Category Archives Photo Gear

Hi Gang: Mia McCormick sits down with one of my all-time heroes of sports photography, the legend himself, Peter Read Miller for his impressions of the recently announced Canon 7D Mark II. If you got a sec, it’s definitely worth checking out.

Also, I shot two games this weekend using the 7D Mark II for my main and secondary bodies (weekend loaners from Canon — just early demo units — not the final shipping version), and I cannot wait to share some shots with you here tomorrow from the Vols/Gators and Falcons/Giants games, so make sure you stop back tomorrow for my field report.

Hope you guys have an fantastic Monday (I know, that’s an oxymoron) even if your team lost this weekend (all my teams lost. Ugh. But there’s still a faint hope for my Fantasy Team â” I’m in third place in our league).



First, watch that video above (it's got all the major specs, and we deliver them short and sweet!), then come on back down to find out why I think the just-announced Canon EOS 7D Mark II is literally going to shake up the entire sports and wildlife photography world (hint: we've never seen a camera with these specs, at this low a price â” ever!)

OK, thanks for watching the video â” what you just saw was literally the little brother to Canon's flagship 1DX, but for nearly $5,000 LESS!!!

The reason why this is such a game changer is that when it came to seriously shooting sports and wildlife so many people were literally left out of the game because of the cost of the type of camera you need to shoot at that level, but with Canon putting a camera out there with these specs, at just $1,799 â” today all that changed and the playing field has been leveled (no pun intended). Hey, before we get deep into this, I just want to throw out one spec that blew my mind. 10-frames-per-second! (Drops the mic. Walks off stage). ;-)

I think one of the biggest advantages this new camera has (and a lot of folks might not realize this at first), is that it's a crop-sensor camera, so it brings you 60% closer to the action than a similar full-frame camera. This allows us to use less expensive lenses and still get in really tight, so the 7D Mark II doesn't just change the equation for the body; it lets you get closer to the action with less expensive lenses. I think not making this a full frame camera may have been Canon's most brilliant move.

Sports photography legend Peter Read Miller, renowned wildlife photographer Adam Jones, and I were all I lucky to have had a chance to spend some serious time with this camera before its release and it's everything they say it is (and then some). We were all just blown away. These guys totally knew how this was going to change the game for sports and wildlife shooters, and they were just as amazed as I was at the specs and price point.  I take my hat off to Canon for taking the risk and doing what needed to be done, in releasing the 7D Mark II with these specs at this price.

Canon's got all the detailed specs (and is taking preorders) over at their site.

Also B&H Photo (I buy all my gear there) is taking pre-orders starting today (the camera is set to ship in early November). Here's that link. If you want a complete list of Canon's authorized dealers that sell the camera, go to this link (I’m very linky today).

Well, that's the big news from here â” hope you all have a game-changing Monday and we'll see you back here tomorrow!



P.S. Although I know Canon aimed the specs of the 7D Mark II at the sports and wildlife crowd, it'll take a photo of whatever you point it at. I did a bridal shoot with it (you can see some of my bridal shots in that video at the :56 mark and around 2:30) and it absolutely rocked!  A lot of folks outside of sports/wildlife fields will fall in love with this camera big time.

Hey Gang: Canon also released the PowerShot G7 X today, an awesome little point-and-shoot camera that's a perfect 2nd camera for pros since it takes amazing images yet it literally fits in your pocket, and connects to your cell phone via Wi-Fi!  It's also great for anyone moving up from a cell phone camera that wants more "umph!" and flexibility.

Anyway, check out the video and see what ya think!

More details over at Canon (here’s the link)

You can get it at B&H (well, that’s where I’m gettin’ mine, anyway). Here’s the link.



Above: Look how much smaller the new bag is, yet it holds all my junk. Ahemâ¦I mean my essential gear for travel. ;-)

If you’re like me, you’re never really happy with your laptop bag. That was me for most of my life (well, most of my laptop toting life anyway), until about 5 years ago when I fell deeply and hopeless in love with Thank Tank Photo’s laptop bag. It was prefect. A pocket for everything â” I could even fit my Wacom tablet in it â” it was justâ¦perfect! Especially for someone who carries a lot of stuff (see below).

