Category Archives Photo Gear

I’ve had a lot of people asking me in the past few weeks about whether they should get a Nikon D600 or Nikon D800.  In fact just this week a buddy of mine sent me an email asking that very question and I thought I would share with you pretty much what I told him.

Now before I do this I just want let you know that this is strictly my own opinion. I’m not DP Review and this is not a lab report. I’m certainly not speaking for Nikon here (in fact they would probably prefer I wasn’t speaking about this topic at all) but just know that this is a strictly how I see these two cameras after having shot with both of them (I actually own a D800) so at least I can share from using both in different shooting situations.

Is the D800 the D700’s replacement?
I think one of the big things that people thought when it first came out was that the D800 was the successor to the D700 and that makes sense because the number 800 comes after 700, and that’s pretty much the way Nikon has done product intros up to this point (the D200’s replacement was the D300. The D3’s replacement was the D4 and so on). However in my opinion I don’t think the D800 is a replacement for the D700 at allâ”it is completely different camera with a completely different customer in mind and here’s how to determine if you’re a potential D800 customer (again just from my experience and point of view):

The D800 is for you if you would be a medium format customer, but don’t want to pay $25,000 (or more) to enter that rarified air (in other words you need a very, very high resolution image file and that’s the most important thing but you’re not a full-time commercial photographer or a rich surgeon). So, who really needs a very very high resolution image file? Well, first off people who are shooting things where they need to capture a tremendous amount of detail, like commercial photographers shooting products. Though the D800 is also attractive if you are a landscape photographer or you primarily shoot cityscapes where keeping every little last bit of detail is of the utmost importance, then the D800 certainly fits that part of the bill.

But there more to it than just image file size
I don’t think that’s the main determining factor on whether you should get a D800. I think the main determining factor is actually “how large do you need to make your final images.” If you only show your images on the web, you’re pretty much wasting your money because the D800 hundred’s biggest feature is the ability to make very large prints which look very, very sharp. I’m not talking 16″ x 20″ prints â” I’m talking about where 30″ x 40″ prints would be a small size print for you â” I’m talking huge posters, backlit signs in the airport, billboards, and large output of that nature, and if that’s really what you’re doing, the D800 may be perfect for you because it has that 36-megapixel resolution that you really need to make sharp prints at huge sizes.

So, is it a Medium format camera in a DSLR body?
Now, while the D800 has a resolution that is similar to some medium format cameras, I don’t want you to think the D800 is a complete replacement for a medium format digital camera (or a digital back), because while it has a similar resolution, medium format cameras definitely have their own trademark look. There’s something special about the look of a medium format image that it unique to it. So while the D800 has incredible crispness, sharpness and all the stuff that is indicative of a medium format camera, the medium format cameras still have their own trademark look and feel. Some D800s would argue this point and say that their D800 files look better than a medium format. I’m not saying the Medium Format’s look is better. I’m just saying it has its own look (and some folks might like that look better).

So what’s the downside of a D800?
While for some folks the resolution is the best feature, for others it’s the biggest drawback. For example â” I don’t think it makes a really great camera for travel photography.  For example if you shoot a simple five-frame HDR photo and you open that image in Photoshop â”  those five images open on screen at one time is about six hundred megabytes. That’s 6/10 of a gig for one single HDR image (whew!).  Now imagine you’re stitching a pano with 14 frames. Something like that just really clogs up your pipeline in huge way (you’ll be stitching that pano for an hour). I know from first-hand experience because I took a D800 to Cuba and to Paris and while the images were sharp and crisp, the file sizes were just tremendous, and storage space really becomes an issue. You eat up memory cards like nobody’s business and you eat up your hard drive space like it going out of style, and your entire workflow is much slower because working with such huge files. Again, if you need files this bigâ”no problemâ”perfectly understandable and you’re cool with all the extra headaches those file sizes bring, it’s great, but for most of usâ”working with those super high-resolution files will really be more trouble than they’re worth.

Contrast this with the old D700
I wouldn’t use the D800 for sports â” the resolution is just too high to make it practical, and the frames per second rate is just too slow, and I’m sure Nikon would be the first ones to tell you it was never designed as a sports camera. In contrast, the D700 actually was pretty decent for sports, especially if you added the battery grip which pumped it up to eight frames per second, and I used it as my 2nd body on a number of occasions and it rocked.  Both cameras are great for portraits (though you might have to do some extra retouching with the D800 files because they pick up everything, and I mean everything), but again â” if most of your images will be seen mostly on the web, I would have a hard time recommending that you by a D800.

The Nikon D600 is an entirely different story
I do see this camera as the upgraded replacement for the D700 (even though the model number is lower). Its file size is still pretty high (24 megapixels) but lower than the D800s 36-megapixels; it’s easier to work with its smaller files, it’s faster all around, and it’s got great video features.  That’s really how I see the D600 â” a better D700. Take that great D700, then add great video features, and a few extra tweaks and updates and you’ve got the D600.

