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The Old Battle Axe and I spent the weekend in Baltimore thanks to a Living Social deal for the Hotel Brexton. Since I’m currently working on a Digital Photography Field Guide to Point and Shoot Cameras, I brought my Fuji X10 and Canon G11 this trip rather than my MFT or dSLR cameras. It was an interesting experience relying on just point and shoots. Even though both cameras are versatile, higher end point and shoot cameras, the differences between their capabilities and even my MFT cameras were quite noticeable.

I’ll be uploading and talking about some of the images I created and things I found interesting during the trip. I’ll also include a review of a new iPhone holder designed to make shooting video easier and more effective and will share some video from the trip.

New Year’s Day is a good time for reassessment and listing new goals. As 2012 begins, I resolve to make the following my goals for the new year.

  • I will post at least one blog entry a week every week of the year.
  • I will write at least four books
  • I will produce and display an exhibition of my work
  • I will apply to at least two artist in residence programs
  • I will do at least one creative shoot a week this year

These goals are ambitious, but achievable. That’s one of the things a photographer should consider in goal setting. It’s fine to have a “reach for the sky” goal (and your list should include at least one such goal). When setting such a goal, ask yourself, “Is this something I can achieve on my own, or is it something that relies on outside forces to happen?” 

Only one of my goals falls into the latter category, the one to get an exhibition of my work. All the others are things I can make happen on my own. There’s nothing stopping me from applying to an artist in residence program, but I don’t have a lot of control over whether I’m selected or not, but the mere process of trying to achieve this goal calls for me to ruthlessly examine my portfolio to look for the five or six images to submit (perhaps giving me a start to an exhibition portfolio). It will also help me to express my artistic philosophy and work on getting my photos out there in new ways. 

A good goal is one that helps you grow as well as accomplish something. This way even if you don’t achieve it, you’ve still made some progress and grown in some way. 

Wish me luck everyone and know I’m willing to do the same for you. If you like, post your goals here. If you have any questions you think I can help with, don’t hesitate to ask.

Dan Simon

Lensbaby composer and 10x Diopter

As usual, I’ve compiled a list of gear I want to bring with me on this trip. This brings up my next decision, which offering from bag mountain should I choose to carry all the gear I want to bring with me. Since we’re traveling by train, I can hope we’ll be able to carry more bags than when flying, but there are still some complications.

We have a roomette for the 25 hour train ride. These tiny spaces are private and are well thought out, but they also make some of the tiny cabins I stayed in on cruises seem downright roomy. Almost every space in a roomette is designed to pull double duty. Storage is limited.

Often, when faced with a photo trip marked by differing exploits (landscape photography versus hiking photography) I take more than one bag with me. I’ll use a camera backpack to carry some clothing while putting most of my gear in my carryon along with a computer and other must not check items. I can also pack an empty camera bag to fit in my luggage. (My old Domke F3X with its removeable and foldable inserts is perfect for this).

It’s tempting to take this approach again, perhaps substituting a bigger LowePro bag for the Domke and using the camera backpack (a LowePro Mini Trekker AW) for clothing and other stuff. Since the camera backpack has removeable inserts that can be positioned in a variety of ways, it still gives me lots of options.

The problem is I haven’t been using any of these bags in quite some time. These days I’ve been preferring bags from Think Tank Pro’s Urban Disguise series. The company has provided me with several bags for review and illustration purposes, and I’ve become quite fond of them. Besides being solidly constructed, and wonderfully designed, they also don’t look like camera bags making them a less attractive target for potential thieves. I’m just not sure even the biggest one in my collection can handle all the gear I want to take this trip.

Normally I use a Think Tank Pro Retro 20 bag as my main E-5 bag. I love how it doesn’t look like a camera bag and still manages to hold a fair amount of gear. This time around though I need something bigger. Fortunately, I still have an Urban Disguise 70. I’m not done packing yet, but it looks like this bag is going to do the trick. So far I’ve got my E-5, three lenses an FL-50R flash and a full Lensbaby kit packed plus memory cards, and other accessories. There’s still room for the E-P2 and 14-140 and a few other pieces of kit as well.

While I don’t expect to do a lot of flash work this trip (except to play with the flash in the Ewa Marine rig) I’m not bringing much lighting stuff with me. This was another reason for choosing the E-5 over the 40D. The E-5 has a wireless flash controller built right in, so I won’t have to bring my ST-E2 for wireless flash. As blogger/shooters David Hobby ( and others have noted, getting your flash off camera make a big difference in your photography. I’ll bring either a small portable light stand or a super clamp for mounting the flash where desired. I’m also bringing my Vertex light modifier (here’s my Brighthub review of this nifty gadget). This is an awesome device for manipulating the light from your flash indoors and it’s so small I don’t even notice it in my camera bag.

Lensbaby is another company that’s provided me gear. That’s fine with me because I honestly love working with the company’s products. Some of my favorite photos have been made using a Lensbaby and its accessories.

When you have as much equipment as I do, planning what to take on a vacation can be a real challenge. After 30 plus years as a pro photographer and photography writer, I’ve accumulated a lot of gear (heck, I even helped write a book on photo gear and accumulated even more stuff in the process).

The Old Battle Axe and I are getting ready for a trip to Key West. While we’ve never been there before, there’s obviously a lot to photograph and we only have about three days there. One highlight for us will be getting a chance to do some snorkeling. We tried snorkeling for the first time a few years ago during a visit to Grand Cayman during a Caribbean cruise. At the time, we purchased a small Olympus underwater digital camera and were quite pleased with the results.

