After years of having Machu Picchu on my list of places to visit, I was lucky enough to finally get the chance to go this past January. In preparing for my trip and deciding what to bring there were several things that factored into my choice to use the Manfrotto Pro Light Camera Backpack. I needed something fairly compact, yet large enough to carry the cameras and lenses I needed, as well as food, water and whatever else might seem necessary.
The Pro Light Camera Backpack was easily able to carry my Sony a7RII, 16-35/4, 24-70/4, 70-200/4, extra batteries in the main camera compartment. Extra memory cards and a Color Checker in the small front pockets. A Gitzo Traveler tripod on the outside with the tripod attachment system. An RX100III in one side pocket and granola bars in the other side compartment. With a ham and cheese sandwich, a bottle of diet coke, two water bottles, and a sweatshirt in the top compartment, all that, without being bulky or heavy.
The travel plans for Machu Picchu were among the most complicated of any trip I have done. To get to Machu Picchu from Lima, I took a flight on a small regional airline into Cusco. Then a 1.5 hour taxi ride from the Cusco airport to Ollantaytambo, where the train station was. Next a two hour train ride to Machu Picchu Pueblo, the small village nearest to the Machu Picchu ruins. With all that running around, being able to put my cameras on my back was a huge asset.
After arriving in the early evening, I stayed the night in Machu Picchu Pueblo, then took the bus up to Machu Picchu itself early the next morning. The bus ride is on steep, narrow roads and doesn’t really give any indication of how amazing the destination is. Entering through the main gate, I turned the corner and was immediately in awe as the, 600 year old ruins stretched out before me. Machu Picchu is vast, and I wandered for several hours exploring the ruins. Then at 10 am I went to check in for a hike up Wayna Picchu.
Only 400 people a day are allowed up Wayna Picchu, 200 at 8 am and another 200 at 10 am. The mountain towers 1000 feet above Machu Picchu and looked intimidatingly steep. I checked in shortly after 10 and began the trek up, it is a very steep trail with steel cables in parts to help when it would otherwise be too dangerous or difficult. With the comfort and fit of the Manfrotto Pro Light Backpack, I was able to concentrate on my footing and the fantastic views without noticing the backpack at all. The hike was difficult, but the reward was an amazing view of Machu Picchu and the surrounding mountains as I looked down from above. Once I reached the top, the height started becoming very apparent to me, while it is 1000 feet above Machu Picchu, it is about 2000 feet above the river valley far below with little besides an occasional tree between you and the river far below. The hike down is not for the faint of heart was one of the more challenging things I have ever done. If heights are not your thing, I recommend turning around at the terrace everybody rests on with the view of Machu Picchu, rather than doing the complete hike.
The hike down was much easier than the hike up, and I spent the next few hours walking around the ruins before taking the bus back to my hotel.
Whatever your inclination, Machu Picchu is a truly awe-inspiring place and is well worth a visit at least once in everyone’s life.
I often want to shoot new work for my portfolio and website, I am a photographer after all and love to take pictures. I am always looking for new ideas to shoot. Recently I realized there is a lack of strong photos of athletic women so I decided to create some new photos to help fill that void.
The first step was finding people to photograph. I posted a casting notice on Casting Networks and got about 250 responses. Then I went through to see who had included comments about what kind of athletic activity they engaged in and started contacting potential subjects. I eventually arranged to photograph four women.
Next I had to figure out what I wanted to bring to shoot with, I wanted to shoot outside so that impacted what I wanted to use. I settled on loading up a Manfrotto Roller 70 with my Sony a99 and A7R along with an assortment of lenses as well as the Manfrotto Bumblebee Backpack with a Elinchrom Ranger Quadra with an extra battery and adapter for a Rotalux lightbank. These two bags work great together because of the strap on the Bumblebee that allows it to slide over the telescoping handle on the Roller making it very easy to carry.
Alexa Marcigliano, stunt woman.
New York City has a lot of parks, which gives me a lot of options to shoot things like this. The first part of the shoot was done in Central Park. In the north half of the park the crowds become much less of an issue. This was done in open shade, when the available light is good I am happy to use it. When it’s not good I have the Ranger Quadra or the Ranger RX.
Kathryn Connors, actress and fitness instructor
For the second part of the shoot I went to East River Park to try and change the feel a little bit. With the photos of Kathryn Connors above I use natural light which was beautiful in the open shade for the photo on the left, for the photo on the right the Quadra really made it work. It was early afternoon and with the direct sun the natural light alone was terrible, but with the addition of the Quadra I was very happy with result.
