Thursday, December 5, 2019

My favorite products and photography gift ideas for this 2019 holiday season

It is that time of year when everyone is looking for the perfect gift idea, so I decided to share with you all some of my favorite photo related gear. broken down by price range. Not only am I listing my favorite products, but I also researched which products have big discounts right now.


I hope that this helps you shop for someone you love, or maybe even give you some new ideas to treat yourself.

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Above $1000



Canon 5D Mark IV (This is my favorite all-around camera. Yes, I do own a Canon 1D X Mark II and use it quite often, but it is overkill for most people. It also happens to have a $600 rebate right now)

MacBook Pro 16" (This is the newest addition to my arsenal of travel gear and I love this new laptop. You can see my recent review of this new laptop here. Apple replaced the 15" MacBook Pro with this new model and kept the price the same.)
Canon 70-200mm 2.8 IS lens (This is my go-to lens for portraits, events and so much more. I can't even explain how much I love and rely on this lens. There is $300 rebate right now.)

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Under $1000


Drobo 5D3 (I personally use the Drobo 8D, and love it. But I know that this is probably overkill for most people, and that a 5-bay system is more affordable. For this reason I recommend the 5D3.)

Canon 100mm macro lens (Not used as much as the other lenses, but awesome for creative close-up shooting. $200 rebate right now)

Canon Rebel T7i Camera (I personally do not use this camera, but always recommend this to people who are looking for a good entry-level DSLR and are on a tighter budget. There are rebates on this camera now, ranging from $250 to $400.)

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Under $500

Wacom Intuos Pro Tablet (I do not even have a mouse on my editing computer. Instead I rely solely on the Wacom tablet. This is a huge time saver for me! Oh, and I recommend the medium size as I find it to be just the right size for me.)

DJI Mavic Mini (This is the one product on this list that I have yet to use BUT I am excited to get mine soon. The lower price is exciting, but not as exciting as the small size! Mine is on its way.)

Acratech ball head (I am really picky about my tripods and heads, and this one has been my favorite for the last 8 years.)

Canon 50mm 1.4 lens (For years I have said that this is the best value lens Canon has to offer. Normally offered at $400 with a super wide aperture and tack sharp, this is a great deal. Right now there is a $100 rebate, bringing this lens down to $299. If you don't have one, you should get one now.)



ThinkTank StreetWalker Rolling Backpack (I credit this backpack for saving my back over the last 2 years. With the option of either carrying this as a backpack or rolling it like typical luggage, what I thought would be a scarcely used camera bag is now my go-to bag for all trips!)

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Under $200

Datacolor Spyder X color calibrator (If you take your photography seriously, you need to be retouching your photos on a monitor that is color calibrated. I have one of these for each computer.)

Photo Mechanic (People often marvel at the speed at which I post images from an event. One of the tools which makes this possible is a software package called Photo Mechanic. It is available for Windows and Mac and is a huge time saver!)
Crucial X8 External SSD (I reviewed this new external SSD a couple of months ago and love this storage device. It transfers data twice as fast as any SSD on the market. Forget the old portable hard drives and get one of these!)

ProGrade Memory Cards and Readers (I hate it when I see people using great cameras and lenses, and cheap memory cards. I trust my images to memory cards and readers from ProGrade. High quality and good prices! You can use the code "CABLE20" to get 20% off of everything.)

FitBit Versa Smartwatch (This is not really a photography related product, but I love it so much that it had to make the list. In fairness, I do use the Versa to track my steps when I am shooting an event, but more for fun than anything else.)

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Under $100

BlackRapid Straps (This is the best camera strap on the market. No more neck strain, and that is a good thing.)
MagMod modifiers (I use these flash modifiers every weekend when shooting events and they are just awesome. Easy to put on and take off, and very effective in spreading light.)

Powerex rechargeable batteries (I have a TON of these rechargeable AA batteries and use them in all my Canon 600EX-RT flashes. They are inexpensive, pack a whopping 2700mAh of power, and recharge super fast in the Powerex MH-C980 charger.)

Tiffen HT UV filters (I protect all of my lenses with these filters. The HT filters are super clear and do not degrade my lens quality at all, and that is critical.)

Eargasm Earplugs (You might be thinking, "Why are earplugs on this list?", but I can assure you that they are needed by any event photographer. I just purchased these recently and they are in every camera bag. They help me protect my ears, but still allow me to talk to and hear people. I will blog more about these soon.)

