Archive for June, 2017

6 Ideas for More Creative Landscape Photography

26 Jun

In the following article, you will learn how to do creative landscape photography using a variety of different techniques.

The level of technical skill in photography these days is amazing. A quick Google search for any given location will show well-composed photos, taken during the correct lighting conditions, and edited to perfection. The number of people capable of taking these perfectly crafted photos is also increasing, and therein lies the problem. The number of people with similar photos diminishes all the others when placed together. What’s the solution to this? If you still want to take a photo of a particular landscape consider other creative approaches to photographing it.

So what’s the solution to this? If you still want to take a photo of a particular landscape consider using some other creative approaches to photographing it. Read on for six ideas to help you do better and more creative landscape photography.

6 Ideas for More Creative Landscape Photography - long exposure

This photo has used a long exposure to flatten the water. It’s also the same image used for the 360-degree panoramic image below.

#1 – Infrared Photography

Infrared photography is great fun to experiment with and has been around along time. This particular form of photography uses, as the name suggests, infrared light to capture images. Now you can’t see the infrared spectrum with your eyes, but your camera sensor or special infrared film can.

When using a digital camera you will either need to adjust the White Balance in camera or use post-processing to bring out the signature infrared look (note you can also get an old camera body converted especially for capturing infrared images). What is the infrared look? These photos have dark black skies, bright white foliage and often they have still water caused by a long exposure. In order to take this type of photo with a digital camera you will need a filter or a reconditioned camera.

6 Ideas for More Creative Landscape Photography - infrared

Infrared is a lot of fun if you’re prepared to put the time into learning this technique.

#2 – Aerial Photography

One of the best angles in photography is a high angle looking down, this can lead to some great creative landscapes. The advances in drone technology have seen many people take amazing photos from the sky, though the consumer-level drones still don’t produce the highest quality still images. There are a few options if you want to try out aerial photography yourself.

  • Airplanes – Yes get the window seat of your plane, and take photos from the sky. Ensure you have a high shutter speed, remember you’re plane is moving fast so you need a fast shutter speed to get a sharper image.
  • Drones – The consumer drone will get you great angles, and images with good enough quality for online sharing, but not for printing. The professionals use larger drones that allow their dSLR to be attached to them.
  • Hot air balloons – It’s a great experience to take a hot air balloon ride, and the photos can be incredible. Even more extreme is attaching a camera to a weather balloon, and sending it up almost into space!
6 Ideas for More Creative Landscape Photography - aerial photo

A great angle if you can get it is overhead for a creative landscape. This photo was taken from a hot air balloon, but a drone would also get an angle like this.

#3 – Refraction

The concept of refraction to use light bent through a glass object is essentially how your lens puts an image onto your camera sensor. You can create this effect with spherical glass objects, or even ones filled with water. The image inside the refracting object will be upside down, and a vast amount of the scene behind the ball will be captured.

This is an interesting way to capture a creative landscape because the image inside the ball the image has the characteristics of a fisheye lens. Using a lens with a long focal length will compress the scene.

6 Ideas for More Creative Landscape Photography - refraction

This scene of St Paul’s Cathedral was captured inside a crystal ball, using the refraction technique.

#4 – Shoot a 360-Degree Panorama

This creative landscape idea utilizes post-processing to create a tiny planet effect. The effect is similar to the refraction idea, in that you are creating a globe, however, the look is very different.

To create this photo you will need a panoramic landscape image. If you’re a purest, then the panoramic landscape will be created by rotating the camera through 360 degrees. Once you have your panorama it needs to be reformatted into a square image, flipped upside down, and then the polar coordinates filter should be applied in Photoshop. To find this filter go to filter > distort > polar coordinates.

6 Ideas for More Creative Landscape Photography - 360-degree pano

This photo was turned into a tiny planet. It has the feel of a 360-degree panoramic photo.

#5 – Long Exposure

The different types of images that are possible with long exposures will lead to a burst of creative landscape photography. All you need is a tripod, and a camera capable of taking long exposure photos. The effect of long exposure is to make things move. The main subjects are car light trails, water, and cloud movement. Now, of course, astrophotography is also long exposure, but you’ll learn about that next.

  • Car light trails – These are produced by taking photos that are generally five seconds or longer. An overhead angle from a bridge or tall building is often best for shooting car trails, but photos from street level also look nice.
  • Water – Anywhere there is moving water, a long exposure can look nice. When photographing waterfalls the white water becomes like silk, with exposures over two seconds. The sea and its waves can be flattened by using long exposures over 10 seconds.
  • Cloud movement – Clouds moving across the sky make for a dreamy look in your photo, to achieve this you’ll need lots of clouds, with some clear sky. The faster the clouds move the easier it is to capture this movement. A sturdy tripod is important here, clouds move faster on windy days, so you need the camera to be still.
6 Ideas for More Creative Landscape Photography - long exposures

It’s a lot of fun to play creatively with traffic light trails in a photo. The photo of Big Ben in London is a popular one.

#6 – Astrophotography

One of the most popular forms of photography for those interested in landscapes is astrophotography. The latest cameras help you capture starry skies, with better noise performance at high ISO levels. Recent excursions to the deserts of Dubai and the coastline of southern England revealed a phalanx of photographers interested in this kind of photography. The most popular types of astrophotography are capturing the Milky Way, or showing the rotation of stars around the pole.