The bottom shot of Kathryn was also available light in open shade. The bright sun in the background really helps frame the shot. With open shade I often get very good results from placing my subject right at the edge of the sun, so whatever light is bouncing becomes a fill light.
Susan Quinn, actress
I picked Susan because she bikes, runs and acts. I find that sometimes actors are easier to photograph then models, because they can show a wider range of emotions and actions. The photos of Susan Quinn were all lit with the Quadra, the shade was much deeper and having the light to give it some direction and pop makes a substantial difference.
Katherine Kerrick, fitness instructor, actor
Again with Katherine I used the Quadra, using a light outside can give a photo much more life.
In addition to being a photographer run triathlons for fun. This year for the New York City Triathlon I was asked by the race organizers to do a photo booth in transition where the athletes check their bikes the day before the race.
In planning what gear to bring I wanted to pack light, as I had to bring my bike as well so I could race the next day. I chose to pack a Manfrotto Pro Backpack 50 with a Elinchrom Quadra Hybrid RX with an A head, an extra battery, a skyport transmitter, a single Manfrotto light stand, a card reader, and a Sony a99 lens along with extra camera batteries and SD cards. The Pro Backpack fit everything I needed, including a light stand on the outside, while still being able to carry with my bike.
The Manfrotto Pro Backpack 50, all packed up.
The setup was outdoors just inside the area athletes bring their bikes to check in. We had a backdrop with the race and sponsor logos attached with zip ties to a chain link fence. Ideally the backdrop would have been on a the western fence since I was shooting in the afternoon and that would have made any sun a backlight, but because there is a lot going on in a triathlon transition area the only space available was on a north fence. There was a mix of sun and shade along with clouds going in and out. It made it a very good thing I had the Quadra.
An athlete in front of the setup in transition yellow. Another photographer was in transition red.
Fortunately with the Quadra I was able to get enough power that even with the changing sunlight I was able to get a fairly consistent exposure. I did check every few people to see if anything had changed and occasionally did change my exposure on the camera or the power on the Quadra pack.
The light had a small diffusion disk that comes with the head on the front and was about three feet (92cm) above and directly behind me. I had considered bringing a bigger modifier, but because I was going to be outside with a lot of people around and working quickly I chose to keep it as simple as possible.
The client had provided an assortment of props that many of the athletes had a lot of fun with.
The inner tubes and beach ball were a hit. I didn’t tell anyone to use the props, the decision to use the props and how to use them were completely up to the subject. That led to fun shots like this one, which I would never have thought to suggest.
I had two people working with me, one to bring people over to be photographed and get their names and race numbers, and another to download cards, make selects and upload the best shots to Facebook immediately. Because of the fast pace in the three hours I was shooting, I had several people tell me they had seen the photos on Facebook and had come up to the shooting area as a result.
In a shoot like this, being adaptable and prepared is what it is all about. I could have shot it with just a camera or with an on camera flash, but the results are so much better by planning ahead and bringing the Quadra strobe.
It’s good as a photographer to get out in the world to play experiment. I believe we would all benefit from doing it more, I know I certainly would. Part of the challenge of being open to experimentation, and whatever presents itself, is not knowing what gear to bring. My solution on these shoots was to bring an assortment of things, just so I wouldn’t regret leaving something behind. Of course I also wanted to be fairly mobile as I didn’t know what or where I would end up. My solution was to pack a Manfrotto Backpack 50 with everything I thought I might need, it’s big enough to hold what I needed, but not so big that it was unwieldy. This is what I packed:
Sony a99, Zeiss 24-70/2.8, Zeiss 85/1.4, Minolta 70-210/4, Tokina 19-35, Sony A7R, Zeiss 24-70/4, Gossen Starlite II, and a Manfrotto carbon fiber 055 tripod with the X-Pro 3-way head.
With all that I figured I was pretty well covered, and I didn’t end up wishing I had brought anything I had left behind.
The combination of clouds and trees, and especially the shadows on the hill really appealed to me.
Rides like this are always very interesting visually, and to be honest a bit bewildering to me as it looks frankly terrifying. Everybody looks like they are having so much fun, so who knows? I shot several frames of this, some where more of the surroundings were in the frame. This one, which is a slight crop, where it’s just the riders and the sky, was my favorite.