You can use it for travel and it works wonderfully well. You can shoot landscapes and it’s great for that too (and the images are still sharp and crisp), and you can shoot sports with it (I actually shot an NFL game with the D600 as my second body it while was a little slow, it took beautiful shots overall and I’d use it again).  I think this is a camera that will work for almost anything that you wanted to shoot and while it’s just an evolutionary step (where many would argue that the D800 was a revolutionary step because of its high resolution and sharpness at that price point) it’s a very good step in its evolution and an improvement over the D700, which is all we ever wanted, right â” a better version of what we had. So, if you wanted to replace your D700 with something newer and better along the same lines (but with HD video), I think the D600 is that camera (and it’s about $1,000 cheaper than the D800).

So, which one takes better pictures?
Well, here’s the thing and its the big tiebreaker: where will you images be seen? If your images are seen on the web, I don’t think anyone will really be able to tell you, at web resolution, which shot was taken with the D800 or the D600 â” even large sized images on the Web will look pretty much about the same (if not identical). However the one place where these two images will really hit that fork in the road is when you print really large images. At 13″ x 19″,  I think they would probably look very close to the naked eye if not identical.  At 30 x 40 , you’ll probably see a visible difference. As you get larger in size, the D800 images will really pull away from the D600s (or the D4’s for that matter), but you’ll have to go fairly big to start to see a real difference. So, honestly, unless you’re printing really large files, I’d have a hard time telling you to choose anything other than the D600 â” it’s just that right camera at the right price with the right features for most of us.

Now, I know that since I’ve written this I will immediately hear from some photographers who’ll say “Scott, I have the D800 and it’s a wonderful travel photography camera” and then from someone else who uses it for sports and it’s perfect for them, and that’s fineâ” if you’re happy with your camera choice that’s great. Just remember this: loads of folks bought the D800 when it first came out, and I talked to a number of folks who bought it thinking it was the upgraded D700. That being said, it’s very, very, very rare to read anyone ever admit “I bought the wrong camera.” In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that sentence written online ever. As photographers, our job is to defend our purchase, and never admit we might have jumped the gun a bit, and I’m fully aware of that (and I hope you are, too). So, if you bought the D800 just to shoot Facebook profile photos for your clients, I fully expect you to tell my why you made the right choice. It’s OK. If you’re happy, that’s really all that matters.

They both have their Strengths and Differences
I shot with both cameras and they both have their strengths and weaknesses.  I think the reason why there are two separate cameras â” the  D600 and D800 is because they were created for two very different customers and that’s a good thing because instead of just having just a D700 and D3 (like we used to have â” just those two choices), now we’ve got this other camera in between (the D800) that I think actually replaces the very expensive D3x but at a fraction of the price, and I think that’s a great thing. The D3x was aimed at commercial photographers, and that’s who I think the D800 probably works best for, though those high res files may also appeal to some of us landscape and portrait photographers, too.

The bottom-line
There is nothing I hate more than reading a shootout review or article in a magazine comparing two or more cameras and at the end, the writer really doesn’t choose one or the other, they just kind of leave you with “Well, it depends on what you’re needs are, they’re both great cameras.” Well, duh. Every purchase we make depends on what our needs are. Well, I don’t want to leave you with that either, so I’m going to tell you what I told my friend. Get the D600.
I hope that helps you somewhat if you’re in that same “on the fence” situation between these two great cameras, and I hope it helps you make your decision that much easier. Cheers.

(Above: iPhone shot of Nikon’s huge booth right at the front door of the expo hall).

This was a quick trip: up one day and right back home the next, but it was totally worth it (plus I got to do a session on “Photoshop for Travel Photographers” at B&H Photo the night before, and it went really great — thanks to everyone who came out, and to the awesome team at B&H Photo for the honor of letting me teach there. I had a wonderful crowd and met some really nice folks.

(Above: This was taken right before my class at B&H Photo started — photo by my buddy Dave with his iPhone).

I didn’t have any sessions at the show itself, (just a few meetings) so I got to do my two favorite things: (1) Check out all the latest gear from the vendors, and (2) watch some demos and presentations at some of the booths (that totally rocked — more on that in a minute).

I was loving the Nikon Theater
Right when you walked in the door, Nikon had a theater where they featured presentations from a number of Nikon shooters and it was fantastic (by the way: Canon had a presentation stage as well, but their stage was more set up for training with live shoots, whereas Nikon’s was more for inspirational talks and teaching. Both were packed. Both were awesome).

I spent a lot of the day at the Nikon theater, first watching the adventure photography of Corey Rich. He chronicled his 14-day project in Mexico creating promo stills and a DSLR movie for Nikon’s launch of the D4. His presentation was really great in that his point was, “Look at this amazing video, just a few regular guys made, you can do this, too!” Of course, I wouldn’t repel down a waterfall to shoot a pro-kayaker going over waterfalls” but outside of that, he showed that it was just some guys with the D4 (and a lot of talent) can make something special (and his video and still both were awesome). Very good presentation all around (and his movie is below — you’ll dig it).