  • The Milky Way – Positioning the Milky Way in your frame can create a dramatic and creative landscape photo. This is the subject of a whole different article. The basics are to shoot at the constellation of Sagittarius between March and October in the northern hemisphere. Use the largest aperture you have, with exposures generally being 25 seconds long, and an ISO of 6400 or greater.
  • Star trails – The aim here is to point your camera at the north or south pole, and capture the earth’s rotation during a long exposure. The photo can be an ultra long 15-minute exposure or a series of shorter ones. The best method is to take multipl30-secondnd exposures, and then stack them together. StarStax is a good piece of software that will help you create this type of photo.
6 Ideas for More Creative Landscape Photography - Milky Way

Shooting the Milky Way is hard to photograph, so the chance of your photo being more unique is higher if you can do it.

Which creative landscape will you make?

There are many creative landscape photography ideas, which one will you choose to try out? There are other ideas we’d love to hear about as well, how did you make a creative scene your own?

In this article, I stuck strictly to still photos, but experiments with video allow for time-lapse or cinemagraphs as well. Please share your examples of the above styles that you’ve done, and tell us why and how you create your shot.

The post 6 Ideas for More Creative Landscape Photography by Simon Bond appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Digital Photography School


The Miggö Pictar is a pricey camera grip for iPhone photographers

26 Jun

Miggö Pictar
From $ 99 |

Many photographers would probably agree that the image quality of smartphone cameras has improved rapidly over the past few years and in many cases now rivals the output from some conventional digital compact cameras. However, even if the image quality of the smartphone camera in your pocket is all you need, there is still one area in which conventional cameras offer undeniable advantages over smartphones: ergonomics.

Multi-touch smartphone displays are great for general use and navigation of mobile devices, but many photographers prefer physical buttons and dials for setting camera shooting parameters over virtual controls on a screen.

Enter the Miggö Pictar camera grip. It attaches to your iPhone and provides a number of customizable physical controls, plus a tripod mount and a cold shoe connector. The Pictar is available in two versions. One is compatible with the iPhones models 4s, 5, 5s, 6, 6s, SE and 7 and will set you back $ 99. The other fits the larger iPhone Plus models, including the latest iPhone 7 Plus flagship, and is $ 10 more expensive.

I’ve been using the Pictar grip with an iPhone 7 Plus for a few days. Here are my impressions.

Features, ergonomics and build quality

Attaching the Pictar to your phone is straightforward process. You ‘click’ the phone in place where it is safely held thanks to a spring-loaded mechanism. Once attached to the phone and connected to the Pictar app the grip offers most essential controls that you would expect on a conventional camera.

The Pictar’s chunky rubberized grip allows for comfortable and secure holding.

The shutter button supports half-press for focusing and locking exposure and two dials at the back of the grip are by default configured for dialing in exposure and changing the shooting mode. A front dial acts as a zoom ring, pressing it switches to the front camera. This configuration makes sense but if you don’t like how things are set up by default, the Pictar app allows for an impressive amount of customization. You can have a different setup for each shooting mode and even create custom profiles.

The Pictar offers a range of controls and features you would normally find on a digital compact or interchangeable lens camera.

Thanks to its rubberized grip the Pictar is comfortable to hold, even with only one hand, and most of the controls can be easily reached. Only the front dial is in a slightly inconvenient place which means you have to loosen your grip slightly when using it. That’s not much of a problem when you hold the phone and grip with both hands but makes for slightly unstable shooting in one-handed use. On my test unit the front dial is also a little stiff, making it difficult to dial in the desired zoom factor with precision.

The grip’s open design allows for attachment of most add-on lenses that don’t need a phone case but you cannot charge your iPhone while the grip is in place. A cold-shoe mount lets you use lights or microphones with your phone and at the bottom of the grip you’ll find a standard tripod mount.

Two dials on the back allow for quick adjustment of shooting mode and parameters.

Two major drawbacks of the Pictar are build quality and power supply. It’s made of quite cheap-looking plastic which stands in stark contrast to the iPhone’s premium materials. The buttons feel quite flimsy as well and the spring mechanism makes creaking noises when the iPhone is being attached. I have had no particular quality issues during my relatively short test but it remains to be seen how the Pictar will stand up to longer travels or intense daily use over time.

Power is supplied by a 1/2AA battery which Miggö says should last between 4 and 6 months. I had no issues with battery life during my testing but those batteries aren’t cheap and, depending on where you are, not always easily available. In this day and age even the cheapest devices seem to be USB-rechargable, and it’s a shame that the Pictar doesn’t offer this feature.

Pictar App

The Pictar camera app displays all essential shooting information. A histogram, virtual level and framing grid can be activated in the settings.

To use the grip you have to download and install the dedicated Pictar app first. Instead of Bluetooth it communicates with the phone via ‘ultrasonic OS’. Essentially, the grip sends out ultrasonic frequencies that are picked up by the iPhone’s microphones with a unique frequency for each function. According to the Pictar makers, this drains less battery on both devices. Everything worked well during our test and all of the grip’s physical controls were responsive and reliable at all times.

The app’s user interface is simple and well-designed. It shows all important camera settings and gives you the option to display a grid, histogram and virtual horizon. You can set focus and exposure points on the display and in some modes one shooting parameter is adjusted on a virtual slider but otherwise most settings are modified via the grip’s physical dials and buttons.

The customization options for the physical controls are almost endless.

The mode dial lets you switch between Auto, Manual and Shutter Speed and ISO priority modes. There’s also a Macro mode and a Sports modes, which biases toward using higher ISOs for faster shutter speeds, and a filter mode which allows for some live image manipulation. A video mode is included as well, but manual control is limited to exposure compensation.

