Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Review of the Lowe Pro Rover Pro AW Camera Backpack - A Great Solution for Outdoor Photographers

LowePro has recently released a very well designed camera backpack for outdoor photographers that combines safe camera transport with capacity for additional cargo, all in a comfortable and lightweight design.  Most camera backpacks were either designed just for a camera system with little thought given to pack weight and carrying comfort, and they were not useful as outdoor travel backpacks since they always had huge amounts of velcroed in camera compartments that left little room for other needed  gear. The new Rover Pro solves this problem by using removable modular pouches for camera and lenses. These padded pouches are big enough for a pro dslr and a few lenses. What is great is that they can be quickly accessed by an outer zipper on the pack or through the top of the pack.Rover Pro AW seriesRover Pro AW series

The pouches nest behind the front zipper panel and are easy to access without having to take all your gear out of the top of the pack. I do a lot of photography while skiing and hiking, so I always need to carry extra outdoor gear when out in the field. This pack lets me pack food, clothing, etc in the top compartment of the pack and in the top flap. A tripod can be placed in the tripod pocket on the side of the pack.

What I also like is that the shoulder straps & hip belt are very well designed and of the quality you would find on a high end hiking backpack.  You can adjust the shoulder straps and hip belt so they are snug and move with you when skiing. The panel that goes next to your back is ventilated mesh material that is breathable, which is a must when hiking. Best of all this pack is not the heavy old camera pack of old that weighs 10 lbs without anything in it! These old camera packs had so much velcro and camera padding that they became beasts to carry anywhere farther than a half mile from the car. The Rover Pro is one of the lightest camera packs I have seen thanks to the innovative modular camera pouches.

.Rover Pro AW series

One side pocket has a secure tripod carrying system, and the other side has a pocket for a water bottle or hydration pack. This helps balance out the weight on both sides of the pack.  There is also a pocket in the pack that can easily hold a laptop. There are plenty of exterior accessory straps for attaching things to the outside of the pack. Lowepro is also generous with the accessory pouches and other storage compartments included with this pack.

I plan to use this pack for air travel in addition to outdoor photo treks. It is the right size to fit in an overhead bin on an airplane. It will also double as a daypack for sightseeing, and can even be converted into a full on dedicated backcountry backpack for multi-day hikes. They definitely had someone who actually hiked and was a photographer designing this pack.  There is also a nice waterproof cover included that tucks underneath the bottom when not in use. 

LowePro has done a fabulous job of providing a state of the art backpack for landscape / adventure photographers who travel on hiking trails and skis to their destinations. Often we feel a little left out with all  the packs designed for the more auto oriented or studio bound photographer, so it is nice to know they are designing products with us in mind. Great job LowePro and thanks for making my efforts to get where I need to with my camera a little more enjoyable.

You can see a video and more details on their website at

Rover Pro AW series

Friday, October 12, 2012

New Autumn 2012 Releases and Autumn Workshop Recap

I spent October 4-7 with a fabulous group of people, including my co-instructor Jerry Dodrill, doing an autumn colors workshop in the Eastern Sierra. We hit the colors perfectly for the high country, and were able to get some amazing sunset shots during an evening photo shoot at Mono Lake. The workshops are put on by Galen and Barbara Rowell's Mountain Light gallery in Bishop. The Mountain Light gallery is like a pilgrimage location for me -  when there I feel fortunate to be able to work in the spiritual presence of one of the true masters of color landscape photography, Galen Rowell.

Mother Nature sure had a show planned for us on October 5. The sunset at Mono Lake was one of the epic sunsets of my life. The sky stayed gray until about 6:20 pm, and we were starting to have our doubts about the sunset colors. Then the heavens exploded in color and I went into a panic mode trying to get a few good shots in during the best light. Fortunately I had scouted out some spots and knew where to go once the show started. Following are my favorite images from the evening. I assure you all the colors are accurate as to what we witnessed. I actually had to desaturate the images to get the colors to match the gamut of my printer. It is best to view these on a color managed browser like Safari - they look crazy in the Chrome browser but seem to show a little better on my actual website. Click each image caption to go to my website where you can see the larger jpg (select Larger Photos on the product page). These images are all available as fine art prints via my website. All were taken with the Nikon D800E. All of the images can be viewed on the new releases portfolio on my landscape photography website.