Later in the day I sat in on a Beauty/Fashion presentation from award-winning photographer Dixie Dixon and she was just terrific. She’s got really beautiful images, very cool behind-the-scenes videos (really well produced), and a very genuine, fun presentation style. She’s doing big work for big agencies and corporate clients, and creating some really wonderful images, and she’s just 22 years old. I picked up a few great ideas and tricks from her presentation, too! The crowd was totally with her the whole time (I already asked her to do a guest blog here, so you’ll hear more from her here soon). In the meantime, here’s one of her behind-the-scenes videos:

After that, two Nikon DSLR movie makers took the stage and brought up a slide showing that they created their movie using a crew of 120 people, and they had to close off like 8-blocks of a big city (and just how hard that was to do), and they listed all their expensive gear, and on and on. They basically took the opposite approach of Corey. Instead of saying, “Hey, you guys can do this!” they basically said “You’ll never be able to do this, so just sit back and soak in our awesomeness.” I’m sure their movie was amazing, but I left right then (Since I’ll never be able to do any of what they’re about to show, anyway).

(Above: Another iPhone shot — that’s Robert Beck in the Nikon Theater).

Lastly, I made it a point to come back and catch Sports Illustrated’s staff photographer Robert Beck and his presentation and it was terrific. He has some absolutely iconic sports images (it’s wild to see the image full screen first, and then in the next slide you see it on the cover of Sports Illustrated) and his stories and insights were awesome. Lots of great learning moments there, too (he said a few things that really resonated with me). Really glad I got to see him present.

All-in-all, I learned a ton in just those presentations and it was totally worth the trip up just for those.

The Gear
Ahhhh, the gear. I wish I had had more time to visit booths and check out stuff, but I spent too time learning (LOL!!!). Here’s some cool stuff I did see:

(Above: It’s really exciting to come around a corner at the trade show and see one of your shots really big on the wall. This is the Elinchrom booth — iPhone photo by Matt Kloskowski). 

Manfrotto (Elinchrom and Lastolite)
I went by Elinchrom’s booth and they had the new updated strobes that are replacing my beloved BXRI 500’s (the new ones are just BXR 500) and they have a few nice new features and will be shipping next month if I remember right. Lastolite had some very clever new flash modifiers (snoots, brackets and stuff), and a very interesting gobo rig with drop-in patterns for creating interesting backgrounds. They also had some cool resizable softboxes (they convert from strip banks to rectangles, and octas and stuff). I’m continually impressed at Lastolite’s innovation in modifiers — they are really kind of leading the way these days.

Broncolor Lighting
Broncolor and Hasselblad had an off-site exhibit (about a 10-minute walk from Photo Plus) called “Shoot NYC” and it was in this hip location where they set up all these different lighting set-ups (all based around a Ducati motorcycle, so they had the cycle lit, a cool helmet  for a product shoot, and a racing boot at another shoot, and it was just a really cool theme and layout). I got to see the new Broncolor packs they intro’d at the show and I was really impressed.

F.J. Westcott
They had introduced a 1000-watt LED-powered continuous light (it was small and round, more like a regular studio light) that looked really interesting. They’re going to send me one to review and I’ll let you guys know how it works but it was really incredibly bright and I’m looking forward to giving it a whirl.

Sony DSLRs
They had a big presence again (though it didn’t seem nearly as big as last year’s), but they had a couple of presentation stages and I watched part of a session on shooting babies and they had an adorable, very well behaved little cutie there and the woman doing the shoot for Sony (Sorry, I wish I had her name), was very good and made some wonderful images live in the front of the crowd. Almost made me want to shoot babies. Almost. ;-)

(Above: You can see Canon’s Live Learning Stage on the left, with Wedding Photographer Denis Reggie giving a presentation. Great presenter and of course, fantastic wedding photographer). 

Canon’s booth was jammed, and they had lots of levels of depth, and a very cool “Car crash” scene you could film with their DSLRs. I only did a brief walk-through, but they had the type of booth you felt like you could really spend some time in just exploring. I can’t imagine what it cost.

(Above: A quick snap of Nikon’s Mad Science Lab set and actor. This guy would go non-stop for hours. Don’t know how it did it. Maybe he is “mad”). 

Nikon was jammed as well, and they had a Nikon 1 stage with Salsa dancers, and a Fosse-like tap dancer (among others) and over at the DSLR side they an elaborate “Mad scientist’s” lab with an actor playing the part to a “T.” RC did an HDR of it, but here’s a quick snap from my iPhone in the meantime. They also had a tall platform where you could look through some really long glass, of course they had that awesome theater up front when you walked in the door.

