STAIRWELL - Nikon 70-200 at 116mm, f3.2, 1/100, ISO 2000.
What are Hipshots? You know that unmistakable sound of the shutter releasing when the camera is no where near your eye; well that is what I am calling a Hipshot*.

This normally happens to me when I'm carrying two cameras and the one hanging over my shoulder knocks against my side, or Think Tank belt system, etc., causing the shutter to release and giving me a wonderful photograph of the ground beneath my feet.

OUTFIELD - Nikon 70-200 at 200mm, f2.8, 1/2500, ISO 400.
This isn't a new phenomenon, however a few months ago when downloading photos from a corporate kickball game a few of these Hipshots caught my eye. So instead of deleting them and moving on, I decided to save them to a folder and make a point of saving others from my assignments.

INFIELD - Nikon 70-200 at 190mm, f3.2, 1/2500, ISO 400.
I also started looking at them closely and thought they weren't half bad. Art? I'll let others be the judge of that.

Five tips on avoiding Hipshots:

1. Turn your camera off when not actively shooting.

2. Don't carry your camera over your shoulder, but instead leave it around your neck.

3. Use an across the chest strap such as one from BlackRapid to reduce the risk of the shutter knocking against your side since the top of the camera is facing down.

4. If you don't want to turn your camera off or carry it around your neck, be aware that it might occasionally go off without your knowledge. Could be embarrassing in some situations, especially if you are shooting in continuous high shutter mode. Nothing draws attention to you like firing six frames per second at the wrong time.

5. Ask yourself if you really want to avoid them? Don't sweat it and just accept the results. Modern painter and artist Bob Ross was famous for saying, "We don't make mistakes; we just have happy accidents".

PAVEMENT - Nikon 24-70 at 52mm, f2.8, 1/3200, ISO 200.
Don't be afraid to have a few "happy accidents" today and if you do, feel free to share them with me. And besides, I believe most of these photographs are as good as anything I see on Instagram.

*All the Hipshots in this post are shown just as they came out of the camera.


I've just finished packing for the Arizona trip and wanted to share what gear I'm taking along and some of my thoughts behind it. I'll break this down into three sections, camera, computer, and accessory.


Nikon D3S, Nikon D700, Fuji X10, 10.5mm, 14-24mm, 24-70mm, 80-200mm, 2x teleconverter, GoPro, SB900, SU800. 

Nikon D3S with a Zacuto Z-1 Pro on a Gitzo Serires 00 carbon tripod

I'm taking three cameras, the Nikon D3s and D700, and my new Fuji X10. I thought about not taking the D700 as a second body on this trip since I will primarily be shooting landscapes and didn't think I would need a second body affixed with another lens for quick reaction. In the end however, I thought if something happened to the D3s, the only backup would be the X10 and while I'm learning to really like that camera, it just does not compare to a full frame DSLR in quality.

I'm also bringing an Nikon SB900 in case I need fill flash especially if I'm shooting during the middle of the day.


Apple 15" Powerbook, iPad, LaCie Rugged Mini 1TB hard drive, SanDisk Firewire 800 card reader, Photo Mechanic, Adobe Lightroom 4.0, Photoshop CS4, Verizon MiFi.

Apple 15" powerbook with LaCie Rugged 1TB drive and SanDisk FW 800 CF card reader.

The plan of course is to process images during the trip, as well as continue to update this blog, so I'm bringing my 15" Powerbook. Simple work flow will be to offload camera cards each day, copying contents to desktop then backing up to a portable hard drive. I will use Photo Mechanic to rename and caption images, then import into LightRoom 4.0, and finish off in Photoshop CS4.

Other than the laptop, I am also bringing my iPad, along with a camera connection kit, on this trip. And it is not just for entertainment, but for practical purposes. Other than the photo apps that may see some use, I rely on the Sun Seeker app which provides you with sunrise and sunset times, shows a map view of sun direction for each daylight hour and 3D views of the solar path. In fact I've already studied the direction of light during the time and day when I will be in certain locations. Two other non-photo apps I will use on this trip are The Weather Channel app and SkySafari 3.