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I hope that these suggestions help you in your holiday shopping for yourself or someone on your list. And happy holidays to you all.

- Jeff

__________________________________________________________________________
Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
__________________________________________________________________________
If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
__________________________________________________________________________
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.
__________________________________________________________________________ 

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Spending some time in Washington and Oregon

Last month, my wife and I traveled to Oregon and Washington for a quick trip. We flew up to Portland, OR to meet up with our daughter who is living and working up north. We had time to visit some places that were new to us, and also visited some places for the second time. Of course, I took my camera along to capture the sites.


We drove south from Portland and explored some of the lesser known areas. We were driving on a small two lane road when we came across this pretty view of Mt. Hood. I liked the way that the clouds were intersecting the mountain and grabbed this shot. In order to get up close, I used my Canon 5D Mark IV and Canon 100-400mm lens.

We were just driving around and seeing what interesting things we could find. While checking our phones, we saw that we were near the Oregon Park which included a home designed by the famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. We entered that address into Waze and headed over to check it out.


Here is a photo of "The Gordon House" on the park property. The house was not completed before the death of Wright, and the home was moved to this location, from Wilsonville, OR starting in 2001.


After checking out the house, we walked to the gardens and thoroughly enjoyed the fall colors.


The colors in the gardens were amazing as well!



I saw these beautiful red flowers in the middle of a grass area and worked hard to get my shot. I got down low, so that the red color would be in the middle of the frame, surrounded by all the different shades of green and purple. I shot this with the long zoom lens at 271mm and f/5 to have only the red flowers in perfect focus.


The next day, we drove from Portland, OR to Seattle, WA. Again, we were looking for interesting things to see along the way. We saw that the Mt. Saint Helens visitor's center was only 6 miles from the freeway, and decided to check that out. I remember watching the news about eruption of Mt. Saint Helens back in 1980 but had never seen the site myself. The direction of the sun in the morning was not great for photos, but it was still worth the photo.


I took this shot from the visitor's center, using the trees to frame the mountain in the distance.

And then we were off to Pike Place for some lunch.


If you visit Seattle, you have to go to Pike Place Fish Market. This is Seattle's famous landmark, with people throwing fish, the first Starbucks, and a fun place to capture photos. For this visit, I was still using the Canon 5D Mark IV, but opted for the Canon 24-105mm lens.



I did not want to use flash, instead opting to use only the ambient light from the market. I turned up my ISO to 1250 and held the camera steady as shoppers made their purchases.



For this shot, I got down low to the fish and grabbed this shot. I changed my aperture to f/4 so that only the faces of the fish would be in focus.

We only had one day in Seattle before heading back south towards Portland once again. My wife had heard about an overpass with great glass pieces (right near the Museum of Glass) in Tacoma, WA and wanted to check it out.


It was worth the stop.


We did not have time to go into the glass museum, but enjoyed walking around and taking photos of the unique building.



We did walk across the street to the courthouse to see the Chihuly glasswork that was on display there.




I really liked the reflection of the glasswork on the polished floor, so I backed up and took this shot to include the window and the foyer of the courthouse. (Photographer's note: To keep the window from blowing out (being too bright) I changed the exposure compensation of my camera to -1.3. This kept my window light at a good exposure and darkened the scene inside. I was OK with that, since I really wanted to the viewer's attention to be in the window and the reflection with the foyer being a secondary subject.) 


To try something different, I went right up to the Chihuly glass pieces and shot through them. I saw the Museum of Glass visible in the distance and used the orange glass to frame the museum,


While looking through the orange glass, I saw this American flag flying in the background. I waited for the flag to blow the right direction and took some photos through the glass.


After shooting from the second level for a while, we went back down to the first level and shot photos looking straight up the Chihuly sculpture.


We were walking back to our car when I saw the museum framed by these trees. I liked the way that the angled building seemed to be peeking out from the foliage, and took this photo.

A couple of days later, my wife and I were driving back home to the San Francisco Bay Area. (You may be wondering why we flew up and were driving back. Our daughter purchased her first new car and we were taking the old car back home.)

