MindShift Firstlight 40L Big Backpack Review

MindShift Firstlight 40L Big Backpack Review

Introduction

  • MindShift Gear (founded by the creators of Think Tank Photo) makes a great line of backpacks that work well for the adventures I like to do with my night photography.  I've been reviewing their packs for a little while now and the latest model I chose was the Firstlight 40L.  I chose the big 40L model so it would hold all my gear including a bigger telephoto lens.  I had high expectations for the bag and I was able to quickly see if it was going to measure up.
  • I'll be honest in saying that I did not buy this backpack.  I had the opportunity to review it for MindShift Gear and I was happy to do so.  That said, I'm including my honest opinions on it without restraint.  If there are areas where it did poorly, I'm not afraid to say so.
  • To test the backpack, I took it out numerous times - during in-field training sessions in Arches & Canyonlands National Parks and Monument Valley with Night Photography Workshop and shooting on my own in the Bisti Badlands.

Red Lights Are Evil

Red Lights Are Evil

We generally have a positive and encouraging approach with people we meet.  But when something needs to be said...  well, you know.

A little while ago, I was in Badlands National Park shooting what I thought was going to be epic clouds, and stars under the moonlight.  A group of ladies showed up and parked their cars a little ways away. Then they got out of their cars, turned on their red headlamps, and walked past me (on my right) looking out into the area where I was shooting.

After my image exposed and I saw the horror, I kindly walked over and asked If I could make a suggestion. They said sure... I told them about the bleed in the red headlamps and that it would be very nice of them to use a dimmer white light. I also mentioned in the kindest way possible that if the white light gets into the scene you can fix it much easier in PS than you can the red light. They nodded and said ok but I could tell they weren't buying it...

Stacking App Review - Finding The Best Stackers

Stacking App Review - Finding The Best Stackers

While astronomers have some good alternatives for stacking multiple exposures to reduce noise, the apps they use are generally expensive and complicated to use.  For these reasons, I tend to like using Photoshop to handle stacking my images.  Other options have been limited and hard to get excited about.  Over the past few years however, the quality of our options and my opinions of them have changed significantly.

Background
Wide-field astrophotographers have looked to Adobe Photoshop to handle their stacking needs for years.  It hasn't been a perfect fit but when combining 4 or so exposures to reduce noise, it's been an effective tool in reducing noise.  For those people who like to stack more than 4, staying with Photoshop pushes most people past the limits of their Photoshop skills.  And in looking at 3rd party alternatives, there simply haven't been good alternatives available since most of them are expensive and complicated to learn and use.

What Are The Best Lenses For Night Photography? Updated 2017

What Are The Best Lenses For Night Photography? Updated 2017

Several years ago, we posted an article titled "Recommended Lenses For Night Photography" that a lot of people found helpful.  Since then, a lot has changed that affects the lenses my training partner Darren White and I most like to recommend as the best choices so I decided that this original article deserved an update with the latest information and recommendations.

Background
As a night photography workshop instructor, I'm committed to getting great nightscape images.  And while we believe that the best images come from a combination of great composition, great technique, and having an eye for  great image, having good gear certainly helps to make a difference.  we think the gear is secondary to these first three items but it does help.  We get a lot of questions from our students about what gear works best and so we like to have some good answers for them.  On the approach to our workshops, we often get asked if we were to recommend one single lens, which one we would recommend to help students get the best shots possible.

MindShift Rotation180° Backpack Review

MindShift Rotation180° Backpack Review

Have you ever missed what would have been an awesome shot because you weren't quick enough in pulling out your gear?  Well with the ability to access your photo gear in an instant from the belt pack without having to take the pack off, the Rotation180° will put you in a great position to access your gear at a moment's notice.  But that's not all…  photographers will love the three options for holding a tripod from the traditional side pocket to the tripod sling on the back of the pack to the tripod suspension system.  And with the tripod suspension system providing easy access to your tripod without removing the pack, it goes hand-in-hand with the rotating belt pack for super-easy access to your gear.

How Do I Shoot A Great Panorama?

How Do I Shoot A Great Panorama?

While our workshops primarily focus on night photography, we get a lot of questions about how to capture a good panoramic sequence.  This may be because it's a common technique for reducing noise or because it's a great way to capture a scene with the Milky Way arcing across the sky but regardless we wanted to share some of our favorite techniques for capturing a great panorama.

Which Lens Should I Use?
A lot of this decision is left up to the artist and his/her vision for a photograph but we recommend anything from a 14mm to an 85mm focal length.  Generally speaking, a longer focal length (35mm or 50mm) will mean more images in the sequence which will result in better quality in the final results.  A shorter focal length (14mm or 20mm) will result in more distortion which may make the frames more difficult to stitch together but it will need fewer images in the sequence.  I generally recommend something in the 24mm to 50mm range because it gives good quality without having to capture a crazy number of frames… but again, this decision needs to consider the subject we're trying to capture.

Ultimate Ballhead Review

Ultimate Ballhead Review

Thanks to Acratech's high quality materials and innovative designs, I've been a huge fan of their ballheads for years.  I've owned and have been using the GV2 as my primary ballhead until just recently when I got a chance to test two of their latest, most popular ballheads: the Ultimate GP Ballhead and the award winning GP Ballhead.   With a few key improvements, I was very excited to give them both a try!

I'll be honest in saying that I didn't buy either of these ballheads.  As a loyal user of Acratech gear, they gave me the opportunity to review them and I was very happy to do so.  That said, I've been testing them both for a couple of months now and I'm including my honest opinions on them without restraint.  If there are areas where they did poorly, I won't be afraid to say so.

Recommended Techniques For Noise Reduction

Recommended Techniques For Noise Reduction

Why Is Noise Reduction Such a Big Deal?

Noise is a big consideration in shooting pictures at night.  We push our cameras to capture the best details possible in dark conditions and the result can often be a little noisy.  What can you do about it?  Well, part of the answer lies in the shooting techniques but there's more on the post-processing side as well.  In the end, photographers have some good options available to them.

One of the challenges in using noise reduction is that there are so many options available to us.  In-fact, with all the different approaches available for reducing noise in nightscape images, it can be a downright confusing to know what to use when.  Darren and Mike got together and tested some of the most common methods available to determine what would be best to recommend and when.

MindShift Backlight 26L Backpack Review

MindShift Backlight 26L Backpack Review

MindShift Gear (founded by the creators of Think Tank Photo) makes a great line of backpacks that appear to work well for the hikes I like to do with my night photography.  I've always thought highly of their reputation for quality gear, so with one of their premier backpacks on-hand (the Backlight 26L), I was able to put it through its paces to see just how well it would do out in the field...

Headlamp Shootout: The Best Headlamp For Night Photography

Headlamp Shootout: The Best Headlamp For Night Photography

I've had a headlamp shootout review in-mind for years as I've been searching for that perfect headlamp for night photography.  Along the way, I learned a few interesting things that I thought I'd share as well.  In the end though, it's all about finding the best headlamp for the job...