of course, there are JPOP Idols like AKB48 and such that also advertise things, and I also don’t mind that! I happen to like JPOP, the only pop songs I care to listen to… So in short, I feel right at home in Japan.

I happen to know a few Japanese phrases, and these came in handy the following days; it is nice to note, that unlike in Tokyo (though I have never been there yet), other cities in Japan, most people may not know a lot of English, so knowing simple phrases can help. Not saying they CAN’T speak English, they do, but there can still be a barrier when you need directions or buying things.

When I run out of Japanese phrases and English is not the way to go in communicating, I did resort to the offline mode of Google Translate, type in what I want to say, show it anyone, and they either reply to me in English directly or type their reply.

So if anyone goes to Japan outside the majors cities like Tokyo, Nagoya, etc., you may encounter more language barriers, thus knowing a phrases and/or using the offline mode of Google Translate will help you and keep you confident going around. PLUS! This is Japan! MOST EVERYONE IS HELPFUL! One of the safest countries to travel alone, which I did…

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Anyways, I used a mixture of my known phrases along with Google Translate to order my curry rice from Curry House CoCo, and if you are familiar with the curry rice from Japan, it isn’t the usual Indian style curry you’d expect, but both are very delicious.

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Having satisfied my hunger, I had to be taken aback for a moment to realize what I just achieved; now this isn’t the first time I traveled alone, that would have been last year when I went to Singapore, also for a F1 race, but still, having to travel to Japan for the first time, alone for that matter; having to rely on my prior research from getting from Point A to Point B around Japan; being so at home immediately in Japan; knowing I will also watch my all time favorite sport, F1, in my all time favorite country to ever visit, Japan… I really can’t think of a more perfect vacation, a more perfect race weekend.


DAY 1

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Ready to explore!

I considered the day before, the arrival day, as Day 0, because pretty much nothing really happened apart from me nearly crying at the fact I am in Japan… the country I absolutely adore… So the very next day is Day 1, officially vacation mode!

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My plan for the trip! I am OC like this… In fact, most of my trips anywhere, I make plans, but not as detailed as this LOL
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Vital files that were also transferred to my tablet and phone; every time I have a trip outside the country, I do this, but the detailed general plan is a first.

As mentioned in Day 0, I did make some research prior to going to Japan; since this is in fact my first time in Japan, and me traveling alone, I needed to research on how to use the metro/subway, how to get to here or there, what to see and do, etc., and I will just give a bit of a spoiler, my research and subsequent plan that I made for the trip worked perfectly! This goes to show that being obsessive compulsive about any minute detail can aid you in traveling to other countries you never visited before. Now I may just ask the locals, but like I mentioned above, sometimes, though they may understand and speak English, there are still a number of people in Japan that may have a barrier, but with that said, they will still be more than willing to help, despite the barrier.

When I went to Singapore, I wasn’t all too worried from getting from Point A to Point B, because it is relatively easier to navigate since it is smaller than Japan, but it is not like I walked from end to end in Singapore, what I mean is that, it is easier to get to the airport, the hotel, the track, other tourist spots, etc, than in Japan, specifically when I have to go to my hotel from the airport, or from my hotel to the track in Suzuka… Also, I have friends that live in Singapore, so if the going gets rough, I will just give them a call. My trip to Japan, I really only had myself to rely on. Just the way I like it. It forces me to be… dare I say it… an adult.

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Preordered a Sigma APO 1.4x Teleconverter EX DG, since the Sigma 2x APO Teleconverter EX DG was sold out, but was surprised when I got to the shop and they had the 2x Teleconverter after all!

Also prior to the trip to Japan, I was researching for any camera shop nearby (there were lots of anime/manga, toy/hobby, tech/gaming shops nearby, so I need not research to much on them lol), since I was considering purchasing a Sigma APO 2x Teleconverter EX DG to couple it with my Sigma 50-150mm APO EX DC OS HSM and my Nikon D7200.

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Went to the wrong Bic Camera at first; there are two Bic Cameras close to my hotel.
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The correct Bic Camera!