In order to break up the long drive home, we decided to stop in Ashland, OR for the night. We have been to Ashland before, but never really explored the area much. As we were driving towards Ashland, we looked up things to do in Ashland and saw that there was a park called Lithia Park in the downtown area. Even though we had been a block away from the park entrance on past trips, we did not know about its existence. Now that we know, we will be going back there again!


We arrived into Ashland late in the afternoon, quickly checked into our hotel and then headed right for Lithia Park. It was early in the evening when we entered the park, and the sun was starting to set. I saw this one guy meditating in the distance and loved how the sun was lighting only him and the trees above.


We walked along the creek and enjoyed the sound of the water. I rested my camera on some of the railings of the crossing wood bridges to take long exposure shots of the scene. I set my camera to ISO 160, f/11, and exposure compensation of -1 to get a shutter speed of 1.3 seconds. I put the camera in a 2 second timer mode so that I could hit the shutter release button and not have to worry about shaking the camera. 


My wife was picking up some of the fall leaves and be both thought it would make a nice photo.


The next morning, before heading out for the 6 hour drive home, we decided to walk Lithia Park one more time, covering quite a bit of the 93 acres of parkland. This time, in morning light, we had a chance to see the same park lit from the other direction. It was so pretty. If you visit Ashland, OR and have decent weather, make sure to put Lithia Park on your list of things to see and photograph.

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Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
__________________________________________________________________________
If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
__________________________________________________________________________
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.
__________________________________________________________________________ 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

My experience with the new Apple 16" MacBook Pro which was announced today!

Just minutes ago, Apple announced the new MacBook Pro with a 16" Retina display. I have been testing this new laptop computer (locked behind closed doors) for the last couple of weeks and am excited to share my findings with all of you.
Before I go into the details of what I found, I want to just tell you why I am so excited about this new computer. I am now 8 months from the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, and as many of you know, my workflow is critical during that month. I am always looking for the equipment that can give me the best performance and increase my efficiency. With that in mind, let me tell you about the new 16" MacBook Pro.


When I first took the new MacBook Pro out of the box, it appeared to be the same size as the older 15" version. It wasn't until I put it side-by-side with the older model that I detected the slight increase in length and width.


I put the older 15" MacBook Pro on top of the new 16" MacBook Pro so that you can see the difference.


This close-up shot will give you a better idea of the slight size increase. The good news is that the newer 16" MacBook Pro fits into all of my camera bags (which were designed to hold a 15" laptop) without any issues. Honestly, if I did not have the older 15" model to compare it to, I would have thought that the 16" MacBook Pro was the same size as the previous model.


The real excitement came when I opened the new 16" model for the first time and saw the larger display. Apple was able to design this computer with a slimmer border around the display, therefore providing a larger display in a case that is not much bigger than the previous 15" model. The new display is capable of showing more colors and at a 3072x1920 resolution. That translates to approximately 6 million pixels.

This new screen is going to make a big difference for me when I am at the Olympics or traveling abroad. But let's get to that a little later.


Just to put this in perspective, I used to travel with a 17" MacBook Pro back in the old days. and I really liked the bigger screen for culling and retouching. But I had to stop using that computer since it was just too big, heavy and bulky,  Even though there is no comparison between the two for raw power and capabilities. I dusted off that old 17" laptop (circa 2010) to show you the size difference of the old beast and today's new offering. The older 17" computer weighed a hefty 6.6 pounds, whereas this new model with a 16" display weighs in at around 4 pounds.

Now I get the larger screen, an abundance of performance, all in a small and beautiful package.

I should also mention that the setup of the new MacBook Pro was seamless, mainly due to the iCloud synchronization. After entering my iCloud account information, the new laptop was immediately populated with my contacts, calendar events, Apple Pay information and more. I also installed Adobe Creative Cloud and Photo Mechanic to test my everyday workflow.


Let talk about the performance of this new 16" MacBook Pro. Apple was able to redesign the cooling system inside case to provide 28% more effectiveness. This new cooling system (which provides 28% more airflow than the previous model), along with new memory, allows them to get more power out of the same processors used in the 2019 15" MacBook Pro. I saw this performance increase in my everyday use.

They also upgraded the computer to a faster GPU which provides up to 2 times the graphics performance.

Apple will say that this is the fastest MacBook Pro ever made (as they claim every time they announce a new computer, iPhone or iPad), and it is. But we all expect that in a new system.