Here’s what’s in my bag (as seen above):

  1. 15″ MacBook Pro (this is my main computer day in, day out)
  2. A bunch of plastic cards (gift cards, Delta club card, Hilton Honors card, etc.)
  3. USB drive with backup stuff
  4. One-Tb Back-up hard drive of my entire MacBook, plus USB 3 cable
  5. iPad Charger and cable
  6. iPhone charger and cable
  7. Lexar USB 3 CF and SD card reader
  8. Wacom Wireless Pen and Pen Holder
  9. Backup Wacom Pen
  10. Wacom USB Cable
  11. Bendable Laptop LED light (I use it to light my outline during a seminar)
  12. Love Book (That’s what my daughter called it when she gave it to me. It’s always with me).
  13. Two sets of business cards (I know, that’s probably one too many)
  14. MacBook Charger and Cable
  15. Five Sharpie pens (for signing books and stuff)
  16. Bose headphone adapter
  17. Another USB Flash backup (for paranoid presenters)
  18. Guitar Pick. Hey, ya never know.
  19. OK, I’m carrying more USB drives than I need.
  20. Two DVI adapters to connect MacBook to projectors (one and a backup)
  21. Copy of Photoshop User magazine, outlines for my tour, notes, fan mail from some flounder
  22. Wacom Intuos Pro tablet “Small”
  23. Collapsible iPad stand
  24. AAA batteries just in case my headphone’s batteries go dead. I know, I don’t need three â” just one.
  25. Bose Quiet Comfort Headphones (I so love these things, but I hate their bulky carrying case).
  26. A tin of Altoids (Curiously strong mints)
  27. Screen and Lens wipes
  28. Lens cleaning cloth
  29. Logitech Wireless Slide controller (for slide presentations).
  30. iPad Air
  31. Small bag of marijuana.
  32. Made ya look! ;-)


About a year or so ago I saw Think Tank Photo’s booth at a tradeshow (I think it was Photo Plus in NYC), and I thought I’d go pick up another one just like it to replace mine …until I heard the sad newsâ¦.they had discontinued it. I was stunned. It was the best, ever, hands-down and now it’s gone.

It was at that moment that I knew I would have to hold on to my old bag until it literally disintegrated, but luckily that day never came because Wednesday I got something even better than my old Think Tank laptop bag. A brand new, smaller, lighter, better-designed (like they made it just for me) laptop bag. It’s the “My 2nd Brain” Briefcase 15 and it is my new laptop bag dream come true. My world finally makes sense again (Not really).

Above: I did a little iPhone video tour of the bag (iPhone video work by the amazing bearded Brad Moore) to show you how it does it’s thing. It has a perfect pocket for my Wacom tablet, and a separate just for your iPad (In my old bag, I just tossed mine in where I kept my papers and magazines). 

I had pretty much given up on Think Tank Photo ever making another Laptop Bag, and I just cannot tell you excited I was when I found out that not only where they making them again â” that the new one was that much better, smaller and lighter than the old one, but it still held all my gear â” now it’s all just more organized. You’ll have to check out the video to see all the compartments, pockets, sleeves and clever stuff this bag has inside and out. Very well designed, and built like a tank. Super Mclovin’ it!

It sells for $144 over at B&H Photo (that’s where I buy all my stuff). Worth every penny!

Hope this First Look helped you find the bag of your dreams, and here’s wishing you fantastic weekend filled with lots of amazing images. See ya back here on Monday.



Hey there! Matt Kloskowski here today with an unofficial guest post. See, a while back, Scott wrote an article here on his blog called If I had $1000 to Spend on Improving My Portrait Photography, I'd Get⦠Well, I was talking to him later that day and he asked if I had read the blog post. I said "Heck yeah, and I wish I had thought of it first" :-) So he said I should write one for landscape photography as a guest post here.

First, as Scott mentioned in his original post, this is a question we get a lot. It may not be exactly $1000, but it usually around there. It may be $1200, or $800 but it's in the ballpark. Also, I’m going to assume you have a camera body and lenses already (we’ll talk more about lenses at the end though). Either one of those will immediately eat up our $1000, and then some. Finally, I really tried to give some thought to the title of this post that Scott started. The key word I noticed was “Improve”. So I tried not to just go through my camera bag and list every piece of gear. Rather, I tried to really add things that I think can actually improve your photography. Ready? Here goes:

Remote/Cable Release – Vello Shutterboss ($50)
First, if you don't already own one, you need a cable release or some kind of remote way of triggering your camera. As with many areas of photography, sharpness is critical for landscapes. You'll see it on screen and you'll definitely notice it in print the larger you go. So you have to make sure you're not touching your camera and introducing any vibration or camera shake. I use the Vello Shutterboss remote for my Canon 5D Mark III. It's great for simply triggering your camera, but it'll grow with you if you ever get in to time-lapse or long exposure photography too since it has various timer modes.