Lo and behold! I found a shopping complex near my hotel that has a floor specifically for cameras! Bic Camera allowed me to preorder the item online and pick it up at their Nagoya shop (but there are two, and I knew about that, but I still accidentally went to their other shop which was also nearby lol) and have it tax free, and so, a few days before heading out to Japan, I preordered my Sigma APO 2x Teleconverter EX DG. Or at least that was the plan; they said that the 2x Teleconverter is sold out in the any of Nagoya Bic Camera outlets and the one near my hotel only has the 1.4x Teleconverter, thus I said, alright, let’s just get that and confirmed my preorder.

Thus the first order of business is to pick up my item and not get to excited along the way and buy every anime/gaming/tech thing I see. And to my surprise, when I showed the paper for my preorder, they came out with a 2x Teleconverter! So I was very happily surprised!

Broketober 2018

It was a bit surreal purchasing a DSLR accessory in another country for me; I mean, sure it is almost like buying any sort of souvenir, but I always had a rule never to buy any electronic/tech gear outside my home country of the Philippines because of the simple fact that if it does fail or have problems later on, I can’t use the shop’s warranty, and let’s face it, the manufacturer’s warranty here in the Philippines can cause so much more hassle than it is worth – trust me, I have dealt with numerous RMA’s and it never ended well… actually, most of the time, it doesn’t even start well.

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Having purchased it without hassle since it was reserved for me prior to my flight, and the staff are very friendly, then add in the numerous, almost overwhelming amount of camera gear from Nikon, Canon, Sony, etc., it was like I am a kid at a candy store.

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Blurry. I know.

Also of note, just a few floors below are the action figures/hobby floor, and another is the gaming floor, and yet another floor is the PC floor. I can live here!

Another simple reason why I love Japan is that they don’t shy away from their interests and hobbies, be it gaming, anime, tech, anything! No matter how old they get, no matter if real life gets in the way, they still go back to their hobbies and are not afraid or shy to show it.

I for one, being a Filipino-American, I guess I am a little more comfortable than most people here in the Philippines to show his weird side… his sometimes, well most of the time, unbearable weird side, to others. But I don’t mind and I am not embarrassed to show my passion for my manga/anime, gaming, tech, Formula, photography, music, and action figure collecting hobbies. And to show it PASSIONATELY.

That is not to say there are no passionate people here in the Philippines with their hobbies. THERE ARE! And quite a lot! Which makes collecting easier nowadays since there are many hobby shops popping up now. Also, with the advent of the internet, ordering overseas for those rarer items are so much easier, too! But in terms of my close personal friends, I don’t have that many that are as crazy or passionate as me. I do have some, but they few and far in between.

Wait, I digress… this is supposed to be about my Day 1 shenanigans at Nagoya!

Keep Walkin'...

In The Art of the City

I had to dash back to the hotel to drop of my Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM lens and newly bought Sigma APO 2x Teleconverter EX DG, then pack in my Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM and Sigma 30mm F/1.4 EX DC HSM lenses to explore more of Nagoya. And yes, I love my Sigma and Nikon combinations!

Next stop is at Nagoya Castle!

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I had to take the subway, and on the way, make one transfer until I reach the station just next to the castle. This is where my research and careful planning comes into play. And I felt triumphant, because my plan worked perfectly and not once did I feel that I got lost.

I made sure to go later than 8-9AM because of the rush hour, and being it my first time riding their subway, I need to make sure I get a seat to get used to it first.

Also, if in the rare event you do get lost or not sure where to go next, of course there are staff always ready to help you out. But it feels so much better doing things on your own, on your own (meaning, traveling alone and not relying so much on anyone but you yourself… like I did).

Another World

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With my friendly tour guides, Yasuyuki-san Mayumi-san!

I decided, upon reaching the castle, I will take up the free English Tour Guide, so at least I won’t blindly go around the castle complex without knowing anything. That way I can learn about the history and just have a fun time with the tour guides.

And talk about lucky!

I was told by Yasuyuki-san Mayumi-san, my wonderfully entertaining, knowledgeable, and friendly tour guides, that starting next year, they will start renovating the main keep and it won’t be as visible to the public. So, I visited on the right time. And as we continue with this post, you will see just how lucky I am this day visiting the castle premises.

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The golden kettle that was made from the original “shachi”

Looking at the scenery just around the castle, we also stopped by one of their tea houses and I was again lucky to see the golden kettle that is used for the tea ceremony; that golden kettle was made from the remains of the original golden “shachi” – A shachihoko or shachi is from Japanese folklore, where an animal has a head of a tiger and the body of a carp – and it usually hidden behind a glass casing, but during Fridays, the day I visited, they bring it out for the people to see, and they actually use it for customers that have tea.