Other booths
Epson’s booth was big and hopin’; Peachpit Press had a booth and they were so busy I could only get one of them to even look my way. We had a NAPP booth there and I heard from our crew it was doing really well, so that was cool (stop by and see my brother Jeff — coolest brother ever — plus they have some show specials). Olympus had a fairly good size booth, but it was kind of buried behind the massive Nikon booth so unless you were standing in just the right place, you couldn’t see them. I saw the Sigma booth and they had a good crowd and a shooting theater too. Tried to get to see it, but got swept into an impromptu meeting and never got back over there.

Maddening Inspiration
One thing that always strikes me about Photo Plus Expo — there are a LOT of fabulous images everywhere you look (they’re literally lining the walls of the Epson booth, and at MPIX Pro, and at every paper company, and on every flat-panel display in about every booth). It’s really inspiring to see so much great work, but at the same time, so much of it is so good that it makes me want to take all my gear and toss it in a dumpster. Weirder yet, simultaneous to feeling all that, I want to just run out and shoot (which is probably why my gear went with me on the plane instead of in a dumpster at 28th and 8th, which I briefly comtimplated). I would have like to spend another day or two there wrapped up in this “inspirational self-loathing” (hey, I coined a new phrase — I have a reason to live!) just to catch some more sessions and looking more to learn more.

Wrap Up
Overall show seemed crowded everywhere I went, and everybody seemed to be having a great time (I sure did). I wish I’d had a chance to see more of the booths, but before I knew it, it was time to head for the airport (Matt and RC are still there tomorrow though, so keep an eye out for them, and trip them if you get a chance. They’re young. They can take it). By the way: Peter Hurley took an incredible headshot of Matt while he was up there. Matt actually didn’t look horribly grotesque, which I think says volumes about Peter’s work. ;-)   By the way; we have a class coming out on Kelby Training Online from Peter that will totally rock!!!

I’m off Washington DC on Monday
I’m already back home now (I told you it was a quick trip), and I’m off to Washington DC on Sunday (no football game — the Redskins on are the road)  for my “Photoshop for Photographers” seminar on Monday (hopefully, I see some of you there: here’s the link if you want to come join me for the day), and I hope you all have an awesome weekend!!!

Here’s a few shots from my sideline shoot at the Tennessee Titans vs. Detroit Lions NFL game on Sunday. It was a wild game, that went into overtime (the Titans won in overtime), but ask anyone that watched the game — it was a roller coaster and a blast to shoot (especially since I was shooting with the amazing Donn Jones and his Titan’s photography crew — just a great group of guys — a very talented group but they know how to fun, too!).

I feel like I did better this time out, and I actually got a few shots I like, but I still need to work on my position and timing to get where I want to be.

Trying Out Some New Gear: The Nikon D600
I have the just-introduced Nikon D600 on loan for a couple of weeks (for a project we’re working on internally) and people were already asking me about it online, so I thought I’d take it as my 2nd body for the game and see how it did. I’m happy to report — it rocked. Now granted, since this was an afternoon game I didn’t get to use the D600 for what it’s probably best at  —- low noise at High ISOs, for a night game or indoor arena, so I still want to try it out under those conditions, but outside of that it was incredibly crisp, sharp and responsive with really excellent image quality (reminded me a lot of the camera it replaced, the D700, although I’m not sure if Nikon sees it as that, but with lots of nice tweaks and modernization). A big bonus for me — 24-megapixels!!! (that’s 8-megapixels more than my D4).

(Above: Here’s one taken with the D600, with my 70-200mm f/2.8 lens on my 2nd body of a kick return for a touchdown). 

For sports action, the frames per second (fps) on the D600 is 5.5 frames per second, which sounds fast (and is quite a bit faster than the D800) unless your other body is a D4, which is 11 fps. If this camera truly is the replacement for the D700, then if you used a Battery Grip with it, and used AA batteries in the grip, it should increase your fps to around 7 like the D700 did, and that would make it a great sports rig for a lot of folks who want this type of performance but don’t want to shell out $6,000 for a higher-end model.

(Above: Celebrating his punt return for a touchdown  by leaping up into the stands. The D600 with a 70-200mm f/2.8 Nikon lens).  

(Above: Here’s another with the D600 taken at center field right after the game ended, shot from down on one knee with a Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8). 

The only other thing that I wish were different (and I could be wrong about this), but I couldn’t find a way to assign a 100% to the “OK” button, like I can on my other Nikon camera. This is important for checking the sharpness, and while you can do it manually with a few zoom in/out button presses, being able to zoom in/out in one click to check sharpness is something I really missed. Again, there may be a way to assign that on the D600 but I wasn’t able to find it.

The Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 at work
I always have people asking me about third-party lenses (probably because I use mostly Nikon-brand lenses), so when I heard we had one in-house I asked to borrow it for this shoot, because I’d heard some good things about it. I have to tell you, I was pretty darn impressed and wound up using it that day more than I thought. Check out the image below.