Gitzo Series 00 Carbon tripod, Zacuto Z-Finder Pro, PocketWizard Plus, Blackrapid camera strap, battery chargers, mouse, Belkin surge protector,  Lexar professional 600x 32GB card, Lexar professional 400x 16GB card (2), SanDisk Extreme 16GB, SanDisk Extreme 2GB,  Tenba sandbag

So far it's been pretty straight forward, but the details are in the accessories. I have two tripods, a Bogen Model #3033 that I've owned since 1986. It is a sturdy, dependable tripod, however it is very heavy and not very compact. The other is a Gitzo Series 00 Carbon 6X with a Arca-Swiss Monoball Z1 ballhead. This is a great tripod for travel and backpacking because it is so light, but my concern is that it may be too lightweight, especially for star photography, so I'm bringing a sandbag to help steady along with hanging my backpack should help.

In order to assist with focus at night and to make sure everything is sharp during the day, I'm bringing a Zacuto Z-Finder Pro 2.5x eyepiece which should give some piece of mind as I shoot. For triggering the camera, I'm going to use a PocketWizard Plus. Perhaps a bit of overkill, but without a cable release, this is the next best thing.

The Kelty Redwing backpack with Think Tank change up bag and various Think Tank pouches to keep gear protected during travel.

To transport most of the gear, I'm using a Kelty Redwing backpack. Not a photo backpack you say? That's right. I was at REI and looking at backpacks when the Kelty caught my attention. Plenty of room, good support and the right size to also be used on a two to three backpacking trip. As I've mentioned previously, I use Think Tank test drive bags (now called Lens Changers) and pouches to protect my cameras and lens in the bag. The main compartment has a place to hold my laptop and the front portion has room for my iPad, pens, notebook, phone, etc. This pack also has side pouches to stow additional items plus they have a pass through that will allow me to carry a tripod. The final bag will be a Think Tank Change Up Belt Pack. I've mentioned this bag before in my GOING LIGHT(er) post.

I'll carry on most of the camera gear in the Kelty and the Change Up. Things like chargers, cables and of course clothing will all go in my checked bag.


Think Tank roller with pouches for use once on location.
Photography is a pain – pain in the shoulder and back that is. When I started in this profession I carried my gear in an over-the-shoulder Domke bag. And at the time I also carried all the gear I owned to every job. So it was simple, when I obtained more gear, I purchased a larger bag, the Domke Little Bit Bigger Bag to be specific.

So in my case, like many photographers, all the years of carrying gear over my right shoulder has led to shoulder pain. Nothing severe, just enough to be noticeable. So over time I've come up with a few techniques and tips to avoid this pain and hopefully if you're just starting out, allow you to avoid it in the future.

And it all starts by getting that gear off of your shoulder. Below I offer five tips.

1. Use a roller bag like the Think Tank Airport series or roller case such as the Pelican Case to get your gear to and from the assignment. It allows you carry maximum gear without putting any strain on your body.

2. Tip one gets the gear to the location, but then what? I'm a fan of the Think Tank Modular system which allows you to then use accessory packs to carry and organize your gear once there. You can load up that large roller bag or Pelican Case, then easily customize later. The belt and pouch system distributes the weight evenly on your hips and if you add a harness, you won't even notice that you are carrying camera equipment.

3. Change your traditional camera straps to something like the BlackRapid line of products. These across the chest camera slings do not put as much pressure on a given shoulder. Plus they have the added benefit of not allowing the camera to slip off your shoulder. Once you get use to it you almost forget about the camera hanging at your side.

4. Match gear to the assignment given. In previous blog posts I've talked about traveling light, with minimum gear. It is a hard habit to break and you will spend lots of time second guessing yourself, but if you really take a look at what gets used and what never leaves your pack, you can start to hone your packing.

5. I suppose I would be remiss if I didn't mention diet and exercise to strengthen your shoulder or back. We all know what is right, but let's face it, even if I was practicing good healthy practices 30 years ago, I'm pretty sure I'd still have some of the same issues as I close in on 50. Just be practical and remember that the body does start to wear out, so why speed the process by lugging too much when you're young.

So slow down, pack right, really think through what gear you bring and be sure to take care of your body. And get out there and shoot.