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Moving on, I was learning a lot the history of the castle and that of my tour guides as persons as well. Of course, I will not give you a lesson on what I just learned from them in the history of the castle, you can always Google that, or preferably, if you ever visit Nagoya, grab a free tour guide (free English tour guides start at 1PM local time), so you can befriend and learn the history!

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Getting ever closer to the main castle keep, I was pointed towards the Hommaru Palace that was originally built in 1615 by the first Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, for his son, was actually under restoration for, if I remember correctly, for the past 10 years, and was just recently finished and opened for public viewing starting June 8 of this year. So I got lucky yet again!

I will not be posting any pictures from inside the palace, for it will add to the total picture count in the post, not to mention, more words, and it will ruin the magic… It is best to see it in person!

Nagoya Castle Main Keep

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Arigatou! Yasuyuki-san Mayumi-san!

After the palace, and after seeing the main keep a lot closer, a few more chit chat with my tour guides, it was time to part ways. It was a free tour guide, since they were volunteers, but I wanted to at least give them something for snacks or drinks, but as expected, especially from the Japanese, they wholeheartedly declined my offer. I promised the next time I ever visit again, I will surely do my best to see them, granted they will still be volunteering. Nice people like them is hard to come by nowadays.

Parting ways didn’t mean I left the castle grounds immediately, I still enjoyed myself with snacks and drinks and to get a breather, since carrying 2 lenses, my DSLR, though not so heavy, does take a toll on me, especially with a bad right knee.

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I am welcomed a ninja clan!

I was entertained by a ninja performance, so it bought more time to rest, and of course, photo opportunity with one of the ninja!

@Nagoya

Aki

I then took a few more minutes to rest up, drink up some more, then head onto the city vis subway once more, this time to just explore anything and end up in Maidreamin Cafe! Yes, a maid cafe… because OF COURSE!!

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The Lines That We Cross

Road Rules

I was also supposed to go to Osu Shopping District to find nice souvenirs for my friends, and maybe some stuff for myself as well, but after going around the city, I knew I will just end the day in Maidreamin then head back to my hotel to recuperate and prepare for the F1 qualifying session the next day.

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I then reached Maidreamin Cafe, and well, it is what you would expect if you know anything about these cafe either from reading manga, watching anime, or generally being a weeb (which a lot of people call me, but I think I’m more of an otaku than a weeb). The maids are very friendly, though there was a bit of language barrier at first, in the end, I got what I ordered, and had a nice chat with a couple of the staff at hand.

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Believe it or not, visiting a maid cafe is one of my goals in this trip, and also have a Instax photo with one of the maid which is part of the bundle I ordered. I will say this now, out of all the photos I have taken in Japan, it was this photo of me, that wasn’t even taken with my phone or DSLR, as my stand out photo of the trip!

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Also in the bundle I ordered was the cat ears (you get to choose what animal ears you like, but since I love cats, it was a no-brainer to get the cat ears), and a maid uniform keychain. Overall, a great experience, and I am glad to tick this off my bucket list. Like I said to my friends, you know you made it in life if you tick off visiting a maid cafe off your bucket list.

After the maid cafe, thankfully there was a subway station just next to the cafe, so I made my way back to my hotel; truth be told, this station wasn’t part of the plan I made previously, but I was already familiar with using the subway and where to go, so even if this wasn’t part of the initial plan, I still made it to my hotel in the end with no hiccups… also of note, I did catch the subway during the afternoon rush hour, but usually the afternoon rush hour is not as bad at the morning rush hours.

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Reaching the hotel, rested up a bit, then had a quick dinner, and decided to sleep early to take a train to Suzuka and eventually the race track.

It is gonna be special!


Stay tuned for Day 2 post!

-o-

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ANDBON AD-30S 30L Electronic Automatic Digital Control Dry Cabinet Storage Review

DISCLAIMER: I am not a professional reviewer; I review the things I buy as a consumer. I am not at all sponsored. I am an average consumer, giving my consumer thoughts.