(Above: A sample of the Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 lens).

I always do a few details shots along the sidelines (they’re great for slideshows, photo books, and just as supporting images to tell a story) and the lens did beautifully! Sharp, crisp, nice contrast — overall a great value for the money (it costs a third less than the Nikon or Canon versions of the same lens). It’s perhaps not the prettiest lens, and it doesn’t feel quite a solid as my Nikon version, but outside of that nik-picking I was impressed.

(Above: In the third quarter I headed up to the top deck to shoot a full stadium, 12-shot pano using the D600 and the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 and I stitched it together in Photoshop and created this poster for the team which celebrates the big win in overtime).

More Sigma 15mm Fisheye Action!
OK, I actually bought this lens last week, so now it’s mine and I’m loving it!!! I did rig it on the end of monopod (like I did last week at the Atlanta Falcons/Denver Broncos game) and I’m starting to get better with that rig (See the image below).

(Above: That’s the 15mm Sigma Fisheye on the end of my monopod at the pre-game warm-up on field).

This week, I’m happy to announce that the remote camera worked (shown circled below), and I think the reason why it didn’t work last week was that the sync cable popped out — I couldn’t get it screwed in, and that wound up bitting me when the cable slipped out, so I made sure I had time to screw it in tight this week).

(Above: There’s a long shot of my remote with the 15mm Sigma Fisheye).

(Above: Here’s a close-crop of the remote rig. More details below). 

On top is a pocket wizard, and a sync cable is running from the port on top of the Pocket Wizard to the Sync port on the front of my D3s. The camera is sitting on “The Green Pod” which is basically a beanbag with a screw sticking up so you can mount your camera on it like you would a tripod — it just screws right in. “The Cube” is a lightweight little cube to help you position or aim your lens. This probably isn’t the exact way they had it in mind, but hey — it worked. The shot at the top of this post was taken with this remote set-up. When this was taken, I was out at mid-field and I had another Pocket Wizard mounted on top of my camera (I was shooting a D4 with a 70-200mm f/2.8) and as I shot my camera, the PocketWizard sitting on my camera’s hot-shoe mount wirelessly triggered the remote unit, so I was shooting the same scene from two different angle â” one fisheye up close and one 200mm from way out on the field.

The advantage of “The Green Pod” camera platform is that you don’t have to get all sorts of permission from the pyrotechnics crew because you’re not attaching your rig to any of their stuff (if you use a Bogen Magic Arm to clamp to any of their stuff, you’re going to need lots of permission early on — with the Pod, nobody seems to care as long as it’s out of the way of where the players are going to run out).

(Above: Here’s what my other camera was seeing — a tight view into the tunnel at 200mm while my remote camera is shooting the wide fisheye shot like you see at the top of this post).

(Above: Giving credit to the man upstairs for the score. Not the officials in the pressbox. Farther up. :)

(Above: This is what I’m taking about when I talk about working on my timing. A split second later he had the ball in his hands and he turned and ran for a key touchdown late in the fourth quarter. The photographer beside me had that shot a split-second later and his was better. Timing is everything). 

(Above: That had to hurt).

(Above: Lions Quarterback Matt Stafford getting sacked late in the game).

(Above: This looks painful and awkward. See if he pulls out a baby calf! OK, that was wrong. Sorry). 

(Above: Matt Stafford in happier times).

OK, this I have NEVER seen!
I’m not saying it’s right or it’s wrong (it’s wrong), but this photographer actually had a tripod on the sidelines. I’ve covered lots of games, both college and NFL and I’ve yet to see a tripod on the sidelines. Monopod — yes all day — but whomever’s job it is to police that no tripod rule (if there is indeed one) was looking the other way for four quarters — just like the replacement refs (Come on baby, that’s gold! Gold I tell ya!).

OK, back to the game, already in progress.

(Above: Dancing into the end zone. You have to love shots taken in daylight — this one was at 1/8000 of a second at 200 ISO. Ahhhhhhh. Day games!).

(Above: I thought I’d include this behind-the-scenes shot of the photographer’s work room at LP Field. The floor tiles are designed to make sure you don’t rest your eyes, even for a minute. One nice touch: that chair in the center? That was assigned to a security guard who watches the room while we’re out on the field. That’s rare, but very welcome indeed. This shot was taken well after the game ended — it was pretty packed before and at half time).

The Icing On The Cake, was…
Getting to shoot alongside my buddy Donn Jones and his wonderful crew shooting for the Titans. Donn has assembled a team of photographers for the Titans of talented, quality shooters and people and they just love what they do, and it shows. One of the highlights of getting to shoot with Donn & Company is that right after the game they host their own tailgate party just for the photographers who shot the game (they affectionately call it the “Lame @$# Tailgate Party” but it’s anything but that.  They’re working four hour before kick-off, so they miss the chance to tailgate, or heck, even have lunch), so this is a great way to unwind after a long game, and I wish this tradition happened at other stadiums as well.