Along with the speed improvements, Apple has now increased the memory capacities of the new 16" MacBook Pro. The internal DRAM can be increased to 64GB and the internal SSD can be upgraded to a staggering 8TB. Both of these are helpful to us photographers, because they provide more performance while retouching large files, and more storage for holding all those images. It was common practice for me to remove folders of images off of my 15" MacBook Pro because it only had a 1TB internal SSD.

I did a test to see if the new MacBook Pro was truly faster than my previous model, even though they share the same processor. I took 16 RAW images (taken with the Canon 5D Mark IV) and created a panorama stitch in Adobe Photoshop. Here are the results:

15" MacBook Pro with 16GB RAM - 3 min and 20 seconds
16" MacBook Pro with 64GB RAM - 2 min and 6 seconds

Image from provided by Apple

Apple has also increased the battery capacity of the MacBook Pro from 83.6 watts to 100 watts (the maximum allowed on airplanes), and this is another benefit to me. Even though I have power outlets in most of my travel locations, there are times when I crave longer battery life. This is especially true on long flights. You know...the ones where the power outlets are not working, or not available. At the Olympics, there are many times when I am going from press bus to press bus without the ability to recharge the battery. The more battery the better!

Now, let me get to some of the less obvious enhancements, but ones that make me really happy!


This is a photo taken of my 2018 MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar. You will notice that the "Esc" key was part of the Touch Bar. Since it was a digital button, it took almost no pressure from my finger to hit "Esc".  This may not have bothered other people, but my finger would consistently hit this button inadvertently and close my preview window in Photo Mechanic, costing me a lot of time in my culling (going through my images to determine which I would keep, discard, or rank) process. I reached out to Apple more than a year ago and asked for a way to fix this issue.


When meeting with Apple to discuss this new 16" MacBook Pro, they told me that they moved the "Esc" key back to a physical button. I was so excited! I can tell you that in some pretty extensive testing, I have yet to inadvertently hit that button. This is a small change with a big outcome.



For the last 4 years, I have had a huge issue with the keyboard design of the MacBook Pro. Not only was it uncomfortable to use, but there were two other issues which gave me heartache. The first is that the way the keyboard was designed, I would consistently hit the wrong keys and have to fix typos. This never happened on my other Mac computers, but was a constant issue with the laptop keyboard. The second issue was the "click clack" noise that emanated around the room whenever I typed. This was highly distracting to people around me.


Apple listened to myself and countless other customers and changed the keyboard on the 16" MacBook Pro to the Magic Keyboard. This new keyboard is not only easier to type on, but so much quieter! 

When Apple got me the new MacBook Pro to test, they told me about the new 6 speaker sound system (with 4 woofers) and much improved sound quality. You might be thinking, how the heck does that benefit a photographer? The truth is, I listen to music on my laptop quite often when I am editing or when I am in hotel rooms around the world. I did a side by side comparison using Spotify on the old MacBook Pro and the new 16" MacBook Pro (switching output devices back and forth) and the sounds difference was beyond noticeable. I expected a small improvement in sound quality, but was treated to a much more dynamic playback. They tell me that the internal microphone has been significantly improved, but I have not tested that yet.

Now...let's talk about how I plan on using the new 16" MacBook Pro at the Olympics in 2020, and why I am so excited about the future.


A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about the upcoming Canon 1D X Mark III, and the new CFExpress memory cards that it will use. I know I will be using this the new camera at the Olympics, and therefore storing my images the new ProGrade Digital memory cards. And in the previous blog post I stated that I could transfer 54GB of images in only 37 seconds. Well...that was the older 15" MacBook Pro.


I connected a prototype CFExpress card reader from ProGrade Digital to the new 16" MacBook Pro and did some more testing.


In a side-by-side comparison, the new 16" MacBook Pro was able to transfer files 15% faster than the previous model.


As I mentioned earlier, the screen of this new Mac is critical to my workflow, and I envision the new display of the 16" MacBook Pro saving me more time at the next Olympics. Having a 15 minute deadline at the Olympics, and being a one-man show, I need every advantage I can get to deliver the highest quality images in the shortest amount of time.

How would a larger display help me save time? With higher resolution and a larger display, I find it much easier to determine which images have super sharp focus and which ones are a little soft. This was always a challenging task with the 15" display, and now made easier with the larger viewing size.