INTRO:

I have been a photography hobbyist and enthusiast since 2010, and since then, my gear has become more and more expensive (well, expensive is subjective, and for me, my current gear is expensive enough – you can scoff if you think my gear is cheap), and as expensive gears go, you want to keep them in tip top shape and condition as to avoid having to spend money on repairs, or God forbid, replace the entire unit in question. That hard earned cash saved upon taking care of your gear can be used to further add to that said gear and improve further your craft in photography.

That being said, I never owned a dry box or dry cabinet, because I would always end up using that money somewhere else, and being a person with obsessive compulsive personality disorder, I am quite the perfectionist, so I was still able to keep my photography gear in great condition all through the years.

However, I finally decided to get one of those digitally controlled dry cabinets since I have upgraded my DSLR and added a couple new lenses recently that I felt it was high time to finally invest on a dry cabinet to ensure that my gear will be in great condition for as long as possible. And there in lies one of the key words… INVEST.

It is a great investment to spend a couple bucks on a dry box or dry cabinet, because you owe to yourself and your gear. It is not an expenditure, it is an investment… a form of security and insurance.

And so, we will be reviewing the ANDBON AD-30S 30L Electronic Automatic Digital Control Dry Cabinet Storage.


SPECS:

•Model NO: AD-30S
•External Size: W290 x D320 x H420 mm (11.5″x12.6″x16.5″)
•Internal Size: W288 x D290 x H355 mm (11.3″x11.5″x14.0″)
•Pack Size: W350 x D380 x H470 mm (13.8″x14.9″x18.5″)

•Digital LCD display
•Andbon Dry Box Series (25%~60% RH) provides the best moisture damage prevention for aging, molding, spoiling, rusting, corrosion, denaturing, etc
•Auto Memory Last RH Setting
•Slide/Pullable Trays,Anti-Rust Cabinet (special coated paint), Silent Operation
•Low Power Consumption,Worldwide Voltage: 100-240V,Lockable — Door (comes with two keys), Magnetic Sealed Door for best RH control
•Power Input: AC 100V ~ 240V / 5W

Inside the box includes the power adapter and an instruction manual that is kept underneath one of the foams in the bottom compartment of the unit. I must admit, I was scratching my head as to were the manual was, but I always inspect the entire unit of whatever I purchased just to see any hidden damages, and thankfully, upon removing the foam, I found the instructions.

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The manual is hiding underneath the foam

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It also comes with 2 keys for the locking mechanism.


REVIEW:

As always, we start with the packaging, and the unit was packaged well enough, being flanked by hard Styrofoam; I like harder Styrofoam material than the softer ones, as the former will help ensure a safer delivery.

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The glass on the door wasn’t protected by its own plastic cover (the ones you usually peel off in new phones or the like), but was happy to see that the glass wasn’t scratched up as much or at all. But it would be nice to have its own dedicated plastic cover to peel off… There was no mention as to what material this glass was made of. But it is ever so slightly smoked, but under well lit environment or when you switch on the LED inside, it can showcase your gear wonderfully. I wished the LED strip were situated on both sides for even lighting, but either way, it does the job.

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The unit itself is VERY light, as it doesn’t really need a lot of electronics; this may look like a mini fridge, but all it in needs is a electronic display, a strip of LED, the actual dehumidifier with anti bacterial wafer chip, and a simple power supply to power them all. This is essentially just a display case with the added features of dehumidify inside the little controlled environment.

Overall, the build is great and very sleek, and compared to the plastic dry boxes, this adds a bit of flare to your gear. I love the looks!

The foams are firm, but the top foam with the contours for lenses should have spaced the contours/concavities a little bit more; as you can see, there are too close to each other that my lenses are not sitting flush with the concavities. This should not be a problem for mirrorless camera lenses and such, but I wished they thought about spacing them out just a little but more to accommodate lenses like mine –  and my lenses are pretty much the Trinity of lenses that most professional photographers or hobbyists like myself would own. There is still enough space to space the contours out a bit more. But I can always ask someone locally to make me a custom foam with my specifications in the future.

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The foam contour/concavities don’t really accommadate my lenses

The actual sliding tray is made of a very tough plastic material that I suspect is ABS plastic; the mounting mechanism is also made of plastic, most likely also ABS plastic, and surprisingly, it can carry the weight of my 4 lenses even when extended fully (it locks into place when extended fully, but a little lift and pull, you can pull of the entire assembly). The mount can also be adjusted to certain heights for your needs. I am still wary when I extend the tray out with my lenses on, so for peace of mine, I still secure the tray underneath with my palm while I select what lens to use.