Unfortunately the Pictar app does not offer the option to shoot images in Raw format, and there is no button to switch between the iPhone 7 Plus dual-camera lenses but you can assign that function to the front button if you want to. Unlike on a conventional camera a press of the shutter doesn’t take you back to the capture screen from review mode or when using another app.


In my experience there are two types of mobile photographers: purists who like mobile photography for its inconspicuousness and want to keep their device as compact and portable as possible, and those who like to use any gadget they can get their hands on to enhance their smartphone’s camera capabilities or feature set.

If you belong to the latter group and also like to have manual control over your shooting parameters the Pictar grip could definitely be for you. The dials and buttons offer quicker adjustment than most on-screen controls and the tripod and cold-shoe mounts will be appreciated by most more serious photographers.

On the downside, the Pictar does feel a little cheap for a $ 100 device. We’d also prefer USB-recharging to relatively obscure 1/2AA batteries. Raw support in the camera app would have been nice, too, especially when considering the photographically minded target users. That said, quite a few buyers will probably get the Pictar for its attractive retro-look alone.

What we like:

  • Good ergonomics and comfortable grip
  • Easy to use
  • Customizable configuration
  • Well-designed app

What we don’t like:

  • Cheap plastic material
  • Requires fairly obscure 1/2AA battery
  • Slightly stiff front dial makes precise zooming difficult
  • No Raw support in camera app

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10 Amazing Photography Tricks You Can do at Home with Everyday Objects

26 Jun

Here is a quick video showing you 10 photography tricks or projects you can try at home using everyday objects. You may have some of these things lying around your house, if not most are inexpensive to buy.

Try some of these ideas:

  • Make it snow indoors
  • Use a magnifying glass for fun effects
  • Create your own light flare
  • Try some refraction using water drops or a glass

Have any others? Please share your ideas in the comments below.

The post 10 Amazing Photography Tricks You Can do at Home with Everyday Objects by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Digital Photography School


How to Tell a Story With Your Street Photography

26 Jun

Street photographs on the surface may seem like they are independent of one another and can only go so far at telling a story, unlike say photojournalism. In some cases, this can be true, but there actually is a lot of crossover between documentary and street photography. Your street photographs can certainly tell a story.

How to Tell a Story With Your Street Photography

If you look at the individual books or even the entire bodies of work of photographers like Martin Parr, Trent Parke, Garry Winogrand, or Josef Koudelka, you can see that these photographers had a point of view. They were able to tell real stories with their photography.

How do you tell stories with street photography?

But how do you do this? If you are just starting out with street photography, you’re most likely focused on taking good shots and not on overarching themes. You never have to start trying to show comprehensive themes in your work, many great photographers don’t. But if you want to, plan on developing this over time.

The reality is that there is nothing more important than consistent time spent shooting. But while you are developing, here are some tips to help you get there.

*The photos used in this article are all part of a series called Luxury for Lease, which is about the disconnection, hyper-gentrification, conformity, and consumerism that has noticeably increased in New York since 9/11.

1. Create collections in Lightroom and group your images based on ideas and themes

How to Tell a Story With Your Street Photography

When you’re out shooting you want a clear head. Be open to whatever happens, so you give yourself the best chance to get lucky. Sometimes, if you’re too focused on one thing, you will miss everything else around you.

But during the editing phase is when you can really start to figure out what you are shooting. This is where you can develop your voice. Look through your photos, choose your favorites, and start to put them together. Pick out your images that seem to have some similarities in content, tone, or look.

They don’t have to perfectly relate, just in some way. Brainstorm, try a lot of things, and just have fun with it.

How to Tell a Story With Your Street Photography

I use Collections in Lightroom to do this. Collections allow you to put images into a folder without moving them physically on your hard drive. It is a great way to build portfolios of your work and to build and change around stories and ideas.

Over time, these stories will develop. Sometimes they will turn into nothing and you will scrap them, but other times they will morph. Sometimes the seed will develop into a fully formed idea over years of shooting, and the end result will be something that you couldn’t have imagined at the beginning.

That’s the fun part, and it will help you to think critically while you are out shooting. It will add a new layer to your abilities as you are photographing since you will begin to notice things that will fit into your projects.

2. Study the work of other photographers

How to Tell a Story With Your Street Photography

I can’t state the importance of this enough. It is hard to truly fathom the power of this type of photography unless you look at the work of photographers who have lived it for decades. Sometimes seeing what others have been able to do, particularly when looking at how diverse the ideas and styles are, will help you to form your own ideas. You may pick a characteristic from one photographer and a different attribute from another photographer and blend them both into your style.

Some photographers that I recommend you look up for street photography are; Robert Frank, Martin Parr, Trent Parke, Garry Winogrand, Josef Koudelka, William Eggleston, Todd Hido, and Daido Moriyama. Although, there are so many others that I could have mentioned here.

3. Go to the same areas consistently to shoot

How to Tell a Story With Your Street Photography

I like to think about style as consistency in what you shoot versus just how those photographs look. Yes, there is a large element of how your photos look that go into your style, but it’s more than that. It’s about the feeling behind the images.

By repeatedly shooting in the same areas, you will allow this consistency to rise to the surface. You will begin to understand the place better and give yourself more time to come across the right images. Most likely you will know the area well since you can only really photograph consistently in places that are close to where you live – so you will have a nuanced understanding of the place already.

