Review

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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...

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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...

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The Best Flashlight For Light Painting

The Best Flashlight For Light Painting

Background
A little while back, I posted an article where I reviewed the Brinkmann Dual Xenon Spotlight for light painting.  At that point, it was the best light I'd seen for night photography and it became my favorite "brush" for light painting.  The neutral to warm tint and the gentle, even cast of light worked well in a variety of light painting situations.

Problems With Availability
Not long after posting the article, supplies for the dual xenon spotlight dried up.  I had stirred the interest in people's minds but now they couldn't find the light.  As a result, I've had a pretty steady stream of people asking for an alternative light.  And while, my dual xenon spotlight still works great for me, I felt the need to help find a good light to recommend to others so I decided to take another look at which light would be a best choice for the night photographer looking to add some light painting...

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Brinkmann Dual Xenon Spotlight

Brinkmann Dual Xenon Spotlight

To some people, it may seem a little strange that a tool built for the auto industry turns out to be such a good choice for light painting foreground subjects under the starry night sky, but that's the case here.  That's right, the Brinkmann Dual Xenon Spotlight (originally built for the automobile repair industry) works as an excellent light painting tool - so I thought I'd post a full review to let you know why it's such a good choice.

As a night photographer, I'm looking to capture great night nightscape images.  And while I'm often shooting in the dark of the night with little to no moonlight, I find that I can add a lot of depth to my images with some subtle light painting.  So over the years, I've been improving my gear and my techniques to make the process easier and the results even more subtle and natural looking.

What Makes A Good Light Paint Brush?
I've found there are several factors in deciding which light painting flashlight I like to use most: color temperature, even cast of light, adjustability, etc.  In that direction, I really like the Xenon bulbs because they are a very neutral color temperature compared to the more common LED lights.  I find that the LED lights are a bit too cool in temperature which needs to be adjusted in post-processing.  Given the choice, I prefer to use a warmer light during the capture so I don't have to do that manipulation in post...

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