Over the years we’ve experimented with other inexpensive underwater options. Our best results so far have come from a little Canon point and shoot and hard case underwater housing. We’ve used this snorkeling in Cozumel, Mexico and underwater nudes in a swimming pool back home with excellent results. 

This time around I’m trying out an Ewa Marine soft underwater housing I bought off ebay last year. I plan on using my Olympus E-5 in this housing rather than my Canon 40D for two reasons. One, I’m currently writing a user guide to the E-5 and two, the E-5 has better sealing against the elements so if there’s a small leak in the Ewa Marine, I’ll have a better chance to save the camera.

I’m also bringing my Olympus E-P2 and a backup Ewa Marine soft housing I bought a few years ago (it’s a much older model designed for a small SLR film camera). The two can share the E-5’s lenses (with an adapter) and use the same flash units. I can also use my Lensbaby kit with the E-P2, but not the E-5.

The next question becomes which lenses to bring? The 9-18 is probably the best choice for underwater; the 12-60 SWD is a great all around lens and the 55-200 SWD is a quality optic with some serious reach. I also have the Olympus 70-300 which is smaller, lighter and has even greater reach, but isn’t a fast when it comes to light gathering or auto focus as the 50-200. I’ll probably leave the 70-300 at home because of that.

For the E-P2 I’m also going to bring my Panasonic 14-140, which I normally use with my GF1. This has turned into my favorite micro four thirds lens because of its ruggedness, AF speed and versatility. It will work just fine with the E-P2.

Hi everyone,

I haven’t been doing much with this blog lately just because I’ve been pretty busy. Now that summer’s here and my schedule’s easing up, I want to try and post a bit more often.

I have some interesting things coming up that I plan to write about over the next few months. I’m testing and reviewing a couple of Sigma lenses, working on a book on the Olympus E-5 dslr, planning two or three underwater shoots, teaching a summer course in digital photography and making a trip to Key West for some snorkeling and more underwater photography. I’ve also just ordered an Aputure Gigtube wireless LCD viewer and remote trigger that I plan on playing with and writing about.

Please check up on my blog about once a week or so and see what’s up. One word of warning though, from time to time I will be posting nude images. These will be artistic nudes and tastefully done, but if that sort of thing bothers you, be careful.


Video report on the Philadelphia Flower Show using my iPhone 4 and reeldirector. Some problems managing audio mixing, but an otherwise interesting effort.

Springtime In Paris

Lisa picked up a neat deal via Living Social for a couple of nights at bed and breakfast in Elkton, MD. During this trip, I started using Trip Journal, an app for the iPhone (and other phone os’s) and have developed a really high opinion of it. Here’s a link to my trip journal:

Trip Journal

The good folks at Sigma have asked me to help spread the word about a student scholarship contest they’re running. Here’s a copy of the press release they sent me:

Sigma Corporation of America now accepting Scholarship Contest applications

High school seniors vie for $5,000 cash prize, $1,000 in photography products

Ronkonkoma, NY, Nov. 30, 2010 – Sigma Corporation of America is currently accepting photo and application submissions for its second annual Scholarship Contest. The contest, which will award $6,000 in cash and photography gear, is open to all high school seniors who plan to pursue a photo-related career.


Applications for the contest are now being accepted through Feb. 28, 2011 via the Sigma scholarship website. Students interested in entering the contest must submit between three and five photos that are thematically tied. These photos must also represent outstanding image quality, a concept that is the foundation of Sigma Corporation’s commitment to the photographic industry. In addition, students must complete an essay of between 300 and 800 words that describes their creative process in shooting, selecting and editing their photos.


Students pursuing higher education in industries such as photography, photojournalism, graphic arts and design, visual arts and art history are eligible to apply, and each submission will be judged on the creativity of the subject selection, overall technique, and image quality.


“The images submitted in our first scholarship contest exhibited a high level of skill and passion which was a true pleasure to see,” said Mark Amir-Hamzeh, general manager of Sigma Corporation of America.  “Our support of these talented young photographers has been confirmed and we very much look forward to seeing what this year’s competition will produce.”


Sigma’s first Scholarship Contest winner, Jamie Russell of Cheektowaga, N.Y., submitted a series of photographs depicting poverty in her hometown. A total of 122 students competed in the contest.


A public, online vote will be held from March 1, 2011 until April 1, 2011, and the top five vote-getters will become finalists. Sigma executives will then choose the Scholarship winner; the winner will be announced on April 18, 2011.


For information about the Sigma Corporation of America Scholarship, eligibility, the application process, material submissions and a formal list of contest rules, visit  For information on Sigma Corporation of America and its lensescameras and flashes,


About Sigma Corporation
For nearly 50 years, Sigma Corporation’s expertise and innovation has driven the company’s core philosophy of “knowledge, plus experience, plus imagination,” with an emphasis on producing high-quality, high-performance photographic technology at moderate prices. This family-owned organization is the largest, independent SLR lens manufacturer in the world, producing more than 50 lenses that are compatible with most manufacturers, including Sigma, Canon, Sony, Nikon, Olympus and Pentax. Sigma Corporation also produces digital SLR cameras and high-definition digital compact cameras. The company is headquartered in Japan, with offices strategically located throughout Europe, Asia and North America. For information, please visit

I’m posting this here because it’s the fastest way I have of getting the word out. I’ll also be mentioning it on facebook and will see if we can do something with it on



I’ve created a web gallery of images of Stephanie at

These photos were created with the Olympus E-P2 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1.

Images are NSFW btw.