Try to show a feeling for what the area is like under the surface. Capture the feeling of being there. Is it happy or sad, are there fun aspects or stressful characteristics? What makes the area interesting (or not interesting)? There is so much you can do with this.

4. Capture emotions and gestures

How to Tell a Story With Your Street Photography

This is street photography 101, but you can portray so many ideas and feelings based on the expressions on people’s faces or the gestures in their bodies. When putting together a cohesive body of work, this will be a way to add some powerful emotion to push a story forward. Try to understand what people are feeling and attempt to capture them as they show those feelings.

5. Look for images with something going on beneath the surface

How to Tell a Story With Your Street Photography

This is a tip that is hard to explain exactly how to do. Look for images where there is something going on beneath the surface. What that is you don’t exactly have to answer – it could be left for the viewer to decide.

These images will begin to show themselves more often as you start following the other tips in this article. In addition, the more you photograph in the same place and start to understand the place, the more these images will begin to pop out.

6. Think about yourself

How to Tell a Story With Your Street Photography

There are some photographers who show something about themselves in their images. This feeling makes their work that much more powerful. Happy photographers often take happy images, depressed photographers often take depressed images. Some photographers who seem happy on the surface, use their photography to express emotions that they are holding inside. Think about what emotions you are feeling and use them. The more you know yourself, the more you can let that shine through.

Josef Koudelka is one example – he grew up behind a wall so to speak during the Soviet invasion of Prague in 1968. He eventually got out, became a stateless person, wandering and traveling, and he spent much of his life photographing travelers. He has also been working on an ongoing project on the Israeli-Palestinian Walls and on the bleak landscapes that have been influenced by contemporary man. He grew up behind a wall and he was drawn to photographing walls. You can see in his images, even in random places and at random times, that the subjects he was drawn to were the ones that showed his inner feelings.

Putting it all together

This may all seem difficult to do, particularly if photography is your hobby. Don’t get me wrong, it is hard. But if you photograph frequently enough and think about all of this, you can really see your work transform in just a few years. The more you are in tune with it, the faster it should come, and it is very enjoyable to see.

So go out and keep shooting!

If you’d like to learn more about Street Photography, then please check out my ebook The Essentials of Street Photography.

The post How to Tell a Story With Your Street Photography by James Maher appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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New IKEA Smart Home Fixtures Compatible with Google, Apple & Amazon

26 Jun

[ By WebUrbanist in Design & Fixtures & Interiors. ]

Furniture giant IKEA is making its new low-cost smart home fixtures voice-controllable can connect with ease to systems including Google Home, Apple HomeKit and Amazon Alexa.

The company has been pushing in the direction of making homes smarter for some time, with furnishings able to wirelessly charge phones, for instance. But with TRADFRI, they are taking the next step, providing low-cost options that can be operated through a variety existing connected-home systems.

“With IKEA Home Smart we challenge everything that is complicated and expensive with the connected home. Making our products work with others on the market takes us one step closer to meet people’s needs, making it easier to interact with your smart home products,” says Björn Block, Business Leader for IKEA Home Smart.

Smart lights, motion sensors, dimmers, door locks, all with additional layers of remote control, are slowly transforming everyday interiors into interactive design spaces. The barrier to entry is also intentionally low: the cost is one factor, but the solutions are also plug-and-play, requiring no complex knowledge or specialized coding. Their latest releases are set to be in stores later this summer or early this fall.

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Siberia Space: Russian Town Tints Its White Winter World

26 Jun

[ By Steve in Architecture & Cities & Urbanism. ]

The tiny Siberian town of Ust-Yansk counters the pervasive whiteness of long & snowy winters by cladding its buildings in a rainbow of contrasting colors.

To say Ust-Yansk is isolated is an understatement: the nearest sizable town (Deputatsky, pop. 2,983) lies 302 miles (486 kilometers) to the southeast. Ust-Yansk itself boasts a population of just 317 (as of 2010, down from 341 in 2002). Both towns are located in Russia’s Sakha Republic, a sprawling Siberian territory slightly smaller than India but with just a thousandth of the latter’s population. The photo above shows Ust-Yansk from the distance of about 1 kilometer or about 6/10th of a mile.

Never a wealthy locality, Ust-Yansk fell on hard(er) times in the 1990s when the fall of communism left Russia’s backwater districts pretty much to their own devices. In Ust-Yansk’s case, those devices consisted mainly of mining, reindeer herding and fishing – activities requiring decent weather to function to their potential. Being that Ust-Yansk lies deep in northern Siberia, the weather is usually anything BUT decent. To quote the Wikipedia entry on Deputatsky, “Winters are prolonged and bitterly cold, with up to seven months of sub-zero high temperatures.” Nice. The unrestored buildings above, photographed by blogger BASOV-CHUKOTKA, look about as miserable as their inhabitants must have felt.

The East Is Red, Blue, Yellow, Green…

Snow falls early and often in Ust-Yansk, and when it falls it stays – like most tundra towns built on the permafrost, Ust-Yansk’s buildings rest on stilts to prevent heat from melting the frozen ground beneath. This type of construction can be expensive, however, but after the turn of the century rising oil prices flooded Russia’s coffers with bright, shiny rubles and towns like Ust-Yansk began to reap the benefits.

New construction and renovation transformed Ust-Yansk into a more livable town but what really stands out in these photographs taken in May of 2017 are the wealth of colors! From rich primary hues to more delicate pastel tints, Ust-Yansk brilliantly refutes the popular image of Siberia as a dreary place fit only for marginalized indigenous tribes and prisoners of the soviet Gulag. Well, it’s a start at least.