They make them for other camera brands too and will run you about $50. They also make wireless ones, but personally I go with the wired version since I don't have to worry about losing the little pieces that come with the wireless one.

Neutral Density Filters – Tiffen ND Kit ($95)
Neutral density filters are a huge way to improve your landscape photography. They help smooth out water for that dramatic surreal effect and also add some motion in to an otherwise static looking scene. While there's a ton of filters out there, and I'd love to recommend you to my favorite Lee Big and Little Stopper filters, they'll eat up half of our $1000. So instead, I'll go with my first set of ND filters I ever owned and still use often today – the Tiffen 3-filter kit. It's got a 2, 3 and 4 stop filter in it. For most sunrise/sunset shooting as well as waterfalls, these will work fine at extending your shutter speeds enough to get that longer shutter speed that you'll need. Plus it even comes with a filter pouch to hold them so they don't get lost.

Oh yeah…Notice I didn't include a graduated neutral density filter. That's because I don't use â˜em. I wrote a little about why they're dead to me here on my personal blog, in case you want to read up on it. But feel free to save some cash and not buy any.

Polarizing Filter ($150)
A polarizing filter is a must-have for landscapes as well. In fact, I'd buy one of these before I bought any ND filters mentioned above. Most people think of using polarizers for the sky, to get a deeper darker blue. While I do use them for that sometimes, I mostly use my polarizer to help cut down on glare and pop the colors/contrast a little. Glare on mountains, trees, rocks, water, you name it. It really helps subdue haze and glare so you can appreciate the details in the photo.

The one I'm going to recommend is a bit pricey. It’s a B+W Circular Polarizer and it runs about $150. You'll definitely find cheaper ones out there, but I'm going to suggest you get a really good quality filter first – it’ll last you forever. I bought my B+W Polarizer nearly 10 years ago and I still have it today. Well worth the extra $50 from some of the more cheapy ones.

Backpack – Vanguard Adaptor 45 ($110)
It sounds kinda weird if I say a backpack will improve your landscape photography, but hear me out on this one. If all you have is a rolling bag, a shoulder bag or something similar, then it's going to be hard for you to climb around. Part of improving your landscape photography is getting in to the right place. And sometimes that means hiking, climbing and moving around a little. That's really hard to do with something hanging off your shoulder. You'll need both hands free sometimes and a backpack is the best way to go.

The one I use the most is the Vanguard Adaptor 45. It's a backpack but can also serve as a sling bag if you need to get at your gear quick without putting the bag down. It's not huge and really only holds a camera body and maybe 2 lenses. But I try to keep it light. Remember, you're a landscape photographer which means you have the luxury of needing very little gear. A camera body, lens or two, some filters, lens clothes, and maybe an extra battery and you're good to go. You don't need to be lugging around flashes, reflectors, etc⦠Travel light and keep your backpack small so it doesn't kill your back.

Tripod and Ballhead – Vanguard Abeo Pro 283 with Ballhead ($230)
This one is tricky. Remember, I'm writing this from the perspective of having about $1000 to spend. And if you've ever done any tripod research, you'll know that you could easily spend $1K on just the tripod (without the ballhead). So, while I personally use a Really Really Stuff TVC-33 most of the time, that'll break our budget right away. So, I'll go with another tripod I've used that I absolutely loved as well. It's the Vanguard Abeo Pro 283 with ballhead. Vanguard makes great products. They're sturdy, well made, and hold up well outdoors. Plus, this particular model even comes with the rubber feet with spikes to help dig in to the ground if you need it.

Post-Processing – onOne Software Perfect Effects ($100)
Just like I'm assuming you own a camera body already, on the post-processing side, I'm going to assume you already have Lightroom (preferably), or Photoshop. From there, the only other thing I use all the time on my landscape photos is onOne Software's Perfect Effects. Earlier I said sharpness is critical. Well I've not found anything as good as onOne's Dynamic Contrast (which is a preset effect in Perfect Effects). It helps take that sharpness, detail and contrast to a whole new level. It'll run you about $100 for just that plug-in, or a little more if you want to buy the whole suite.