It was a sunny and warm weekend day after a long winter so quite a few people where enjoying the beach. The water was still fairly cold, so very few people where brave enough to get into the ocean. The long lens helps compress the shot, which is can be a nice effect.
The late day sun is always beautiful. With the sun low it makes everything look that much better. A longer lens is often a good choice for portraits, it’s also nice to let the background go a little out of focus, which is much easier with a long lens.
This was shot from the roof of the building my office is in. Roof access is a rare thing in New York city. It is also an experiment I have been meaning to try for some time. I shot about 40 frames and then looked for ways to combine them. If you look closely you will notice then man in red showing up five times, the woman with the suitcase is also in the frame five times (once behind the car), and of course the woman with the yellow bag. There are probably people from ten frames or more in this final image. By using a tripod it made combining the elements very easy, if I had tried to do it handheld it would have been very time consuming.
Panning is always a fun thing to try. I setup on the tripod and leveled the camera using the levels built into the head. Then I shot an assortment of cars, buses, bikes etc. as they streaked by. This skateboarder was my favorite. It can be tricky to get the panning speed right, it’s pretty easy to go too fast or too slow, just making a blurry mess, but when you get it right it can be very cool.
So I didn’t use everything I brought on these shoots, but I was glad to have it all, because you never know. When in doubt bring it, is always a good rule of thumb.
Sometimes as photographers we forget how much fun it is to just wander around taking pictures with a minimum of gear. In particular, I like to explore how different places are at night, the artificial lights and shadows create a whole new world. I have also been fortunate that some of the photographs I have taken on just these types of excursions have been the ones that have won contests for me.
I recently packed up a backpack with a meter, tripod and my Sony A7R with a Zeiss 24-70/4 lens and went for a walk in Brooklyn. I used the Manfrotto Advanced Active Backpack II because it is compact and I was bringing very little with me. My meter is a Gossen Star Lite II, because among other things it has a built in spot meter and my tripod was the Manfrotto Befree because it is so compact and light, without making a sacrifice in stability or height. It is nice to be able to pack everything away, especially at night in some neighborhoods if it starts feeling a little dodgy.
When I am looking for what to photograph at night, I am look at the light and at what is around that might interfere with a good photograph. Eastern Parkway is always tough, it has these beautiful promenades, but also tends to have a lot of both car and foot traffic. A few headlight streaks I like, but not blurry people walking by. So timing is critical, and sometimes I have to take quite a few to get something I am happy with. I used the Sony A7R with the Smart Remote Control App, which basically functions as a wireless cable release triggered by my smart phone. Metering at night can be tricky as well, so I sometimes just bracket, or use the spot-meter function on the Starlite 2, then I can select what I want correctly exposed and meter off that from a distance without wandering all over the place trying to average the exposures.
Mount Prospect Park, is a small park built on top of what was once a reservoir between the Brooklyn Library and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. It’s nice at night because it is usually quite empty. I really enjoy the solitude which can be very rare in New York City. I like to have light sources directly in the photograph modern digital cameras, especially the Sony A7R, handle that overexposure very well.
When looking for things to photograph at night, the interplay between the available light and shadow are very important. Contrast is important; it adds visual interest and really contributes to the feeling of night. Some people prefer to shoot at dusk farther then full night so that the contrast is a little less extreme. You can see this in the photograph of Eastern Parkway above. For me that it is too limiting as it only lasts a short time, and it also doesn’t feel like a real night photo to me. I find that an overcast night gives much better results when photographing in a city, the clouds help fill in the shadows and lower the contrast a bit. It is also nice to have some tone to the sky, as demonstrated in the photograph of the Long Meadow below.
The Grand Army Plaza entrance to Prospect Park, designed by Olmstead and Vaux who also designed Central park has some pretty dramatic details. There are four of these flanking the park entrance.
The Long Meadow in Prospect Park from the road above. I stood on the top of the archway that leads to the meadow to get the height I wanted for this perspective. Again, I could bracket and wing it on exposure, but I was able to use the spot meter on the Starlite II to meter off the walkway without climbing down or guessing.
Grand Army Plaza from Prospect Park. When I first moved to new York City in 2000, the Grand Army Plaza arch was one of my favorite things, it has such an old world feel to it that it really accentuated the difference between Seattle where I had come from and Brooklyn where I am now.