Next Page – Click Below to Read More:
Siberia Space Russian Town Tints Its White Winter World

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Peak Design Everyday Backpack Review

25 Jun

Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20L/30L
$ 260-290/£204-227 | | Buy Now

I can’t imagine that there has ever been a time when photographers had more camera bag options than we do today. There are more manufacturers, styles and price points than one can count. From generic knockoffs to designer leather, there is a bag out there to carry your camera, lenses and accessories.

But what if you want to carry your camera and some other stuff you need through the day? Maybe you’re a traveler and you want to have a water bottle, a raincoat and some ibuprofen as you hike through Paris? Or what if you are a student who needs a computer, a few books and lunch for a day at school? Or what if you just want to carry your everyday things with you as well as your camera? Well, then your options are a little more limited.

Maybe you’re a traveler and you want to have a water bottle, a raincoat and some ibuprofen as you hike through Paris?

Pulling out dividers in a photo backpack to fit in books, wrapping the camera in a towel and stuffing it in a daypack, or strapping a small camera bag to your hiking pack are all DIY solutions that folks have tried and found unsatisfying. The few options on the market tended to be bulky, difficult to access and frequently under-delivered as far as understanding what non-photo gear someone would want to carry.

In 2015, Peak Design launched its Everyday Messenger on Kickstarter with the goal of creating a bag that would both carry camera gear and the everyday stuff that someone might need for a day of work, school, travel or just living life. Proving that there was a real need for a bag like this, the company hit its funding goal in a single day and would eventually be funded to the tune of $ 4.8 million from over 17,000 backers.

This led Peak Design to start a second Kickstarter in 2016 to fund a backpack design (along with a tote and sling) for those of us who understand that two straps carry weight better than one. Once again, the new designs were funded successfully and the Everyday Backpack in 20L and 30L sizes was released to the public.



  • 46 H x 30 W x 17 D cm (18” H x 12” W x 6.75” D)
  • 1350g (2.9 lbs.)
  • Holds up to a 15” laptop


  • 51 H x 33 W x 20 D cm (20” H x 13” W x 7.75” D)
  • 1542g (3.4 lbs.)
  • Holds up to a 16” laptop

The ultralight waxed Kodra synthetic canvas is DWR coated for weatherproofness and comes in a Charcoal gray with red stitching accents or a lighter Ash gray with blue stitching accents and tan leather touchpoints (handles, zipper pulls, etc).

In Use

Many times manufacturers make claims about the design of their products that feel overstated when you are actually using them. I have to say that, for the most part, the design of the Everyday Backpack works just as it was intended to. I took the 20L on a trip to Europe recently and beat the heck out of it – crammed it under airplane seats, stuffed it with groceries, soaked it in epic rainstorms. All the while, I was accessing my gear hundreds of times to take photos at every opportunity. I came away pretty impressed.

Photo courtesy Peak Design

Unlike a majority of camera bags on the market, the Everyday Backpack doesn’t use a system of individual padded dividers to create compartments for your gear. Instead, it uses what Peak Design calls ‘FlexFold’ dividers. This is a system of full-width internal shelves that can be positioned in the bag. The shelves have the ability to fold out of the way to create larger spaces, they also have the ability to fold up and create subdivided spaces. The design is a little difficult to explain in words or photos and your best bet may to just watch this video.

I was surprised at how well these worked generally. I was able to shift from a mirrorless layout to an overnight bag for an unexpected trip and then back again in moments. There are limits, and if you have specific needs you’ll be re-velcroing the shelves as well as folding/unfolding them, but it’s really a clever design overall.

The three main drawbacks I noticed were that the folding subsections could ‘unfold’ if something heavy (such as a lens) was in an adjacent subsection. In addition, since the shelves and subsections are not ‘sealed’ in the way that a padded-divider backpack is, small items like lens caps tend to wander around the bag easily. Finally, this design is not one that will allow you to use every inch of the bag for gear in the way a traditional camera backpack would. The idea is to have your camera get in one part of the bag and other everyday items in another.

The Everyday Backpack has four access points. The top section uses a flap cover that is secured with Peak’s excellent MagLatch closure that allows easy blind one-handed operation. The MagLatch has multiple attachment points allowing the upper section to expand to carry bulky loads or tighten up to make the pack as small as possible.

Then there is a top access computer/tablet/flat-stuff section that sits against your back. The other two access points, the ones you will use most often to access your camera, are dual full-length zipper openings on either side of the bag. The idea is that you slip one shoulder strap off and swing the bag around in front of you horizontally to access your gear.

A very full 30L Everyday Backpack

Overall, access is very well done. I was impressed how the fullness of any one area of the bag doesn’t affect accessing of any other area. The top section can be stuffed with lunch and extra layers of clothing and you can still use the side access to grab your camera or change lenses. This is one of the most crucial aspects in making a successful ‘everyday’ design and it is where many bags fail. One thing to note, however, is that the drawback to this design is that one cannot lay the bag on the ground and flip it open to access every piece of equipment at once. If that is how you tend to work out of your backpacks, the Everyday Backpack may not be for you.

There are a lot of neat design aspects to the Everyday Backpack and it would make a long article much longer to list them all. So in no particular order, here are a few of my favorites. The weatherproof fabric and zippers held up to some truly torrential rainstorms. Built in external lashing straps allow for a surprising amount of useful external carry. I strapped everything from groceries to a jacket to sandy shoes to the outside of the pack. The external side pockets both hide the waistbelt and external lash straps and can hold a water bottle or tripod.