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There is a tape holding the tray in place for shipping purposes; there are 1 on each side, so remove them

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The tray can accommodate my 150-50mm, my 17-50mm, and my 30mm; seeing that there is still space, I placed my old kit lens in there and I can still add either a 10-20mm or a fisheye in the future.

The bottom compartment I use to house my 2 DSLR’s, the Nikon D5000 and the Nikon D7200 with the MB-D15 battery grip installed. I also included my 2 Nikon SB-600 speedlights, a Meike FC-110 LED ring flash, my DSLR’ batteries and chargers, my LYNCA memory card reader and case (review here!), and seeing I still had enough space, I just threw in the lens hoods just for fun (they won’t stay in there forever). And I know I can still add another DSLR or another flash here in the future no problem.

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Of course, the top tray and bottom compartment isn’t strictly for lenses and bodies/flashes respectively, you can interchange them or even not use the entire unit for you photography gear as it can be used for books, bags, jewelry, etc. Of course, with different items, comes different relative humidity percentages (%RH). For my needs I am told 40-50%RH will be ideal for cameras and lenses, and since this unit has a +2-3%RH, I placed set mine in 42%RH (that means if it reaches 42%RH, it will then go up to 44%RH or 45%RH and then dehumidify again to 42%RH). The %RH will obviously shoot up when you open the unit to grab a piece of item, so you shouldn’t be surprised by it.

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%RH reference guide as per the manual

It is also of note, if you are not in a humid environment, the dehumidifier will not work if your ambient humidity is lower than the humidity set on your unit.

Let’s look at the display and buttons and how to set this up for the first time:

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This part of the instructions are wrong, read on below…

As you can see from the screenshots from the manual, it said that you have to tap the up button TWICE to choose what %RH you want to set, this for me was wrong; I had to press the SET button TWICE, then use up and down buttons to choose my %RH and press SET again to confirm the change.

After setting the %RH, it is suggested in the manual and several forums to leave it empty for at least 8 hours; from my photo, I showed the time I started and the time I would start adding my gear, but I decided to make it 10 hours.

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And thus, here is a shot of my dedicated photography gear corner of my room; this corner has all the most commonly used gear and accessories, and the other less commonly used items are stored elsewhere.

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CONCLUSION:

I paid PHP4,200 (~$80) plus shipping, and somehow it didn’t feel as if I spent a cent on this, because as I said above, this is not an expenditure, it is an investment.

It looks sleek and professional, unlike the conventional dry boxes, and you need not have to “settle” in unlike in the dry boxes where it can take a day or two to dial and settle in the silica gels to the right %RH – this is done digitally and immediately with this one.

The near clear glass shows off your gear wonderfully in proper lighting or when the LED is lit inside, but again, I wish the LED strips were on either end for more even lighting.

The tray and tray mount would give me more peace of mind if they just made it metal; I wouldn’t mind paying a little more for that. Being a very tough plastic, it does hold my lenses well enough but not enough for me to feel confident when I slide the tray out; I still have one palm underneath the tray.

The foam, particularly for the lenses, I wished the contours/concavities were spaced out just a tad more for larger lenses to fit better; I don’t imagine this being a problem for lenses with 62mm threads or mirrorless camera lenses though.

But with all that said and done, would I recommend this? A BIG YES… I mean I already said it twice: this is not an expenditure, it is an investment.

This keeps most of the dust away from my gear, heck even insects; it inside a controlled environment to inhibit fungal growth, yet humid enough to to keep the lubrication of my lenses from evaporating; and it serves as a nice display case for my gear – I do just sit down and stare at it at times.

Of course, this is another one of those Chinese OEM products that have different brands slapping their name on it… So, find one similar to mine, and you will most likely get the same performance.

Well, that’s all! Time for me to stare at my gear inside the ANDBON AD-30S 30L Electronic Automatic Digital Control Dry Cabinet Storage again.


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Then and Now: A story of my photography hobby

I always joked that I got into photography because of a girl, after all, all the best stories always start with an inspirational girl that drives the boy to be the best he can be for her. But alas, I can’t really tell what got me into photography in the first place.