These guys just have so much fun (and so much yummy food — Donn’s buddy Al, who’s also on Donn’s crew — sets up a gas grill and cooks everything from hamburgers, to hotdogs, sausage and BBQ. It’s the perfect end to a perfect day of shooting, and I want to thank Donn, Charles, Al (my new best friend), Michael (the Sports Guru), and Mickey (who’s leading my Nashville Photo Walk for the 2nd year) for treating me like family, and for the honor to shoot alongside you guys. I don’t know what it is about these photographers in the South (like the Falcons crew and the Titans crew), but I’ve never felt more welcome and at home — many thanks for a day (and a game) I won’t soon forget.


(Above: My new Retina MacBook Pro, shot with my iPhone, but there’s something missing that should be there).

It’s Game Day!
When you shoot an event for a sports wire service, they need the images from the game as soon as possible, and so during halftime I upload half-a-dozen images, and then immediately after the game, from the photographer’s work room at the stadium, I transmit (as it’s called) another 25 or so final images. They have free wireless in the workroom (and now, in the entire stadium for fans as I noticed on Friday), and there are power plugs and a counter to work on.

(Above: Another iPhone shot, this one of the Photographer’s Work Room at Raymond James Stadiums. Ahhhh, the glamorous life of a sports photographer. They really go all out for us. LOL!!! There are two rooms like this, side by side. Note the laptops throughout the room, all used for transmitting images during and after the game). 

Prepping Before You Leave For The Stadium
I’m going to have to properly identify each player (correct spelling of their name, team, position, and jersey number) for every photo I upload, and describe the action in the shot. To make things easier there’s a service you can subscribe to called “” and it’s for photographers who use the program Photo Mechanic (which used by all pro sports photographers, myself included) and you import this generated team roster into the program and then you just type in the player’s number and it fills in everything for you. It’s amazing and saves a ton of time (totally worth the inexpensive subscription).

So, before the game I go and generate one of those rosters and load it into Photo Mechanic. Then I set up a metadata template in PM with all the details of the game (who is playing home, where it’s played, the date, copyright info, other stuff), and lastly I set up the FTP server to upload my files to the wire service. It’s takes a few minutes, but you’re better off to do it beforehand than rushing to do it at the stadium at game time.

Here’s where my problems began
I’ve got everything all ready to go, and I’m packing up to literally walk out the door. I’m excited to be taking my new thinner, lighter and much faster MacBook Pro to do my transmitting, and I grab the essential Kensington Security Cable and lock (you use this to physically lock your MacBook Pro to the table, so while you’re on the field, another photographer, or staffer, or passerby, doesn’t slip your shiny new laptop in their bag and it’s gone forever. Hey, it happens enough that every photographer locks down their stuff, just like you would at Starbucks when you have to go to the restroom).

It was at that moment that I freaked out, because when I looked at the side of my new top-of-the-line MacBook Pro I noticed that the tiny security slot that Apple puts in ALL MacBook Pros just for this purpose, is missing. It’s just not there (see the photo at the top).

There is no way I’m going to leave my new MacBook Pro unattended
I’m searching everywhere for that security slot (it’s about 1/16 of an inch by 1/32 of an inch, if that) but it is just not there. Now, what do I do! I go find my old MacBook Pro, which thankfully I hadn’t erased yet, and I frantically download a new CodeReplacement roster, and reconfigure the metadata, and I have to change card readers and now I’m running late, and sure enough I get to the stadium a half hour later than I wanted, and I literally just made it to the field before the team came out. Whew!

(Above: Here’s my old MacBook Pro so you can see the tiny slot for the Kensington Security Cable lock —- this is a really close up shot so it looks bigger than it is. Taken with my iPhone which does not need a security slot but should probably have one because mine slipped out of my jacket pocket in a taxi and it was gone forever). 

It gets worse
At halftime, I go to start the process of finding, editing, tagging and transmitting my files, only to realize that I don’t have the user name and password for the FTP upload to my wire service, and I don’t have time to get it (halftime is only 12 minutes for preseason games), so I download my images from my two cameras into the laptop so at least that’ll save me some time after the game.

After the game, I rush into the work room (we all do), while two cards are downloading, I’m going through my images and finding my “Picks” (shots that might make the final cut to be transmitted), and then I find them, launch Photoshop only to realize that I had deactivated Photoshop on that laptop when I got my new MacBook Pro (so I could activate it there).