Rain Cover – Kata E-702 PL Pro ($65)
Some of the my favorite landscape photos were taken in crappy weather. Don't get me wrong. I love the gorgeous light we get during sunrise and sunset, but dramatic clouds and storms can really make your photos stand out from the rest. In order to stay out there shooting in that weather, you'll need to keep your camera and lens dry so make sure you pick up a rain cover. I use the Kata E-702. It keeps your camera and lens dry, while letting you see all of the controls on the back of the camera. Now, you'll find a ton of other options as well (and many that are way cheaper than this one). I’ve even used some of them, and they can be pretty good. But I keep going back to the Kata. The build quality and ease-of-use make it my favorite.

CamRanger Wireless Camera Control ($300)
Okay, at this point we’re right around $800. You could easily stop here and call it quits at $200 less than $1000. And honestly, it’s hard for me to think of anything else that will greatly improve your landscape photography. But I’m going to include one more piece of gear if you’re a little more advanced and really want some control over your photos out in the field. It’s called CamRanger. It’s a wireless camera control device that creates it’s own network. So even if you’re out in the middle of nowhere, with no wireless signals, you’ll still be able to use it. It works with iPad, iPhone, Android, etc…

Basically it’s an app that you install on your tablet. From there, you can see your photos and control your camera right from the app. It let’s you do things like wirelessly stream live view from the camera to the device. You can even zoom in and get really precise focus adjustments, as well as focus stacking. It’s also great if you get your camera in a difficult place where it’s hard to see through the viewfinder, because you’ll be able to see the image right on your device.

What’s really nice is that it displays full resolution images right on the device. So you can do things like check sharpness, highlights, shadows, etc… I’ve always found the image on the back of the camera’s LCD to be too small to really make any decisions from. The CamRanger helps you actually make decisions in the field, and walk away from the shoot knowing that you nailed it.

Oh and you didn't think I'd let you go without recommending training did you? ;-) I've got two classes that I think could help out a lot. First, if you're just getting in to Landscape Photography then check out my Landscape Photography Basics class. And if you're in to long exposure photos that you'd take with those neutral density filters I mentioned above, then check out my Long Exposure Photography class. You can rent them for $6.99 each or subscribe for an entire month for $25.

What About Lenses?
You'll notice I left out lenses. Scott did indeed include a lens in his portrait photography post, but remember the spirit of the post is money I'd spend on improving my landscape photography. While I definitely agree with Scott that an 85mm f/1.8 lens can improve your portrait photography, I can almost guarantee you that you already have the lenses you need for landscapes. And that buying a new one won't "improve” your landscape photography.

But I won't leave you hangin' on this, because I know there’s a lot of lens questions out there. So here's a few thoughts if you do need to buy a lens.

1) Don't worry about prime lenses. If you're on a budget, don't get caught up in to thinking that prime lenses will change much in your landscapes. I've done side-by-side comparisons with a prime lens vs. a zoom lens and the difference is nearly impossible to see.

2) Don't worry about "fast" glass. Fast glass is generally known as lenses that can shoot at very wide apertures. f/2.8 is known as "fast" glass. But you'll see lenses go down to f/1.8 and even as low as f/1.2. As landscape photographer, you'll barely ever shoot with apertures that wide, because you'll want to capture everything sharp from foreground to background. So you'll more likely be at f/11, f/16 or even higher. So, while I may not recommend a lens with a widest aperture of f/5.6  for portraits, I’d totally recommend one for landscapes.

3) If I had to list the 3 lenses I use for landscapes, here goes:
– My most used landscape lens is a 24-70mm. Canon, Nikon, Tamron⦠they all make good ones.
– My second most used lens is the Canon 16-35mm. Nikon also makes one. Actually, if you shoot Nikon you can definitely save some money and buy the smaller and lighter 18-35mm.
– My third lens is the 70-200. It definitely doesn't get used as much as the others, but it's nice when you want to get in tight to some details further away. And if you do shoot portraits, it’s my #1 go-to portrait photography lens too.

What To Spend Your Money On If There’s Something Left Over…
If you decide to skip on anything above, and you absolutely feel like you have cash burning a hole in your pocket, then the last thing I’d spend my money on to improve my landscape photography is a plane ticket or gas in my car to get myself someplace cool. At the end of the day, location is the most important aspect of landscape photography (and lots of luck with the weather). Get yourself someplace great, and making great photos becomes that much easier :-)

Thanks for stopping by today and I hope you found this list useful. Also, I’d love to hear any ideas you have so feel free to leave a comment below.

I get asked this question a lot (well, not exactly the $1,000 amount — it’s based on the person asking the question’s budget — sometimes it’s $1,200, sometimes it’s $800 so I went with something in the middle).