All I know is that my dad was into photography when he was younger, and he has since then given me his SLR, the Canon AE-1 along with lenses, even before I thought of playing around in photography.

Then it was 2010, in the middle of my first year of medical school studies, I wanted yet another hobby on top of my PC gaming, action figure collecting, and guitar collecting, and that was photography.

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A few months after owning the Nikon D5000, I had the mandotory “take a photo with your camera in a mirror” shot

Again, I can’t tell what really drove me to buy my first DSLR, the Nikon D5000, but I did anyways, and I got gnarled into the world of photography because I get to see the world in the way no other people usually do. It can be poetic; it can show the beauty of the world, hiding away the dread; or it can show what the world really is and raise attention.

It took to me just like when I first started playing the guitar; I learned all the basics, learned different techniques, made some of my own, read more advanced techniques, and all in all, just being vigilant and shooting as much as I can to hone my skills.

After learning as much as I can with my Nikon D5000 and its kit lens, the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6, it was time to add to my growing repertoire, and that is simply adding a flash or a speedlight as most would say.

Now you might say, wait, isn’t there a pop up flash? While you are right that there is in fact a pop up flash in the Nikon D5000, and any other camera for that matter, but I needed to control my lighting more and that was what a speedlight will help me do. My first hot shoe flash was the Yong Nuo YN465, and not long after, I added a Yong Nuo RF602 flash trigger, so I can trigger the flash off shoe and do a lot of moody lighting effects in my shots. Of course, I can’t afford my own Nikon speedlights since I was just a student back then and I didn’t want to bother my parents each time I want something, thus I settled with the Yong Nuo products. They were great enough for practicing indeed.

Having learned enough of lighting control and such, I knew it was time to get a new flash. I have always loved the bokeh effect of photos so I knew I wanted a prime lens as my first lens upgrade. I was juggling with the thought of getting a Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 or a Sigma 30mm f/1.4; I knew early on of the so called “Trinity” of lenses which is usually a wide angle f/2.8 lens, a standard f/2.8 lens, and a telephoto f/2.8 lens. A common example for Nikkor lenses are the 14-24mm f/2.8, a 24-70mm, f/2.8, and the 70-200mm f/2.8 – as you can see, these 3 lenses cover a wide range of focal points, perfect for nearly every situation… thus, the Holy Trinity or the Hebrew Trinity of lenses. Unfortunately, the prices of these lenses are way of my reach even if I’m already a physician (I mean, as a general physician; who know, hopefully, once I am a specialized physician, I afford these… but as you can see later in this post, I am more than satisfied with Sigma lenses anyways), thus I then decided to go for the Sigma prime lens as I know I can complete my own version of the Holy Trinity by having a Sigma prime lens, a Sigma standard zoom lens, and Sigma telephoto lens. But once again, being a student back then, I can’t easily just buy lenses when I want them, and so,I placed it in the back burner and waited til I was finally a licensed physician so I can start earning.

Kupo!
First shot with Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM; my cat then, Kupo! Sadly she passed away a few years ago.

I loved and I still love my Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM lens as it was my primary lens from my purchase in 2011. I still use the kitlens every now and then, but of course, a prime lens and that from Sigma, will have better quality and the bokeh effect I always love is obviously easier to achieve with a f/1.4 lens vs a f/3.5-5.6 lens. I learned so much techniques and I found the genre I love the most, that is street photography for the most part. I love portraiture and off shoe flash photography, but something about street photography that I love the most, and having a fast prime lens like the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM helps me take quick, sharp images of people in the street, and if I have their permission, I can make moody bokeh photos. I still love this lens and still is my go-to-lens for most of my shooting up to this day. Of course, with the D5000, you can only do so much with this lens, and it started to back focus a lot. But I have since fixed the back focusing problem by, well, upgrading my DSLR, which we will talk about more later.