Autumn Sunset, Mono Lake
Sierra Sky, Mono Lake

Sunset Blessing

Since I have so many images of yellow aspens I did not add alot of new aspen shots to my website, but I did like this image of the aspens reflecting in a creek up towards South Lake:

Autumn Reflections, High Sierra

I have also been wanting to get this shot of the Palisades visible up the canyon on the way to Lake Sabrina. The colors were lovely at sunrise although I still need to get it with some snow on the peaks. I understand that is snowed there yesterday so the shot with snow might still be possible.

Sierra Crest Autumn

We also had a wonderful visit to the Patriarch Grove of ancient Bristlecone Pines, the Earth's oldest living trees. The high elevation of this area, at over 11,000 feet, makes the sky and colors of the trees very brilliant just before and after sunset. Being in the presence of these amazing ancient tree beings is a very humbling experience.

Autumn Sun, Bristlecone Pine

Bristlecone Sunset

Swirl of Time

Ancient Sentinel

Jerry Dodrill and I will be leading an Autumn Colors workshop in Napa Valley in a few months - there is still time to sign up if you are interested:

Monday, June 4, 2012

LowePro Flipside is a Great Backpack for  the Nikon D800

One of the benefits of shooting with the Nikon D800 E is the reduced size of the body and lenses when compared to medium format. This allows me to carry the system in a smaller backpack. I have found that the Lowe Pro Flipside 500 AW offers a great balance of size and portability. I really like that the backpack unzips on the side of the pack facing the back pad, instead of the outside like most packs. This improves security in urban environments and allows you to access the pack while still wearing it around your waist. The 500 is larger than the other flip side versions, so I can fit all my Nikon lenses in there with my filter systems and flash. It fits well in the overhead bins of even small airplanes, and does not scream "I am a camera backpack". I find it is best to travel unobtrusively as a photographer. The Padded waist belt and water bottle / tripod pockets on the outside make it great for hiking. All around it is a great choice for an everyday  dslr camera pack. Here is more info on the Lowe site.

Monday, May 14, 2012

New Images from Arches and Canyonlands with Nikon D800 E

Utah is one of my favorite places to photograph. The landscape seems so primordial and mysterious to me. I had the good fortune to be able to photograph Arches and Canyonlands National Park with the new 36 mp Nikon D800E. I chose the E version of this new camera because it produces a higher resolution image than the version with the extra filter (the D800). I am amazed by the dynamic range of this camera. I was able to pull out incredible detail in the shadows and highlights of images. This was especially important with the full moon images since the moon is so bright - I was able to bracket shots and had enough detail in the bright moon with the underexposures to bring back all the details in the moon craters. Since this camera is more difficult to stop down to f22 for depth of field, I took multiple exposures of images and different focus points so I would be able to stack them in Helicon Focus to create images with better depth of field. Medium Format cameras such as the Hasselblad can tolerate stopping down to f22 for depth of field, but the smaller sensors on these Nikon cameras produce distortion when they are stopped down more than f11 or so. This distortion degrades print quality. I love the Nikon 14-24 mm zoom and took my shot of Spring Sunrise, Arches with that lens and combined images in Helicon Focus. The other images were taken either with the 24-70mm zoom or the 70-200 zoom.

I am having difficulty getting the blogger software to properly display my images, so I am including a link to the new releases section of my website where the images are located (they are the first seven images):

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

New Images from the Yucatan

We recently did a trip to the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico for spring break. Since this was mostly an R&R trip I did not do a lot of photography, however I had my new Nikon D800 with me so I got a few new shots that I was pleased with.  Nikon's newest 36 megapixel DSLR provides amazing resolution for large prints, and also has all the great features Nikon is known for such as the ability to shoot at high iso and the huge selection of really wide angle lenses all the way to extreme telephoto. One of our favorite locations to explore were the many cenotes and caves around the area. Plenty of opportunities for photography and I will be sure to return in the future to do more "underground" photography in the caves.  I also did some underwater photography with my Panasonic GH2 in its housing, which is the system I shot the sea turtle with. Hope you enjoy some of these new images!

Subterranean Garden, Yucatan
Bajo Tierra

Study in Pink

Tortuga Marina

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Unique Winter Landscapes in the Sierra

We have had precious little snow in the Sierra this winter. While this is a big bummer for skiing and photographs of snowy landscapes; the unusual weather conditions do allow for some different winter landscapes than I normally shoot this time of the year. Many of the creeks in the area are frozen, which creates opportunities for some photographs using ice as part of the composition. Martis Valley is full of wonderful brown and red toned vegetation which contrasts nicely with the ice in the Martis Creek. Even though we have no snow it is still  worth getting out and enjoying the unique scenery of the frozen high Sierra region - no skis required! I hear Tioga Pass is even open.