There are a ton of small pockets in the bag for batteries, pens, cords, passports and whatnot. This not only gives you a place for all the little things, but it keeps them from bouncing around the bag or getting crammed together in the bottom. Every strap and handle is done in ‘seatbelt’ material that is soft and strong.

Finally, and particularly important for some folks, there is little about this pack that looks like a camera bag. You may look like a tourist or a student with your daypack on, but nobody is going to peg you as walking around with thousands of dollars in camera gear on your back. At least not until you stop to take their picture.

What didn’t I like? As with any bag, even really good ones, I had a few nitpicks, but I stress that they were all pretty minor. The most significant one was that I thought the shoulder straps could have been better padded. While they are ergonomically curved and have a clever axial rotating attachment system, users may not be impressed if they are used to technical outdoor style pack straps.

While there is a waist belt, it isn’t padded and exists more for stability than for taking weight off of your shoulders.

That said, the straps weren’t uncomfortable, even on long days (and did seem to ‘break in’ after some use). I just feel like a bit more function instead of form could have served better in this area, especially for heavy loads and the 30L size. Likewise, while there is a waist belt, it isn’t padded and exists more for stability than for taking weight off of your shoulders. Good to have, but doesn’t carry much load.

Due to being somewhat narrow, a good thing when moving through crowds, and having a slightly rounded design, the Everyday Backpack doesn’t stand up on its bottom or side particularly well. This isn’t a serious fault, but it is worth remembering that it is likely to flop over when you set it down and that you shouldn’t leave any of the access points open lest things roll out (good advice for any bag, really).

The external side pockets are really useful for both water bottles and things like tripods. However, unless you have long arms, it may be difficult to reach that water bottle while the pack is on. It’s possible, but you end up feeling like a contortionist. Beyond that, anytime you have something in those side pockets, it becomes a lot more difficult to use the side access openings.

I’m a big believer in the idea that how we carry our gear is as important as the gear itself.

Finally, at $ 260, this is an expensive bag. While the market has expanded enough that there is nothing particularly unusual about a $ 260 bag these days, it can still be a difficult decision when a bag costs as much as a nice used prime lens. That said, I’m a big believer in the idea that how we carry our gear is as important as the gear itself. If you don’t enjoy using your bag, you won’t bring your camera. For me, this bag is worth the money.

20L vs 30L

The design of the 20L and the 30L backpacks are virtually identical. The 30L is just a bit, you know, bigger. How much bigger? Well, you can see the numbers published above, and you probably know that 30L is 50% larger by volume than 20L. But in the real world, I think I would put it like this…

The 20L is best for:

  • Mirrorless kits
  • Small DSLRs with compact zooms or primes
  • Squishing into a subway car or through a crowded bar
  • Being a daypack for traveling
  • Airplane travel as your “personal item”
  • Smaller framed people

The 30L is best for:

  • Pro DSLR kits
  • Fast zooms
  • Camera + a bunch of other stuff
  • School bag for textbooks
  • Being an overnight bag
  • Airplane travel as your only carry on
  • Bigger/taller people

These aren’t hard and fast rules, you can configure these bags in a lot of different ways to carry a lot of different things. But if someone was asking me which bag to get to use as an airline ‘personal item’, I’d have to say the 20L as it is right at (or very slightly over) the size limit for many airlines. If someone was telling me they just HAD to have their full-frame F2.8 zooms with them all day long, I’d point them to the 30L. The 30L is bigger on the back and makes squeezing through crowds tougher than the 20L. But if you thought you were going to grab a few groceries on the way home, you’d probably be happy that you had the 30L.

To be honest, if I had to recommend one, I would suggest the 20L. I believe that the smaller less conspicuous size fits more into the intended ‘everyday’ design. At 5’5 I’m shorter than average for a guy, and when I’ve got the 30L on there is no mistaking that I’m wearing a backpack. It’s not like the 20L disappears when I have it on, but it is less bulky and obvious and I find it easier to move through life because of its smaller volume.

You can, and perhaps should, chalk my 20L suggestion up to my body type, but it’s an opinion I have seen echoed by other photographers as well. If you can, try to see both packs side by side before you buy. If that’s not possible, there are some good YouTube videos that compare the two sizes.

What’s the bottom line?

It is hard not to come to the conclusion that the Peak Design Everyday Backpack is the best ‘carry a camera and some other stuff’ pack I have ever used. The flexible storage space, ease of access, non-photo storage options, tough construction and overall form factor come together in a package that is completely usable. It is a solid feeling bag that does what it is designed to do.

Now, nothing on this earth is perfect and the Everyday Backpack is no different. But aside from wishing that the straps were designed differently and acknowledging that the price-point is going to be off-putting for some, most of the rest of my complaints are minor at best. I would happily use this pack across town for the day or across the world for a month. If you are looking for a backpack that you can carry your camera gear along with the rest of your daily life I’m not sure how you would find anything better than the Everyday Backpack.

What we liked:

  • Clever divider system
  • Easy to access some of the things without accessing all of the things
  • Having one area stuffed full doesn’t affect access to other areas.
  • Well thought out organizational system
  • External lash options allow more carry options

What we didn’t like:

  • Expensive
  • Shoulder straps are not the most padded
  • Heavy items can cause subdividers to unfold if nothing under them when pack is slung around sideways
  • May not stand up on its bottom. May not stand up on side.
  • Small things can slip through the dividers easily and move around the pack

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Hot mess: Remembering the Leica M8

25 Jun
The M8 was Leica’s first digital rangefinder. Smooth, sleek, but distinctly rough around the edges, it nevertheless laid down the basic pattern for the cameras that came after it, while remaining true to its film roots.