Fast forward to late 2017, I have gotten other strange photography gear, mostly bags, filters, tripods, etc, but nothing major like a new flash or lens and such. Having saved some cash in the bank since I started working after getting my license after all the struggles we all went thru in medical school, I then took a chance and started to look for one of the Sigma lenses I have always dreamt of since I was still starting out and was still a mere medical student, and that is the Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM, and lo and behold, I found that lens, and without second thought, I bought it, and was extremely happy with how sharp it is; even on my D5000, there was no front or back focusing issues, and being a f/2.8 lens, the bokeh is beautiful and a fast telephoto. Apart from being my dream lens, this is also gonna be very helpful for me when I go to Formula 1 races and take better shots of cars, cos as you can see below, I had to use my kit lens when I went to Singapore for the Formula 1 race earlier in the year, and wasn’t all too happy with the results. Can’t wait to try this in Japan later this year.

The
First shot with Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM; my beautiful mother!

Before 2017 ended, I was able to purchase another Sigma lens, the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM lens, and now I feel that I have completed MY VERSION of the Holy Trinity of Lenses:

  1. Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM
  2. Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM
  3. Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM
Doc Lee
First shot with Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM. Pictured is my best friend and co physician, Lee!

Of course, with the prime lens and the standard zoom lens having crossing over focal points, it doesn’t cover the same range as the Nikkor trinity, but this will do for now, while I wait or look for a good Sigma wide lens that is at least f/2.8 (for now, I just see a f/3.5 that I might get if I have no other choice… or a fisheye…  I’m not sure.).

Holy Trinity of Sigma Lenses!
My version of the Holy Trinity/Hebrew Trinity of Lenses

Also before the end of 2017, I was able to snag a couple of Nikon SB-600 flashes (SB-910 is STILL a bit to pricey for my tastes); I got a couple for simply I can trigger them off shoe and make awesome flash photography shots.

It is nice to know that I actually have a 3rd SB-600, but it was severely misfiring, that I had to return it and haven’t felt like getting another Nikon flash for the time being.

Umbra
Playing with one Nikon SB-600
Get Flashed!
Playing with three SB-600! I returned one of them due to misfiring issues.

Then inevitably, once again, before 2017 ended, I finally decided to upgrade to the Nikon D7200; one might say, “why not D7500?”, for one, I wanted the battery grip (that I got second hand for a steal!!) and thus far, heard nothing about any battery grip in the D7500, and apart from the better sensor and 4K video from the D7500, the D7200 isn’t all that different so to speak (well, maybe the D7500 also has better ISO, I haven’t really cared, because the price was too steep for me at this point), thus I stuck with the decision of buying the D7200. Plus with the introduction of the D7500, brand new D7200’s price dropped a bit.

Sadly, the D7200 just arrived in January of this year since the shop I ordered from had to restock and had to deal with a lot of other prior orders since it was Christmas season; don’t worry, they warned all of us that our orders may take a lot more time than usual days, but I was okay with it.

Thus my brand new primary gear is complete…

Major Upgrade
Updated Primary Gear! I only included 1 of my 2 SB-600s in the shot as to not overwhelm the shot. This was taken with my original gear: Nikon D5000, 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens, and Yong Nuo YN 465 flash with Yong Nuo YN 602 flash trigger. Quite fitting for my original gear to photograph my new gear!
01-11-2018 Me and My D7200-1
Of course, we need a new mandotary shot with a camera, but this time, my mother took the shot with my Nikon D5000; again, quite fitting that my old gear is taking photos of me and my new gear

The next gears I plan to get is a brand new tripod as my primary tripod after 7 years of service as finally bit the dust; I also plan to get a brand new bag, the Think Tank Signature 13, as it looks more of a regular bag than a camera bag, thus feeling more of security when walking about new cities with the camera tucked away inside until ready to photograph; I also am on the cusp of getting either a full sized monopod (then again I can always get those Benro tripods than also double as a monopod) or a gorilla pod that I can also tuck in my bag so if I want to make low angle or just place it on a table or hang it by a tree for long exposure shots of the scenery without having to put so much attention to myself; and lastly, a dry cabinet to keep my gear in great condition.

It goes without saying that my resurgence with my love for photography started with getting my telephoto lens, but another great point in my life in 2017 that made fall in love with photography again is when I helped my sis go to Hong Kong and I met my good friend and she toured me around one night and she was quite the model for me and took one of my all time favorite shots since I started this hobby.

When You Shine Brighter
My good friend, Amanda; this photo is one of my all time favorites that I have ever taken! And this made me fall in love with photography again

And of course, you gotta remember where we started, and that must be, subliminally, my dad’s SLR…

Where it all began…

Thus, my love and history of photography in less than 2200 words. I will not show all my shots here, just a select few. For the rest of my shots, you can just go to my Flickr photostream HERE.