Please, just for a moment, imagine the look on my face. It’s my first gig for this new wire service, I missed the upload during halftime (thank goodness this was a preseason game), and now I’m going to have to leave the stadium, drive 30 minutes home, and do my editing and transmitting from home. I’m really cranked, embarrassed, frustrated, and most of all…

…I just can’t understand how Apple didn’t include this tiny, tiny 1/32 of a inch slot we so desperately need!
This isn’t just a problem for sports photographers â” it’s for schools that have MacBook’s in their labs, and at work, and anywhere we need to have our laptops secured (Starbucks) and now we have to find some other solution (and I’m looking at a few), but I would dearly LOVE to hear why Apple decided NOT to include this tiny slot. While they’re at it, I’d love to know why in Mountain Lion Apple decided to do away with the menubar Display menu, which is another thing that makes me shake my head, but don’t get me started.

There are other solutions (none of which I like so far, and the only one I like isn’t shipping until next month at the earliest), so there is an option or two, but now at least you know. I wonder what I’m going to do this Friday. My old MacBook Pro will need to go to someone else in my company (I think Brad) pretty shortly, so what’s my backup plan for securing my laptop this week.

Now, you’re about to learn exactly what an “Apple Apologist” is
I love Apple products. I have an iPad, an iPhone, an iMac, and two MacBook Pros. I’ve been an Apple customer since 1986; I’ve written books about the Mac (my first book ever), and the iPod and the iPhone (I have a book out on the iPhone 4s currently), and I’ve even written about Apple itself (my book, Macintosh: The Naked Truth, published 10 or so years ago became a cult hit), so I’m a pretty pro-Apple guy. I love their products, how they’re designed, and that they “just work.” However, when anyone (and I mean anyone) says something negative about Apple or an Apple product (as I have here), you will read people commenting on this post that:

(a) It’s not Apple’s fault they removed the security slot. Apple doesn’t make bad decisions. They are a perfect company.
(b) It’s somehow my fault for working in situations that require me to leave my laptop unattended.
(c) That steel cable and lock was no real deterrent, and could easily be defeated by a real criminal.

On that last point — that Kensington lock has saved many-a-MacBook Pro and you do have to be a real criminal, bringing wire cutters or having the intent to steal a laptop coming into the stadium to make away with one, and of course you still run the risk of getting caught. In the end, it’s far better than nothing, even if not “unbeatable.”

How dare we!!!
In 2009 Terry White wrote on his blog that he thought the USB ports were too close to each other on the old MacBook Pros (link), because half the time you couldn’t plug-in two USB devices at once. I totally agreed, and I had this happen to me all the time. Apple apologists lined up on Terry’s blog to tell him that it’s not a design flaw — the manufacturers just need to make their USB plugs thinner.

Or back when Apple first added the rotation gesture to the MacBooks and I complained that I kept rotating my canvas in Photoshop and InDesign by accident on my trackpad. I mentioned that I would love it if there was a way to turn off that gesture in the Mac OS, and Apple Apologists lined up to tell me that I was literally stupid for using Photoshop with a trackpad, and that “nobody uses Photoshop with a trackpad.” I guess nobody uses Photoshop on a flight.

The flip side
Because I mentioned Apple, it will also bring out the haters. There will be the requiste “You should be using a PC” and “That’s because Mac’s suck” and the whole “You’re locked into a closed environment and that’s what you get” stupidity, because mentioning Apple is like mentioning HDR, Nikon vs. Canon, iOS vs. Android, Sony or Bose — it just brings out the worst in everyone. If you own a Mac, or a PC. Nikon or Canon. You shoot HDR or not, you DO NOT have to defend your choice by attacking everyone elses. It’s OK to use the products (or techniques) that appeal to you. Grow up.

So why did I open this can of worms?
Because I want anyone to know who is thinking of buying a MacBook Pro with the Retina display, that something’s missing. It doesn’t have a Security Slot, and for some people (like me) that’s a real problem (and one I’m now going to have to deal with somehow). So, that’s it. A heads up, and here’s hoping that Apple adds them back in future models, and that someone comes up with as elegant a security option as Kensington did (who obviously teamed up with Apple on that slot). Hey, we can always dream. :)




One of the most frustrating things about photography gear is that sometimes there are SO many options available to you, it makes it challenging to find exactly what you want. It’s why so many photographers I know (yours truly included) have so many different camera bags, and lenses, and tripods, and filters on and on. We’ll all searching for “the one” that will do everything we want.

Every once in a while, you find it.
Just like I’ve been searching for the perfect iPad portfolio App. There’s a bunch out there, but none of them did all the things I wanted one to do. Some did most of what I wanted, and some did some of what I wanted (and believe me, I tried them all), but I have finally found it. Best of all, it’s only $12.99. I’m not sure I have anything photography related that only costs $12.99.

It’s called FolioBook Photo Portfolio (by Architek, Limited).
While I was on vacation last week, I read another photographer raving about it (I wish I could remember who it was, because I’d like to give him/her credit), and the weird thing is, after I read it, I thought to myself, “Don’t I already have that App?” I did. I just had an older version. Now it’s at 3.0 and the free update addressed some of the things that I felt were missing. I was one happy camper.