As an educator, my first thought is always “the answer is education!” (if all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail, right?), and I will include some education in my recommendations, but when it comes to portraiture there surely are a few things you could pick up that would have an immediate impact if (here’s the gotcha) you learn how to use them (there’s that education thing again).

OK, here are some ideas for your portraiture shopping spree:

A Westcott 5-in-1 Diffuser
It costs just $29.90 yet it’s probably got the most bang-for-the-buck of anything on this list. The four reflectors that it comes with are certainly handy (White, Gold, Black, and Silver) but the white Diffuser that comes with it (which you simply put between the sun and your subject which turns harsh ugly direct light into gorgeous, soft beautiful light is worth it’s weight in gold. If you did nothing but start using this diffuser outdoors, you’d see the impact in your outdoor portraits immediately. Here’s the link. 

Wacom Intuos Pro Small
Portrait retouching is such an important part of being able to deliver professional looking results today, and even though our job is “photographer” our clients expect that any image we give them will be a “final” image, retouched and ready to go. All of your competition will be retouching their portraits (after all, would a pro take a portrait and just hand the client a raw untouched image? Probably not, right?), so getting decent at retouching today isn’t an option — it’s part of the job, and a Wacom tablet is tool that makes retouching so much easier you’ll be amazed you ever tried retouching without it.

I carry the “Small” (that’s the model name, and it’s also its size) with me everywhere I go (it fits perfectly in my laptop bag) and I won’t consider retouching without it. This will make a bigger difference than you think. It’s $227.17 at B&H Photo. Here’s the link. 

An 85mm f/1.8 portrait lens
Portrait lenses are notoriously expensive — except this one. It’s about $1,100 LESS than an f/1.4 or f/1.2 and you’ll still get that magnificently shallow depth-of-field for natural light portraits that we love without breaking the bank (after all, is 2/3 of a stop more really worth that extra $1,100?). The only downside is — you’ll probably never want to use any other lens. Right now it’s only $369 at B&H (they have a $50 instant-saving deal on right now). Here’s the link.

OnOne’s Perfect Photo Suite 8
These are the essential plug-ins that cover everything from portrait retouching to portrait effects, from black and white conversions to lens effects, and pretty much everything in between. This Suite creates those trademark “looks” that have become the bread and butter of many portrait photographers and today being able to create those looks is really important. You can buy the whole stand-alone Premium Edition of the Suite for $149.95 right now, but if you’re a Lightroom user and only want just the plug-in version that works inside of Lightroom, you can get it for $99. Here’s the direct link.

Take These Online Classes
OK, this one is going to sound a little self-serving, but I take these online classes myself at KelbyOne to learn more about portraiture and lighting and it’s what I would recommend to a friend. Start with Peter Hurley’s class on Mastering Headshot Photography — even if you’re not ever going to shoot head shots, you’ll learn what really makes a great portrait and how to interact with your subject’s to get more natural, real expressions. Then watch “A Day with Joe McNally” to learn how to light with just one or two lights (mostly one). Then go watch Jeremy Cowart’s two-part series on location photography. He teaches you how to shoot pretty much anywhere with very simple light.

If you watch one class from each (you can rent individual courses for $7 a piece) you’re into this for $21. I’d just go ahead and spend another $4 and subscribe for a month ($25) and then you can also watch classes from Frank Doorhof on lighting, and Erik Valind on lifestyle photography, and Joel Grimes on lighting and compositing, and you can catch my classes on retouching, and more Joe McNally (you get the idea). Here’s the link. 

Get a Simple Lighting Kit
I imagine you already have a hot shoe flash of some sort, but a hot shoe flash alone, without a kit to make the light soft and beautiful, is a recipe for some harsh portraiture. This kit (made by Impact) is a steal, and it comes with a 24″x24″ pop-up soft box, flash bracket, tilt head and light stand and it’s only $149. That’s a pretty insane price. If you’re only going to shoot in natural light, you’re only going to be a part-time photographer (during the day and in ideal conditions). Learning to use just one flash will open doors you never dreamed of, and this kit is just $149. Here’s the link. 

So, how much have we spent?

TOTAL: $950

Round things off by picking up Gregory Heisler’s fantastic “50 Portraits” hardcover book for sheer inspiration ($34 at Amazon) and then use the rest for lunch on your way to your next portrait shoot.

Hope you found that helpful, and I encourage you to share any of your picks, ideas or suggestions here in the comments below. Hope you all have a kick-butt Monday (if there actually is such a thing). ;-)