And before I end it out, I will answer the possible questions: “Why 30mm? Why not 50mm? “, “Why 17-50mm? Why not 24-70mm?”, and “Why 50-150mm? Why not 70-200?”, well remember, I started out with D5000 and upgraded to a D7200, both are DX bodies and have a crop factor of 1.5x, thus a 30mm with a crop factor equals to 45mm, close enough to a 50mm; a 17-50mm with a crop factor equals to a 25.5-75mm, close to a 24-70mm; and finally, a 50-150mm with a crop factor equals to a 75-225mm, almost a 70-200mm, with a slight overshoot at the farthest focal point. I don’t ever intend on going FX or full frame, but when I do, I’m sure I can complete yet another Trinity by then.

With that! PEACE!!

-o-

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Twenty Sixteen!

Wow, so let us start off by saying Happy New Year as this is my first post of the year! A bit late! But screw it! Better late than never!

I was late in posting this as I had to go back to Manila for the rest of my review; about a month away from the exam… I have no idea if there is anything in my head. I am nervous, but there are days where I am so numb it is ridiculous. And one of those days is today.

And with that, I wanted to share a few shots, three to be exact, of the local fireworks display.

Now I have been doing this every year since I started my photography hobby back… 2010 or 2011 if I am not mistaken; I am too lazy to look at my archives, but it is somewhere in the region. Anyways, I have been this every year except when I was duty as a clerk welcoming 2014.

I learned a lot from Greg Cazillo at Cazillo.com (do go there, though the forums have been a bit bare since I last logged in their YEARS ago; med school caught up with me!), and if it wasn’t for his lectures online, I wouldn’t be able to dial down the right settings year in and year out. This is why I also stress having an archive, a quick archive, like Flickr with all the proper setting placed on the description for quick reference if you want to replicate a shot with little time for practice shots.

You can always right-click and see the photo’s information in Windows or load up your post processing program of choice, in my case Lightroom, but if you are on the go or simply outdoors away from your PC and nothing but a smartphone next to you, you might as well have a quick reference online like Flickr with the settings on the description.

It may be time consuming to always add these settings in your portfolio, etc, but it is well worth it especially for me who is no longer shooting as much as I used to.

I have blabbered on yet again, so without further ado, here are my shots to welcome the new year!

ENJOY!

2016!!
2016!!

2016!!

There yah go! Hope you all love it!

I have a felling 2016 will ROCK!

Til next time!

 
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Capping Off August With a Return to Event Photography

Turn it up to eleven!

Photography wise, August has been a great month for me. It has beeen oh so long since I had multiple activities, be it personal or public, to shoot photos of.

I was invited to take photos for AUFMC Department of Pediatrics 14th Biennial Post Graduate Course; I was an obvious choice, because when I was still a medical clerk, I was also asked to take photos in their 13th Biennial Post Graduate Course two years ago.

I had nothing to do, and I was really happy they asked me to be their “official” photographer, so I had to say yes.

Enter Doctor Photographer

I mean, this isn’t my profession. I am just doing photography as a hobby. So it kinda warms my feelings when I get praised for my work.

While I was there, of course I got to see my former clerks and former co interns, as well as my former professors in Pediatrics, the NICU nurses, and the consultants/residents of Pediatrics. It was like a reunion.

With my favorite NICU nurses!!
My former clerks that became my co interns! I was late in finishing the program so I had make up duties with these guys.

I was glad the whole event went well for the organizing residents, and I was glad I was able to control the crowd when it comes to taking group shots. It was always a skill I was happy to have; having that rapport with the person or group of people while taking their shots.

“I don’t think I brought enough cameras for today’s event…” Take note, I only own one of these cameras!

This might be the last event I will shoot for in a long while. I will be moving to Manila in a months time to finally prepare for my upcoming medical licensure exam slated this Febraury 2016.

After I get my license, then yes, I may resume getting hired for these type of events again.

I am happy I was invited. Not only was I able to take photos again to feed my photography hobby needs, I got to meet my friends and mentors, I was also able to learn a few more things in the realm of Pediatrics… even if that won’t be my specialty… I aim to be an Internist.

Anyways, that’s all for now.

PEACE!

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