I share an anniversary with the Leica M8 – sort of. The M8 was announced in the same week that I started my career as a camera reviewer – September 2006. We were both very green, both a little unsteady on our feet and both decidedly unpolished.

Up to that point, Leica’s experiments with digital had been unconvincing. The clunky Digital Modul R was emblematic of the company’s lack of confidence when it came to digital. Designed to clip onto the back of R8 and R9 film SLR bodies and in effect convert them into digital cameras, the Digital Modul R was a good idea but a bad product. It took two years to actually ship, and when it did, it was extremely pricey, costing more than $ 5000 (and that’s without a camera body on which to mount it).

In the mid 2000s, whether or not Leica would ever bother to risk an digital M-series rangefinder was still an open question. After the much-maligned M51, Leica’s approach to upgrading the M-series in subsequent decades might charitably be described as ‘conservative.’

When it finally arrived, the M8 was a mixture of new technology and traditional rangefinder operation. It featured a 10MP APS-H format CCD sensor, a decent-ish LCD screen and a modern-ish menu system, but it retained the pure rangefinder focusing system and (by and large) the same ergonomics as previous M-series film bodies. And it was not, as Leica’s representatives were at pains to point out, definitely not intended to replace the M7.

Compared to Leica’s long-serving flagship film rangefinder (M7, left) the M8 was slightly bigger, heavier and noticeably cleaner in terms of design, thanks to the omission of the film wind and rewind levers.

For a lot of people, rangefinder shooting is a pain, but if you love it, you love it. While the rangefindery parts of the M8 were for the most part nice and mature, Leica was new to digital, and it showed. The first M8 I used personally, in late 2006, was a buggy mess. Its frame counter was basically just a random number generator, and its battery level indicator wasn’t much better. It also crashed frequently, and had a nasty habit of getting worryingly hot when it was turned off and placed inside a camera bag. These days, Sony trolls like to shout and scream about the a7-series overheating, but you could have fried an egg on that particular M8.2

And then there was the shutter. Leica’s M-series film bodies have rubberized cloth shutters which operate with an almost apologetically quiet ‘snick’ sound. I still shoot with an even older IIIC from time to time and unless you’re standing right next to the camera, its shutter is almost inaudible. By comparison, the M8’s shutter fired with a loud whirring ‘ker-cloink’ which I could never quite get used to. Very un Leica-like.

Not a great picture, but a good illustration of the M8’s ability to render detail. The lack of an AA filter meant that pixel-level output at low ISO sensitivity settings was very crisp.

Another thing I struggled to get used to was the M8’s 1.33X crop. When you look through the viewfinder of a crop-sensor DSLR, the increase in magnification is effectively invisible. You don’t need to mentally convert the field-of-view of an 18mm lens to 28mm equivalent in order to frame your shot accurately, because what you see through the finder is what you get.

Things aren’t so simple with a rangefinder. In a rangefinder, framing is approximate to begin with, and the limits of the frame are indicated by bright lines in the finder, which change depending on the lens you have mounted. Adding a crop factor makes things even more complicated.

Since the 1980s, there have typically been three sets of framelines built in to Leica’s rangefinders, which change to show indicators for pairs of focal lengths: 28mm and 90mm, 35mm and 135mm and 50mm and 75mm, depending on the lens you have mounted. Simple, right?

A rough illustration of the scene through an M8’s viewfinder with a 35mm lens attached. The inner framelines represent the approximate coverage of the 35mm lens (~50mm equivalent on the cropped-sensor M8) and the outer framelines represent 24mm (~30mm equivalent).

Almost all of Leica’s film rangefinders since the 1960s have featured 0.72X magnification finders, which are well-suited to shooting at the 35mm focal length, with 28mm lines (where present) indicated at the extremes of the finder. Of course on an M8, 35mm = 46mm, so Leica had to change the framelines.

But but this is where it gets confusing, because the magnification of the M8’s viewfinder was actually reduced compared to film (i.e., full-frame) cameras, to compensate for the increase in effective focal lengths resulting from the cropped sensor.3 When you attach a 35mm lens, you see framelines covering ~50mm and ~30mm equivalent fields of view. That’s all well and good, but of course rather than the 35mm lens field-of-view being represented by the outer set of lines, as would be the case on a non-cropped film body, they’re the inner set of framelines because of the crop. The outer set of lines is actually for 24mm and the two sets are pretty close together in the finder (see illustration above).

The end result is that with a 24mm or 35mm lens attached, the view through the M8’s finder looks a bit like a deconstructed zebra crossing. Faced with unfamiliar framelines, some experienced M-series users also found themselves second-guessing their effective focal lengths quite a lot when first using the camera. The M8’s framelines were optimized for accuracy at 0.7m, becoming increasingly inaccurate beyond that, which didn’t help matters either.

One of the weirder features of the M8 (and subsequent digital rangefinders) is the design of its memory card / battery compartment. Like the older film models, the entire baseplate must be removed if you want to swap either the battery or memory card. Sure – why not?