Here’s why I love it
(1) First, it lets you create a custom splash screen and layout (that’s mine above — I went with a clean simple look, but it’s very customizable, and you can create separate splash screens for horizontal or vertical layouts). You can import logos and/or background images, and this splash screen is what you see when you launch the App, so it lets you just hand it to somebody and they’re ready to roll. Also, you can lock it down so they can’t accidentally make any edits or mess up the presentation.

(2) You can have as many galleries as you want (well, as many as you have space on screen for anyway), with up to 200 images per gallery.

(3) You can import images already on your iPad, or directly from Dropbox (which is what I used, since I prepped all my images on my laptop. Also, you can upload up to 200 images at once.

By the way, if you have an iPad 3 with the Retina Display, you’re definitely going to want to use higher resolution images (like 2038 x 1053 pixels). When you use the higher resolution like that, the images really look incredible. Otherwise, they look a little soft (not the fault of the App, it’s a screen resolution thing).

(4) You can drag and drop to arrange your photos in the order you want in a thumbnail view (as seen above).

(5) It’s got a great slideshow with different transitions, and it can play background music behind your slideshow, and it’s very simple to configure and use (that’s the pop-down controls shown above).

(6) You can email any photo in your port right from the App itself, so if someone wants a comp, or you want to share an image for any reason, you can do it right there.

(7) I think if any one thing put me over the top, it is the amount of customization you can do. You can really get things just the way you want them (I didn’t realize quite how much you can do until I watched their online video demos, which I strongly suggest, because if not you’ll go hunting for stuff you know it can do, but you’re not sure how). By the way, any time you’re looking in a gallery, you can have a row of thumbnails appear (as seen above) by just swiping down from the top of the screen.

What would I change?
If there is one thing I would change, it’s pretty minor, but it just feels weird. Once you’re looking at a gallery, to return to your main screen (your splash screen with links to your other galleries), you have to do a pinch gesture to shrink the image that’s on screen down to 1/2 its size, the the main screen appears. I’ve been using this App a lot, and I just can’t get used to that. It seems like there’s got to be a better way than pinching, but I’m not quite sure what that might be (tapping once in the corner? Swiping up instead of left/right? I dunno, but pinching just really doesn’t feel right.

The Bottomline
Outside of that one thing I would change, I’m amazed at what it can do for just $12.99. It’s clean, flexible, easy to use, and I love the “client” mode where you can just have them tap the app icon and it’s in presentation mode — ready to go. This is the iPad portfolio App I’ve been waiting for. Thank you Architek, Limited. This is one search I can now stop. Ahhh, now if they only made a laptop bag. ;-)

Here’s the link to it on the App store (or of course you can just go to the App store on your iPad).



Scott, thanks for the opportunity to put a few of my thoughts down for your readers. Not exactly the circumstances under which I envisioned being your guest blogger, but now I have a goal to do this again under different conditions.

First of all, I'm of the belief that direct customer input (any kind) is good, so I don't mind all the comments and ideas - they are all part of the journey to keep improving. We constantly strive to deliver the best customer experience to protect data, and we take this very seriously.  Better to know than not knowing.

Regarding your case Scott, the bottom line is that we made a bad judgment - our agents are trained to immediately swap or upgrade (regardless of warranty condition) if they see what you saw on your video - but we made a rookie mistake this time. I traced the call logs.  100% our bad this time.  As I mentioned on the phone, my apologies and it should not have happened. By the way, if any of your readers (or their readers or colleagues or friends or whatever) experiences what you saw on your video, just contact us or ping me directly ( and we will take care of it immediately.

Just to clarify, we currently offer a standard one-year warranty, and many of our customers opt for the extended care package. We are, of course, working on much faster, "next-gen" Drobos that take into consideration all of the customer feedback we've gotten since day 1, and we've been debating the 1-year vs. longer standard warranty period as part of these soon-to-be announced new products. This is where there is (!) a bit of a silver lining as the timing of your input could not have been more acute - vote(s) recognized, taken, counted!

Readers, the only comments that I want to strongly dispute are the ones that suggest that I only followed up with Scott because he is Scott. I (we) call customers every single day - small, large, happy, frustrated, domestic, international. We have a couple of hundred thousand to choose from, and there's always someone who wants to talk about their Drobo and/or their challenges of data protection and management. I enjoy it, I learn a lot, and it is important that our customers know that there are real people out here trying to help them figure it out. I ALWAYS end my emails (and my guest blogs) with an invitation to send me ( your thoughts or to drop me a line at 408-276-8621 (I am hardly ever at my desk, but leave a VM and I will get back to you).

OK - thanks again - I'm glad to have the opportunity to meet you all "directly," despite the circumstances. My personal goal now (mark it down) is to re-appear as Scott's guest blogger the day after he writes the "Drobo - I'm BACK" post. It's on us. I know what is coming, and I like our chances.

Best regards everyone,