I used the 16" MacBook Pro to cull through a recent wedding shoot, and found the quality of the display to be fantastic. Having that extra 10 percent of screen real estate and increased resolution really does help.

Staying on the topic of displays, one area in which I have always been satisfied with the Apple laptops, is their ability to be calibrated and hold the calibration for a long period of time. I have many photo tour guests who travel with PC laptops and their calibration is way off, wither from lack of calibration or the screen drifting off calibration over time.

After spending a good amount of time with the new MacBook Pro, I was curious how Apple would price this over the 15" model. Or, would they even keep the 15" model in the product lineup. Just one day before the announcement, I asked Apple for some details. They told me that the new 16" MacBook Pro would replace the 15" model and be offered at the same price. The standard models would come with either a 512GB or 1TB SSD and 16GB of RAM. But these can be configurable to 2TB, 4TB and 8TB SSDs and up to 64GB of DRAM.

I have been using the 15" MacBook Pro for many years now, and am VERY excited to make the change to the new 16" model. I am looking at the near future when I am shooting with the Canon 1D X Mark III, using super fast CFExpress cards, a Thunderbolt 3 card reader, this super fast laptop, and editing on this screen.  The future looks really bright!

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Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
__________________________________________________________________________
If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
__________________________________________________________________________
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.
__________________________________________________________________________ 

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Three new products that I am really excited about!

This week was a really good one for new photo related products. Two of them I have in my hands and one of the announcements got me excited, even though I have not tried it yet.

First off, I have to tell you about the new Acratech GXP ball-head. I have been using Acratech ball-heads for many years now, but have always wanted one that is bigger and more robust. This is especially true when I mount my Canon 200-400mm lens on my tripod and the shear weight of the lens pushes the limits of the smaller heads. But now Acratech has released the new GXP and it is awesome.



As you can see from this side view (with the GXP on the left), the new head is significantly larger and more robust than the previous GP model.



On this top-down view, you can also see how much larger the new GXP head is compared to the GP. I was surprised to see that this new ball-head is only $30 more than the GP. It is still not inexpensive at $489, but it is totally worth it.


Believe it or not, I use my Canon 200-400mm lens almost every time I photograph a bar mitzvah. This lens lets me shoot from 200mm to 400mm at f/4. This is really helpful in a dark temple. But this means that I am mounting this large lens on the Gitzo Mountaineer tripod (combined with the Acratech head) quite often. Having more support is a great thing!


You can see in this image how much lens this head is supporting. The company says that this new ball head will support up to 50 pounds, which is double the capacity of the GP. I am really excited to have this new GXP ball-head supporting my beast of a lens.

The next new product that I got this week is the new Crucial X8 solid state drive. Crucial has been making internal SSDs for a long time now but never offered an external unit. Now they do!


The X8 comes in capacities of 500GB ($120) and 1TB ($165). I got two of the 1TB units for me to use both at home and on the road.


What makes me most excited about the new Crucial X8 SSDs in the speed and price. These new SSDs are twice as fast as all other SSDs on the market today. Yep, this little thing is twice as fast as the Samsung and SanDisk products and sell for slightly less. Most external SSDs transfer data at approximately 500Mbs, whereas this X8 can move 1GB per second. This is really helpful for people like me who move massive amounts of data from one computer to another. I am going to recommend this SSD to all my photo tour attendees.


I know that this is a small thing, but I love that the Crucial X8 ships with one USB-C cable that has a USB-A adaptor. This makes life really easy for me, since I have a desktop computer with USB-A and a newer MacBook Pro with USB-C.

The third new product that was announced this week is the new DJI Mavic Mini. I do not have one in my hands yet, but expect to get one soon. The minute it was announced, I was on the B&H website to order mine. It is only $399 for the drone, but I chose to get the combo kit with extra batteries, which runs $499.



I have always loved flying my Phantom 4 drone, but don't take it with me very often since it requires  whole other camera bag. Now, with the Mavic Mini, I can put this little drone into one small slot in my main camera bag and travel with a drone any time.



Having a drone this small, that can capture professional quality images and video is very exciting. Now...if I could just find places to fly this without it being illegal. I am looking forward to bringing this little guy with me to India, Costa Rica and anywhere else I can grab aerial imagery.

__________________________________________________________________________
Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
__________________________________________________________________________
If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
__________________________________________________________________________
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.
__________________________________________________________________________