Let’s assume though that you’ve familiarized yourself with the unique framelines, you’ve grown used to the grey-on-black-on-grey menu system, you don’t mind removing the entire base of the camera to swap batteries and your M8 isn’t one of the ones that self-immolates. What kind of pictures can it produce? Really nice ones, actually – on the whole.

Although there were definitely better sensors on the market in 2006, the M8 was reasonably competitive in terms of detail and noise levels at low / medium ISO sensitivities, and the lack of an anti-aliasing filter means that images are really, really sharp. Auto white balance has never been a Leica strength, and JPEGs from the M8 tended to look a bit murky, but it was easy enough to get acceptable results from converted Raw files.

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Leica M8 Review Samples

36 images • Posted on Jul 31, 2007 • View album
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As far as image quality was concerned, there was one major gotcha though, which inexplicably made it past Leica’s experten: infra-red sensitivity. Too much of it, to be specific. The M8 was very sensitive to IR light, which isn’t major issue most of the time, but when it’s a problem, it can be a real show-stopper. As reviewers found out, you’ll mostly see it when shooting green foliage (which sometimes comes out looking too yellow) and black manmade fabrics (which often come out looking distinctly magenta).

Leica’s solution – shipping two screw-in IR filters to all M8 owners for free – was really more of a goodwill gesture, and wasn’t until the introduction of the M9, several years later, that the problem was actually solved.

The M8 was superseded pretty quickly, by the M8.2 in 2008. The M8.2 introduced a quieter shutter, a more discreet black dot, a nicer body covering (the fluffy plastic finish of the M8 was cheap-feeling and icky), more accurate framelines and a badly-needed scratch-resistant coating on the rear LCD.

Partly because it was so quickly superseded, second-hand M8s can be picked up relatively cheaply these days, at least by the admittedly insane standards of previously-owned Leica digital rangefinders. But if you’re really curious about trying one, my advice would be to save a little extra and grab yourself an M8.2 instead.

Read about Leica’s current flagship digital rangefinder, the M10

1. The M5 was a highly advanced and eminently practical camera when it was released in 1971, but an utter commercial failure, and is widely (and probably unfairly) talked about as The Camera That Almost Ruined Leica.

At any rate, the M5 served as an early lesson (it would not be the last) to Leica’s product planners that while a lot of photographers might balk at weird film loading, external light metering, limited close focus capability and eye-wateringly high pricing, just about the only thing that Leicaphiles won’t put up with is change.

2. Author is a professional exaggerator. Do not attempt.

3. This might sound odd, but makes complete sense. Effective focal lengths are increased by the sensor’s crop, so Leica reduced the magnification of the M8’s finder because inevitably, M8 users would be mounting wider lenses to achieve similar fields of view to the ‘classic’ 28/35/50 primes. Hence the addition of 24mm framelines which actually show a 30mm field-of-view (etc.).

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Recycling Rockets: Ixion Will Turn Orbital Space Junk into Spacious Habitats

25 Jun

[ By WebUrbanist in Conceptual & Futuristic & Technology. ]

As part of their NextSTEP program, NASA has contracted a space company to turn trash into treasure, converting used rocket sections already being sent into orbit into habitation units rather than letting them drift or be destroyed.

It takes an immense amount of effort and fuel to break out of the Earth’s atmosphere, yet upper stage rocket sections are routinely set adrift or de-orbited, burning up on reentry. Nanoracks believes these can be put to better use — their Ixion project aims to take large fuel-carrying rocket tubes, burn out whatever fuel remains and retrofit them for occupation.

Once the propellant-containing segment is vented in open space, remaining materials will oil off over the course of a few days. Then Nanoracks will fill the void with pressurized air from tanks attached to the outside. Humans (or robots) will take the next step, entering the capsule to add fabric, wiring and whatever else is needed. The design will factor all of these needs in advance, featuring operable hatches and attachment mechanisms as needed.

Initially, the plan is to attach these to the International Space Station for testing and to extend their habitable space. Future tubes could be used to form the basis of a commercial station or to serve other functions — the idea, in part, is to get out ahead of the demand, readying this space junk for unknown future applications. And this idea could be just the beginning: robotic space junk collection could eventually put the vast amounts of orbital debris circling the planet to much better use.

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[ By WebUrbanist in Conceptual & Futuristic & Technology. ]

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OnePlus 5 2x tele camera uses 1.6x optical in combination with digital zoom

24 Jun

When we shot our sample images with the brand new OnePlus 5 we noticed that the dual-camera’s 2x tele-module did not quite deliver the pixel-level image quality you would expect from the 20MP Sony IMX350 sensor. Images showed low levels of fine detail and looked as if they had been upscaled which would point towards some form of digital zoom implementation.

This has now been confirmed by OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei in a tweet. He clarified that the second lens on the back uses a 1.6x optical zoom and that digital zoom is used to reach the claimed 2x zoom factor. The cropped image is then upscaled to achieve the specified 20MP image size.

The company says it is using its SmartCapture multi-frame technology to make the zoom “lossless” but arguably not everybody would agree with this term. Exif viewers show the focal length of the wide-angle and tele lenses to be 24mm and 36mm equivalent respectively which would mean a 1.5x zoom factor. However, there is a chance Exif isn’t taking the SmartCapture portion of the zoom into account.

Some other dual-cam implementations we have seen, for example on the iPhone 7 Plus are using a 2x optical zoom with a smaller sensor than the main camera. It appears OnePlus opted for the same 1/2.8″ sensor size in both cameras. An optical 2x lens would probably have required a thicker body or noticeable camera bump.

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